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Launch!

Launching zikichombo

We have decided to launch ZikiChombo after careful consideration of our own private work and several interesting public go audio projects, discussions, and proposals.

Background.

In 2015, Rakyll proposed. audio I/O in the scope of the go mobile project. This project has sparked a lot of interest amongst gophers, giving rise to the shiny interface for example. The scope of the proposal was in our opinion a bit too focused on Android and Go access to mobile apps, and decided to use openal as the backing component.

OpenAL is a gaming library which considers playback and recording “extensions” and features 3d rendering. It is implemented on iOS and darwin on top of apples AudioUnits. It was originally sponsored by SoundBlaster. On Linux, it is built on top of ALSA. It’s API is notoriously difficult and very not Go-like.

In 2017 Matt Aimonetti proposed an audio package for Go. Perhaps the first pioneer to put Go to commercial use related to sound at Splice and with a background as an audio engineer and music producer, his perspective on Go and audio is quite different, driven by both production needs and lots of experience working with sound software. This led to the Go Audio Github organisation which is a noble effort to consolidate audio for Go.

The work above has been happily ignored by Oto which provides an output interface on top of openal, alsa, and works for android and ios.

This work has also been happily ignored by the very interesting Beep which brings some nifty image know-how to audio.

Also worth mentioning as a point of reference is This ALSA driver which manages to directly talk to the linux kernel level ALSA without the library.

There are A myriad of other projects, some of which surely deserve mention here.

All of these projects are innovative, bold, and very much struggling by comparison to to say AudioUnits, VSTs, JUCE, etc. They are struggling because this is uncharted territory and all “the experts” are doing things for ProTools, LogicPro, Audible, etc, at least most of them in a very non-Go like way, most notably with a seeming fervour for unsimplicity. They are also struggling because they simply wrap other C projects, like portaudio supercollider, etc.

The Need

Go is a perfectly capable programming language I guess about a decade old now, and brings with it a lot of plan9 and inferno related technology, IP, and practical computer science giants. Lots of folks, including yours truly, have thought and will continue to think “hey lets do audio in Go”, and maybe moreover really in Go, not via wrappers. Many will also think lets do so with commercial grade reliability.

Frankly, this was a delusion which nearly ended my financial independence. Others are out there playing and recording on dozens of platforms and dozens of codecs and having their work automatically hosted as VSTs and AudioUnits readily integrated into dozens of widely used DAWs, synths, etc. I wanted to do some new things, had some successes and failures and many rounds of putting my foot in my mouth with DSP know-how 1. I believe my successes would be on the market and used if I had not chosen my favorite langage, Go.

Instead, the best I could offer anyone was “uh here’s a wave file and some darwin i/o and text output and if you measure the results, they are good”.

The fundamental problem was lack of libraries and lack of interoperability of libraries. I had underestimated the role of the software language ecosystem in the field.

This problematic touches on all developers. It also makes work like Oto and Beep quite interesting. They are 1-person projects which accomplish a lot and show successful interdependence. But they are far from a basis on which to turn for audio support because the functionality is very incomplete. They serve more like proof of concepts with very narrow general applicability.

I think all of us would like to be able to do input and output, sometimes duplex in a way which interacts with codecs, processing, operations and controllers on a variety of common platforms. Moreover, not addressing all this with a global eye on composability will inevitably render simplicity unattainable due to dependency and integration overhead.

We can’t have simple composability accross the levels of codecs, I/O and processing without cool projects like Oto and Beep, because we wouldn’t have enough working examples to make wise choices about composability without their work. But we also cannot rely on these projects to evolve with higher level composability outside of their scope in mind.

There is a need to address this, and an open source community has the potential to do so in a long lasting reliable way.

What should happen

Go needs to nail the architecture to be useful in this domain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Google in all its might is doing what it takes to get there. For one thing the Core Gophers don’t have audio in their culture 2. For another, Go invites fresh ways of approaching problems by taking the software engineering approach, which implicitly often devalues domain expertise in favor of the authority of plain ol CS smarts. While that works well in some contexts, Audio processing is too deep mathematically, scientifically, and culturally for this. The CS smarts needs to remain respectfully in service of the end goals here.

Problems are Opportunities.

This problem presents us with many opportunities. It presents us with an opportunity to take open source sound and audio to a new level, a level functionally competitive with the experts, which are by and very large not open source. It presents us with an opportunity for a huge variety of audio and sound based cloud processing, a topic where the “experts” tend to be lacking in culture gophers tend to have. It presents us with an opportunity to be bring unprecedented simplicity to sound and audio software work, which in turn presents us with an opportunity to disrupt the field with an open source culture doing highly advanced and creative audio work with grace, ease, simplicity, and as developers who design and implement programs rather than confounding very unsimple framework know-how with expertise.

From echo cancellation on a speakerphones to polyphonic pitch detection and real-time-voice-mapping, or 3d mixing with convolutional reverb configured for all source and listener positions in virtualized space for very high quality audio rendering, we can make it happen here.

Community

For any open source project to succeed, it needs a community. ZikiChombo is not about Google, or Android vs Apple, or Scott Cotton’s DSP/SE prowess. It is about you engaging in these opportunities as a user, a reader, a guiding member, an investor or donor in a way which furthers our bottom line:

ZikiChombo is an open source project dedicated to providing a simple, reliable, and efficient sound processing and I/O library in Go.

If you are an audio developer interested in contributing your work or know-how to this goal, ZikiChombo is a friendly, productive place to engage. If you’re consistently involved enough in the topic yourself, consider becoming a member. email us.

Back to work

Enough manifesto trumpeting. Time to get back to the code. See ya, respectfully, in the forums.


  1. As a bonafied PhD in applied mathematics without former DSP experience, I found this journey deep, interesting, and learnable. I speak hence not as a bonafied DSP expert but rather as someone who takes the time to do the proofs and learn the relevant terminology and notation and to try crazy practically useless variations like inversing FFT inversion to see when it breaks things, just to learn how it works. [return]
  2. Update: It seems, due to serendipity, I might be wrong about that! [return]