“Sketching digital audio algorithms with the musical playability of standalone hardware.”
With the launch of the Raspberry Pi (RPi) four years ago, I was quite exited about to be able to run my Pure Data patches on a small and affordable unit, to build my own little music mashines. This excitement was a little damped when I realized that:
- The RPi’s limited processing power combined with the unefficient way of executing the code (multitasking OS, etc.) leads to very modest audio performance (With the RPi3 the CPU power has raised significantliy and this got a bit better)
- You need an extra USB interface to get decent qality audio IO.
- Latency is quite high (~15-20ms).
- The power consumption is about 5-10 Watts – a little much for battery driven applications.
- To make your patches to start automatically and run reliably is quite a hassle to configure.
After reading this article about Axoloti, buying one of theese units for 90€ (including tax and shipping) was a no brainer to me. It just arrived at my home and I don’t regret buying it because it enables me to make efficient low latency embedded audio devices. Here are some points I was pleased to recognize after first hours of use:
- The Sketching environment seems to be quite comprehensive but also intuitive to use.
- The Latency is just about 2ms, noticeably less than any PC based audio system.
- Although the CPU is clocked at only 200Mhz, the audio performance seems quite good (due to the more efficient way of processing) – no pops or clicks so far
- My midi-controller (AKAI MPKmini) worked immediately without any configuration needed.
- There were many example patches to start with and most of them sounded really good.
- Power consumption is only about 120mA @5Volts.
- There is already a quite a vivid community.
- It’s easy and fast to use: before I noticed I had my first synth patch running standalone on the Axoloti – just like uploading a sketch to an Arduino.
Here is a talk given by the creator Johannes Taelman at the 31c3 Hacker congress. There he explains the Axoloti approach in more detail.
By the way, Axoloti is completely open source hardware and software.