A Guitar Amp/Effect Solution For Linux
UPDATE 1: For those of you interested in open source alternatives to Guitar Rig, please feel free to read my new post on Rakarrack.
I previously blogged about my satisfactory experience with Arch Linux installation on a second-hand laptop. Now in this post I’m going to turn that $150 laptop into a kick-ass and sexy Amp and Effect Processor. In fact, we will see how lightweight tendency of Arch Linux helps us to achieve a low latency/high quality playback on a computer that is considered somehow outdated in today’s world. Furthermore, we’re going demonstrate the obvious fact that GNU/Linux has already reached the maturity suitable for (semi-)professional audio needs. The project for myself was a bit of stretch and needed a lot of trial-and-error efforts since I was totally new to the whole idea. However the final result is quite superb and amazing:
Honestly, The idea of buying an audio interface came to me quite unexpectedly as I was initially looking for a rather basic solid-state amplifier for my newly bought Guitar. However, all that changed when I found this nearly new Guitar Rig Kontrol unit at a very tempting price. Just for the record, Guitar Rig Kontrol is an audio interface/pedalboard that pairs with an accompanying software called Guitar Rig Pro to make a solid bass and electric guitar solution. The accompanying software is (unfortunately) not open source (I’d be surprised if it was otherwise) yet it is one of the best amp/effect modeling software out there. There are some open source alternatives but they have nowhere near the capabilities of this one(I will blog about them soon).
Buying these kind of audio hardware/software packages that have been rarely tested under GNU/Linux may raise the concern of weird unknown incompatibilities. But in the instruction which follows you will see that it’s easy to get these tricky pieces of hardware and software to work on GNU/Linux:
1- Getting Guitar Rig Kontrol 3 (The Hardware) to Work
Guitar Rig Kontrol is supported in Linux through ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) drivers included in the Linux kernel version 2.6.22 and above. The kernel of the Arch Linux installed on my machine is 2.6.36 so it’s supported. Next I had to install JACK and PulseAudio in order to get the hardware to work. After a reboot the input LED indicators started to pick up signal from the connected guitar.
2- Installing Guitar Rig Pro 4 (The software) under Wine
This step was quite easy. Just put the software DVD and install Guitar Rig Pro using Wine. Then I had to register the software. The software run very well under wine. No extra modification was needed.
3- Connecting The Software and Hardware through WineAsio
At this stage, Guitar Rig 4 couldn’t see the Kontrol hardware. To solve this problem I had to install the final piece of the puzzle: WineAsio. I grabed a copy of WineAsio source code and compiled and installed it on my system ( I also had to download ASIO SDK to have some header files for WineAsio). Finally I registered the ‘wineasio.dll’.
4- Configuring JACK
In order to achieve a decent latency and sample rate I had to install QjackCtl and configure JACK.
Just run Guitar Rig Pro 4 and set the Audio preferences to WineAsio. The software and hardware are now working smoothly. Incredible!
The record button is not working at this stage. I’m currently playing with settings to find out what is the source of the problem.
Things to do in future
I should start assigning tasks to the Guitar Rig Kontrol keys. I’m currently looking for and open source software suitable for this need. However, this is for another post.