Release Plans for Ardour 3.0

A decision has finally been made regarding the release of Ardour 3.0. First, some general stuff.

The open source world typically offers two models for integrating development and release of a piece of software. One is the so-called "rolling release" model, which features frequent new releases which typically do not contain substantial changes to the functionality of the program, although if the program is still being developed these changes must appear from time to time. The other one is more similar to what happens with proprietary software, and features less frequent new releases with each new release containing substantial new functionality and/or bug fixes. There are extreme versions of each of these approaches, and less extreme versions which blend different mixtures of the two.

Audio software users are notorious for their use of out of date versions of their favorite software, generally defended on the grounds that "I know it works (and what is broken)". Although this depressing as a software developer, its a fact of life that we have to deal with - people are reluctant to move on from something they think they know and understand to something that may break their existing workflows or do things in ways that they do not understand or appreciate.

When a project uses the "major release only" model, it becomes important that development work as a new release gets close should not break existing functionality. Nobody wants to fix a bug and in the process cause 3 new ones. This is why Ardour has frequently gone in to "feature freeze" mode as a new release draws near - its a way to increase the likelihood that things continue to improve (or at least, remain as they are) in anticipation of a release.

The problem with this approach for developers is that it can cause relatively long periods of stagnation in which novel, cool work is not supposed to be taking place. It is true that with modern software development techniques, this can be avoided to some extent by using "branches" for the development of new features. Even so, if the feature freeze continues for too long, and the intent is to just fix bugs, development can slow down to a trickle. This is particularly true of a project like Ardour which really does not have the human resources available for development that a proprietary project might have. It is my assessment that Ardour 3 has reached this point - development has stagnated because all new work is "on hold" pending the release of 3.0.

So, with all this in mind, there is a conundrum: in order to keep development active and new (useful) features flowing through the development platform, not to mention fixes for bugs that require deep architectural changes, it is desirable to use a rolling release model. But in order to give our users some sense of stability and to increase the likelihood that when they upgrade they will not discover some new issues, periodic major releases are better.

This problem has not been solved. But in lieu of solving it, I have decided that Ardour 3.0 will be released in the following way:

  • There are two outstanding "bugs" that will be fixed:
    1. Automation curves end up with incorrect shapes under common conditions
    2. Import of Ardour 2.X sessions is not sufficiently functional
  • Once these two are adequately addressed, Ardour 3.0 will be released for Linux.
  • An OS X beta will be made available. An official release will not occur on OS X for at least a month after the Linux release. The only reason for this is the lack of testing on OS X. I simply do not have the confidence at this time that we do not have basic issues still to address on that platform. Once we have adequate feedback on 3.0 on OS X, it will be released for that platform too.
  • Once Ardour 3.0 has been released, work will begin immediately on features slated for 3.1 (and beyond) which notably will include Robin Gareus' video timeline.
  • After the release of 3.1, Ardour 3 will use a release approach closer to "rolling release" than "major releases", potentially bringing out new versions twice a month (though that remains a case-by-case decision)

Ardour 3.0 has been in better shape for audio than Ardour 2.X for some time, although some people use a workflow that seems less stable in Ardour 3.0. Ardour 3.0's handling of MIDI is far from the condition I was hoping it would be at release, but nothing is being gained by delaying release any further.

Good news and a wise

Good news and a wise decision! Keep it rolling ;)

Thanks the great efforts that

Thanks the great efforts that have been put into Ardour 3.0! This sounds like an excellent plan...

It's great to hear you have

It's great to hear you have made this decision, though I hope you find a way round the problem! Very much looking forward to the proper release, as I've had such a great time uses the betas.

You know, Cubase and Studio

You know, Cubase and Studio One use a plan that has .5 releases. Basically, they give some new features and functionality on a small scale for the .0 releases, then expand on those features in the .5 release. Might be worth a little thought. Anyways, the beta is great!

Awesome sauce.

Awesome sauce.

Great news Paul. Delighted to

Great news Paul. Delighted to hear it's so close to a final release. I don't think there's anything software related that i've looked forward to so much :) You, and the devs, have done a marvelous job and we all look forward to moving onto version 3 :)

"Audio software users are

"Audio software users are notorious for their use of out of date versions of their favorite software, generally defended on the grounds that "I know it works (and what is broken)"."

A comment: I'm usually an early adopter when it comes to new technology and software, but I'm very glad that you are careful and conservative regarding this matter.

If something bad happens during mixing, then it will normally be OK and everything will be as expected when you start the DAW again. But if something goes wrong during recording or when one or more people are in a creative mood, then a crash might bee no less than a catastrophe. Every bright moment a musician, composer or a producer might have can be killed totally because of a crash. Music is a right brain hemisphere business as as such, any external interruption or anything unexpected that require attention might kill a golden moment or the workflow.

So if predictability can be excepted every time you do something new, then I think that many people gladly jump on the wagon and try new stuff even in the music business. But in general it happens to often that things brake after upgrade, I have now for example "upgraded" to Ubuntu LTS 12.04 from 10.04 on the same HW. This means that I because of several reasons don't have a working real time kernel anymore and some of my LV2 plugins don't have the nice GUI anymore. You don't want that kind of trouble when working with music, you will in general want your instruments and tools to work flawlessly year after year.

@ josander - A bit off topic

@ josander - A bit off topic (apologies) but if you install ardour from the package on the website, that should solve your problems with LV2 plugins. I noticed that same problem on an install of 12.04 i had aswell. That fixed it for me anyway. There seems to be a problem with the one packaged in their repositories. That problem has nothing to do with Ardour itself. That's more of a Ubuntu issue as far as i know.

@josander - various of the

@josander - various of the LV2 updates (repeatedly) broke compatibility with some of the (very) early versions of my plugins, typically causing the GUI not to display. However, the latest plugin releases on the linuxDSP site and the pre-compiled ardour package(s) should be fine (I hope we've now reached some kind of stable point in LV2's evolution, and I very much hope that plugin API compatibility with existing versions will be thoroughly assured / tested before the first official A3 release).

Paul, this is great news.

Paul, this is great news. Keep up the great work. I keep searching for videos on Youtube for Ardour....maybe the release of Version 3 will spark that.

Thank you,
Rony P.

@josander: Dream Studio 10.04

@josander: Dream Studio 10.04 is based on Ubuntu 10.04 and has a realtime kernel, both with and without PAE.


@rpatros: has videos.

@linuxdsp: part of the point

@linuxdsp: part of the point of this announcement is to say that there really won't be any more testing of anything before 3.0 is released. Obviously if people want to do so, and they report issues, that will be welcome. But the development process has stalled out, and it needs to restart.

Hi all, I don't want to be

Hi all,

I don't want to be the negative one here, but do you all think adding more features is a good idea, when the one already implemented aren't stable at all ?
It's like building a castle on broken foundations.
How can we be sure that the video addition functionalities are not going to be as the MIDI one ?
Would not that mean more complications to stablize the application later ?

I do agree that audio in A3 is stable, but wasn't A3 be all about MIDI in the first place ?

Adding features is cool, but as stated in this news, stability is very important for this kind of sofware

I just wanted to share my point of view, no harm no fuss...

A3 was started when Google's

A3 was started when Google's Summer of Code agreed to sponsor work on adding MIDI to Ardour. But while David Robillard was focused on MIDI, other developers did a lot of work on the audio side of things.

A3 is already MUCH more stable for common workflows than A2. There are fundamental bugs in A2 that most people avoid through a combination of luck and workflow choices. Almost all of these (certainly all the ones we know about) have been fixed in A3.

The work planned for post-3.0 will not complicate fixing existing bugs in A3 - in many cases, it will help it. There are some things that cause issues in A3 that we currently have to throw up our hands and say "we'll fix that after 3.0 is out".

As it stands, development is going to grind to a complete halt if we cannot move past the release of 3.0. So the choice not really "keep working on bugs only" and "release 3.0 and then start adding more stuff". Its "release 3.0 and enable development to continue at a reasonable pace" or "development stagnates and A3 is never released". That is how it appears to me, anyway.

I for one am happy to hear of

I for one am happy to hear of a solid plan. I do have a question for ya Paul.....

Mixbus has some "pro tool" features in 2.2, like the "Smart Tool", etc. Will there feature set make it into A3?

Smurf, I am pretty sure the

Smurf, I am pretty sure the SMART TOOL is already in A3.

There are several features,

There are several features, such as the Smart Tool, Playhead-follows-range-selection, crossfades, and layer modes that were markedly different in Mixbus than in Ardour2.

Those PT-like features have been implemented in A3 but in a subtly different way. I am going to endeavor to make them more Mixbus-like, because I think Mixbus has had more real-world usage than A3 and we have refined those tools to a more consistent feel than what is currently in A3.

If anyone has any strong feelings about this, please tell me now!


@BenLoftis: The more similar


The more similar are the GUI's and features of A3 and Mixbus the more easily any user will be able to work with any of these DAWs given a case where it is needed, and also as you say, Mixbus includes a lot of experience based features, so a least i would welcome them on Ardour.


I think it is important to keep the "sense that we're moving forward", because both developers and users need it and are happier when any release is out, it has influenced at some degree the donations... seems to me at least, so i think it is a very good call, every user should know that there are always a few bugs to get rid of but not only the users are part of the proccess, the new features tend to overcome to those few bugs, actually your last words say it very well: "nothing is being gained by delaying release any further."

I prefer (for example) a January 2013 A3 with Midi bugs than a March 2014 bugless A3...

Sorry folks, I probably had a

Sorry folks, I probably had a bad or tired moment when writing my post. It looks like I'm complaining about Ardour and that things break when Ardour comes with upgrades. I meant programs in general. In my experience, Ardour is getting more and more stable.

@LeatusPenguin: I do use the compiled binaries now as I'm using a system based upon Ubuntu 12.04.

@linuxdsp: I haven't tested all of them, but the plugins I use regularly, such as Black EQ, the VC2B compressor and the SR-2A reverb (IMO the most versatile reverb ever in spite of it's simplicity, you can tweak it for anything!).

@macinnisrr: 10.04 based distros are not an option for me anymore. JUCE based programs like Pianoteq and Loomer Aspect doesn't work with that RT-kernels anymore. It is probably a kernel bug and no one seem to be able to do a decent workaround for that bug. Dream Studio is one distro I always monitor and I will consider it when I upgrade my HW next year.

Some of the reasons I "upgraded" to 12.04 was because I needed Pianoteq and Loomer to work good, but the my Nvidia card does not work as it should with the RT kernel (both the proprietary and Xorg drivers), so I use the low latency kernel, which occasionally leads to timing problems; and so far, this have happened a few times during recording and mixing, and a few times when in example Rosegarden and Mixbus are synced together so I can record audio from Linuxsampler. I guess that a new machine will solve the problem. My oh my, the life as a pragmatic Linux fanatic is not always easy! :-)

@josander: can you describe

@josander: can you describe the issues that JUCE has with RT kernels? this seems impossible, so i'd like to know more ....

@Paul Thank you for the


Thank you for the reply...I have seen most of those videos....but I was more interested to see new videos discussing the new features that were added A3.

Additionally I wanted to share this video that I found on the net that I think is a very good video:

Rony P.

@paul: I can only provide you

@paul: I can only provide you with my own user experience but a link later here might enlighten you. Both Loomer's stuff and Pianoteq started freezing on my system when they started using the 2.0 (or maybe even the 1.53) series of the library. Pianoteq 4 did not work (3 series did) and Loomer Aspect did not work under the standard RT kernel for Ubuntu 10.04. I could click on a meny or two, but the programs and sometimes the OS freezed when a dialog box was opened. This happened very quickly on Pianoteq, becau it wanted to show a Welcome box at the start.

The Pianoteq guys camed up with a workaround (I tested some binaries they sent me) and the Loomer folks decided to let it go becaus not that many 10.04-people was using Loomer stuff. Here is a link where Loomer and JUCE folks are in the discussion:

EDIT: Added link

@paul: I'll take versions

@paul: I'll take versions with bugs in return for increased MIDI contoller pad support (panning, more generic controllers, etc.) . I like to be able to control Ardour with out having to leave the piano or while standing at the mic with a guitar hanging on my neck.

@josander: This is probably

@josander: This is probably not the best place to try and debug what is happening with your LV2 plugin GUIs, but are you saying the VC2B, Black-EQ and SR-2A are not working? The latest versions from the linuxDSP site work fine here, however the SR-2A reverb was superseded by the SR-2B a long while back.

@linuxdsp: They are working

@linuxdsp: They are working very nicely on my system and I'm using them all the time. And sorry , the A is my mistake, I use SR-2B . :-)

Sorry if my bad English confuses people here. I will try to improve it.

@Dazgard: The video timeline


The video timeline for Ardour has been out there for almost 3 years. It's development is pretty orthogonal to ardour dev.

It will probably spark feature requests such as audio-alignment according to EDL.

I quite agree: stability is a must.
But adding features does not necessarily jeopardize stability: When new features are confined to a specific area (e.g. metering or aligning audio on import) potential problems or bugs can be ironed out quickly. MIDI on the other hand introduced major changes to both front- and back-end and is wide field by itself..

Awesome! I'm excited about

Awesome! I'm excited about the next release to start rolling. Ardour is the best, the foundational tool of all my audio work.

Great news - thanks for the

Great news - thanks for the update Paul!

I had been wondering what the final big issues to be fixed before 3.0 arrives were - now I know.

Its a shame that A3 OSX has had so little testing. I wonder if the incomplete, intentionally crippled AU support is partly to blame for this? At least I was told AU support wasn't fully functional in the betas last time I asked las about it and then there was no way to uncripple it either - none that I'd been told about at least.

We know 3.0 won't be perfect but its release will be a big event for Linux audio and one I eagerly await so its nice to know the wait is almost over!

there is no "crippling" of AU

there is no "crippling" of AU support in any version, and certainly not in 3.0 betas. Support is not incomplete, and its more extensive in 3.0 (since we support instruments) than in 2.X. There is very little testing on OS X because there are very few people on OS X willing to try out stuff that often doesn't work and then get involved in debugging. Its that simple.