Frequently Asked Questions About Ardour

Download Issues

I thought this was Free software

Ardour is free in the following ways:

  • You are free to do anything with it that you want (including use it on as many machines as you wish, make copies of it for friends).
  • You can get the source code without charge, and build (and modify) the program yourself.

Some people like to explain this with the phrase "Ardour is free as in free speech, not free as in free beer". Others like to point out that English doesn't have two different words like some other languages do, to differentiate between "free as in speech" (e.g. "libre" in French) and "free as in beer" (e.g. "gratis" in French). Ardour is "libre" software, with a bit of the "gratis" thrown in.

If you want the convenience of using our ready-to-run version and/or for support from Ardour developers and experienced users, we ask that you pay something for this.

If you don't want to pay for a ready-to-run version, then you'll need to get the source code and build it yourself. We do not provide assistance with this process and particularly on Windows and macOS this can be challenging and take a long time. Also, for Windows, there are no instructions.

This is a big, complex software project, and without revenue to support its development, it will almost certainly grind to a halt. Our download system is one way that we try to raise revenue. Please consider being a part of the wonderful group of people who help to make this continued development of Ardour possible.

I gave a donation to Ardour but I'm still asked to pay

The donation system is entirely separate from the download system, and exists for a couple of reasons:

  • our Linux users generally get Ardour without payment via their distributions' repositories.
  • some people just feel like being generous
Either way, it allows people to make a simple one-time payment. It is not part of the download system, and any payment you make via the donation system does not apply to the download system. Remember that you choose to pay as little as US$1 for a download.

If you donated when you intended to pay for a download, forward the email you received from PayPal to help@ardour.org, and we'll refund your payment so that you can use it at http://ardour.org/download as intended.

I downloaded Ardour N.x a year or more ago, and need to get another copy for some reason

We have a policy of not making older releases available for download. We work hard to improve Ardour and do not want to encourage people to use versions with known (often serious) bugs that have subsequently been fixed.

If it is absolutely essential that you do this, send us the Invoice ID (near the bottom of the email invoice sent to you via PayPal) and we can reset things. Then you can point your browser at http://ardour.org/download_revisit, and get the original version.

We reserve the right to say no to such requests.

I got a message saying that the timer has expired

If this is for a free/demo copy, just go back and ask for another link. This will be faster for you, and less work for us.

If this is for a paid version, email downloads@ardour.org with your Invoice ID (not transaction ID) and we'll reset things.

I got a message saying that I've used all 3 downloads

If this is for a free/demo copy, just go back and ask for another link. This will be faster for you, and less work for us.

If this is for a paid version, email downloads@ardour.org with your Invoice ID (not transaction ID) and we'll reset things.

I paid for a download but can't see a download link anywhere

There are no fixed download links for Ardour. If you pay for a prebuilt copy, your browser will be redirected to the download link after the payment process. If this does not happen, then you probably have page forwarding disabled in your web browser. Point it at http://ardour.org/download_revisit, enter your invoice ID (not transaction ID) from the your payment confirmation email, and your download will start.

The download link for a free/demo copy doesn't work!

If you asked for a free/demo copy, we will email you a message with the download link AT THE BOTTOM of the message. Please do not email us saying you cannot find the download link: it is at the bottom. There are other links before it, one of which you should almost certainly read if you have not done so before.

My Download Failed!

If you use a download manager, disable it, revisit https://ardour.org/download and use the "Upgrade/Download Again" option to enter the Invoice ID (found near the bottom of the email invoice sent to by PayPal). This will start a new download. (Download managers do not understand the X-Sendfile web server extension that we use).

If you are not using a download manager and believe that your internet connection is stable, reliable and fast enough, then email downloads@ardour.org with your Invoice ID (not transaction ID) and we'll try to fix things.

I downloaded the free/demo version. How do I upgrade to the full version?

Ardour does not use license or activation keys (this would go against the GPL that we release Ardour with, and the license of the many software libraries that we use). The full version is a totally separate download, which must be downloaded and installed separately from the free/demo version. We recommend removing the free/demo version during the installation (or right afterwards) to avoid confusion (see the next question).

I paid for the full version, but it keeps going silent after 10 minutes

There are typically three causes of this:

  1. You never actually installed the full version that you downloaded.
  2. You installed the full version but did not uninstall the free/demo version, and are actually using the latter
  3. You downloaded the full version, but your browser renamed the download (e.g. by adding a ".1" on the end of the filename). You then reinstalled the free/demo version, thinking you were installing the full version.

PayPal

Why PayPal?

The Ardour project receives the vast majority of the revenue it generates in the form of small payments (less than US$10, and most of them around US$1). PayPal has a micropayments system that saves us nearly US$0.23 on every US$1 transaction. As far as we know, no other payment company offers this (and to be honest, we worry that PayPal may remove it at any time). This has huge consequences for us in terms of the fees we have to pay, and thus the actual revenue we receive when you do pay.

In some jurisdictions PayPal allows people to create subscriptions without having a credit card. This is also something that is not offered by any other subscription-offering service that we are aware of.

PayPal also handles the largest number of countries around the world, unlike many newer online credit card-based services that have limited their current offerings to North America and Europe (at best). Since Ardour is used in over 140 countries around the world, this seems respectful of our worldwide base of users/supporters.

I don't want an account at PayPal

A subscription is a 3-way contract between you, the Ardour project and PayPal. For this to be workable, PayPal needs to know who you are and to keep some information on file for you. There's simply no way this could work otherwise - even if we didn't use PayPal, some other company would need to do the same thing.

I don't use a credit card, PayPal won't let me subscribe

For reasons that PayPal will not or cannot explain, their policy about allowing customers to create subscriptions without registering a credit card varies from country to country. Germany is particularly badly effected - many Germans do not use credit cards, but PayPal in Germany will not allow subscriptions without registering a credit card with your PayPal account.

We don't like this policy but we are powerless to change it (or explain it). See "Why PayPal?" above for more perspective.

Why don't you just set up a bank account in the Eurozone

There are many Ardour users within the Eurozone, and having a banking presence there would allow us to benefit from the modern, highly capable and cheap inter-bank tranfer system that the EU has built.

However, setting up a bank account in a different country without substantial fees is not trivial, and moving the money out of the country (or EU) is still remarkably expensive (PayPal is actually much cheaper for such things, which is partly why we use it). In addition, there is a lack of information about easy ways for an "e-commerce" site (like ardour.org) to interact with this banking system (i.e. to be notified that a particular transaction has taken place, and is associated with a specific order).

We may explore this option in the future, but for now, there is just a lot of bureaucratic obstacles to making it work well.

Subscriptions

Why Subscriptions?

We like to be able to plan ahead, and if all of the income from Ardour is concentrated around our releases, planning is hard to do. Subscriptions help us smooth out the income flow over time, which makes us feel more secure about the current funding level. Even when it results in less revenue for us, this smoothing-out property is really valuable for the project, and so we encourage subscriptions over one-time payments, although you are of course welcome to use those instead.

Do I need a subscription to run Ardour?

Absolutely not. Nothing about Ardour's functionality is connected to your subscription. This is not like Adobe, Oracle and some other companies, who use the term "subscription" to refer to a regular payment required to keep your software functioning. Once you have Ardour it will continue to work regardless of the status of your subscription.

What happens when my subscription ends or is cancelled?

Nothing, really. Ardour will keep functioning normally. You just won't get access to the nightly builds anymore, and won't get free access to downloads of the releases. Note that this takes effect as soon as you cancel the subscription, not at "the end of the month".

I can't/won't subscribe but I want to pay and get updates

We prefer subscriptions because they even out income over a longer period of time, allowing us to plan more reliably for the future. But if you would really prefer to get most of the benefits of a a subscription without actually having one, you can simply choose to pay US$45 or more as a one-time download at least US$45 for a particular version and you'll get all updates to that version and the next next major version without paying again. For example, pay this much or more for version 6.0, and you will get 6.1, 6.2 etc and 7.0 for without us asking you to pay again.

How do I cancel my subscription?

Login to PayPal, then either point your browser here or follow the instructions in the next question to navigate to the subscriptions list. Click on the subscription for "ardour.org" and then the Cancel button.

My PayPal subscription was suspended. How do I reactivate it?

You can reactivate it by following these steps:

  1. Log into your PayPal account. Click on your account name (upper right corner of the web page) and choose "Account Settings". Within that page, choose "Money, Banks and Cards". At the bottom of this page there is a link to see all of your "automatic payments"/"subscriptions"/"preapproved payments" (PayPal keeps changing the term they use).
  2. You will see a list of all of your recurring payments. Find the subscription for "ardour.org" that you need to reinstate and click on the title. The next page will show you all the details of this subscription. Click 'Re-activate' to re-activate your subscription.

Installation

Linux

Please read the instructions.

Windows

Please read the instructions.

macOS

Please read the instructions.

Basic Audio I/O problems

... to be written ...

Release Questions

When will the next version of Ardour be released?

Don't ask, don't tell. We release new versions of Ardour when we think they are ready. We're not driven by marketing, by budget requirements - we are guided by the ideas and experiences of people intimately involved in using and developing Ardour. We'll release the next version when it's ready.

Usage Questions

How do I use plugins with Ardour?

Above and below the fader in each mixer strip is a box. Right click in this box, and you will see a context menu that will (hopefully) make everything clear.

Mixer Strip?

If you can't see anything that you think could be called a mixer strip, press either Alt-m to bring up the entire mixer window, or Shift-e to toggle display of the editor mixer strip (on the left side of the editor window).

Can I import MP3 files to Ardour?

As of Ardour 6.0, the answer is yes.

Appearance

Can I make Ardour use my system theme (colors, fonts etc)?

No. Ardour's use of color goes way beyond typical desktop applications and is widely used to help indicate many different states of various controls and alerts. Using the system theme will break this. There are currently five Ardour themes that can be chosen from the Windows -> Theme Manager window. It is possible for anyone to create a new theme, but it tends to be a lot of rather monotonous work.

Ardour's window is slightly bigger than my screen

Go to Edit -> Preferences, and on the Misc tab, adjust the font scaling.

If I maximise the window it jumps around when I click things

See the answer to the previous question.

Why do you use GTK? Why not port to Qt or JUCE or ... ?

Hacker News user "formerly proven" wrote the following excellent summary in a discussion on that site:

Content production tools have fairly unique UI needs compared to the average desktop application, e.g. they often have very complex timeline controls that offer dozens if not hundreds of different interactions specific to the tool at hand. Generic UI libraries would only be a hindrance there. They almost never have enough screen space, so the widget/interaction density is far greater than what’d be ergonomic for standard apps. Since people spend considerable time learning these tools they generally have their own UI paradigms independent of the host OS, which is the opposite of what you‘d want in a crossplatform toolkit.

What the above paragraph means is that most cross-platform toolkits aren't really of much use to an application like Ardour beyond providing an abstraction of windowing and event handling. There are four specific areas where the toolkit does some heavy lifting: menus, text entry, treeviews and file selection dialogs. For these purposes, it really makes no difference whether we use GTK, Qt or some other toolkit.

What does make a difference, however, is that there are about 175,000 lines of code already written that do use GTK. Porting this to another toolkit is a substantial undertaking, and would likely take over a year to fully complete. We regard this as of little value to our users, who would prefer that we work on features and bug fixing.

Building Ardour

Is it possible to build Ardour natively on Windows? I can't seem to find instructions for that.

It is theoretically possible. Ardour does contain a Visual Studio (2005) project for building Ardour on Windows. However, it barely scratches the surface of what is required to build Ardour - there are currently 89 other free/libre libraries required for the dependency stack. And we need to build that stack on Windows with the same compiler/linker as will be used for Ardour itself.

So far, noone, however motivated, has carried out this task in way that can be shared with others. If you are willing and able to do this, this, we can provide a downloadable archive of the approx 700MB pre-compiled dependency stack. You'd also have to be willing to maintain that dependency stack in a timely fashion as we update various 3rd party library versions and add new libraries. It isn't enough to do this task once.

We choose to cross-compile the Windows build of Ardour on Linux using MinGW. That's why there is no up-to-date instruction how to build Ardour on Windows natively.

If you are willing to fix that, please talk to us.

What about building Ardour on other platforms?

Please see this page which has more information about Ardour development and build processes.

Hardware

Why Should I NOT buy/use a USB microphone?

Digital Audio Basics

To explain this clearly, we need to start with the very basic concepts of digital audio. Generally, when you hear a sound, you're experiencing an acoustic pressure wave that moves through the air and affects the nerves inside your ear. Microphones convert that acoustic pressure wave into an electrical signal, using transducers that generate a voltage that varies in a way that is (hopefully precisely) correlated to the pressure. To convert this voltage level into a digital signal, it has to pass through a "analog to digital converter" (or "ADC"). This device regularly and frequently measures the voltage level generated by the microphone, and in turn creates a digital representation of that level, ready for other digital gear (including your computer) to use.

The process of measuring voltage regularly and frequently is called "sampling", and it is driven by a "sample clock". Every time the clock "ticks" the ADC will carry out a measurement and generate a digital sample value.

One Clock To Rule Them All

The first rule of all digital audio is that there should only be a single sample clock in your system. The same clock should be used for both ADC and the opposite digital-to-audio conversion (taking place in the "DAC"), as well as any other digital audio devices that you may be using. Why is this so important? No two clocks can run at precisely the same speed - even if they are basically set to run at (say) 48kHz, their actual speed will be slightly different from this nominal value, and from each other.

If you use separate clocks for the ADC and DAC parts of a system, then things will slowly drift apart in time. Eventually they will be so bad that actual audible glitches occur. How long this takes can vary from a few minutes to a few hours, but it will happen with any pair of clocks. So, to reiterate: the first rule of digital audio is to only have a single sample clock in the system, and use it for both ADC and DAC.

What does this have to do with USB microphones?

To return to your USB microphone. You perhaps understand that it sends a digital stream of samples to your computer, using a USB cable and connectors. That means that the microphone has an ADC inside it (to convert from analog to digital), and that means it has its own sample clock to run the ADC. This sample clock is entirely self-contained inside the USB microphone, and cannot be overridden by or used by other digital equipment that you're using (for example, whatever audio interface your headphones or speakers are connected to). As a result, your system now has (at least) two sample clocks, and over time they will drift apart from each other. This is what we (and you) want to avoid.

Important Proviso: USB Mics with headphone jacks

Before we continue, we need to note that some USB microphones do come with a headphone jack too. This means that the microphone both sends and receives a digital stream of samples, and is doing both ADC (as a microphone) and DAC (as a headphone jack). If you plan to use your USB mic with its own headphone jack, then most of what is written here does not apply to you, and you can regard the microphone as a small, not particularly good, simple audio interface just like one of the boxes you might otherwise connect to you computer. You have hopefully gained a bit of understanding of how this all works, but you can ignore the rest of this entry, and the one that comes after it. HOWEVER, many people with a USB microphone that has its own headphone jack, still choose not to use it, and plan to listen to playback from the computer via some other signal path (typically the audio output from the computer itself, or an external audio interface plugged into the computer). If this describes you, please keep reading.

But I've Seen This Work!

It possible at this point that you will say "But I (or my friend) plugged a USB mic just like this into their Windows / macOS computer and it all worked just fine! What are you talking about?" This is a fair question. What is happening on those platforms is that the "audio software stack" inside the operating system is forced to do what is called "resampling" of either the incoming or outgoing digital data streams (or both) in order to keep them in sync with each other. This means adding or dropping a sample here or there to keep the effective clock rates in sync. It is very nice that these operating systems do this for you without even telling you about it, but it also means that there's a process going on that, depending on your needs, you may want to absolutely avoid.

Should you care?

Resampling like this is not absolutely evil. If you're making a podcast, or working with some audio where the highest possible fidelity to the original sound isn't particularly important, you're probably going to be just fine with this resampling taking place. You can use your USB mic, the operating system will resample one or both audio streams, things will seem to just work, and you'll probably be happy with the results.

However, if you are working in a context where resampling is considered harmful (particularly if you are recording), then a USB microphone is not for you. You should be using a microphone that does not contain an ADC circuit - just a classic analog microphone with (almost certainly) an XLR connector that you can use to plug it into your audio interface.

Other quality considerations

On top of issues caused by the USB microphone having its own sample clock, there is also the fact that the ADC inside the microphone is likely to be of inferior quality to the one found in just about any audio interface for you computer.

Not only that, but there still needs to be a pre-amplifier ("preamp") between the microphone itself (which generates extremely small voltages) and the ADC. In a USB mic, this is likely to be a barely adequate preamp in terms of quality, and almost certainly not one that anyone would choose to use, if they had the choice.

If you're just recording your spoken voice for a podcast, then again these limitations may not be important to you. But for just about anybody else, they are definitely worth considering.

Users: Good! Manufacturers: Bad!

It is very unfortunate that various manufacturers have started making and promoting USB microphones as if they are just magic and will just work. The manufacturers are relying on the computer's operating system (or application software) to resample, without telling users that this will happen. The belief, presumably, is that there is a large number of users who don't care about the required resampling, and that they are happy to have good looking moderate quality microphone that they can just plugin into a USB port rather than being required to have a "proper" audio interface with "real" audio connector jacks. The manufacturers are probably not wrong about the numbers here, but here at ardour.org we consider it very important that anyone planning to use one of these microphones understands the tradeoffs.

I have a USB microphone. How do I use it with Ardour (on Linux)?

First of all, please read the previous FAQ entry to understand why you (probably) shouldn't be using this microphone.

This is very easy. The steps are:

  1. Ensure that you are using Ardour version 6.0 or later
  2. In the audio/MIDI setup dialog (shown when starting Ardour, or later via Window > Audio/MIDI Setup), select "ALSA" as the audio/MIDI backend.
  3. Pick the USB microphone as your input device, and something sensible for your output device.
That's it. You should understand that Ardour will be resampling at least one of the two data streams (see the previous FAQ entry for more on that).

You can also do this by using JACK and picking different input and output devices. This is more complex, the resampling is either of a lower quality or not happening at all (depending on the version of JACK). We strongly recommend that if you insist on using a USB mic, you take the steps listed above.