Why I Use GNU/Linux for Recording

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I'm a relative newcomer to digital recording. Early digital hardware was just as expensive as high-end analogue, but didn't sound as good, and until recently software based recording systems were too limited in sound, functionality and reliability to be used for anything more serious than hobby-level recording. As it improved, there was still a problem as far as I was concerned: it was impossible for the user to fix bugs or modify the software to suit his or her working methods better.

My old Soundcraft and Studer tape machines came with comprehensive service manuals, and any spare part was available from the manufacturers. Like a lot of `old school' sound engineers I carry out my own repairs and often modify things if they don't do exactly what I want. I was surprised when I first started to hear from manufacturers that their equipment contained `no user serviceable parts', and no service manuals or spare parts were available to end users. At the time it was still possible to avoid buying equipment from manufacturers with such an uncooperative and unprofessional attitude, but it is now so widespread that it has become accepted. Nobody is surprised now when they're not able to fix or modify the equipment or software they have paid good money for.

In the late '90s I started hearing about Linux. On investigation it looked to be, at least potentially, exactly what I was looking for in a computer based sound recording platform - a system for which the source code was freely available. I bought a copy of Red Hat 5.1, and started using GNU/Linux for all my non-sound related IT stuff. It took a few more years for it to develop to the point where I could put the analogue tape recorders into retirement, but in 2005 I finally took the plunge and built the system I used for most of my recording for the next six years: a dual Opteron server running Debian GNU/Linux. This gave me the power and editing capabilities of digital recording without having to sacrifice the ability to repair and modify my system as I see fit. I've since replaced that system with a newer and more powerful one, also running Debian.

Last updated July 3 2012