Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Audio Production

Standards, Methodology, Test System Specs, And Legend


This is a collection of easy-to-install intended for those making, or even thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. These apps must fall in line with the realistic expectations of an average end-user in either a home or office desktop environment.

The three main criteria for the applications are: usability, quality, and popularity. Our test bed includes the top three Linux distributions (distros): Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE. For an app to even appear in this article it has to be available in the official repositories (repos) of one of these distros, or as DEB or RPM files from the software vendor's official Web site.

If you need a refresher, please reference Desktop Linux for the Windows Power User for an explanation of package management. Apps with too many bugs, crashes, or fails were left out. The quality of an app is determined by comparing its feature set to the industry-leading title in that category (whenever one exists). In the event that there are no clear industry-leading apps to compare against, don't worry. Anything that looks like it came out of a Win9x time-capsule doesn't pass.

Since Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is in a constant state of bug reporting and fixing, the most popular apps will have the most complete sampling of users, in turn producing an even better title. Also, because support is mainly handled by the community of users, popular software naturally has more documentation and fewer issues with compatibility. Therefore, popularity greatly influences the order in which equally usable apps of comparable quality are listed. This includes extra weight given to multi-platform applications. For a more comprehensive explanation of the standards applied to these applications please reference the Standards and Methodology page from the first segment: Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps.

Exclusion #1: Web Apps & Online Services.

Almost every article showcasing Web-based apps and online services is applicable to Linux as well as Windows, even if not specifically stated.

Exclusion #2: Windows Apps

Though we will include a page on virtualization and emulation, it is to showcase the actual virtualization/emulation software. We do not go into the details of getting any specific Windows app running in Linux.

Exclusion #3: Preferences

User preferences like 3D desktop effects, screen savers, panels, and launchers are not covered in this series. There is a planned how-to piece for preference options.

Exclusion #4: Games

Native games, casual games, free games, indie games, and retail games, as well as virtualized platforms and emulation, will be covered in a future rundown of Linux gaming.

Exclusion #5: Servers

This series is a follow-up to Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User, and therefore concentrates on Linux as being an alternative OS for consumers. This means desktops and notebooks, not servers.


This article is the sixth part in Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup and the test system has gone through a few upgrades since the series began. The latest hardware and software configurations are listed in the tables below.

64-bit Desktop Test System Specs

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Host OSUbuntu Studio 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (64-bit)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-750 @ 2.8 GHz (quad-core)
MotherboardGigabyte GA-P55A-UD7 (F7 BIOS)
Memory8 GB Crucial DDR3 @ 1333 MT/s (2 x 4 GB)
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 4870 Reference Board (512 MB GDDR5) PCIe 2.0
StorageSeagate Barracuda 7200.12 500 GB SATA 3 Gb/s 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS
Power SupplyCorsair TX750W (750 W max)
ChassisZalman MS1000-HS2
CPU CoolerScythe Mugen 2 Revision B

In order to determine Ubuntu compatibility we used a fresh and updated virtual machine (VM) installation of Ubuntu 10.10 (32-bit) with the default GNOME graphical user interface (GUI). For Fedora, we used Fedora 14 (32-bit) with GNOME. To check openSUSE compatibility, we used openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit), with KDE.

Virtual Machine Specs

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VersionOracle VirtualBox 3.2.10 r66523
Guest OS 1Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (32-bit)
Guest OS 2Fedora 14 "Laughlin" (32-bit)
Guest OS 3openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit)
CPU1 CPU--AMD-V and Nested Paging enabled
Base Memory1536 MB
Video Memory128 MB--3D Acceleration enabled
Storage8 GB--Dynamically Expanding
AudioPulseAudio Audio Driver

In order to test drive the feature set of the applications (and to determine 64-bit friendliness), we fell back on the host OS, a native (non-VM) and fully updated installation of 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 10.10. The version number that we looked at appears in parenthesis next to each application's name. This may not necessarily be the latest version, or the same version available via your distribution's software repository.


An application's logo links to its homepage (e.g. Firefox =

indicates availability in the default Ubuntu repos.

indicates availability in the default Fedora repos.

indicates availability in the default openSUSE repos.

links to an available .deb package download.

links to an available .rpm package download.

links to an available Windows download.

links to an available Mac download.

indicates that the application is a retail product.

* The icons used in this article were borrowed from the hydroxygen icon set by deviantdark and hosted on, along with a ton of other high quality theming elements.

  • nekromobo
    Now I remember why I read tom's.

    A great article!
  • akorzan
    I found using WINE with, don't laugh, FL Studio works great. Latencies are on par with Windows. Only problem is some VST plugins have mouse problems... I.E: double-clicking has to be absurdly fast. Another trivial problem is that battery life in laptops is nonexistent with WINE and FL Studio.
  • longshotthe1st
    Why would anyone even bother? Time is money, I'm going to just stick with what works.
  • damiensturdy
    Great read. FLStudio is one of only two pieces of software that keeps me tied to Windows. Sure, it runs under Wine, but getting it working is a pain, and you're lucky to get 100% of the functionality. As an advanced user of FLStudio, I use almost everything the app provides, and I need it as low latency as possible. 20ms is too much- 10ms is better. In general I've never achieved
  • damiensturdy
    Damn, it cut my post off. No way to edit that? ah well. I was basically saying that this article has helped me decide what software to use when I build my synthesizer this year.
  • g00ey
    Has anyone tried running software such as FL Studio in Linux using a virtualization software such as VirtuaBox? VirtualBox can even run in seamless mode which allows you to have Windows windows next to Gnome/KDE windows in the same screen.
  • Very nice article you could also have covered comercial productos on Linux like:

    Harrison Mixbus; Renoise; EnergyXT; WusikStation; PianoTec...

    BTW there is big updates soon for Ardour (3.0), MuSe (2.0) and Rosegarden (?).
  • damiensturdy
    @g00ey, yes. Latency and audio are weak through a VM, and the audio still has to travel through whichever audio library the Linux distro is using, it's a no go.
  • caeden
    g00ey, as a general rule of thumb you don't want to virturalize your workstations whether they be for audio or video editing. In part due to stability, and in part due to speed/latency.
    I was surprised at the scoring software. Looks about as good as my wife's version of Sibelius, with the exception that she had to pay for hers.
    Personally I just do editing and cleanup, and while it looks like it is much improved on Linux from what it use to be, it has improved more on the windows side. But nice to know that there are options available if I were to ever cross over.
  • I'm really looking forward to the Video apps review since that is my main sphere of interest.
    But it really sounds like it is time to get the 'ole midi keyboard out of the closet and try some of those synth apps!