Look, Ma, MIDI!

Look, Ma, MIDI!

Ardour has long been software that you probably wanted to want to use. Fully free and open source, supporting standards for plug-ins and file interchange, Ardour is software that arguably the whole industry needs to exist. That is, even if you don’t use it, you might benefit from having a reasonable competitor that pushes openness and interoperability, that can innovate with open source code as much as commercial options do.

Now, Ardour is here in a version you may actually want to use.

It’s not that there haven’t been people getting work done with Ardour in the past. (Don’t forget the clever, proprietary derivative Harrison Mixbus, too, which proves proprietary and open projects can work together.) Ardour has been eminently usable and stable (in non-experimental builds), with some seriously-impressive functionality, all for free. And it’s been the preferred traditional DAW alternative on Linux. The problem has been that Ardour has asked a lot in return, with a sometimes-primitive user interface and major missing workflow features – most notably, the ability to work with MIDI data.

That makes this big news. After a long wait, Ardour 3 is here – initially for Linux, but with a Mac OS X version coming shortly.

And now you can enjoy some of the more innovative features alongside stuff you need, like MIDI.

Ardour also has a remade, grown-up website to explore, but here’s the bird’s eye view of what’s new – especially as we wait on those Mac builds:

  • Full MIDI support – record, edit, playback, and work with plug-in instruments not only in VST and AU format, but LV2, as well.
  • Parallelize DSP for multiple-processor systems.
  • Improved signal handling, including open-ended matrix-style patching and routing. (This one’s important – Ardour has long been flexible with routing and friendly to those used to working in studio setups. Now those features are better, still.
  • Solo and monitor more like a mixer, including Solo Isolate, corrected AFL/PFL.
  • Non-destructive recording.
  • Strip silence.
  • MIDI binding maps and improved support for Mackie Control.
  • Advanced sync/chase modes for MTC, MIDI Clock.
  • Improved performance: 64-bit timeline, resizable disk buffers, support for JACK Session, and an undo that uses less memory and improves speed.

The announcement comes at a unique moment in history, with serious questions about the health of Pro Tools maker Avid as a business. (I’ve not commented on that situation because I feel I’m not educated enough on the details, but it is troubling, to say the least.)

In the larger scheme of things, though, it seems important that we have an open solution, as it could benefit the whole ecosystem of music tools. And prime Ardour developer Paul Davis is the right man for the job, as the creator of inter-app audio standard JACK.

Check out what’s new in detail, or, if you’re new to Ardour yourself…

See the more-polished, up-to-date feature tour on Ardour’s site.

And when you’re ready, you can build Ardour for free on Linux or pay as little as US$1 for a subscription. (Seriously.)

More images, revealing that Ardour’s UI is finally looking nicer:



Now, extensive plug-in support includes compatibility with virtual instruments, via that MIDI support. Images courtesy Ardour.

Now, extensive plug-in support includes compatibility with virtual instruments, via that MIDI support. Images courtesy Ardour.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BenJJarvis Ben Jarvis

    When I was on Linux (2004-2010), I REALLY wanted to like Ardour. But it was neither as fun as Ableton Live, nor as stable and easy to use as Logic or Cubase. Audacity (which I still use) was a nice editor, but Ardour always felt rickety to me. Eventually I moved to Mac (after a brief rekindled affair with Windows on Win7) and I’ve basically closed the chapter. When the Mac port comes out, I’ll give this a try, but seeing as Reaper is basically free (though you should pay for it after a certain point because those guys deserve it) and there are so many more options, I don’t see myself switching to Ardour.

  • Blob

    Open-source DAWs have always suffered from amateurish design, lack of functionality, lack of support, and lack of compatibility with industry standards (VST, etc.). Not surprising, since a lot of this software is developed by people who not able to fully dedicate themselves to the project because of lack of financial support that comes from selling a product instead of sharing.

    In Ardour’s case, the problem for me was always MIDI. Over the years I’ve read a bit about Ardour and it always appeared to be a well-designed DAW – except for the lack of MIDI, which kept me (and presumably many other DAW users) away from spending any time with it.

    Now, Ardour has my attention. I’ll definitely have a look. Kudos to Paul Davis!

    • Blob

      *edit – aargh, make that “sharing a product instead of selling” on the first paragraph. Sorry! 😛

  • PaulDavisTheFirst

    Just to make a couple of clarifications to Peter’s post: Ardour 3.0 supports **LINUX** VST plugins on Linux, not Windows VST plugins (though support does exist in the code for this, I no longer support this concept).

    On OS X, we do not support VST plugins, for the simple reason that all the serious plugins come in AU format anyway, which we do support.

    • Liquidify

      I am not sure how you can be saying this with any sense of seriousness. There are tons of quality plugins that are developed in VST, and many are from small time developers who do not put out any additional formats. It isn’t as though AU and VST are competing formats or something, but to say that “all the serious plugins come in AU” is simply ignoring reality.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      Logic is by far the dominant DAW on OS X, and it does not support VST format plugins. People who want their plugins used widely on OS X release AU versions, for this reason alone. There are also excellent adapters for use by either end-users or by developers (Symbiosis is an example of the latter, and it enables the release of an AU plugin from the same source code as the VST original).

      I’m not sure of the purpose of commenting on a 2 year old post about software which evolves daily, but anyway …

  • http://www.facebook.com/idragosani Brett McCoy

    Ardour has been my DAW of choice for many years. I’ve also used Sonar and Reaper on Windows, but Ardour on Linux is what I always return to. Lack of MIDI hasn’t ever been an issue since there are MIDI sequencers like Rosegarden that can synch with Ardour via Jack, although I certainly welcome the new MIDI capabilities and have been using them for a while since Ardour went into the beta phase. Keep those updates coming, Paul!

  • http://twitter.com/pneuman42 Leigh Dyer

    I’ve been using Ardour 3 as my main sequencer for a while now (I recorded my 2012 RPM Challenge album with it more than a year ago), and it’s been fantastic to see it take shape — Paul and his fellow developers have done a great job. The MIDI support is a little bit quirky, in that it’s been designed to function as much as possible like Ardour’s existing audio support does, but once you get your head around that it works well.

    Hopefully this official release will bring Ardour what it really needs — more users hitting the MIDI code, seeing how it fits in with their workflows, and then posting suggestions that the devs can take on board to improve its MIDI capabilities across-the-board.

  • Jonathan Adams Leonard

    Thanks again for great coverage on this area Peter! Congrats to Paul for adding midi as well. As a protocol, midi is very useful since its invention so many years ago. As I undertand, midi can be used to connect keyboards together and share event data. For example one could make a very compelling composite keyboard patch by connecting two keyboards the first with a 5 din cable from midi out to the second keyboard 5 din midi in. This would allow events performed on the first keyboard to be transmitted to the second with little delay which the whiz kids call stacking ‘patches’. Marvelous stuff. If Ardour can let people do amazing things like play a piano and chiff flute at the same time, in linux no less, then I think this software has some seriius potential! I heard that midi can transmit how hard the key is played, which is technically called velocity. Does ardour record this information?

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      seo spam? brilliant ironic humor? sarcastic sour grapes? you decide! in the meantime, ardour 3.0 comes with many more extensions to its audio workflow and handling. MIDI – its not for everyone.

  • Jordan Colburn

    I’ve used ardour on an off and have recently been using a beta build of 3 to really dig in. I love it and it’s great, but the new redesign to basically try to force your average user that doesn’t know how to build from source to pay is really offputting. The goal of open source is sharing and if you intentionally impede that to try to get paid, then you might as well just go proprietary. Also, how does this new approach factor in to distributions such as ubuntu studio and others prepackaging ardour?

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      my goal of open source is to increase the ability to get development to happen in the best possible way. i have no moral allegiance to the GPL, i just happen to think its the right way to develop code. it happens to have the tricky side effect that it makes it hard to sell the software. if you don’t want to live selling support contracts (i don’t), and you are writing “niche” software then it is a real problem if your project requires huge levels of work.

      lets put it a different way – i am not trying to “share” with users – my use of the GPL is about sharing with people who can actually get some benefit from access to the source. if that includes you in any way, then feel free to check it out of git, build it and enjoy. there are dozens of people who contribute hugely to the project by constantly testing the current git version, providing feedback and ideas. they are not coders, but they are full participants in the “sharing” of development that the GPL encourages (requires).

      if, on the other hand, you’re like the overwhelming majority of DAW users and you just want a prebuilt product and the possibility of support that doesn’t have to deal with 1001 different linux distributions and their packaging errors and variations, then i suspect that the binary distribution approach i’ve taken may be appealing.

      because ardour is licensed under the GPL, distributions are free to do whatever they want with it, and i am sure that most of them will package it. it makes it harder for me to earn a living, which makes it more likely that i would give up the project, but that’s just one of the consequences of the GPL, for me.

    • Jordan Colburn

      Thanks for the reply Paul! First off I love Ardour and am not meaning to just complain or criticize. I have checked out the code and built it and am going try to contribute a bit in the way of bug fixes or anything I can do to help once I learn my way around the codebase. I agree that Open source presents really tricky challenges for any business model other than support contracts. I think lightworks (video editing) is running up against some similar issues in their transition to an open source codebase. It seems to be common across open source multimedia software that is used mostly by nontechnical (in terms of programming) content creators that want reliable easy to use software.

      The main thing I was trying to say is that one of the benefits I have enjoyed when navigating the vast amount of open source software out there is being able to try things for free to develop a workflow without having to deal with a bunch of trial versions, demos and licensing issues. Being able to setup a full linux recording environment and try it out without any restrictions or initial investment led me to ditch PT and mac and go with Ardour on linux as my main DAW. With the new pay to get a binary approach, you will likely miss out on users just looking to try out Ardour (which is a big category consisting of most DAW users), which will keep them from become long term converts.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      ardour.org -> Download -> click on Free Demo -> Enter email address -> Download

      is this too onerous? Its not using Menu -> Install Software, certainly.

    • Jordan Colburn

      No, not too onerous, I think you guys are right, I was just a little put off at the change (but I do really like the new website design!). It certainly is an interesting way to increase revenue from open source and very reasonable especially when compared to app stores as a model. You often hear “If everyone just gave a dollar” and this is an interesting way to make it happen, since for most users, the convenience is easily worth it. Sorry if I came across at all confrontational!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, Jordan, I think you may be making this more complex than it is. You can still build from source for free, and nothing is changing with Linux distributions. You can try out with very limited issues.

      The Mac and iOS App Stores also lack demo versions, and very often have a minimum higher than $1. I think a $1 for binary, free demo with plugins, building from source, and the ability to build on Linux without hassle are all pretty compelling.

      Paul has already been doing something like this for some time, and whatever the cost in new users, the results are clear – the better software and better site wouldn’t have been possible had he had no income stream. On balance, I think it’s extraordinarily easy for users to try out Ardour, and everything will be fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.tetzeli.9 Bill Tetzeli

    There are two things that I do not understand about Ardour and keep me from using it. The first is the inability to zoom to the sample level. If you zoom in as far as possible in Ardour, then vertically stretch the track so it fills the entire screen, you can JUST make out the individual samples, but they’re still almost indistinguishable. For my own purposes which take to long to explain, that’s a level of accuracy I depend on often in Audacity (and seriously – if Audacity can do it, why can’t Ardour?).

    The second is its annoying dependence on JACK. Audacity doesn’t need it. None of the excellent, pro-standard software I’ve used in Windows (Samplitude, Audition, Wavelab) needs anything like it, and they do at least everything Ardour does, if not more. I don’t want to waste my time figuring out why Ardour won’t start a session because another program’s using JACK, even when no other multimedia software’s running. I don’t want to waste time figuring out how to stop JACK. I don’t want to waste time rebooting my computer either so I can start Ardour or run other multimedia programs when I’m done with Ardour, because my sound system’s been hiJACKed. I’m sure there are reasons this has been done, but again, as Linux software is prone to, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I don’t want to diss the hard work that a lot of people are putting into this project, but I think Linux programmers would do well to put themselves to the same test that Windows 8 was subjected to, with great derision – putting a bunch of non-geek noobs in front of a computer and watching them try to figure it out – and see how well they pass or fail on that basis. I keep saying again and again – these days, if you’re not making it easy, you’re not making it – period.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.tetzeli.9 Bill Tetzeli

      I would just like to add – I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for software such as Cool Edit Pro, Samplitude, r8brain Pro and Izotope Ozone. These products are worth the money to me because I install them, use them and get what I paid for from them. They don’t make me sit scratching my head wondering, “Why isn’t this working?” If Ardour had that same level of ease I would gladly pay for it in similar amounts. Hell, I’m waiting with ‘bated breath, DYING for someone to make a program that’s just as easy and functional to use in Linux, GPL purists be damned. When they build it, I will come – with open wallet.

  • somedude

    Ardour sucks. Setting it up is painful.

    And aside from layering tracks and adjusting volume levels, it really doesn’t do anything. You have to use plugins from third parties. It’s super lame. Don’t waste your time.

    • RobbyC

      This has got to be the single most ignorant comment I’ve read in a while. Setting up is just as easy as using re-noise+reason or any other DAW+digital signal routing. Ardour has come a long way in a short time. It’s used as the basis for the commercial Harrison Mixbus product.

  • charliemanson

    Since I’ve made my switch to Mint 12 from XP pro, Ardour has always been my go to. In XP, I was running Cubase 5, Fruity Loops 7,8,and 9 and now with JACK, Patchage and Qsynth, I’ve nearly eliminated the useage of both from my dual boot machine. The GUI is easy to jump into, routing with Patchage is equally easy, and tracking and mixing is just as easy as any other DAW I’ve ever used. Not to mention the MIDI links you can assign, in my case to my MPK Mini to control faders and other MIDI assignments. Plug ins are easy to get, install, and use, if you know anything about music production. It’s not for the noobs that for sure, but as a professional musician, I don’t have any reason to use any other DAW, nor do I WANT to. Ardour FTW!