Ubuntu SoundBlaster Live!

A few weeks ago, I replaced my Fedora Core 6 installation with Ubuntu Studio. While I was at it, I installed a graphics card and LCD monitor that had been gathering dust in the basement. These changes went really well so, I decided to try, once again, to get audio working on this same computer. Audio output was never an issue but, trying to get audio capture and MIDI working was an exercise in frustration.

This time I did some research before I went crazy. Most helpful was a blog post by Dave Phillips that offered the following advice:

I can’t over-emphasize the need to do your homework before purchasing hardware for audio with Linux… you must not assume that your equipment will be supported. For that information your first stop should be the new & improved ALSA Soundcard Matrix, and if you can’t find what you need there you should proceed to the LAU mail-list and its archives.

So after one more attempt at getting my (refurbed) Creative eXtigy or the on-board AC97 to work properly, I decided to re-purpose a SoundBlaster Live! from a Pentium II machine I had built way back in 1998. I put the eXtigy in storage, installed the SB Live and disabled the Linux box’s on-board audio. This was a great move! It pretty much all just started working. I could finally use (and learn) Linux audio. A short time later, I had rendered some old MIDIs using Rosegarden.

I have often said, one only learns how something works, if that something breaks. (This is particularly true of undocumented systems – the domain of my day job!) When it came to my Linux audio setup however, I never had it working to begin with so, I never got off the ground.

Now with the SB Live, everything I’ve read makes sense and, the problems encountered so far are overcome, usually by looking more closely at the JACK connections, ALSA mixer or a mailing list archive.

Now, let’s hope I can actually create some worthwhile sounds with this setup.