OpenSource - PlugIn Base stack

Hello everyone,

I am new and wanted to say hello.
Ardour ist as far as i can see a great peace of Software but i think there should be a Open Source Drum Sampler PlugIn and a great Open Source Synth like Surge XT pre-packaged in it.

Surge works fine in Ardour v6/7/8 on Linux and Windows 64-Bit and has a nice load of Presets in it to just play along. It can import 16-Bit wave tables from Drum samples but it doesn’t sound nice.

Regarding a Drum PlugIn. It basicly has just to provide a few pads which can simply playback Wave
files and save it’s settings, so maybe there is a way to provide a ready to play and startup config. PS: Surge also has a nice Effect Plugin as well, like a good delay and a few Reverb presets, it would be a good Open Source addition and Surge XT is actively developed as well.

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I disagree, I think a DAW should come with no plugins at all. It’s just bloat that I have to remove after installing it. A basic GM synth I can live with but beyond that it should be up to the user to install what they want. An optional plugin pack or an integrated plugin installer could also work.


This brings back an old discussion. Many users asked plugins to be included, and in theory Ardour could include all free/libre software plugins. Except that would tie release-cycles of the plugin with Ardour release cycles. This is particularly an issue with more complex plugins.

Onboarding new users is significantly easier if there is a set of curated bread and butter plugins, which is what we settled for: A simple EQ, Compressor, Expander/Gate, Delay, a cheap Reverb, and a basic synth.

But anything more complex is a no-go.
An important criteria for those was that there is no further development on the plugins.

Someone would have to maintain it, in sync with Ardour releases. Someone needs to curate the set: Which of the gazillion plugins should be included? It needs to be compiled for all platforms and architectures. Also keep in mind that once a plugin is bundled, it is impossible to remove it without breaking sessions.


Worth noting that Apple does this regularly with their plugins:). Heck they don’t even remove it, sometimes they just update it and it breaks things:)

Everything else you mention though is dead on accurate of course.


Yeah but Surge XT has for many years a good Github commit frequency and is very stable. I believe it was once a closed source commercial Synth and is now Open Source. It’s not hard to package it with Ardour on Linux and Windows as well and has a nice GUI which works inside Ardour on Windows and Linux (i have not checked MacOS). It also supports the VST2/3 and CLAP Standard and has pretty factory presets. It also has a Surge XT Effect Plugin which covers already most of the effects you described above. Multiple EQ’s, Reverb, Gates etc.

The only thing it cant do is drums like for example DrumGizmo (which is also Open Source).
But Drum Gizmo supports it’s own Kits but you have to edit the XML File for MIDI Mapping and
sample files, which is a bit of downer, at least for Windows.

Keep in mind that Arodur also runs on *BSD as well as some more obscure platforms, and supports various architectures apart from Intel and ARM CPUs.

That being said, Surge XT is easy to install on the common platforms you mention, and if you so choose, you can get the latest version of it, regardless of Ardour version.

The main point of plugins is that they can be developed separately, and have a release cycle independent of the plugin host. Until Surge XT ceases to be developed, and enters maintenance mode, there is zero chance that Ardour will bundle it. You would otherwise always get an outdated version. Upstream likely even won’t provide support for it. Besides, there are various technical aspects that would prevent Surge XT from being included.

But why Surge in the first place, and not zynAddSubFx or Vital, or Tal’s NoizeM4k3r or …?


As far as i checked it out zynAddSubFx has no working PlugIn GUI, at least for Windows and the Version for Windows doesn’t have the features for sound creation and manipulation like Surge XT. There is also a lot of third party support for Surge XT and many tutorials on YT on how to create sounds, how to import wave forms etc. But the main argument for me is, its all Open Source. It’s easy to build and customize and has a friendly and very active Development community and people react on bug reports and community feedback.

My point however was that every person prefers a different synth.

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This is why Audio Distros exist… taking the DAWs and adding all the required special configs, curated Plugins and helper applications. This is not the job for the DAW developers, especially Ardour, they have enough on their plates for all of the reasons mentioned above


Nah, i disagree. @Glen

If you see the DAW’s which are most popular, it’s always the easy to use ones without much installing and configuring. I don’t say you shouldn’t be able to customize anything and even compile the source code but a lot of Musicians are not Computer experts or Programmers and don’t want to become a Programmer or Sysadmin. A good and lightweight startup config to experiment with and archive fast results is a good thing and expected nowadays, even for Major DAW’s like Cubase even in the cheapest version like Cubase Elements. FL-Studio and Logic as well. If you want to approach Sysadmins and Programmers only, then it ok like it is, but if you want to also aproch more creative and non tech sawy people it should be a bit easier. One or two good sounding synth plugins shouldn’t be to much to ask for.

For me it’s not a problem, bc i want to do music with Open Source DAW’s and Open Source PlugIns
only in the future and don’t want to depend on closed source payware which is deprecated every
few month or spyware like the new Native Instrument crap.

Interesting timing on this post as I have started working on a project that makes Ardour easier to use. It will have a youtube video as well as accompanying script/github repo. It will be built to make ardour function similar to Garageband using pre-made session templates, various soundfounts, plugins and some LUA scripting.


This is an odd comment given Robin clearly explained the technical and practical reasons why it is too much to ask for. :slight_smile:

Personally, I am struggling to see the benefit of bundling Surge XT inside Ardour other than saving those who want Surge XT installed on their systems the few minutes it takes to install it themselves. If installing Surge XT is too complicated for someone, how did they manage to get the DAW installed?

I’ll be interested to see what @jmantra produces as I do agree Ardour can be intimidating at first and not obvious to new users how to get it set up for their individual use-cases if they are expecting it to behave like other programs, but that seems to be a different matter than not having a full-featured synth pre-installed inside the program. If a new user doesn’t use Surge XT, or synths in general, how would its inclusion improve their experience with Ardour at all? When you consider all the drawbacks Robin mentioned, it’s clearly a bad idea when the only upside is saving Surge XT users a few minutes installing it themselves…which may not even be saving them that if they have another DAW they use to collaborate with others and have to install Surge XT anyways to have it present in that program.



That is (in part) Glen’s point. See below:

@GMaq mentioned that this was not the job for the DAW developers, but he didn’t say it should then be a job for the end users.

For end users, there’s installable applications and Audio Distros. As Glen said: “This is why Audio Distros exist”.

I’m sorry, but this statement is complete rubbish.

For a start, you are working on the basis that Ardour doesn’t come with a decent sounding synth plugin, which it does. Sure the included GM Synth plugin is pretty basic, but it sounds good, has a wide range of sounds, and is enough to get people started.

Sure, something like Surge XT or zynAddSubFx is more capable for those that need (and want) it, but I suspect the vast majority of Ardour users don’t fit this category.

Your assertion that the majority of users would benefit from a more complex and capable synth plugin being bundled with Ardour is simply wrong.

Secondly, associating the simple act of installing a plugin with “Sysadmins and Programmers only” is nonsense. That’s a ridiculous statement.

Non-technical, creative users buy, install, and use DAW plugins all the time.

In fact, I would argue that it’s often too easy, and people get suckered into buying plugins that aren’t that useful or that they will never use (I’ve been a bit guilty of this myself).

Frankly, if you can’t install a DAW plugin then you have no business using a DAW; stealing the words of a famous IT support story, you should probably “pack up your computer back into it’s box and send it back, because you are too stupid to use a computer”.

Installing a plugin is easy.

For example: I can install zynAddSubFX and Surge with a single command:

sudo apt install zynaddsubfx-lv2 surge

I’ve just installed the latest version of Surge XT from their website in 3 mouse clicks.

Now, if you are talking about installing specific Open Source plugins on certain platforms, then maybe you have a point. But this is a problem for the plugin author (or another contributor) or distro to solve.

It’s an issue with those particular plugins; it’s independent of Ardour, and not for the Ardour devs to solve.




This sounds interesting. Are you aiming it at a particular platform?



Wow, it sounds very interesting! Look forward for your contribute!

I wonder how the “Audio Distros” argument works out for Mac and Windows Users…
And even if you use Linux, why should someone replace it’s Main Distro for a “Audio Distro” just to run Ardour?

I think this type of arrogance is why the Linux Desktop has still a market share under 4%
even in 2023/2024 and people still favor Windows and MacOS and Ardours donations for the main dev’s are lacking.

However: As i said before, i don’t have any Problems with Ardour. But i do care about good Open Source projects and it would be sad if it doesn’t get more support and donations because the onboarding process on all supported operating systems is to difficult for non tech savvy people.

For desktop and laptop computers, Microsoft’s Windows is the most used at 69%, followed by Apple’s MacOS at 21%, and Linux 3.2%

I wonder why that is…

Those do not hold true in the pro-audio community where macOS dominates.

For Ardour Linux is on top. 45% of the official downloads are Linux versions (and that does not include users who get Ardour from their Linux distribution or self builds).

But we’re seriously getting off topic here.


If you use some critical thinking, then it doesn’t take much to realise it doesn’t apply.

The distros make sense for Linux, because Linux users are used to installing software through their package manager, and because getting software outside of this route can sometimes be tricky due to there being multiple distro frameworks

Windows and Mac users are mostly used to installing software from downloads.

It’s a choice. And it’s not a black-or-white choice. As I indicated, I installed two decent synth plugins very easily on my KDE Neon setup, which is pretty much Ubuntu 22.04 out of the box.

But if you do want to go all-in on AV production, these distros provide more than you could ever want. If I was dedicating a workstation for audio production use, I would definitely consider one of these distros.

And it’s often possible to install a lot of the capabilities provided in an audio distro to other distros. As an example, it’s possible, and quite easy, to use the kxstudio repositories on Ubuntu to give you all the additional software.

So, this is a non-argument.

So, you can’t counter the argument or come up with better arguments of your own, so you resort to a lazy ad-hominem.

And I don’t know what this has to do with the subject even. This is not a Linux forum. The software is not elusively (or even primarily) designed to work with Linux (ISTR the Ardour Devs mostly use Macs these days). And the discussion, that you started, is not specifically about Linux.

Why is it any more difficult than, say, Reaper, which comes (like Ardour) with a small handful of basic plugins including a very basic synth plugin that is probably a lot less useful than the General MIDI plugin that ships with Ardour?

I’m not against making Ardour easier and more accessible for new users, but the notion that including a couple of extra plugins is going to have a significant benefit seems misguided (especially when those plugins are a few clicks away anyway).

If Ardour has a an issue with expanding it’s user-base, I think it’s primarily down to marketing/exposure: I rarely see Ardour mentioned on music or audio production forums, blogs/articles, or YouTube videos and, when it is suggested, it’s usually drowned out by a chorus of people recommending Reaper, Cubase, or Ableton.

In most cases, people either seem to say:

“it’s too complicated for my use, I’ll stick with Audacity”,
“I’ll go with Reaper because that’s what everyone else seems to be using”.

Occasionally, I will see:
“The MIDI support on it doesn’t work for me”

I have never, ever, seen anyone reject Ardour because it didn’t come with a “decent” synth plugin.

Also, a lot of people using Cubase or Ableton are doing so because a cut-down version was supplied with their audio interface.

IMO, if Ardour is to expand it’s user-base, it needs to have better exposure. @unfa did a great job a few years ago with his tutorials. But Unfa has only around 29k subscribers (many of whom probably were already Ardour users before they subscribed).

But there are no easy answers to this as marketing usually comes with a significant effort and price tag. That is assuming the Ardour Devs want to chase user-base in the first place.




Definitely not. I am running GNU/Linux since the late 90s have not looked back (I do have a macbook for testing though). Similar story for Paul, Ardour development happens on Debian on non Apple hardware.

There is no ardour-dev who uses Windows. We do not even have a windows machine (windows builds are cross-compiled).


I’m not opposed to adding some more useful basic plugins to onboard new users, but large specific synths, which are not trivial to learn, workflow specific and subjective are not on that list.

One option would be to have a “Downloader” (like the current curated sample set, Ardour > Window > Library Downloader), still that would depend on someone maintaining a list of plugins and provide them in a platform independent installer format).

PS. Surge XT is a pretty cool project, but so are a lot of other synths.


I sit corrected.