64 Studio – A Linux Desktop Recording Solution

While researching home studio recording options, I happened across a suite of tools that comes all neatly packaged in a custom Linux distribution: 64 Studio. While I am of the belief that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, 64 Studio provides a very comprehensive suite of home studio tools that should be more than adequate for most purposes and situations.

Ok, yes, it’s Linux. Don’t be put off by that: it’s very easy to set up and use, and no specific Linux knowledge is needed to get going.

What is needed is a reasonable broadband connection however, as in order to get started, you need to download it. There are several different versions available from www.64studio.com: if you have a spare system with a 64 bit motherboard/CPU, get the full 64 bit installation ISO. There’s a similar version for those with 32 but CPUs, and for those who don’t have a spare system, there are equivalent Live CD images that you can grab. Whichever version you get, keep your coffee machine replenished, or have a good movie close at hand: the download sizes are all in the realm of 700MB or more. Plan your day accordingly.

The site contains full documentation instructing you in how to build the files into either an installation disk or a Live CD, so there’s no need for me to go over that here. There is one caveat that I do need to mention …

If you have a nVidia graphics card installed in your system, you might encounter some driver issues. This didn’t cause me any issues as my system was using an ATI graphics card, but please consider yourself warned.

Ok, the caveat’s done, so let’s get down to it. I’m going to discuss how you can start playing with 64 Studio’s Live CD and thus start using its tools, without needing to install anything on your existing system, and also without having to destroy anything on your system either. As noted above, there are instructions on 64 Studio’s website for building your Live CD. After downloading the correct image file, burn it to  blank CD.

Once that’s been done, running 64Studio is as easy as turning on your machine, placing the live CD into the CD drive, making sure that your system is set to boot from the CD, and let it go.

You should first of all see a simple Linux boot menu prompt, and then the Linux boot process will start.

Give it a minute or so, and you will be presented with your Linux Desktop. While this may look different from the current system that you might be using, rest assured that the differences, in a practical sense, are little more than cosmetic: you have a desktop, a task bar, and a menu button. In fact, you have four desktops – this is standard Linux stuff – but that is not important right now.

In the bottom left corner of the task bar you should see a footprint: that’s your “Start” button. Click it now to get the main system menu to appear, and then select “Sound & Video”. This will give you access to the sound and video applications’ menu, and as you can see, there’s quite a comprehensive array of applications available, ranging from configuring your sound devices, through to sound editors, instrument tuning tools, MIDI controllers, CD burning tools, and movie & video making tools.

As I said, comprehensive.

From here, it’s up to you: hook up a microphone, start Audacity, and start recording. Save your work and listen to yourself as the new, shining star! Do take note however that as you’re running from a live CD, everything that you save might only be saved into a ramdisk, meaning that if you turn the system off,  unless you take specific steps to move your output to permanent storage, then all of your work may be lost forever. That is probably the only disadvantage of running from a Live CD.

Play with different audio interfaces. Connect up your MIDI keyboard and try some of the tools that come with the distro.

Or …. (gasp!) … have a play with the Debian Linux distro that it’s rolled out on, and learn a little bit about Linux.

64 Studio is a simple to use suite of tools that is easy to get up and running, but gives you a lot of scope to explore and experiment, both in and well beyond the realm of your home recording studio.

And price is just right too!