Open Hardware for Digital Audio Workstations

Project: Open Hardware for Digital Audio Workstations

The Problem

Commercial Digital Audio Workstations, such as Pro Tools (TM) offer external hardware (in the form of dedicated DSPs, e.g. Pro Tools HD).

These high-end dedicated boards are not compatible between different DAWs software and have all the usual traits of proprietary lock-in: expensive, forced upgrades, lack of customization. An alternative solution based on Open Hardware can make a huge difference in this space, particularly if through the use of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual Studio Technology|VST plugins] it can be available to both proprietary DAWs and Free Software DAWs such as Ardour.

This project is in a pre-alpha, planning stage. Contact me, if you want to join in.

Updat 2015

Wolfson shield has been discountinued, looking into other alternatives.

Update 2014

We are looking into a solution using Ardour and the Wolfson shield for the Raspberry Pi: http://www.element14.com/community/community/raspberry-pi/raspberry-pi-accessories/wolfson_pi?CMP=KNC-USA-RPI-ACC-Wolfson


So far, it looks we'll focus on

georgepalermo would want a firewire interface, that doesn't seem trivial to embed



Present: DrDub, georgepalermo

Difference between TDM version of Pro Tools and LE version. TDM uses dedicated hardware so it off-loads the main CPU from the execution of sound processing plugins. LE uses the computer hardware. Problem: plugins use a lot of memory and introduce lags. 4Gb of RAM is not enough to run 20 plugins.

Some TDMs boards, for example, have 8 in channels, 8 out channels and 128 internal tracks, plus a firewire connection to the main machine that allows the tracks to be written to disk in realtime. The 128 internal tracks are created by applying different filters to the input channels (and further processed tracks). Interestingly, TDMs can do all that with only 1Gb of RAM.

georgepalermo has an 8 channels digitizer, it would be nice if the design can have a detachable digitizer (that'd be tough, though as it outputs through firewire).

DrDub toyed with the idea of a full-fledged system that writes to disk in the system itself, so it can use a slow USB interface just for control and use VST for the interface. Another option is to use ethernet as an alternative to firewire for the transfer. georgepalermo said that many times two channels are enough to be transferred into the computer.


Impromptu meeting at ##foulab DrDub, f^x, Danukeru

DrDub bounce the idea with the people. A few members of Les Laboratoires Foulab were suggested.

The following hardware platforms for building the open hardware were suggested: