I Present to You: The Ardour 2.8.12 “Box”

As I previously posted, I really wish Ardour 2 came in a box so that I could quickly reference its specs and get an overview of what it can do for me. Well, this “box” – even a virtual one – does not exist, so I made one.

I present to you, the Ardour 2.8.12 “box”:

Recording:

  • In Ardour, you have the choice of recording in 16 bit integer, 24 bit integer, or 32 bit floating point formats.
  • Ardour supports the following native file formats: Broadcast WAVE, WAVE, WAVE64, and CAF.
  • Ardour can import over a dozen libsndfile-supported file formats including, WAV, WAV64, AIFF, CAF, RAW, Ogg, and FLAC.
  • Ardor exports to WAV, WAV64, AIFF, CAF, RAW, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC.
  • The number of tracks that can be recorded at one time in Ardour is only limited by what your hardware can handle.

Mixing:

  • Ardour utilizes a 32 bit floating point mixer and has bit-for-bit fidelity for 24 bit samples.
  • It has total automation and a large selection of plugins.
  • You can mix as many tracks as your hardware can handle.

DSP (Digital Signal Processing, aka plugins):

  • Mixbus is recommended on Ardour’s homepage (for a fee of $219.) However, for the adventurous, the official Ardour website lists dozens of sites where users can download free plugin packages…though they admit some are better than others.  The official website also lists a few recommended plugins in various categories.
  • The operating system determines which plugins work best:
    • In OS X, you can use AudioUnit, LADSPA and LV2 plugins. AU plugins with Cocoa or Carbon GUIs are both supported. As of Ardour 2.8.5, Ardour provides tempo and meter information to AU plugins.
    • In Linux, as of Ardour 2.5, you can use LADSPA and LV2 plugins. In the current version of Ardour (beginning with version 2.8.3) plugins that use the LV2 external GUI extension get their own custom GUI displayed, rather than the generic one offered by Ardour itself. Some Windows VST plugins work in Linux, though not all will function correctly and they can make Ardour unstable.  It is, after all, software created for a different operating system so you cannot depend on it.

MIDI:

  • Ardour 2 is not a MIDI sequencer (although that function is implemented in Ardour 3, which is currently in beta testing.)
  • For both OS X and Linux, there are free-of-charge tools for making connections between MIDI hardware and “virtual” MIDI ports like the ones that Ardour creates and uses.
    • On OS X, Ardour developers recommend Pete Yandell’s MIDI Patchbay.
    • On Linux, a wide variety of tools are available including QJackctl, aconnect, Patchage, and more.

Audio Interfaces:

  • Ardour is closely integrated with JACK, a computer sound system which is a hub for all of your audio hardware and software. It can even connect to other computers. JACK lets numerous audio programs run simultaneously, and even exchange information, while still operating at a low latency. This functionality is a major advantage of using Ardour.
  • In Linux, JACK uses ALSA to interface with audio hardware (and FFADO for FireWire audio hardware).  In Mac OS X, it uses CoreAudio.

Latency:

  • JACK is designed to operate at a low latency and this can be fine-tuned in the JACK configuration. A new Ardour session will automatically use the current JACK configuration for its settings.
  • Choosing the correct latency setting depends on several factors: your computer hardware, the audio driver you are using, the sample rate you are using, and the amount of audio data being processed.
  • In addition, Ardour offers automatic latency compensation for plugins.

Mastering:

  • Ardour offers three forms of dither: Rectangular, Shaped, and Triangular.
  • In addition to its other features, Ardour can be used in mastering a project because its use of JACK allows you to connect to free open source programs such as JAMin (JACK Audio Mastering interface).
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Slow and Not Very Steady… (Chapter 3 of Setting up a Linux-Based Recording Studio)

I started this blog to chronicle my adventures in Linux-based recording software and I have hardly posted. There has not been much to post about…

Partly, it is becasue life has gotten in the way – good stuff like shows, deciding to go back to school and having to do all the leg work to get that going, friends and family coming to visit, etc. However, setting up the studio has not been smooth either. Just when it seems we make a huge leap forward, something else goes wiggy. There are so many variables. We stared with an older CPU that we added memory to. Maybe this is a problem? We get tons of Xruns. Ardour sometimes freezes up or randomly closes. Now, at random, a buzzing sound has shown up when I record my keyboard. That was not there to start. I would guess it was the cord if it hadn’t recorded crisp and clean to start with.

What is going on?!? I feel like we are doing everything blind and that we create a new problem as soon as we fix one.

It has gotten to the point where I dread going in there to work on it. I have not recorded anything in months. Many months. Many many months.  Which means I have hardly written anything because I like to record my tinkering and build on it. My husband suggests I play around with the tutorials and I feel like a parent is telling me to do my homework. Ugh. I do not feel excitement anymore. I just dread having to do my homework.

I have been assured that Linux gives me way more options than Garage Band, but there is something to be said for it working right out of the box. Also, which is superior: Less options but yields a recorded song, or more options but sits there untouched? Seriously?!?


Setting Up a Linux-Based Recording Studio (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2: Back From the Grave

So the Layla 3G is out of the box and plugged into the computer. The MIDI cable is on its way (minor oversight.) The mini tour is behind me. The house guests had a lovely time visiting and have returned home. Time to get this studio running.

Meanwhile, across the country in Portland, OR a handful of DJs have listened to my Mandala at Twilight music (thanks to a dear friend I have who is active in the Goth scene there.) Turns out, they all really like it. Many have said they want to play select tracks in their sets.  This is the break I have been waiting for. The tracks need a little tweaking for club play – mostly boosting the bass a bit and toning down the dominant vocals. Only problem is… the tracks are on that Mac that died a few months back.  It was time to fork out some money to have the thing looked at/repaired/files extracted.

Minutes before leaving the house to go to the repair place, I thought I would plug him in and hit the power button – you know, just to amuse myself.

Wouldn’t you know it:

“Gong”

He started up.

“Hello? Hello! I am not dead yet. I heard you were replacing me and so I thought I would give it another go.”

(So what. I can make my computer talk in my story if I want to, and apparently he is British.)

So… I have spent the last 24 hours backing everything up and rendering each individual track of the songs I recorded for the Mandala at Twilight CD “The Soundtrack to Your Demise.” This has been quite tedious, but could be worse. The MaT songs seem to average 15 or 16 tracks per song whereas my Witherwings songs average double that due to all the live instruments I record on them. I have even remixed a few of the songs already (on the Mac) but will now be able to work with them on either system with all the rendered tracks.  This has been quite a little miracle for me. I am so glad that I will be able to deliver club-ready tracks in a timely manner and with out the cost of repairing the laptop.

I figure I will spend the rest of today and most of tomorrow getting what I need out of the Mac.  My MIDI cable should be here by Tuesday or Wednesday and I will be free to start playing with the new toys. I am looking forward to Chapter 3 in which I actually DO something on the aforementioned Linux-based recording studio.


My New Toy (in 3-5 business days)

The Layla3G multitrack digital audio recorder

The Layla3G multitrack digital audio recorder.

Layla3G

Layla3G is the third generation of our flagship PCI-based multitrack digital audio recorder. The original Layla premiered in 2000 to critical acclaim, including a TEC award nomination. Since then we’ve been perfecting the art of making high quality digital audio recording products at affordable prices. Now you can get all of the features of the Layla24 for a new low price, and with dual mic preamps.

Layla3G is the perfect center piece for any professional digital audio recording studio. It has 2 universal inputs with mic preamps, 6 balanced analog inputs, 8 balanced analog outputs, and a stereo headphone output. ADAT lightpipe I/O, optical and coaxial S/PDIF I/O, and MIDI I/O are also included. Layla3G comes with a 15′ cable and PCI card that connects to the audio interface. Layla3G is compatible with PCI and PCI-X (3.3 or 5 volt) motherboards.


Setting Up a Linux-Based Recording Studio (Chapter 1)

As I stated in the Preface, I am a little dubious of this whole Linux-based studio idea. In theory, it is great, but in reality, it has been a lot of sleepless nights. As harsh as this might sound, a bit of the issues have not been the fault of the OS, but have been, in fact, due to errors on my husband’s part. Before you judge me for insulting him in public, please know that he had encouraged me to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. This blog is meant to entertain the curious, but also to help guide others who are considering recording with Linux software.

The first lesson we learned was that if you are going to use a computer previously set up to do something else, take a good hard look at it. It turns out having it set up to be a server and having it run a raid system, forgetting this and then trying to load a new OS onto it makes for a very messy situation. At one point the computer would not shut down, then it wouldn’t restart.

Second lesson learned: Google is your friend. People think my husband is this all-knowing computer nerd, and I still claim this to be so, but I guess his secret weapon is Google. What he does not know, he finds pretty quickly. Google search: love it, use it.

So finally, last night we got Ubuntu Studio to load properly and started walking through on-line tutorials called Getting started with LinuxSampler” and “Getting to Know JACK (QjackCtl).” There was some confusion because the instructions we were using were really meant for 64 Studio, so some of the terminology was different and of course the screen caps looked a little different as well.  I guess the computer savvy love to write the programs, but are not into creating all the less glamorous support articles or documentation.

The big moment of truth was when I was able to play and record my keyboard. That excitement lasted about 10 minutes, at which time something got really messed up with the sound. Later, after more Google searches, we discovered it is highly discouraged to run Jack and Pulse Audio at the same time. The sound card only supports one. So we were able to listen to a CD on the computer, but lost the ability to listen to the recording I made.

Undo. Can I hit “undo” now?!?!