Using ART Tubefire 8 with Linux

About a month ago I decided that it was time for me to pick up some decent recording gear and get moving on a recording. Going to a studio was out of the question for me because 1) I love computers and recording and I want to be involved in every part of the creation and 2) due to my job (I’ve taught some recording courses) I have a substantial working knowledge of recording techniques. I went to my local music shop and after a few days of reading and browsing and going home and researching on the net I decided to grab a nice mic (AKG C-214, this is for classical guitar) and a tube mic preamp (ART Tubefire 8).

I was really impressed with the versatility of the Tubefire. You can read more about it here, but to sum up it’s points: it is an eight channel, tube preamp which has been getting very good reviews for it’s price point…..and the real kicker, it has a built in ADC/DAC which runs into the computer via firewire. Even without the computer sound input though I was really interested in this unit because it has: eight channels – eight ins, eight outs (great for a live setting with a band), real tubes (push the input gain on the unit and you can really get some nice tube warmth), and phantom power.

So I had made up my mind on this product….it really was everything I could possibly hope for…one last step (as a Linux guy)…..check for Linux support…I mean I’m pretty good with Linux these days, so even if I have to compile and hack a little….no problem (and before you start saying….oh why doesn’t he just reinstall windows/macosx and stop complaining….here’s the thing…..it’s not about using the other operating system…..it’s about not wanting to have to always keep the other operating system + recording software around so that I can get back to my original takes…..I use Ardour these days and it is definitely everything I will ever need in a recording program and I don’t feel like moving from a pro-tools powerhouse sort of program into say cubase or garageband)
Anyways, I hit the net with my fingers crossed and learned that the project/program for firewire audio in Linux is ffado. After hitting their website and looking up Tubefire in the device support list (yes it was there at least) it was listed as “unknown”…..Damn….it was so close….it was everything I needed but no Linux support. So I thought about it and I came to the conclusion I could still use it as a preamp and run it into my computer via my Edirol UA-25 USB soundcard….which gives me all the nice tube warmth for recording, but I lose the ability to record 8 tracks at once (into individual tracks in Ardour) and play back eight tracks at once (again individually)….of course Ardour can record/playback as many tracks as your hard drive can keep up with….but it would be really nice to be able to mic a drum kit with eight mics, all running through a tube preamp into individual tracks on the computer for mixing a tweaking later….but oh well….now ….on to the fun and exciting bit

Last night after owning the unit for a month….I decided to screw around with the computer side of things a bit and see what I could learn (I have been using it successfully as a stand alone preamp)…..so I plugged it in to my computer via the firewire and sure enough, the kernel detected the firewire interface and setup a file (/dev/raw1394) to handle input/output from the device….good start :)
I’m using the now current Ubuntu (ver.9.04 Jaunty) so I installed the following packages: linux-image-rt, linux-restricted-modules-rt, jackd, qjackctl, ardour, ffado-dbus-server, ffado-mixer-qt4, ffado-tools and libffado0
Next I ran the command (in a terminal): sudo chown myusername /dev/raw1394
to give myself permission to access the firewire device and I fired up the ffado mixer. it discovered the Tubefire, there were some settings (which seemed to do nothing) and there was nothing in the mixer….ok what’s next….let’s try jack
So I started up Jack control, went into settings and changed: driver = firewire, interface = hw:0
hit the start button and voila….Jack was talking to something….I take a look at the input/output channels….OMG!!!! Jack is showing 8 inputs and 8 outputs…..now I’m starting to get really excited.
Last thing to check…..I started up Ardour and again everything works….It looks like multiple inputs should work no problem (I only recorded one channel at a time, but I can’t see there being any problem) and I tested multiple playback channels at the same time…ran them into my Mackie and everything was fine….so I’m assuming (I’ll test more in the coming weeks) that recording 8 channels at once should work and playing back 8 separate channels should work too

In the Jack setup if you select the sample rate to be any of the device’s supported rates and then start Jack, the unit correctly displays the correct rate by lighting the proper led light

wow….I should have done this long ago….lets put this in the “I can’t believe it just worked out of the box category!!!!!”

6 thoughts on “Using ART Tubefire 8 with Linux

  1. You should post a small sample with this gear. I’d love to hear how it sounds, I’ve been dieing to get some equipment myself but I have no idea where to start.

  2. Thanks Eugene for that great review!! I’m also getting one of this very soon!

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