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New and cheap (or free) recording software

posted on #1
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Joined: 14.02.18
Hey friends,

hope this reaches you in good health?

On Wednesday a fellow bass player asked for help in the German bassic.de forum - he had an old Win7 notebook and thought about converting that to Linux and to free software - so I (and others) helped a bit; if you can read and understand German, that thread is in https://www.bassic.de/threads/linux-fuer-doofies.14880128/

I answered with recommending some ready-made "music distributions", some of which could also be interesting to some of you in case you also have some unused hardware and/or lots of time (or interest) to play around with such things. I recommended some of these music distros before, but since there are newer versions by now, you'd probably like to have a look?

The first one I mentioned was/is Ubuntu Studio:


My daughter https://www.wikiloops.com/artist/Zuleikha+L.php started with that one because it wasn't too demanding even on her old Celeron (single core) notebook, which by now was replaced with a quad core Dell (her mum's old one), and because it was cool - when booting up it said something like "Linux for creative people" :) Their new stable LTS (long term supported) release will be out in about 12 days from now, a beta or an older version is available right now. Can be downloaded at https://ubuntustudio.org/

The second one is AV Linux:


AV Linux is more or less a one man project from Glen, a farmer, who also together with his son made the AVL Drumkits (see http://www.bandshed.net/avldrumkits/ for these). AV Linux is the only distribution which comes with a nice 130+ page manual from which you can learn a lot, and it can be downloaded from Glen's page at http://www.bandshed.net/avlinux/ - oh, and AVLinux comes bundled with a trial version of Harrison Mixbus 32c from https://harrisonconsoles.com/site/mixbus32c.html - one of Ardour's main commercial sponsors if I'm informed correctly (Ardour said so) :)

A new version, at least to me, is Virage:


Virage is also a one man project developed by Salvador Gómez (Wamphyre) and that one comes bundled with a typical 60 day trial version of Reaper (see https://www.reaper.fm/ in case you don't know it). Reaper is one of the very few music DAWs (digital audio workstations) which are available for all major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux), and some of us here at the 'loops swear on it. Maybe the easiest way to change from one platform to another, at least the software wouldn't change much. But Virage also comes with the KXStudio repositories (like AV Linux and Ubuntu Studio as well), so other software is just a few mouse clicks away. Virage can be downloaded in versions for BIOS (older machines) or UEFI (newer ones) at https://viragelinux.com/

So these are three more or less ready-made distributions you might want to try (from Live CD/DVD or from a bootable USB stick), and which you can install from there if you like what you see (and installation *is* necessary for realtime stuff like music, can't expect that to run well from a stick or CD).

What am I using?

I'm on Debian (see https://www.debian.org/ for their homepage) since years, and not without reason - all of the above distros are based upon it (Ubuntu is also a prettier daughter of Debian as they say). On top of Debian itself, I'm also using the KXStudio repositories:


- see https://kx.studio/ for its homepage. KXStudio comes with a whole bunch of nice additional plugins and with some own apps like Carla or Cadence which makes system integration quite easy - the graphical frontends for Jack alone are worth having a look, it's like having all the cabling visible on your screen, so this is really recommended stuff.

Other than that, as my main DAW I'm using Ardour:


You could try Ardour on Windows or on a Mac, but first you'd have to donate a bit for it, and second it wouldn't be my first choice for Windows VSTs, its natural habitat is Linux where it really shines in my opinion. See https://ardour.org/ for more info, and its manual at https://manual.ardour.org/toc/ if you're really interested (and maybe you should be).

The plugin suite I'm using on each of my tracks is Calf:


The distributions mentioned above as well as the KXStudio repos all bring these built-in or downloadable with a single mouse click, but for more infos about what's available from Calf alone, have a look at their homepage at http://calf-studio-gear.org/ - it not only looks like really nice gear, it really is.

There are countless others (like the TAL (Togu Audio Line) Reverb or Chorus which are also really nice), to list them all here would be too much - and I haven't even mentioned a single instrument yet. The point is that most of this stuff is freely available, and in many cases it's even open source which you may give to your brothers, sisters, neighbours, whomever.

So - let me quickly proof-read this, and I hope this will be interesting and/or helpful to some of you. If not, sorry to have wasted your time, if yes, glad that I could help.

Have a nice Easter weekend everyone, and
be well,

posted on #2
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Posts: 19
Joined: 02.07.13
I just say one thing, Reaper!
If you read French ;)
posted on #3
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Posts: 90
Joined: 16.11.19
I used Reaper when I was getting into computer music production. It is a nice tool for beginners, being a fairly comprehensive set of tools. It can do what a lot of high priced DAWS do out there and then some. A caveat on my part after about a years use. The verbiage used in the menu can be a bit much, like poor choice words for reading and typing. Some of the menu commands for pretty simple stuff are overly long and weighty. I graduated to bitwig through a few other tools and am happy with that tool (it ranges from the higher of cheap to not cheap).
Edited by MikeB on July 24 2020 13:50
Michael Bender
posted on #4
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Posts: 12
Joined: 28.10.20

Thank you for the hints about Linux, though I do not dare to make the switch.
I started to work some time ago on an rather old Win 7 laptop and I am amazed what you can achive with such outdated equipment.
Being a rookie I am using Roland Zenbeats for now as it is free and works with both platforms available to me (Win and Fire OS). Furthermore, I use vst instruments with low CPU usage in savihost by Hermann Seib and record directly to a mobile tascam.

Stay healthy!
Edited by Tinker on November 07 2020 22:10
posted on #5
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Posts: 501
Joined: 14.02.18
Tinker wrote:
Thank you for the hints about Linux, though I do not dare to make the switch.

Hey friends,

reviving this old thread for a minute because

a) with some of the Linux music distros I've mentioned above you don't have to be afraid or scared; simple make a bootable USB stick with one of them, and try without changing anything to your machine(s), and

b) I've got compliments lately about the sound of my upright, although I'm using a Chinese plywood instrument (Christopher DB202T) with also a cheap pickup (Shadow) and microphone (Røde) - maybe it's because by now I'm experimenting with the tape saturation and proper levels in Harrison Mixbus which I just upgraded to v7 - wrote about that on my blog over at https://wolfgang.lonien.de/2021/05/upgraded-to-mixbus-v7/ today.

But the type of programs, or even the OS don't matter that much in my experience, just try to work with proper gain staging (search for the term if you're not familiar with it)... and make it loud in the end only, not in single tracks where you could overdrive that next plugin... just my 2 (Euro-) Cents...

Have a nice day everyone, and keep that good music coming :)

posted on #6
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Posts: 501
Joined: 14.02.18
Hey again friends,

I wrote on my blog about Ardour, and how much I like its exporting - but didn't know this over which I stubled right now. This is from one of Ardour's developers:


Very useful IMHO, especially if you are targeting more than one streaming service (for me, exporting with the "Apple Music" preset or manually with -16 LUFS and -1 dBTP is enough)...

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