back to article Ardour goes harder: v6.0 brings 'huge engineering changes' to open-source digital audio workstation

The sound-tinkerers among you will be pleased to learn that Ardour 6.0 is out, representing a major upgrade of the open-source digital audio workstation for Linux, macOS and Windows. Ardour is a full-featured audio mixer and editor with unlimited tracks and non-destructive editing, patching and routing, video sync for …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    All we need is an adapter layer to expose a GTK+2 like API ontop of GTK+3.

    Why people keep whining about Gtk3 support is actually because they want to use Wayland. They have to realise that they cannot have their cake and eat it; if they replace the completely standard and tested X11 platform with something new, they will not have native access to their software for a long while. They will have to use a shim like XWayland.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Your argument flips over half way through. Assuming people wanted Gtk3 to natively render in Wayland then the need for XWayland would be lessened by one less piece of software that was dependent on it.

      And besides that the main reasons for using Gtk3 is that code is more portable, supports hardware acceleration better, there are more widgets and layouts, Unicode support is better, theming is better, widgets scale properly on high DPI displays and it supports gestures and multi-touch.

      Maybe none of these matter to an audio workstation. Perhaps the effort of porting is substantial and complex because Gtk3 does have some breaking changes to its API. But I imagine that even this software would benefit from button texts and widgets scaling properly on 4K displays.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Well exactly. The Wayland kids don't want to run XWayland. They want to distance themselves from any tech that they deem as old fashioned like X11.

        You feel Gtk3 is more portable? I find that its reliance on a GPU is making it fairly awkward to port (even between UNIX-like platforms). I think it is also a nightmare to get working with Microsoft's cl compiler. Most ports are done via Msys2.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          "The Wayland kids". Just stop.

        2. Teiwaz

          wayland kids? - is that a new Little Rascals?

          The Wayland kids don't want to run XWayland. They want to distance themselves from any tech that they deem as old fashioned like X11.

          Probably; considering the originator and most of the Wayland developers are also Xorg developers.

          They know full well X11 is out of date, as they've been trying to maintain it.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        From my use of Ardour I would say that there seems to be absolutely nothing that would need to benefit from hardware acceleration. Unless you're running it on a pentium.

  2. Steve Graham

    I use both Ardour and Audacity, the latter mainly to tweak one stereo track. I think Ardour's multi-tracking is more intuitive.

    I don't think I'll be upgrading to an X.0 release after "major engineering changes" though.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      I'll upgrade when my distro does. If Ardour disappears from ubuntu over the gtk2 issue I'll miss it, but happy with Audacity.

      I dont like opensource software where the build is so difficult you cant excerise your rights.

      I do hack at sound software.

      Built some of those "missing plugins".

      I do that on a Linux PC and if apt install xxx-dev does not worrk I lose interest rapidly.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    He's right

    Much as I dislike GTK – QT is a far better choice – it's really a side issue for this kind of application.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: He's right

      I use Qt in my day job and I agree it's a better choice if C++ is your chosen language and you don't mind Qt being your whole world. That's because it's not just a GUI - it has collections, networking, graphics, web browser, Javascript engine etc. It's a bit like the slogan for Royston Vasey - you'll never leave. I expect Qt 6 will not be backwards compatible either so software may stick with Qt 5 for much the same reasons as Ardour sticking with Gtk 2.

      As for Gtk3 I think the main benefit is it isn't the whole world, it's just a GUI and the models that drive it. And since it's written in C the bindings for other languages are far better.

      So use Qt for the convenience and portability. Use Gtk3 if you just need a GUI and nothing else or if your language isn't C++.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: He's right

        So use Qt for the convenience and portability. Use Gtk3 if you just need a GUI and nothing else or if your language isn't C++.

        People are generally using the toolkits for portablity, which is why QT is so popular. And some languages, including Python, have excellent bindings.

    2. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: He's right

      My big worry about Qt is that it isn't standard C++. Arguably this makes up for some "shortcomings" but at the same time the MOC code generation stage is a big maintenance nightmare.

      For example, try to get an on Qt 2.x or even 3.x project compiling on a modern system. The build tools alone (like MOC 3.x) are difficult to even track down and build.

      What *has* kind of impressed me is wsWidgets. Almost all of the project builds and runs unchanged, even when gtk2 was switched out with gtk3 underneath.

      1. James Marten

        Re: He's right

        Trying to build a Qt 2 (last release in 2001) or even a Qt 3 (last release in 2004) project on any current system? I'd be surprised if even the Qt library would compile, let alone the project. Having said that, Qt 1 has indeed been ported and will build today.

        But, assuming that you could get Qt built, MOC and the other tools were included by default so there should be no need to find them separately.

  4. jonathan keith


    Never used Ardour, but if anyone's looking for a DAW I cannot recommend Reaper highly enough.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: Reaper

      From their website - "Note: Linux builds are experimental and unsupported"

      One to keep in mind though.

      1. conscience

        Re: Reaper

        I'd second the Reaper recommendation. Despite the 'experimental' tag I found Reaper works great out of the box on Debian, Ubuntu and IIRC Mint as well.

        They also state that Reaper runs well under WINE, but I personally found no need for that as the native Linux build 'just worked'. The trial version is fully-functional if you decide to take it for a spin.

        That said, I've yet to try Ardour so I'm not comparing the two.

  5. 142

    > MP3 import and export is now fully supported – the developers were formerly opposed to MP3 import because it is a lossy format and not intended for this use

    Jesus H Fucking Christ. That was absolutely infuriating thread to read. The attitude and complete disconnect from actual real world workflows is jawdropping.

    In 15+ years, I don't think I've worked a single day where I didn't have to drag in an mp3 at some point for some reference or temp purpose.

    No wonder Ardour has gained absolutely zero traction in the music world if it took 8 years to relent.

    For the devs here, imagine if Microsoft forcibly prevented you from pasting text that came from outside your Visual Studio project, because "copying and pasting code leads to poor quality", and if you really need to do it for some reason, you can type it all in manually as a workaround.

    It's that utterly insane.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      There is a wee detail you are missing. For a long time they couldn't fully support mp3 without buying licenses - not exactly the thing for a flagship FLOSS project.

      I know some of the developers quite well and have the greatest respect for them.

      On a broader point, regarding GUIs, somewhere on the net there there is an article discussing the merits various toolkits available, specifically with respect to high quality audio control. The author comes to the conclusion that none are suitable and the best thing you can do is design your own... if you have enough time!

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        You've never had to pay for liblame

        1. PaulDavisTheFirst

          lame was one of many mp3 implementations that were technically illegal. Fraunhofer opted not to go after them, but that didn't make it any more legal.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            lame was one of many mp3 implementations that were technically illegal.

            In which jurisdictions? IIRC lame is fine in Germany, where Fraunhofer is based, because software patents are not enforceable.

            1. PaulDavisTheFirst

              In the United States. Which despite being absurd as it is in so many ways, is the largest single market for Ardour (Germany is second, though alternates with the UK from time to time). The original/lead developer is also based in the USA, as is Harrison Consoles, the company that uses Ardour as the basis for its "more commercial" Mixbus product.

              Note that I am a staunch advocate of ending software patents: I have testified in court 3 times regarding their stupidity, and donated a large sum of money in 2018 to the EFF to help fight software patents in the USA (money I recieved from appear in court :)

    2. conscience

      @142 - To be fair to the devs, lossy file formats are hardly conducive to creating professional quality audio. And like has been mentioned, there were patents to consider until April 2017.

      Shunning lossy file formats in professional audio makes a lot of sense. You would try to avoid anything that lowered the audio quality. It is bad enough that your musical masterpieces can end up being replayed on staggeringly low quality audio equipment without you mangling the source track too. I assume the professional graphics industry shuns lossy file formats for the same reason.

      I also don't think your text pasting analogy has any relevance here. This isn't about choice, convenience or saving a few MBs of disk space but about audio quality. Text cannot degrade in quality in any way when it is copied and pasted therefore it makes no difference where it is copied from or pasted to. The quality of the code depends entirely on the quality of the developer, it has absolutely nothing to do with this.

      1. 142

        Professional graphics folk can easily import any jpeg they want to help them with layout, etc... it's a core part of the workflow for many. E.g. designers build with low quality placeholder images, and replace with the high quality licensed version once they've been purchased and cleared.

        Software doesn't handhold them and forbid them from doing so just because someone might use one in final output to the client. They're treated as adults and are trusted that they know what they're doing.

    3. elip

      Dude, if you were dragging in an mp3 for reference while doing audio engineering work, then you've been doing it wrong for 15 years. Some of us in this space can actually tell you which specific AD/DAs or pre-amps were used in a specific recording or instrument by hearing the final master. I suppose it all boils down to what kind of sound you're working with, but I have *yet* to meet an audio engineer or technician that would prefer to use lossy formats or one that would export a master in mp3 format. For what its worth, I cut records on the side with a decent lathe, and would *never* and will *never* accept mp3 masters from someone if we're talking about music production and replication. There is too much to lose in the process.

      1. 142

        It's not about whether you can hear the difference between MP3 and Lossless. It's always blindingly obvious.

        But you're assuming your use case applies to everyone, and that the reference is always being used for the fine details.

        It never really should be for most mixing and especially recording contexts.

        Once you get down to the fine detail, what's happening on reference track X has absolutely no real bearing on the track you're working on. You just end up chasing shadows if you chase that while you're recording. The differences in context between the two songs far, far out weigh the accuracy lost by using an MP3 as your comparison.

        It's bigger picture calls that references are usually most useful for, at least in my experience, and for that an MP3 will always work. If the artist gives me a 128 mp3, then fine! 128 mp3 it is.

        Similarly, if I'm using a temp track for overdubbing, why do I care about the fine details in quality? It doesn't make a blind bit of difference - again, the accuracy lost is outweighed by the fact the mix balance is going to change - so again, if it effects my recording judgement slightly it doesn't matter.

        Would I request an MP3? No. But similar to the guy arguing back in 2012, I'm not going to push it back at a client either, unless it's actually being used in the output.

        1. PaulDavisTheFirst

          "It's not about whether you can hear the difference between MP3 and Lossless. It's always blindingly obvious."

          Double-blind testing doesn't support this claim. At semi-reasonable bit rates, most people cannot tell the difference. At high bit rates, almost nobody can tell the difference.

          The problem with mp3 isn't about whether or not you can hear the difference. It is, as you seem to allude to at the end, about the chance of the mp3 being converted back to PCM and the re-compressed using the same or a different lossy algorithm. That really does start to get into the audible realm.

  6. Morten Bjoernsvik

    free version works for 10 minutes

    Free/Demo version

    Periodically goes silent after 10 minutes.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: free version works for 10 minutes

      I call bullshit on that Morten.

      Ardour Free Open Source Software. Free as in beer and free as in speach.

      1. PaulDavisTheFirst

        Re: free version works for 10 minutes

        Ardour is licensed under the GPL, which means that the source code is available without charge, and that the program is freely redistributable. We also have a robust open source development process: accepting PR's and patches, and with an open, public bug tracker.

        But we (Ardour developers) provide ready-to-run binaries for Linux (all distros except NixOS), macOS and Windows, and these are the only versions of Ardour we support. These are not available without paying at least US$1. You are free, of course, to redistribute/copy them if you wish to. This mechanism is how the work on the program is funded - in particular, it is about 95% of my income.

        1. RAMChYLD

          Re: free version works for 10 minutes

          Question tho: If you don't move towards GTK3, what are the chances of getting the code compiled if the distro of choice no longer offer GTK2 on it's repo? Is a fork of all the necessary GTK2 sources (glib, atk, pango, gtk2) available somewhere? Is the Ardour team ready willing to pick up the mantle to keep maintaining a fork of GTK2 that will still compile on GCC 10 (or even CLANG) and more importantly, patch major security bugs that may be in such dated code?

          Asking from experience because building a CD ripper frontend program I used back in college called GRIP has become a hassle as the developer abandoned the project and it isn't ported beyond GTK+, let alone GTK2 (and yes, people still buy CDs. Because stupid licensing laws that indirectly region-locks online music stores. At least with CDs I can get pay friend to buy the album and then mail it to me), and most distros don't even have GTK+ in their repo anymore. Even XFCE is has gravitated towards GTK3.

          1. PaulDavisTheFirst

            Re: free version works for 10 minutes

            We make the patched version (and the patches) for GTK and all other libraries that we modify available, as required by the GPL.


            As mentioned elsewhere, we're not particularly interested in security patches: when you use a DAW, most people load plugins which are biggest "security hole" you can imagine. So we're not going to put time into worrying about some buffer overflow that was just discovered in, say, the GTK2 jpeg image loader, when our users are already loading random, unverified, unchecked 3rd party objects into Ardour as a routine part of their use of the program.

            Repeating myself for the nth time: there are no desktop GUIs that give us what we need for a DAW. The question is about moving from GTK2 to GTK3, it's about moving away from any desktop GUI toolkit as much as possible.

    2. PaulDavisTheFirst

      Re: free version works for 10 minutes

      Technically speaking, it goes silent after 10 minutes and offers you 5 minutes more. After those 5, it offers you 2 minutes more. After those 2, it offers you 1 minute more ad infinitum.

  7. jelabarre59

    How about...

    , and plugin support for AudioUnits on macOS, VST on Windows and Linux, and LV2 on all platforms.

    VST? Actually I'd be impressed if it supported VSQ files.

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