I am in the testing phase of creating m home studio. I have an older Dell Dimension 4100 with 512 Meg Ram and a P3 833 CPU.(THis could be upgraded to a AMD 2800+) I am running Debian Linux. A little under powered right now but still able to test. The onboard sound card is horrible, but I can record one track using the mic jack. When I record a second track the sound is muffled and none of the high frequencies get recorded. Pretty cool f you are trying to record chunky guitar but that means the vocal track has to come first. My issues are:
What sound card should I get? I am thinking of an OEM SB Audigy SE 7.1. I think I can get drivers for this from 4Front.
I am thinking of adding a firewire mixer if I can get the multi-track to work. Maybe a Firepod (FP10) or a Alesis io26.
If you can still get one, the SBLive (value) are cheap and decent sound quality - I use one on my Xubuntu machine, no problem with drivers, it was picked up straight away. Only problem that I had was that on my old Pentium 500 the Audio buffers had to be set really high (speed performance was terrible, far slower than on Windows). I updated to the rt-kernel and now it flies - 8 stereo tracks or more with audio buffers set to 50 milliseconds and no drop-outs.
I’ve never been so keen on the Audigy cards, although I’ve only used them in Windows - the drivers don’t seem to be very stable and the sound card “disappears” every now and then, requiring a re-installation of the drivers, or at best a re-boot.
For sound quality, the m-audio cards have a good reputation for the price, though I don’t know what driver support is like on Linux (note that Audacity does not support ASIO).
I have an M-Audio 1010LT that works perfectly in GNU/Linux. My older M-Audio Audiophile 192 did NOT work, however. From what I can tell, most M-Audio cards are supported except the Audiophile.
Also, that Mic Jack probably isn’t stereo, that’s why you can’t pick anything up in the second channel. Your drivers really shouldn’t even allow you to do that, but motherboard audio drivers suck.
I can’t help you with the FireWire Mixer. I’m told the Alesis MultiMix series works (at least in Windows), but I have no experience with any others. Just make sure you’re careful with USB mixers, they generally can’t send more than 2 channels to the computers (whereas the FireWire mixers often can).
Apparently the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI works well in Linux (with ALSA), and gets very good reviews (example below)
The origin of the poor quality second track is a bug in the ASLA-OSS emulation layer. If you use audacity 1.3.4 and select ALSA audio devices for recording and playback you will not have this problem.
To get Firewire working you need hardware supported by the FFADO project - http://www.ffado.org/