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Linux Recording With the MobilePre
Why Use Linux?
January 20, 2009
Linux is well-suited to be a powerhouse audio engineering platform. It offers advanced, reliable memory management, task scheduling, stability, and its endless hackability makes it customizable for all occasions. It's certainly a superior platform to Windows: while there is a much larger selection of software and hardware available for Windows, it's not exactly a feast of riches, but more like a feast of meh. For audio hardware that requires drivers, they are often not very good quality and do not get updated like they should. Vendors are still slow to release Vista drivers, and Vista is such a system resource hog it's impractical to use for audio recording and editing. There is still Windows XP, and while it is frugal of system resources, the downfalls of using Windows are well-known.
Software for Windows is abundant and feature-packed: Cubase, Cakewalk, ACID Pro, Soundbooth, Ableton, Pro Tools, and on and on. Some are optimized to work with specific hardware devices. Prices range from small to mondo. Apple users have the excellent Logic Studio. So why bother with Linux?
Why Use Linux?For me, it's as much about freedom as using a technologically satisfactory platform. Linux and FOSS are the lone forces for honesty and openness in the tech industry. Without Linux and FOSS there would be no one continually advocating for open standards, open formats, open protocols, all unencumbered by patents and insanely-restrictive EULAs.
M-Audio MobilePreOk then, enough background. This is supposed to be a review of using the M-Audio MobilePre on Linux, so by gosh here we go. The MobilePre is a combination microphone preamp/analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converter. (See Figures 1 and 2 to see what it looks like). It supports up to 16 bit/48 mHz recording quality, which may seem a bit pass� in this era of 24-bit digital audio. Two-channel 16/44.1 is the Red Book standard for CD audio, so if you're happy with that then you'll like the MobilePre. Remember, bigger is not always better-- audio quality is limited by the weakest link in your audio chain, and your skill at making recordings. Good skill with moderate tools will always beat poor skills with great tools.
What do you do with the MobilePre? That's a fair question, since the world of computer audio is vast, confusing, and full of overlapping functionality.
Figures 1 and 2 show what it looks like. The current version is black and silver; older models are blue and white