Why Use Ardour?

I recently came across the following page where the author details reasons why he chose to use Reaper in a pedagogical setting. (Hint: there’s also another page on the site with many free and open source cross-platform plugins to support your DAW of choice!) Reading through the list I found the vast majority of reasons listed to use Reaper were also good reasons to use Ardour, the DAW I teach in my classes. I’m not bashing Reaper, and I don’t want to start a “which is better” thread. However, like the original author, I am very interested in both your reasons for using Ardour and your thoughts about how Ardour meets, exceeds, or misses on the criteria listed in the Reaper post above.

I will aggregate feedback here to either reinforce reasons already stated in the original post because they are also appropriate for Ardour, or I will create new reasons one might choose Ardour (again, focusing on positives, not flaming others). When I’m done with the revised list I’ll post a link to it here. And, hopefully, it will help my students (and maybe yours, or you, or your friends?..) buy into Ardour!

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This is problematic:

“It functions fully in its free demo (Evaluation) mode, making it accessible to students of any income level. Cockos requests that you buy a license after 60 days. However, they are a very generous company, so the demo does not expire. We love Reaper, and encourage you to buy a license if you are financially able.”

Cockos does not request the user buys a license after 60 days. They require it per the License Agreement:

“If you continue to use this Software after the Trial Period, you are required to purchase a license.”

If a person does not purchase a license after the trial period expires, they should not continue to use the software. The user is not allowed to violate the license agreement because they are not financially able to comply with it, and an educator should not be suggesting that is ok.

This is not an issue with Ardour due to its open source license, which is a strong point in its favor, along with a copy of Ardour costing as little as $1 versus $60.


I use Ardour because it is free/libre and open source, then eventually I’m glad it works so well.


I’ve always wondered why Reaper is praised on almost every discussion forum. And at the same time there is no mention of Ardour. Although Ardour is much more logical to use, at least for an old-school creator. Probably the reason is in its freeness, which is a fantasy. In reality, using it after the Demo period is basically a criminal activity, especially for professional use. Ardour can be used legally in principle for a one-time fee of €1. But it’s worth becoming a monthly donor. A good thing.

Of course, Reaper is certainly also good and from the point of view of Linux, it’s a really good thing.

Ardour is very logical and easy to use. It does not consume much of the machine’s resources and is quite reliable. And on top of that, it supports a wide range of plugins. It is under constant development. And good support for users. Friendly community. and so on


Mostly because it’s open source.


I much prefer Ardours interface. It is elegant and very classy.


I switched from Reaper to Ardour because Ardour is free software. I stuck with Ardour because for the majority of my work (sample editing) it is a fantastic tool and its scripting capabilities allowed me to add custom tooling to improve my workflow (I had done a similar thing in Reaper).

For MIDI work it’s still got a lot of catching up to do to be on the same level as Reaper and I mainly use Qtractor for MIDI stuff. Although with the recent addition of velocity lollypops in Ardour that might change (although qtractor just got step input so I’m going to be flipping between the two, good times!).


From where I am, I was using Sonar, then it passed by.
Looking for an alternate choice, I spent some time.
I gave a try to Reaper and though I must admit it it is the best, imho, when it comes to efficiency with the « machine » ( I am under Windows), its strength are its weakness, because one must spend hours to make it work and look the way one is looking for.
I can’t remember exactly how I met Ardour, but it was like a magic encounter.
A kind of a skeleton with all routing ease needed, really light on the computer’s power, and the fact that, the way it works, when it crashes, you find back your session almost where you lost it was a big breathe.
I also like the « screen » (gui) and meeting professionals sound ingineers working with Ardour reinforced my confidence in the software.
I do also appreciate the work of the team behind it( say « hey » to all of them), hoping they won’t fall into the pit of making it a rocket science tool, full of useless samples librarys ( for me).
Reaper is surely the best tool under Windows, but the learning curve is far too steep, Ardour is easy, has its weakness, but for me, they are « thumbs up ».
I can make music and record it with Ardour with no thinking about : will it work or not? Because Ardour works.
Yes, I have to remember that I have to clean sessions because, as far as everything is written on the disk, it can come heavy with the space, but it makes me feel confident.
… Maybe much more to say, but I think it is long enough by now.

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I occasionally contribute to a long-form radio program, formerly aired on my country’s public radio. First tried out Ardour some 10 years ago, but, IIRC, back then it used to lag heavily with my typical workfow: a few tracks with 1.5-2 hour source files with possibly several hundred cut/edit points on a single file. I think it must have been Ardour 2.x.

So I switched to Reaper and later (due to studio-side demands) to Pro Tools, whilst also testing out all kinds of other solutions – aiming at the most lightweight and feature-less solution I could get.

Fairly recent discoveries in that light include Wavosaur and Waveshop on Windows, and there is some refreshing simplicity in the GUI and UX of Audacity 1.2.6! (The later versions get too feature-heavy for my taste). A Linux DAW I found really interesting was Non-DAW, where I created a “poor man’s ripple editing mode” by modifying the session file (with loosely-cut regions) from the terminal via an awk script. It was fun and quite usable once my brain got used to it.

Currently I’m working on another of my radio episodes in Reaper, but I’ll probably switch to Ardour for the next one – because I discovered the interview mode! So I’m really eager to test it out. Based on no regarding complaints in this forum, I assume the UI lag I was experiencing with version 2.x (for a source file with several hundred cuts) seems to be solved by now?

I agree that (for my kind of purposes – effective cutting and region movement) Ardour seems to have better default user experience than Reaper. The defaults do seem really sensible; it is kind of easier to find the right commands quickly as a n00b user.

A very relevant downside of Reaper in my case is that it doesn’t display waveforms in logarithmic (db) scale (at least not in the 4.78 version I use). IMO log scale is essential to precise editing of breaths, umms etc. That’s another thing that draws me to Ardour currently, in addition to the Interview mode. I may post some feedback on my experience after battle-testing it more seriously.

Also, I very much enjoy the discussions and the intellectual depth of this forum. Have read many of the more philosophical posts by Paul and others with great interest. Many thanks to all of the devs!

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But it does have vertical zoom of the waveform.

The main reason to use Ardour is speed. You want to spends your 10 000 hours getting it into muscle memory and have the security of being able to continue using your favorite version into infinity. You are in control of the changes you wish to adopt. I like the mismatch between the midi and audio timing in 6.9,it stops me from endlessly looping a piece of midi and I have become adventurous with my midi notes. I’m not in a mod to change and if it never comes I will be fine, I got a lot of projects to finish.

Yeah, this kind of works, but it’s still only halfway there. I prefer to cut on zero crossings, and for this, log scale offers a more detailed view of human voice, especially for the lower level sounds.

Strangely, I actually edited in Reaper’s linear scale mode for years, making heavy use of its (advised) crossfades. After some minor, but highly enjoyable experience with the destructive Wavosaur editor (and mhwaveedit on Linux), I realized that cutting irrelevant syllables etc on zero crossings fits my style better. It seems to require more work, but the result feels somehow… cleaner. A sensible solution is probably combination of both, e.g. most cuts on zero crossings + the more stubborn ones with crossfades.

It is an interesting thing, though: linear scale editing points one towards “trusting their ears” – which is a philosophy that I do really like [1], having had a long-time intellectual interest (dabble-level) in text-only audio editing systems like ecasound/nama, mixer4 etc. But decibels are how we perceive sounds – maybe that’s why it still feels better to make an extremely precise cut with the waveform in log scale. In particular since I work almost exclusively with human voice (=natural sounds), much less with music.

1: A truly incredible and deep documentary realated to this, about the British tape-only recording engineer Julie McLarnon: The Psychology of Analogue - Invidious

I’ve long had the idea that working in a text-only(!) DAW with no waveforms whatsoever would force one into this “analog tape editing mode”. Precise cut-outs of syllables etc could be made via slowing down the audio (maybe preserving pitch), akin to the oldschool tape editing systems. To be fair, being born in the mid-1980s, I’ve never used one – so in practice, though, we’re probably hopelessly spoiled by visualizing waveforms, so going “back” to a primitive, waveform-less system feels alien, especially via an in-between system like a terminal-based DAW. I think it would be particularly alien for editing voiceovers; working with music feels much more intuitive in general. But it is still an obsession of mine, hmm.

Sorry for going offtopic. I think you can hide the waveform both in Ardour and Reaper, though, so… Ha.

They don’t exist in Ardour :wink:

If I remember correctly there is a shortcut key in Reaper to snap the cursor to the nearest zero crossing.

Don’t think I’m advocating using Reaper over Ardour though. I just really want vertical zoom in Ardour and this my way of nudging it into another thread :stuck_out_tongue:


Ugh, I somehow remembered that zero crossing is available. :confused: Yeah, in Reaper, it is available, and in Wavosaur (destructive editor) it is an absolute joy to use. Tick a checkbox, and it makes all cuts on zero crossings. And it works flawlessly – a huge difference as compared to e.g. Audacity, where it’s never proven as reliable to me.

I suppose I could try to write a Lua script to jump to the next/previous zero crossing.

Ah sorry, that was an in joke. Yes of course zero crossings are in Ardour (as much as they are in any DAW) but Paul and Robin convinced me they only exist in the mind. Have a look at that thread Robin linked to above.


I’m not a Windows hater (I hate all OS’s equally :wink:) but when I entered the digital recording realm in 1996 I suffered ‘a series of unfortunate events’ in my first 10 years using Windows… I paid far too much for an admittedly pretty incredible sound card in it’s time (a Turtle Beach Pinnacle with 4 channels, wavetable sampling, a Kurzweil MA-1 synth chip and 20bit D/A converters!) a card whose ISA slot interface disappeared a couple of years later and rendered it a doorstop. Next I upgraded to Windows 98 and bought the cutting edge first Cubase VST DAW and enjoyed it for a while, in it’s time it was pretty awesome but after sinking hundreds of dollars into the DAW and a handful of Steinberg’s best and brightest ‘Virtual Studio Technology’ Plugins Windows XP came out and my version of Cubase would only run on Windows 98 and they wanted a few hundred more dollars to upgrade to the next version for Windows XP… I had been kicked in the shins by ‘vendor lock in’ both on the hardware and software side of the equation and I actually gave up on computer recording for a few years and instead embarked on a journey into Digital Video.

Through the Digital Video world I became acquainted with both Open Source and so-called free software applications like VLC Media Player and Virtualdub, Avisynth etc etc… and I also discovered a world of much more modest and affordable software by independent developers and one of these wares was a multitrack Audio program called nTrack and I dabbled with it for a while but I never really committed to any serious work with it. One day on the Videohelp forums around 2005 a thread about trying Linux popped up and I was intrigued enough to boot and install ‘Mepis Linux’ and I was blown away that it booted, worked well, looked cool and supported my computer hardware perfectly. My enthusiasm for Linux was a bit dampened by the fact that there were very few Audio and Video applications in a mature state but a Distro hop to the first Ubuntu Studio 7.10 release introduced me to the new and very quickly developing Ardour 2.0 and I was hooked! At that time Ardour 2 was roughly as functional as nTrack although there were pitifully few Plugins and no LV2 or UI’s yet I stuck with it and quickly learned to compile all the latest Audio applications to the point that I started creating my own modified ISO’s but that is another story.

One of my earliest queries on the Ardour forum was answered by Paul himself and I was completely astounded by the fact there was no wall between me and the developer(s) and that people’s suggestions were valued and often incorporated into the software… sometimes very quickly and sometimes after 15 years or so… :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: The responsiveness of the development team, the open dialog between Users and developers and the steady well-planned improvements to Ardour kept me engaged and interested and I became committed to being an Ardour User and supporter even though over time other options presented themselves. I will admit that until very recently Ardour did not meet my needs for MIDI work but in my case that was a very small and unfocused workflow area. When we built a home Studio that in time would serve our own needs and later some commercial work it was never a question what DAW would be used and Ardour has produced many hours of fun, reliable productivity and several published recording projects so for me that is “Why Ardour”…


Ha, you got me. Excellent meme on that linked thread (and the thread itself is really interesting). Nihil ex nihilo!

Great post!

I haven’t really been impacted by this personally, as I’ve been largely avoiding Windows for over 20 years.

But I know friends and colleagues who have had expensive hardware and applications “door-stopped” in the way you described.

And it’s one of the key reasons I continue to use and support Open Source and open standards, and tend to choose hardware that will work with it.


And one of the key (and to me, great) characteristics of this is that we don’t tend to get smoke blown up anywhere.

If the suggestion is not sensible, then a polite and informative explanation is given of why.

If the suggestion is unlikely to be supported or implemented, or is just not considered a priority, then this too is explained, saving the frustration of expecting a feature in the next release which never then appears.

In other words, it’s generally possible to have adult discussions about such things.

I have operated a fair bit with a commercial vendor on a customer facing role, and such things are rarely possible in that environment. When there is a commercial relationship directly linked to the licencing and support of the application, there is an innate sense of customer entitlement that the vendor has to be very sensitive to.

In my example, on the vendor forum I helped moderate, many customer suggestions were offered. The vendor rarely gave useful feedback on these for fear of inviting the wrath of the requesters as the discussion very often devolved into arguments but, on the other hand, when a new software version was released, they almost always endured a high degree of public criticism from those whom were frustrated that their pet feature wasn’t included.

And, in the case of closed-source applications, there is no option to self-develop and submit Pull/Merge Requests, or to fork the application, etc.

You really are at the mercy of the vendor.



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This is a key element of this platform. In my 30+ years of interacting with software I’ve not seen such an approachable and patient (with noob questions etc.) team of software engineers.