Windows vs Mac is a topic that has been around for many years, and when it comes to music production the debate is still going on, a lot of ink has been spilt on the pros and cons of each system, evaluating topics such as price, performance, graphical interface, even support, but the truth is that in music production, in our days both systems are currently very close in terms of tools and processing audio professionally.
But what about Linux as an operating system for music production?
Remember that Linux is a free and open-source operating system that made its appearance in late 1991, the code is available and can be freely modified and distributed by anyone. Under this concept, an enormous amount of software and applications that perform different tasks have been aligned.
Best DAWs For Linux
In this article, we will show you the most popular DAWs for music production that we find for Linux, although most of this software can be used for free, not all Daws are in the same page. Our goal is to describe it, show the main characteristics, advantages or disadvantages and then you can draw your own conclusions, according to your skills, needs and expectations.
Ardour is a digital audio workstation software, is a hard disk multitrack recorder focus on professional use, it was release on 2005 as a free software and is available to download on 5.12 version (September 15, 2017), from his site. It is recognized as one of the best open-source software for recording, editing and mixing audio that exists at the moment, and some people compare it to Pro Tools (that as we know is a standard in record studios worldwide today). Ardour can currently be installed on GNU / Linux but also runs on Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems, so it allows a knowledge crossover from one system to another.
Ardour can work with any audio interface that your operating system supports (and your Budget!), which means it can be used by both professionals with big gears and apprentices.
Some notable Ardour specifications:
• Unlimited multichannel tracks, unlimited bus tracks, plugins, inserts or sends are available.
• Non – linear and non – destructive editing and unlimited undo/redo, (all editing tools can be used in one window, with no dedicated displays).
• flexible signal routing, you can patch from and to anywhere (tracks, busses, inputs, outputs, sends, returns)
• Recording in 16, 24 or 32 bits.
• Automatic Cross – Fading.
• Delay compensation
• Automation with write and touch mode and full copy and paste.
• Import videos and separate the soundtrack from it.
• Display frame by frame timeline
• Supported files: MIDI, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, CAF, BWF, OGG.
* Ardour does not import mp3 files, this is a patented compression format and the author avoids taking risks of legal problems.
Ardour comes with a good number of plugins to cover common needs, however, hundreds of plugins (both free and paid) are available to be downloaded and installed with perfect operation on your system, it supported 3 major plugin formats: VST (Windows & Linux), Audio Units (OS X), and LV2 (all platforms). Linux VST supports high-quality plugins from Loomer, Pianoteq/Modartt among others. When it’s time to export files, as we already know Ardour supports several files like MIDI, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, CAF, BWF, OGG mentioned above, but it also let to exports multiple formats and rates at once, creates CUE and TOC files for mastering applications and analysis (loudness and frequency) post – export.
Ardour System Requirements:
• CPU: 32 or 64 bits intel compatible computer.
• OS Linux with a kernel newer than 2.3 and libc version 2.25,(almost any Linux distribution
released in 2009 or later).
• RAM: 2 GB RAM mínimum, more is always recommended.
• Available storage: 350 MB free space at Hard Disk to install (you need more disk space to recording).
LMMS – Linux MultiMedia Studio is a digital audio Workstation free software programmed in C++.
It was released in 2004 as software for sound design and music production, is a sound generation system, synthesizer, beat/bassline editor and MIDI control system, putting in your hands the tools to create and arrange sounds and rhythms and is an alternative to software like FL Studio, Apple’s GarageBand, Cubase or Logic Pro.
Linux MultiMedia Studio (LMMS) is available to multiple operating systems, it can be installed not only on Linux but Mac OS and Windows too and it is also available in 15 languages. LMMS is an audio Workstation that matches the lower to middle-tier professional tools, ideal for audio designers and anyone looking for gears to create and have fun making music. In LMMS all the tools are displayed in a single window, on the left side, you can see the tools in order to find them easily, and in the body of the main window, you have the workspace to organize the windows that you add.
LMMS supports the Linux Audio Developer’s Simple Plugin API (LADSPA) and Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plug-ins, and can also connect to your MIDI keyboard, allowing you to play music live.
LMMS System Requirements:
• OS: Linux, Windows 10, Mac OS X High Sierra
• CPU: 2 GHz x86, x86_64, or ARM-based CPU with 4 cores recommended
• RAM: 4 GB recommended, (1 GB mínimum)
• Available Storage: 512 MB free space at Hard Disk to install
QTractor: Is a digital audio workstation and midi sequencer, development on April 2005 by Rui
Nuno Capela, written in C++ and based on the Qt framework. Is a free and open-source software application and it’s currently in constant development, versions are often updated with fixes and new features (current update on May 7, 2020). QTractor is a hard disk recorder, non-destructive digital audio-MIDI multitrack software, it can be used by both music production average users and professionals and is often compared to Ardour, with the particular difference that QTractor is available only for Linux operating systems. About plugins, QTractor supports Steinberg’s VST plugin standard with Wine is available using the DSSI-VST wrapper, also the LADSPA plugin architecture, as DSSI, native GNU/Linux VST and LV2.
Some notable QTrack specifications:
• Support multiple audio file formats (both compressed and uncompressed), including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG, Vorbis, MP3 (read-only via libmad).
• Unlimited tracks, bus tracks, plugins per track (only conditioned by hardware).
• Unlimited undo/redo.
• Ability to export audio and MIDI tracks using Freewheeling technology.
• Advanced editing techniques such as Time Stretching or Time Shifting
• Mixer with automatic monitoring capabilities, assignment of MIDI events to parameters (gain, pan, solo, mute, and record), and access to plug-in configuration parameters).
• Bouncing files in offline mode (shorter export times are obtained while always maintaining the final quality of the files).
• Uses JACK for audio and ALSA sequencer for MIDI as multimedia infrastructures.
• CPU: PC running a distribution of the GNU+Linux operating system with a Kernel of 18.104.22.168 or higher.
• RAM: 2 GB RAM mínimum, more is always recommended.
Bitwig Studio: Is a digital audio workstation developed by Bitwig GmbH (founded by ex Ableton engineers in Berlin) and released in March 2014. Bitwig Studio is a professional cross-platform software available for both Linux, Mac OS and Windows as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering, despite being a relatively new software in the market, it has obtained excellent reviews, being named as Daw of the Year in 2017 by Computer Magazine.
Unlike the aforementioned software, Bitwig Studio is not free software, the price varies from 99 USD to 399 USD, however, a demo version can be downloaded for free.
Some notable Bitwig Studio specifications:
• Allows to open multiple projects at the same time, and drag-and-drop files between them.
• Multi-monitor and touch screen support.
• Unlimited Audio- Instrument- and Effect Tracks.
• Audio import: WAV, MP3, OGG, FLAC and audio sample rate up to 192 kHz.
• Supports JACK, ALSA and PulseAudio
• Advanced time stretching with 8 different time stretch algorithms, including Zplane
• Micro Pitch in Note Editor
• Customizable keyboard shortcuts
• Ableton live support, synchronizing workstations through technologies.
• OS: Ubuntu 17.04 or later
• CPU: 64-bit dual-core or better x86 CPU with SSE3 support
• RAM: Minimum 4GB RAM.
• Available Storage: Minimum 12GB free disk space for full installation
Bitwig Studio has no ReWire support at the time but it is possible to route audio and MIDI between different applications through the JACK Audio Connection Kit, (available for Linux, OSX and Windows). About plugins VST 2.4 and VST3 effects and instruments are supported in 32- and 64- bit versions but it doesn’t currently support LV2 or AudioUnits (OS X). It is a great workstation and deserves to be checked out, am sure that in the near future we will be talking a lot about Bitwig Station.
Is important to understand that the best DAW for you is that one that makes you feel comfortable, meet with your expectations, that one that you know deeply and let you enjoy your time, however, using cross-platform software could be a plus, allowing you to work and collaborate with other musicians and producers beyond Linux. The final decision is up to you, keep in mind that mastering a DAW can bring you more benefits than knowing briefly several of it, getting the job done in less time and better results, but if you are not comfortable with the one you currently use, feel free and do not be afraid to try some other, we hope that this list allows you to consider some and take your best option.