Introducing Ardour

The heart of your Linux recording studio is the hard-disk recorder. Get started with Ardour, which brings pro recording features to open source.

Ardour's documentation is another lively issue, because currently there is no official users' manual. It is likely that Paul Davis will continue to make Ardour freely available while charging a fee for a high-quality manual. Meanwhile, users unfamiliar with the basic design concepts of a hard-disk recorder are advised to retrieve and study manuals for proprietary DAWs, such as Pro Tools or Cubase. Some Ardour-specific documentation can be found in the source package text files and in various on-line resources, such as the Quick Toots series (see Resources), and in the traffic on the ardour-users and ardour-dev mail lists. Developers and testers also communicate on the #ardour IRC channel, while normal users carry on considerable discussion of Ardour-related matters on the mail lists for AGNULA/Demudi, Planet CCRMA, ALSA and the Linux Audio Users group.

Is Ardour ready for the big time? Perhaps not quite yet, but its road map is clearly headed there, and the remaining trip won't take long. I believe that it will be only a short time before Ardour starts raising eyebrows in the mainstream commercial audio software world. Ardour already has been used to record and mix entire CD projects, and more users are reporting success with Ardour in their own recording projects. I expect to be making a lot more music with Ardour. Feel free to stop by my site and check the occasional results.


The author sends vast thanks and appreciation to Paul Davis, Taybin Rutkin, Jesse Chappell, Steve Harris and all the other members of the Ardour development crew. Their work on Ardour, and so many other valuable Linux audio projects, truly is innovative and indeed a labor of love. The free musicians of the world salute you!

Major thanks also go to the members of the Ardour users mail list, especially Jan Depner, Mark Knecht, Aaron Trumm and Josh Karnes. Developers and users all were helpful as I found my bearings in some of Ardour's trickier places, proving that good company does indeed lessen the difficulties.

Resources for this article:

Dave Phillips is a musician, teacher and writer living in Findlay, Ohio. He has been an active member of the Linux Audio community since his first contact with Linux in 1995. He is the author of The Book of Linux Music & Sound, as well as numerous articles in Linux Journal.


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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Looks like really good software!

Keith Daniels's picture

However, it requires interfacing with several other programs, which all have learning curves and require powerful PC's -- preferably dual processor. (This software doesn't specificly mention if it can utilize that - but surely it can)

To be successful with this might require someone that already has a pretty strong background in setting up a digital studio. Also the PC cards he's talking about can be costly. The shortcoming with the home user type of sound card i.e., SB Audigy cards, etc., is they only will record 2 channels at a time.

Getting 8+ channels up & running is a MAJOR resource hog at the higher quality 32 bit recordings, and at the professional resolution setting he's talking about in this article, so I am not sure the average user's hardware would be up to running a complete digital studio. But it's a great excuse to buy a lot of new toys.... :-)

All the new OSs and windowing systems are oriented towards content consumption instead of content production.

--Steve Daniels 2013

Average user's hardware

wouter's picture

While it's true that to record many tracks simultaneously you need something more expensive than a cheap generic pc -- especially in the sound department -- I challenge you to compare the prices between some extra hardware and paying for time in an actual studio.

It's also an excellent learning tool for musicians, enabling them to learn more about recording and mastering, and this knowledge can be used in other domains than just studio recording, such as improving live sound, cabbing amps, microphone specifics, understanding more about effects and spatialisation, or just simply learning more about sound manipulation.

Note that using a good -- and, granted, more expensive -- soundcard can lower latency to a point where on even commonly used machines a pretty professional multi-tracked recording is easily accomplished.

On top of that, unless you are a drummer and want to have more control of each individual sound without using an actual, physical pre-mixer, you rarely need more than 2 channels recorded simultaneously. Most instruments record just fine with one or two microphones.

Another point in this

Anonymous's picture

Another point in this direction is that if you have a sound card with only 1 or 2 channel capability, find a small mixing board (fair quality boards aren't too expensive) and run it into your 1 soundcard channel... it becomes easy to increase your channel count 4 or 8 fold.

RE: Looks like really good software!

Peder's picture

Ardour natively only needs jack and if you use a GUI like qjackctl there's very little to learn (perhaps only to increase the latency to avoid xruns).

As for CPU speed, I use a three year old AMD AthlonXP 1400+ with 512MB RAM and a SB Live! and I have no problem handling 8-10 tracks with a couple of LADSPA effects on each track (given 16-bit/44.1kHZ, haven't tried anything else [or more tracks]).

Perhaps my recordings won't satisfy a professional sound engineer/major record label executive but if I'd like to go that way I can probably afford buying a better sound card, faster CPU and faster hard drive. And if you're thinking professional recording the largest investment is most likely getting a suitable control room and recording room (not to mention mics, stabilized power and such). But for a demo record or self released CD I think my specs would pass just fine.

Extremely interesting article!

Mike's picture

As a digital audio home recording musician, the excessive cost of pro recording software is always a major concern. I only just heard about Ardour, and am fascinated. (I included a mention of it in my home recording blog, GarageSpin.)

I'll be sure to link to this article; it's the best explanation of Ardour's features I've read yet. Thanks, Dave!

Wow! I want to see more artic

Jeff's picture

Wow! I want to see more articles like this. Excellent introduction to Linux DAW software Ardour!

Excellent article!

Anonymous's picture

Excellent article! Many thanks!

Introducing Ardour

Rexx's picture

Good article!
I was wondering if it had midi capabilities, got the answer here.
I guess I'll have to bounce back and forth from OS9 cubase vst32 and OSX Ardour?

Couldn't afford an OSX DAW and a new Mac (my G3 450mhz runs Ardour very well but I haven't tried doing lots of tracks yet)

excellent article. we are in

Present's picture

excellent article. we are in the process of setting up a studio in W Africa, and the article saved us hours of googling to find the best open-source solution. exactly what we needed. we hope to have the system fully deployed in less than a year.

good work


Musician's picture

Really interesting article! Linux Journal, you've done a great job again! More articles like this please!

ardour is awesome

risa's picture

thanks for this wicked article! i'm going to reference it on my site too. ardour has treated me well- with an ardour expert's help, me and my group (also with threw a live hiphop recording workshop in montreal in october 2006. it is so freakin satisfying to be able to introduce artists and aspiring artists to such powerful and truly free tools. thank you os!

ardour is top notch

fel3232's picture

introducind artists to the new scene is so rewarding, indeed. I just wish that I had the opportunity to do it more often