Article from Issue 238/2020

This month Graham previews PACE, liquidctl, Celestia, Ardour 6.0, Kotatogram, QElectroTech , Gorched, and more.

Audio workstation

Ardour 6.0

Ardour is a hugely important piece of open source software. It does for audio what Blender does for modeling and 3D animation, what Gimp and Krita do for image editing, and what Kdenlive does for video editing. Without it, we wouldn't have a single professional-grade audio recording and mastering tool, and we wouldn't be able to complete any of those 3D animation/film/movie/music production chains on Linux. To finish any media project, you'd need to use a different operating system. And so would the thousands of users and institutions who rely on Ardour to teach professional audio production while saving the considerable outlay needed to buy a commercial equivalent. Ardour makes audio production accessible.

Version 6.0 is a major update to Ardour and comes four years after the previous major release, Ardour 5.0. Its GTK+2 UI remains in place, because all the internal audio processing has been overhauled, which is far more important than the already streamlined aesthetics. This audio overhaul has been a huge and complex undertaking by Ardour's small development team, and it has touched almost every internal aspect of how audio is handled, from the algorithm used to mix everything together to the sample accurate way latency variation has been removed from all buses, tracks, plugins, sends, inserts, and returns. All of which makes Ardour sound considerably cleaner and more accurate, more predictable, and more like other software like Pro Tools, especially on large projects with dozens of tracks, plugins, and buses.

Another major feature that improves the audio workflow is global varispeed. This allows you to tweak the playback speed of all the audio you record. This is commonly used as you would a tape machine to hit specific target points in video or to readjust for timing differences among recordings. The resampling algorithm used to accomplish this magic sounds fantastic. You can also finally monitor both an audio input and the recorded audio on the destination track at the same time, which is vital for overdubbing or for recording a different take of something.

There's also a huge number of smaller features that will have a big impact on your music making. Ardour finally supports PulseAudio natively, for instance, and you can concurrently use different ALSA input and output devices, which means you can finally avoid using JACK to keep things simple. You can even record directly to FLAC to save space. There's an onscreen MIDI keyboard, complete with keyboard shortcuts, and the MIDI note editor now shows the note's velocity with a gradient. Plugin support is still excellent, and you can now create tags to better manage your collection. The in-line graphics for Ardour's own effects have improved, making this a brilliantly unrivaled feature for quickly glancing over your mix to see compression levels and EQ targets. As too is the plugin DSP load viewer, which now shows which individual plugins are taking up your system resources, alongside their specific minimum, maximum, average, and standard deviation response times! Like Blender, Ardour has a steep learning curve, but the end result isn't an open source compromise in any way. Ardour is capable of taking serious, professional recordings through mastering to production – all within its uniquely flexible routing system.

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1. UCC:x50-b-boldPlugin tags: Tag your many plugins for quicker access. 2. Monitoring: Finally, you can now monitor both the recording and the track input at the same time. 3. Inline plugins: See compression, expansion, spectrograms, oscilloscopes, and filter curves directly in the channel strip. 4. MIDI keyboard: Click or use keyboard shortcuts to generate MIDI data. 5. DSP load: See exactly which plugins are adding latency and which are using the most system resources. 6. Varispeed: Change the playback speed and everything is now automatically resampled. 7. Wet recording: Move the Fader item in the channel strip to record the wet (effects) up to that point in the signal chain.

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