Ardour on a Raspberry Pi. The $35 DAW?

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The Scum
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Ardour on a Raspberry Pi. The $35 DAW?

Post by The Scum » Sat Mar 09, 2019 12:25 pm

I see you clowns in the peanut gallery. Please hold the $35 cracks til the very end.

So I had the opportunity to give Ardour on the Raspberry Pi a quick spin this week.

(In my day gig, I work as an engineer doing product development - a bit of electrical hardware & a ton of software/firmware. On the docket this week was testing platform compatibility of a USB audio interface. Users have moved beyond simple OSX and Windows, and we wanted to check stability with iOS, ChromeOS, Linux, etc. People are starting to plug anything with a USB port into it, and it didn't always work. So I pulled out a Pi, to see what would happen.)

I had a Pi 3, Model B, pretty hi spec, but down from the newest B+. I put the latest Raspbian OS on an SD card, and used apt to get Ardour. There's an Ardour 5.5 package out there - it just installs with no fuss. I remember around 2011 trying to get Ardour going on a discarded PC, and needed to build kernels and ALSA and Jack from scratch - it took days. This was the opposite...it took 30 minutes total.

And lo and behold, it runs. It found and activated my test device in both USB 1.0 (stereo) and 2.0 (8 channnel) modes, using ALSA directly. I could record and play back, and it acts about like any other DAW.

I had some audio dropouts in 8 channel mode - ALSA just stops, and pops up an error message. The USB on the Pi is an external chip that's also shared with the Ethernet interface - there might be some careful optimization there to help circumvent the problem - or maybe an upgrade to a B+ would help? There might be ways to optimize the overall platform to fix the dropouts. I've got a USB protocol analyzer, but I didn't pull it out to see if anything obvious was happening. 2 channel mode was stable, and recorded and played for hours at a shot.

Worth mentioning that the Pi by itself only has the SD card for storage - so storage write bandwidth might be a definite bottleneck. There might be a way to add an external Ethernet storage device - though it would blast well above $35, and that money might be better spent on a higher spec platform...Eth also shares the interface to USB, so it might not actually help.

The Pi also has an onboard headphone output, but no audio input - if you've tracked a project, you could possibly mix it without external hardware.

Ardour has a couple features I found myself liking. It's got a window with just meters and track arming buttons in it, and you can "tear off" the transport controls, making a window arrangement that's really convenient for tracking. There's also an abbreviated session view at the bottom of the track window, with a floating rectangle showing how the current view maps into the overall session. You can drag or scale the rectangle to navigate.

Ardour is a little shy on plugins for the ARM architecture. There was a basic subset - EQ, basic dynamics. There are also other packages, but I didn't have time to dig into them.

I'm impressed enough with Ardour that I'm actually considering some sort of option with a mini-PC of some sort (like a NUC or similar) to run it. I need to stop by the PC recycle shop...
"What fer?"
"Cat fur, to make kitten britches."

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Scodiddly
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Re: Ardour on a Raspberry Pi. The $35 DAW?

Post by Scodiddly » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:33 pm

I was using Ardour on Linux for a little bit around 2004/2005, and it definitely wasn't fun to get working.

Speaking of the Pi, anybody care to recommend a decent 2-channel USB audio interface? Toying with the idea of using one as a media server for music. I recently got one to use as a network printer server, and now I'm intrigued by all the other things it could be doing.

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Scodiddly
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Re: Ardour on a Raspberry Pi. The $35 DAW?

Post by Scodiddly » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:35 pm

Got curious enough for some searching. This looks interesting:

https://www.hifiberry.com/

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