The ADAT Blues (first chorus)

The installation of Ubuntu (a while ago) went flawless, or so it seemed at first. But when I wanted to do some recording test, I found out that things didn't go so well after all. As I stated before, my recording needs are fairly modest. Most of the time a stereo in- and output will do just fine. But occasionally I need to record a few extra tracks simultaneously. That's why I bought a Fostex VC-8 AD/DA converter (quite a while ago..) that I connected to my sound card using an optical ADAT cable. The sound card is not really state of the art either, being an OEM RME card bundled by Steinberg with Cubase (ST24/96). Nothing particularly fancy, but it delivers professional results, with the optical ADAT connections. So I was hoping I could use this set up when using Linux for music production. But it seems like I'm out of luck with this one, even though I haven't given up completely yet...:

[Update 29 April 2010: Everything is working nicely, see "Installing a Linux Music Production system" for more details.]

One of the reasons I settled on Ubuntu as my Linux distribution of choice was the ease with which all the peripherals where detected on my laptop. Even the wireless Internet connection worked like a charm right out of the box. So I made a dual-boot with Ubuntu on my music production system and as I said, at first everything seemed to be working. It looked as though both the sound card mentioned above as the on-board sound chip were detected fine. The ST24/96 (which is a name given by Steinberg anyway) is shown as an "RME Digi96/8 Pad", which is basically a successor of my card so I had high hopes at first. But alas, I can't get it to work, no matter what I tried (so far). I don't really need the card's AD/DA converters, since I'll use the Fostex VC-8 for that, so I would have been happy if only the ADAT connections functioned, but so far no luck.

I have done a bit of research, and at this point I basically have 4 options:

  • 1) Simply use the on-board sound chip. While this is fine for regular desktop use, it doesn't have the quality needed for professional music production. So that one is out.
  • 2) Replace ALSA with OSS and see if that works. Not very likely though, since the listed RME cards at the OSS site are included in ALSA as well.
  • 3) Buy a supported card that has optical ADAT in/out. I suspect that this is the road I will eventually travel...
  • 4) Research some more. I don't think I know all the nuts and bolts of the card yet, and maybe RME customer support can give me some extra information.

Since I won't be using Linux for music production on mission critical projects for a while, and I still have the feeling that I haven't explored everything relating my card just yet, I'll choose the last option. The RME tech-guys helped me very well when I found out the ST24/96 had no XP drivers (I had to switch to XP, only 2 weeks after I bought the card), so maybe they have some information. And if you happen to know anything about using this card for Linux music production, I'd be happy to learn! I'll keep you informed.