How do I teach Ardour to handle mp3 or how do I even play mp3 while running Ardour

Hello forums

I just started using Ardour after using Reaper for some time. I used to use a lot of mp3s before but it seems like Ardour doesn’t play with mp3. How can I teach Ardour to let me import mp3s? It doens’t bother me a lot though … having to convert sounds might make me choose better. But how can I even play mp3s while running Ardour through Jack? My music player pauses playback when I start the jack server.

In as far as music players compatible with Jack, my preference is for Aqualung, but mplayer also supports Jack. Both have to be compiled with Jack support, but especially with Aqualung I believe this is the default for many distributions. It doesn’t hurt that Aqualung is a nice player in general and you can insert LADSPAs in playback if needed.


… at present (November 2008) …

Still nobody is using mp3s in Ardour?

Aqualung looks perfect, thanks. I’m using Clementine and Totem Movie Player usually, but I still miss foobar :stuck_out_tongue:

Aqualung is probably the most comparable to foobar form what I have been told, in as far as quality of playback is paramount.

In as far as MP3s, the legal issues have not gone away, and as a result we have not implemented support for it. It is discouraged to use lossy formats in general in Ardour, but it can be a necessary evil at times, the problem is that for patent encumbered formats it can operate in a legal grey area for open source software, but given that the lead developer of Ardour is located in the USA, where it is probably most likely to be found illegal, I don’t expect that to change.


Well that’s a fuckedup but valid reason.

I was expecting that somebody had made it possible though, if not built-in, since there are so many mp3s around.

Most people just use LAME to encode or decode as needed for MP3.

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I just read that mp3 importing is supported in Ardour for OSX. If I would try to haxx my Ardour to play mp3, where would I begin?

I recorded a jam session with my Zoom the other day and now I would like to cut out some piece to make a beat of. It takes time and disk space to convert it all to wav and then cut… Just some reason to why I bother.

I just read that mp3 importing is supported in Ardour for OSX. If I would try to haxx my Ardour to play mp3, where would I begin?

It is supported in OS X because that functionality is provided by the OS, provides a level of protection for Ardour. We utilize CoreAudio on OS X, since that is provided by the OS we can do so and maintain compatibility with the GPL that Ardour is licensed under, and since Apple paid the licensing fee for the technology specifically for CoreAudio, it isn’t an issue there.

As I mentioned, the issue is far from technical, it is merely legal. A simple grep of the code for loading audio would give you more than a few pointers most likely, though it has been some time since i looked at it. I will say do not expect any patch enabling MP3 to be at all supported or accepted by the Ardour development team however due to the legal issues, that is all on you.


PS As of right now any file you import is converted to the ‘native’ format as specified in your options, not really saving a lot of space, and if all you are looking to do is basic editing, no mixing or processing, Ardour may not be the best tool for this job tbh. Something akin to MP3DirectCut might be better for what you want to do.

Playing back audio from non jack aware programs wont work because the jack sound server is using the soundcard. However there is a workardound to this if you use the pulse audio sound server.

if you go into your sound settings by right clicking on the speaker icon, then settings. There should be a box you can click to change from built in audio (might be different for your setup) to pulseaudio jack sink. Cant remember off hand which tab it is, sure its playback. Your audio program will now play. And it has an added benifit that you can route the pulseaudio-jacksink through jack. So you could route it into ardour, or an effx etc.

also as others have stated that there are jack aware programs. Audacity is jack aware and you can set it to jack instead of alsa in the settings, though since audacity supports mp3’s and can edit audio, you may be better just using audacity as you will easily be able to cut bits out of your mp3 recording and export it.

Why not just call lame etc if available to convert, and/or display a message with instructions?

lame --decode WAVFILEHERE

Works well. Works fast. Works simple. :wink:


@PBuryk: you’re doing way too much work :slight_smile: there are standalone wav=>mp3 applications (command line and GUI) that will do the job much faster than Audacity. Glad you find your way though.

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The easiest way to play mp3 in Ardour is by using Audacious in Jack mode.
Either route to the soundcard directly or via a mixer strip.

I agree with seablade.

If/when I need to bring something into Ardour that I only have on mp3, I import the mp3 into Audacity and export it as a WAV file.
Then I import that WAV file into Ardour. Not a complicated task at all (Make sure you install the LAME mp3 decode into Audacity though!).

But… I do not like using mp3 files as source to Ardour unless they are >128kbps rips (I prefer 196-256 kbps)… I find them generally
sounding like they’ve been processed through a flanger. Anyway… That’s how I bring mp3s into Ardour.

Oh yes… If I need to generate MP3s of my Ardour mixes, I export a stereo session file as WAV… import that into Audacity and then
export that to stereo mp3.


It looks like mp3 are free from licensing issues worldwide since 2017:

I think that it would be very convenient to be able to import/export in the most widely used audio format.


PS: in the meantime, if it can helps:

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Ardour does not directly read/write audiofiles. It uses libsndfile, and will automatically gain mp3 support once libsndfile does. So please upvote the following issue:

PS. MP3 export is possible in the recent development version, using ffmpeg/lame as encoder.
Also in 5.12 you can work-around using the ardour video tools. Session > Open Video… extract soundtrack only – That allows to import single files.

PPS. I trust that you’re aware that starting a mix or production from an already compressed, lossy audio file is never a good idea.

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You can tell Ardour 5.12 to create a mp3 version of the file you exported, instructions here: Are all MP3 patents now expired?

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My use case is to transcribe/re-interpret existing music, I put markers, loops and use Jack transport to synchronise with MuseScore, progressively replacing every parts with mine.
I upvoted the issue in libsndfile.