Key Features

What is it?

Ardour is a fully-featured digital audio workstation, similar to other software like ProTools, Nuendo, Sonar and Logic, and capable of replacing analog or digital tape systems.

What it isn't

Ardour is not:
  • a sound file editor
  • a MIDI sequencer (though that is planned)
  • a loop-based music system

Is your DAW written just to sell hardware?

Because Ardour uses JACK, it doesn't interact directly with audio hardware at all. This means that Ardour will run with any hardware supported by JACK, or even with no audio interface at all (not so odd when you think about audio render farms using modern networks to move audio instead of audio cables). So when the day comes that you decide to upgrade your analog/digital converters to an Apogee unit (after remortgaging your house, obviously), or when you find yourself forced to use a consumer stereo interface, Ardour will just keep on working.

JACK itself is generally used with the ALSA on Linux or CoreAudio on Mac OS X, and so supported hardware is dependent on those systems. Here is a brief survey of some of the high and low end cards supported by ALSA. A more complete list is available.

  • the RME Hammerfall and Hammerfall DSP interfaces (PCI and cardbus versions)
  • All Midiman Delta interfaces (66, 1010, etc)
  • Most Midiman USB interfaces
  • Most AudioScience cards
  • The Soundblaster Extigy and Audigy
  • Echo Darla24, Gina24, Layla24, Mia, and Mona
  • Gadget Labs interfaces
  • All Roland/Edirol USB interfaces
  • Most Terratec interfaces
  • Most Yamaha USB interfaces
  • Almost all builtin audio interfaces for laptops and desktop systems, including those from Intel, Via and SiS (note: these do not generally provide particularly good audio quality, and in some cases are very poor).

Audio

In conjunction with its support for a wide range of audio hardware, Ardour offers you sample rate neutral facilities (ie. any sample rate is supported to the extent of your hardware's capabilities). All sample data is maintained internally in 32 bit floating point format for maximum headroom and fidelity. Native file format is industry standard IEEE 32 bit floating point Broadcast WAVE or WAVE. Play or record any number of tracks with bit-perfect quality (what comes in is what goes out). Import from (or export to) more than 30 different audio file formats, using Ardour's builtin audio file database manager with free-form fields or directly from an ordinary file browser.

Mixing

Providing seamless operation with any supported hardware, Ardour's 32 bit floating point mixer offers endless headroom and guaranteed bit-for-bit fidelity for 24 bit samples. There are no hidden filters anywhere in Ardour's mixer - what you record is what you hear, unless you choose otherwise. Within ardour's two primary windows, you have a superb system for audio production, including the most flexible mixer architecture in the industry, total automation and a large selection of plugins. Ardour doesn't come with any builtin EQ or dynamics, leaving you free to use your choice of any of the numerous available plugins without having to bypass the builtin system. You can mix any number of tracks that your hardware can handle, and you can use both MMC and generic MIDI control surfaces to manage the mix without developing wrist injuries or despising your laptop touchpad. And of course, all your settings are saved between work session, so all automation, mixer, routing, and effects settings return to precisely where you left them.

Editing

At the present, most DAWs are converging on a fairly common set of editing features, and Ardour is no different in this respect. Even so, we believe that in time, Ardour's editing capabilities will become the new standard for DAWs. Within the edit window, you can adjust everything about your session and its timeline layout, all with sample-level resolution. Trim regions, crossfade by dragging, timestretch useful samples, split and regroup audio, move non-contiguous selections around, identify and use song chunks as you wish. Edit automation data in their own tracks. Unlimited undo/redo should encourage you to try out your ideas without fear, especially with a snapshot facility to store interesting or useful versions of the session.

Plugins

Ardour relies on plugins to enable many features from FX processing to dynamics control. At this time, Ardour supports the LADSPA plugin API, developed by the Linux Audio Developers community. To use a plugin, just add it to the track (pre- or post-fader, of course), and then open its editor with a single mouse click. Edit the settings, store/load presets, and automate any of its parameters. LADSPA currently offers more than 100 plugins, all of them open source software, ranging from simple filters to vinyl degradation simulators, analog flangers and multiband EQs.

Compatibility

Unlike every other DAW available, Ardour is open source. This means that anyone can read the "source code" to the program to find out exactly how, when and why it does certain things. It's this openness that allowed the first port of Ardour to Mac OS X to be carried out by someone previously uninvolved with the Ardour project. It's also this openness that ensures that Ardour's existence does not depend upon the continued involvement or solvency of its creators. It's this openness that allows Ardour to be built to run on many different computer platforms, and that will ensure that support for it is available from many sources.

At the same time, Ardour adheres to as many standards as possible in its operations and capabilities. Whether its SMPTE/MTC for timecode, Broadcast WAVE or WAVE as a native file format, MMC for remote control of its transport system, or XML as the data format for its session files, Ardour doesn't try to hide its technology or design as part of an attempt to earn more money.

Mastering

Ardour is not just a recorder, editor and mixer, but can also be used to master your project all the way to its final form. This is not just because of its editing capabilities or the available plugins, but because its integration into JACK makes the use of mastering tools like JAMin a breeze. Ardour also permits bouncing to disk via outboard gear, thus enabling even more possibilities for balancing the tonal qualities of your session. And because it uses standard audio file formats and can export to many others, there are many fine custom tools available to handle conversion into specialized formats such as MP3, Ogg Vorbis and others.