Linux Audio Recording With Ardour

By shared consent, Ardour is the flagship DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on Linux. It is simple to use however extraordinarily powerful. A lot of this effortless strength comes from the “any to any” routing system it uses. Any output from any channel can be rooted by any bus or external application in any combination. You literally feel like you’re plugging in equipment in a real studio on-screen. When you understand how equipment works in the real world, it’s a wonderful feeling firing up your imagination to construct a virtual studio specifically for a mix! All the channels, samplers, effects etc all plug-in just how you want them for today! And of course, all these configurations can be saved in Ardour should you ever work on a similar project.

Ardour itself is at present a lean/average DAW. It has highly effective mixing, effects and cutting tools. It doesn’t run synths/samplers or sustain any MIDI except for transport controls/synchronisation (although version 3 will have a complex sequencer I’m told). In Linux, however, this is no limitation as the standard pro-audio software architecture, JACK, allows you to synchronise other apps such as MIDI synthesisers, samplers etc to Ardour and route them by its effects.

Internal FX processing is done with effects plug-ins. There are a wide range obtainable including most notably the SC4 compressor, a highly effective tool, and G-Verb, a simulated reverb which, when used widely wisely in conjunction with a convolution reverb such as JConv, can generate excellent, specialized sounding results. VST plug-ins? And if Ardour’s effects aren’t enough for you can always use JACK to route signals by other software or already (if you have a sound card with multiple inputs) by an external hardware unit.

Mixing capabilities include unlimited buses and audio tracks (it can do surround sound too…). Of course your computer’s performance will vary and consequently provide a limit. But my old Packard Bell imedia 1303 (ready to retire if you look up on the internet & seemingly one of the worst computers ever made!) recently coped with a 30 track mix with all sorts of complicated routing perfectly……in addition as a convolution reverb application and mastering suite running alongside. So you can see, if you have an already semi-decent PC then performance is not going to be an issue!

The usual panning, free/post fader sends our obtainable plus you can specify groups of faders to mix/characterize together. Also, your mixer can automate just about any function of the mix/effects and take inputs in real-time from MIDI controllers for this. (However, I have found the MIDI controller sustain a little unreliable so you should do some research on the compatibility of your hardware. (The Ardour sustain forums are a very helpful community and the author is very approachable) The parameters for automation are also editable in a graphical form via the mouse (either real-time or not)

I’ve saved the best till last. Ardour’s editing facilities are quite awesome. An audio file can be chopped mercilessly in playlist form. That is to say, the audio file itself is left ‘as-recorded’, and the playlist is generated specifying what bits of the file to play and when to play them already better, as with the mixer, you can specify groups of tracks and cut them/move then together. This is extremely useful for cutting drum parts that were recorded with 10 microphones…

Ardour is a beautifully designed piece of software. You’ll soon find yourself clicking away furiously, editing and mixing your tracks. Ardour is very good at “getting out of your way” so your creativity can do the talking. What’s already more exceptional is that it’s mainly the work of one guy (he wrote the Linux specialized audio software architecture JACK also). Given that it’s free, I recommend that any musician/producer with a flair for the techie side of things should give Linux/Ardour a try!

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