The current public version of Ardour is available as source code. Packages are available for various Linux distributions, including Red Hat/Fedora, Mandrake, Debian and Slackware; see the on-line Resources. CVS access is selective at this time, but a nightly tarball is available from the Ardour Web site. Compiling Ardour from its source code is uncomplicated, and complete instructions are included with the tarball.
Check the Ardour Web site for the latest support software required to build and install the program. Ardour's dependencies include up-to-date installations of the ALSA kernel sound system, the JACK audio server, the LADSPA plugin API and collections and various other audio-related software components. You can configure your existing Linux installation for optimal performance with the program, but if you're serious about using Ardour you are advised to install an audio-optimized system such as AGNULA/Demudi, a Debian-based distribution, or Planet CCRMA, Red Hat/Fedora packages. Slackware users should install Luke Yelavich's AudioSlack packages, and Mandrake users can find all necessary packages at Thac's site.
JAMin is a suite of post-production audio utilities designed for the preparation of tracks destined for burning to a master CD. This mastering process uses tools such as compressors, equalizers and limiters to reduce frequency and amplitude imbalances between tracks. If you plan to record a full CD with Ardour, you should plan on mastering it with JAMin.
Any modern HDR performs three basic functions, corresponding to the typical work-flow stages of recording, editing and mixing digital audio. Each stage can be quite complex within itself, but Ardour's user interface sensibly organizes the program's complexities.
Ardour records to the available hardware limits. If your audio interface supports 32-channel I/O and there's an ALSA driver for it, you should be able to work with 32 simultaneous audio channels. Assignment of channels to tracks is completely flexible, and each track supports mono or stereo input. Ardour's synchronization capabilities currently work best with JACK-compliant applications, such as the Hydrogen drum machine and Rosegarden audio/MIDI sequencer. Much work, however, is going into improving support for MIDI time code.
As mentioned above, Ardour is not a soundfile editor, but it does include a variety of edit processes optimized for multitrack recording, such as typical and not-so-typical cut/copy/paste operations, grouped track editing and fine control over track and segment relocation. Ardour offers its own time stretching and amplitude normalization, but the bulk of its processing power comes from LADSPA plugins.
The Linux Audio Developers Simple Plugin Architecture (LAPSDA) is an easy-to-implement programming interface for hosting effects and other plugins in Linux audio applications. The API has been adopted widely by Linux audio developers to the point that users expect LADSPA in new sound and music software.
Ardour lets you work with your data as tracks, regions, ranges, chunks and groups. Data display is variable: you can enlarge or reduce a track's display, and grouping lets you view only the member tracks in a specified edit group. Figure 2 shows off Ardour's track display resizing feature, along with the region editor and the gain automation curve.
How Many Tracks?
As it's used by recordists, the term track properly applies to a concept derived from the possibilities of recording sound to magnetic tape. Digital audio is recorded to your hard disk in a different manner, but the old terminology persists in the graphic representation of multiple audio streams as linear tracks. The concept of a channel is perhaps best understood in the context of a mixer. Multichannel mixers provide a number of inputs (channels) whose signals can be combined and routed freely before being sent to the mixer outputs. Likewise, a multichannel digital audio interface provides a number of channels to be combined and routed to your HDR's tracks. Channel limits are determined by your interface hardware.
As mentioned earlier, consumer audio interfaces rarely venture beyond stereo I/O, while professional hardware can deliver 50 or more channels. Disk space is consumed rapidly by alternate takes, temporary tracks and backup copies of your session files. Your software may limit the number of available tracks, but your disk speed determines the number of available simultaneous tracks. Remember, high-quality digital audio is a heavy hitter on your system resources.
Ardour's mixer panel presents a series of per-track fader strips and a master control strip. A track strip is divided into sections corresponding to a “from the top downward” data path. Input begins at the top of the strip and passes through controls such as signal polarity and track solo/mute status. It moves on through pre-fader plugins, the track fader itself and post-fader plugins before reaching its pan position and heading out to the output or outputs, typically but not always a master bus. Other notable features of Ardour's mixer include gain automation, record and playback fader movement; MIDI control to and from mixers with MIDI machine control; and plugin parameter control automation.
Thanks to Ardour's use of Erik de Castro Lopo's sndfile library, you can import and export audio data (track, region and session) to and from Ardour in any format supported by libsndfile. Currently, that's about 20 different audio file types, including the most popular consumer-grade and professional formats.
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