In this article, we will look at the operating system Linux and whether it is a good choice for music production.
We will examine how it differs from other operating systems, the pros and cons, the best DAWs that run on Linux, and towards the end of the article I will talk about my opinions.
Is Linux good for music production?
Linux is a good operating system for music production. A decent number of DAWs and many free plugins are available because Linux is an open-source operating system. Linux is a very lean operating system meaning none of your hardware is being used on useless things.
Linux also allows you to have better control of your hardware, allowing you to assign the most recourses possible to create music, and this is a standout feature and why many people switch to Linux. If you are knowledgeable in computers, you can use Linux to push your hardware to its limits and get amazing results.
However, there are some clear disadvantages of using Linux. The most obvious is that none of the eight major DAWs (Listed in the next section) is supported, meaning you will have to purchase a completely new DAW or find a free alternative. In addition, almost all your Plugins will likely not work within Linux either, which may cost even more than your DAW when you add it all up.
Although there are a lot of disadvantages if you’re starting music production, Linux is a great choice. With it being an open-source operating system, almost all the new software is free, so by the time you’re reading this article, there may already be a whole new DAW or many new plugins available.
If you’ve already spent money on any of the major DAWs that Linux doesn’t support, you’d be at a loss if you switched your operating system to Linux. Like software, Linux also has trouble with certain USB devices like Audio Interfaces, so you may not be able to run your studio set up with Linux, so keep that in mind.
All in all, I’d recommend you read the rest of this article before making up your mind, as we will cover some of the DAWs supported by Linux and look in depth at the Pros and Cons.
What is Linux?
Linux is an open-source operating system, like the more well-known systems Mac OS and Windows. However, unlike its counterparts, it is completely free, which Is useful for producers who are on a budget, but if you’ve purchased a new computer or laptop, you probably already have a built-in operating system like windows or Mac OS.
Many people switch to Linux for its reliability. There are no licensing fees, a free anti-virus system, and good customer support, and you’ll never find the creators slowing down your operating system to make you upgrade.
What DAWs can and can’t run on Linux?
The eight most popular DAWs, Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Cubase, Studio One, Reason and GarageBand, cannot run on Linux. For some producers, this may be the end of looking into Linux as an operating system but don’t worry; there are some great alternatives for you to check out.
In no particular order, these are my top 6 choices for DAWs that run on Linux.
Ardour is like DAWs like Pro Tools and Logic Pro X.
It has all the essential features that will allow you to track, score and mix your song. It also comes with a decent selection of plugins included, and it supports most third-party plugins. Ardour also supports video timelines so that you can easily sync audio to visuals.
Ardour is subscription-based and costs as little as $1 per month, which is great for producers on a budget.
LMMS is a widely known free DAW and is one that I checked out when I started music production many years ago.
It’s a great starting point for new producers who don’t want to spend any money, but it lacks certain key features that most DAWs have, reducing its potential for creating professional tracks.
LMMS is free.
The most expensive plugin on this list, and arguably one of, if not the best. A standout feature of Bitwig studio is that it allows for both linear and modular production like Ableton Live. It comes with a decent amount of built-in effects and plugins, and it has the potential to create some amazing and professional-sounding tracks. It also has live performance capability.
Bitwig is a plugin you should keep in mind as it is only getting better and more popular. Bitwig is priced at 399 EUR.
Renoise 3 takes a different approach to modern-day production with a top-down column style interface instead of the horizontal row style you see in almost all modern DAWs. Renoise features all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a modern DAW, but the built-in effects and instruments are lacklustre.
Renoise 3 is priced at $75. Even for a seasoned producer, I’d recommend you check this plugin out just for its new approach to production and relatively low price.
Most producers have probably heard of Reaper, and for a good reason. Reaper is an affordable alternative to the higher-end DAWs, and it comes with a nice amount of effects and instruments so that you can start producing immediately. In addition, Reaper features a nice amount of customizability, which most of its counterparts lack.
Reaper starts at $60. It’s important to mention that Reaper on Linux is still in Beta.
Audacity is a well-known free DAW, and it’s been around since 1999. However, it’s not meant to be a DAW per se; it’s more an audio editor. It does support VST effects but doesn’t support VST instruments, so creating full songs might be difficult.
Audacity is free and a great choice for quick audio editing and recording.
The Pros and Cons of Linux
- Efficiency – Linux is a very efficient operating system. It has far fewer ‘fancy’ features than its counterpart’s windows and mac, meaning you free up recourses that can be used when creating music. Linux has also been reported to have less latency than Mac and Windows, so recording could technically be a better and smoother experience with Linux.
- Open-source software – With Linux being an open-source operating system, there is a nice amount of free software for you. In addition, there are some Linux-specific plugins and other audio software that you might want to check out, and with Linux getting more and more popular, the chances of some great quality freebies are becoming more likely.
- Free – With Linux being free, you’ll never have to pay a penny for it. This can be useful for anyone with an old laptop or computer lying around, and the operating system is extremely outdated. With Linux, you could upgrade to an up-to-date operating system for free.
- Lack of Plugins – Not all plugins can run on Linux, which could be a huge issue for some producers. If you’ve already sunk a fair amount of money into many 3rd party plugins, you may not be able to use them. On the other hand, Linux is constantly evolving, so there’s a chance that one day your plugins will be compatible. iZotope plugins allegedly work with Linux, but I haven’t tested that myself, so I can’t confirm this.
- No Major DAWs supported – None of the major DAWs are compatible. Most of the top DAWs like Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, FL Studio and so on will not run in Linux, and this can be an issue if you’ve purchased any or all these DAWs. These DAWs are very expensive, so you must ask yourself if it’s worth giving them up and purchasing/learning a new DAW.
- Audio interfaces may not be compatible – Your average USB and Thunderbolt-connected audio interfaces may not work with Linux. Most of these connections don’t support Linux, but there is a way you can get around this if you are good with the technical side of computers.
- Lack of USB support – Most external USB devices may not be compatible. Mouses, Keyboards, MIDI Controllers, and more might not be supported, so that’s important to keep in mind if you’re not a fan of your Laptop/Computer’s built-in keyboard and trackpad.
- Emulator – You might find yourself using a windows emulator like WINE. With all the DAWs and Plugins that don’t work on Linux, you might want to use a windows emulator, at which point you have to think it is even worth using Linux. Also, most plugins and DAWs don’t work well within emulators.
- Skill Gap – You ideally need to be skilled and knowledgeable to use Linux to its full potential. Although this may be a good thing for some, It’s apparent that many producers would prefer to spend more time working on music than setting up their operating system.
Overall, Linux is a super interesting Operating System. The free software and the growth potential is a great selling point.
However, I would advise producers who have already spent time, effort, and money on producing music on either Mac or Windows to stick with their current Operating System to save themselves the money and time buying new plugins and learning a whole new DAW.
I’m a Music Producer and Sound Engineer from the UK. I have been working with music my whole life and I’m currently studying Music Production and Sound Engineering at university.