I read an article a while back about a complete commercial studio 100% powered by linux.
It was emphasized that the only audio subsystem to use for linux is JACK if you are doing any kind of pro work.
I have to admit I have experimented with Jack before years ago and never got it to work properly.
But since the last go around with pulse audio causing Audacity to crash I started thinking about alternatives.
My interest in using linux professionally for audio is broadening and I would like to use JACK if it means a more reliable system.
First the good news:
Audio on Linux has matured considerably over the last few years.
Most users find that PulseAudio now works reliably out of the box, and Jack is generally much easier to set up than previously. It is even possible to get Jack and Pulse to play nicely with each other, giving the benefits of both systems, which can be extremely powerful and flexible.
That depends on what type of work you are doing.
If you need “real time effects” and/or real time synthesis, then Jack is the way to go.
For “off-line” (non-real-time) editing, then Jack is not required.
Usually with Audacity I just use ALSA. This is very reliable and stable.
Unfortunately Audacity still suffers from a few glitches with both Jack and PulseAudio, but not so much as to be unusable. Once you are aware of the issues it is easy to work around them.
The main issues with Jack are:
If you activate the recording meter before any recording has been done, Audacity may crash.
The (easy) workaround (if this issue affects you):
After launching Audacity with Jack enabled, press the Record button. then Stop, then “Edit > Undo”. After that, Audacity should be stable for the rest of the session.
The “audio ports” open when playback or record start, and close (disappear) when playback/record are stopped. This prevents setting up Audacity’s connections using QjackCtl.
Workaround: Use the device toolbar.
The main issue with PulseAudio is that Audacity may freeze when starting or stopping the audio stream (starting or stopping Record or Playback).
This is most likely to occur when rapidly starting/stopping/starting/stopping.
The workaround is to select the “hw” options in the device toolbar. This causes Audacity to bypass PulseAudio and use ALSA directly.
Despite these shortcomings, Linux is an excellent platform for Audacity, and there are “advanced” configurations possible that allow you to do things that are simply not possible on other platforms.
Setting my playback to HW solved my crashing issue.
My work and proficiency with editing (thanks Audacity!) has gotten some attention and I was consulted in a way about setting up a small recording studio.
They had the idea it took thousands of dollars worth of equipment but In their case it can be done with a laptop, a USB powered mixer, a couple quality mics, and a pair of head phones.
Ideally for live studio recording you want some kind DAW software. But the inexpensive USB mixer consoles have equalization, compression, etc so for just RECORDING Audacity will actually work great.
I based my comments on what Al Dimond (an erstwhile Audacity developer) said.
I do sometimes get a similar problem in VLC on my 1 GHz 1 GB RAM netbook running Ubuntu. If I press Pause and Play repeatedly it will repeat a fragment over and over and have to be force quit. I have never seen that happen on Ubuntu on a higher specification laptop.