Ardour is an open source digital audio workstation DAW for recording editing, and mixing music, podcasts, or other audio content. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows it’s basically a free software alternative to commercial software like Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, Logic, Reaper, or Studio One.
Up until recently it was missing something that most other modern DAWs had: support for VST3 plugins.
This week the developers of Ardour released version 6.5 with a number of performance enhancements and bug fixes. But the biggest change? Ardour 6.5 brings support for VST3 plugins.
That’s good news because it VST3 brings a number of improvements… and the technology is fully supported by developer Steinberg, unlike older versions of the audio plugin and virtual instrument technology.
When I’m not writing about tiny computers and Linux Smartphones, I spend my time editing podcasts, and I’ve taken an interest in both audio software and open source software for a long time. But I haven’t taken Ardour for a spin in a few years, so I decided to download a demo of version 6.5 and fire it up on my Windows PC.
The user interface is a lot more intuitive than the last time I tried using the software, and the ability to import Pro Tools sessions, while buggy and incomplete, at least made it easy to poke around with a project I’d recently completed using different software.
As promised, I was able to scan for VST3 plugins already installed on my computer and access tools for noise reduction, compression, EQ, and other effects. And while there are some quirks that make Ardour behave a little differently than other DAWs I’ve used, it seems like a pretty powerful tool for audio production and post-production.
It’s also probably overkill for some users. If you’re looking for something to use for basic recording and editing, it’s hard to beat Audacity. But if you want access to a non-destructive multitrack editor with support for VST3 plugins and much more, Ardour offers many of the features you’d find in professional software.
One thing to keep in mind is that while Ardour is open source and available for anyone to compile from source, the simplest way to get and use the software is to download a “ready-to-run program” from the Ardour website. There’s a free demo version, but it has limited functionality. If you want remove those restrictions you have a few options:
- Pay whatever price you’d like for a license for the current version plus updates until the next major release (pay a little for version 6.5 and you’ll have to pay again when version 7.0 is out).
- Pay $45 or more to get each point release in the current version plus the next version (pay $45 for version 6.5 and get all updates until 7.9 or whatever the last 7.x release is) plus access to nightly builds.
- Pay-what-you-want for a subscription for ongoing access to the latest stable releases and nightly development builds.
You can find more details in the Ardour 6.5 release notes.