What defines a "Pro" DAW?

As a little background to this question, I was at a meeting today in my college’s record studio (by meeting, we were all geeking out over mics, pres, how to improve our studio, etc.). In this meeting I entered into a fairly heated debate over what constitutes a “professional” DAW (one of my fellow engineers is an avid fanboy and user of protools LE as I have ever seen in person…). He argues that the definition of a “pro” DAW is “what everyone in the industry is using”, and that you cant really be taken seriously as a recording/mixing/mastering engineer unless you use protools in some form…

My argument is that any DAW could be considered “professional” if you use it as a tool to make $$$. I feel that pro tools is just another daw, and if it works for you, great! But I don’t think it is the be all and end all of daws… So I ask all of you, what do you think constitutes a “professional” DAW? I’m really interested to hear others response to this question.

P.S. I am an avid linux ardour user, and I really enjoy the fact I just finished setting up ardour and jack on my recording studio’s “pro tools” mac! :wink:

I have seen professional people start a fire with two rocks better than a pack of matches and still have enough rock to knock other people out when they start complaining why matches are better.

Seriously, it’s never the tools…it’s the person.

And someone who says something like what they told you in my not very humble opinion is not a very professional person.

So in other words, any DAW is professional as long as it’s used by a pro.


surely a pro DAW is only one with “pro” in the name? Maybe Paul should offer “Ardour PRO” augmented with cumbersome DRM dongle and $1500 price tag.

He argues that the definition of a "pro" DAW is "what everyone in the industry is using", and that you cant really be taken seriously as a recording/mixing/mastering engineer unless you use protools in some form...

By that definition some of the more specialized software that few people use, like RADAR, Pyramix, and SADIE, would not be considered pro. In fact the only software that would would be ProTools, but the only reason that everyone uses that is simply for session compatibility. Almost every engineer I know has experience on ProTools for that reason alone, it isn’t because it is particularly better than most of the other options, but rather it is because they can go into any studio and use it.

This however has nothing to do with whether or not it is a ‘Pro’ DAW. Heck I would never considered ProTools LE a ‘Pro’ DAW with track count limits etc. It is beyond useless for anything but the small jobs compared to something like Ardour, Logic, Reaper, etc. that are all about the same price or cheaper. ProTools HD at least is a huge step up, but also requires dedicated hardware, and for many people they can get better results by spending that money on hardware they WANT.


Margins are extremely tight in the recorded music business due to the collapse of cd sales. The overhead of Ardour in a pro recording environment is massively lower than Protools. Both in the short term and the long term. Any professionally run recording environment should realise that if only for this reason, Ardour is truly a great professional choice. Of course, studios are all too rarely run by people with good business sense.

In your colleague’s head, ‘pro’ really means ‘proprietary’ rather than ‘professional’. He does have a point when it comes to interoperability. There are times when files need to be shared between studios. They can only be shared if the recipient studio has the right set up. The same goes for video and image production.

But the pro environment is really about demand and marketing, not some arbitrary notion of ‘professionalism’. It isn’t just the engineers that decide what to spend time learning, installing and using. It’s driven by demand from musicians, managers and the rest of the business, too. Ardour simply has to grow in popularity to become more widely accepted. The more mass market it becomes, the more ‘professional’ it will seem to be to your colleague.

Digidesign has spent much energy getting Protools into the pro environment and that energy has been expended on marketing. Sales people, distributors, in-store demos, pr, advertising, certification and training programmes. It’s all marketing & I think is really the only area Ardour is lacking in its professionalism.

The challenge to Ardour is how to do marketing without many of the ancillary structures that normally support it (shops, distributors, tie-in deals with hardware etc)

95% of the time I am mixing from a 2-inch machine, through an analog console, to my Masterlink. I guess I am completely out of the running as a pro engineer who can be taken seriously. Bummer. I guess I’m gonna have to give back the money that our clients pay us. :slight_smile:

Now what am I gonna do with the rest of my life since I am no longer a pro?


Anyone who is a fanboy of anything, is not allowed to have an opinion on anything that matters. In my experience, fanboys are not rational.

Seb: look for my ubuntu build of ArdourPro, it already exists :wink:

On another note, I agree that the only reason Protools is industry standard is for interoperability, which begs the question: why not use Ardour for the same reason? You can put your custom linux install on a USB key or CD/DVD very easily, and take it to any studio which uses a PC or intel Mac. The benefits of this are not only that your session is portable, but your other applications (Hydrogen, Jamin, LinuxDSP, etc.) can come along too, and you’ll never have to worry about whether the studio you’re using has the same plugins you used on the session initially. All this on top of the obvious cost benefit, the lack of need for specific hardware, the lack of a need to convert the files to another DAWs format, the security and stability of linux, the fact that you can freely distribute Ardour and LInux to your colleagues in another country by mail when they need your sessions, etc., and one starts to wonder what, if any, are the advantages to using Protools because it’s “industry standard”.

@macinnisrr: I’ve just tried to download the build of ArdourPro and I’m getting “temporarily unavailable” from your site. I tried to use this link:


I downloaded it a while back and it worked really well, saved me a lot of time building Ardour for an Ubuntu install I was putting together to test some things.

@tbonedude Why not just rename it “Ardour Pro” and show it to your friend. :wink: See what he says. :wink: