October 8th 2023

Ardour 8.0 is available now for Linux, Windows, and macOS, including the latest release of macOS, Sonoma. Along with the usual set of
important and not-so-important bug fixes, Ardour 8.0 brings users
substantial quality of life benefits:

  • “Quick groups” – most mix-related controls now operate on all the selected tracks & busses
  • Manage sections of a song with arrangement
    markers. Define your verses, chorus, and bridge. Then
    rearrange or copy them as you wish.
  • Create persistent region groups in the editor window, to
    make multi-region editing easier.
  • Edit velocity easily on a dedicated automation lane whether it’s a single note or a chord.
  • Draw automation freely for any controller or press
    Control (Command) key to enable line-drawing mode. You can
    also combine free and line segments as you draw just by
    pressing and releasing the Ctrl/Cmd key.
  • Fit the tempo map to a human performance, with a new dedicated tool.
  • If (e.g. drum) note names are available for a plugin instrument or
    external device (via a MIDNAM file), see those names in the all-new MIDI track header.
  • Use Novation Launchpad Pro in DAW/Session mode (along with the standalone Sequencer, Note and Chord modes).
  • Create new interesting progressions with arpeggiator plugins.

Note that there are no changes to Ardour’s session file format
with this release, so sessions created with previous versions, particularly those
from the 7.x release series, should load with no new issues. If
you opt to have Ardour copy over your configuration from 7.x,
we will copy more files too, because of the lack of
compatibility issues.

Some people will no doubt laugh at a few
of these “new features”, given that they’ve been in some other
DAWs for 20 years or more. That’s OK — we laugh too when we see
other DAWs finally adding things that Ardour could do in
2005. 😃

a screenshot showing Ardour 8.0

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Lollipops for MIDI Velocity

a screenshot showning the new MIDI velocity lollipops in Ardour 8.0

Ardour has offered several different workflows for adjusting MIDI note
velocities, some of them much more convenient in many situations than
the traditional “lollipops” (vertical bars with a dot on top used to
alter the note velocity). However, there are some specific situations,
particularly crescendos and diminuendos, where the ability to just
draw a line to get rising or falling velocity is much better than
working note by note.

So, for Ardour 8.0 we have, after many user requests over a long time
period, added the traditional velocity lollipop editing interface.

Arrangement

Need the ability to “arrange” a composition by easily moving
and/or copying sections ? Ardour 8 brings a dedicated ruler to
define those sections, and a sidebar which allows you to copy or
reorder them as you wish. Long time audio editors will note
this means that Ardour now supports 3-point edits: a given range
(start, end) can be moved or copied to a destination point in
time.

New MIDI Track Piano Roll Header

Thanks to the vision of user/contributor Alexander
Mitchell, Ardour 8 comes with a completely redesigned MIDI track
header piano roll and scroomer. Changes include:

  • All notes reach the right edge of the piano roll
  • Octave numbers (C3, C4 etc) are shown at all times
  • Note names can be displayed in the scroomer. If MIDNAM
    data is available to provide meaningful names they will be
    used. If not, generic MIDI note numbers and 12TET names will
    be shown. Note names will only be shown in draw/internal edit
    mode, and can be controlled by user preference allowing
    “always”, “never” and “when available” (the latter referring
    to MIDNAM note name data being available).
  • It is now possible to record MIDI using the piano
    roll.
  • Possibly more obvious user-interaction design for the
    scroomer (“scroll” + “zoom”).

MIDNAM is an industry standard to provide “names” for various
things related to MIDI. Unlike some other DAWs, we have chosen
to use this standard for note naming rather than devising our
own format for this information.

Launchpad Pro support

a photograph of a Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3

The Novation Launchpad Pro is an affordable, powerful pad/grid
device for controlling Ardour (it also works with at least one
other DAW). Ardour 8 features full support for just about every
feature of the LP Pro’s “Session” mode, like Ableton Live. You
can use it to trigger clips and cues, but also control gain
levels, panning and send levels for tracks & busses. The
fader design is quite something to see (be sure to read the LP
Pro manual about how they work).

One interesting thing to note: unlike the Ableton Push
2, the LP Pro actually has “brains”. Besides “Session”
mode (which is controlled by the DAW), there are 3 other
modes you can use: “Note”, “Chord” and “Sequencer” all
of which function without any involvement by the
DAW. The LP Pro has its own fairly sophisticated MIDI
recorder/sequencer, and the Chord mode can be used to
build up progressions in an easy to perform way. The
modes work with Ardour just as they would in any other
DAW, and you can find fairly good documentation on them
in the LP Pro manual. There’s a particularly thorough
playlist of
video
tutorials
on the Sequencer mode.

We hope to announce support for the LP Pro’s junior cousins, the
LP Mini and LP X, in the not too distant future.

Quick Groups

For a long time, Ardour has had track & bus groups
which could be set to share features like solo state,
record-enable and so on. There are also VCAs to provide
a different type of shared control. These were (and are!) powerful,
but many users have expressed a desire for more
spontaneous “group operations”, particularly in the mixer.

For Ardour 8.0, we have redesigned this fundamental
behavior of many controls so that they now apply most
changes to all selected tracks & busses. This
includes: gain (fader) and input trim changes as well as
solo/mute/rec-enable/solo-safe/solo-isolate/monitoring
controls.

Of course, if you have a group with the selection sharing property
enabled, selecting a member of the group will select all of them, and
then the “operate on selection” model will apply to the group.

The new design allows a lot more flexibility. You can:

  • not use groups at all, just select the tracks/busses/mixer strips.
  • use groups but leave selection sharing enabled so that grouping &
    selection “look” the same (i.e. selecting 1 member of the group
    selects all.
  • use groups but leave selection sharing disabled, allowing you to still
    select specific members of the group (and non-members) to operate
    on.

Note that these changes will also apply to the editor
tab/window, for whatever relevant controls are visible there.

Two small notes on this: first, this behavior will not
happen when the changes to various controls come from a
hardware control surface. This may or may not change in
the future – hardware control surfaces tend to have
different conventions for use than mouse-driven
GUIs. Second, this also will not work if you use the
mouse scroll wheel to adjust faders. We will likely
“fix” this sometime during the 8.x series.

Region Grouping

Another long standing user request has been the ability to select
several regions and “group” them so that they will all move or trim
together. Ardour 8.0 now allows this: select more than 1 region, then
right click on any of them, and select “Group” from the context menu
(or simply press Ctrl-g (Cmd-g on macOS).

Regions recorded at the same time are grouped by default so they can
be edited together.

Freehand automation drawing

Ardour has for decades supported sample-accurate automation with both manual entry of control points and full automation recording. However, more than a few users have asked for the ability to use the mouse/touchpad to “draw” freehand lines rather than create them point by point.

Ardour 8.0 adds this style of automation drawing for any/all
automations, including regular parameters, but also for
per-region gain and finally MIDI CC data.

The old (and still available) point-by-point automation
drawing style is recommended for many things, due to reduced
CPU load and less issues with plugins.

The new freehand drawing style is sometimes faster to
draw and may feel more natural to some users. Remember,
however, that Ardour can interpolate between points, and most
plugins will always interpolate changes in parameter values, so
although this may “look” nicer, it’s not necessarily any better
at providing the automation “shape” you think you want.

Tempo Mapping, Round 2 — the Grid Tool

If you compose/work entirely “in the box” and/or always work
with a click track or visual grid as a reference, most DAWs
(including Ardour) will help you get things lined up, even
you’re leaning into Dillah-style grooves.

But if you are dealing with recordings of human performances,
you’re likely to find that no fixed grid can help you with the
little speed ups and slow downs that give a lot of music its
distinct feeling.

We’ve looked at the solutions offered by a bunch of other DAWs
and found them all lacking. If you try to automate the task of
adjusting the tempo to follow a human performance (e.g. by
tracking transients/onsets), you
invariably end up with a mess that you still need to manually
fix up.

With Ardour 8.0, we are proud to offer an approach to this
problem that we think combines the best of both worlds: switch
to the Grid tool (shortcut: “y”) and simply
drag the grid (lines) to fit the measure and beat onsets that
you feel while listening. Start by working from the left/earlier to the
right/later, and then head back and tweak
any specific beat lines that don’t seem quite right.

While this won’t be useful to four-on-the-floor techno
producers, for those working with human performances not tied to
a click track, the result is a tempo map (and grid) that
precisely follows the human, making it easy to align other
material and/or generate new (MIDI) tracks that also follow the
performance.

The combination of Ardour’s functionality and your
listening ability also allows you to respect particularly slack
timing done for musical effect. Maybe the transients for the
down beat of a given measure are not “on beat”, but you can
sense that and leave the tempo/pulse alone. The resulting grid
accommodates the way people actually perform, rather than how
software sometimes thinks they ought to.

message from macOS about
					     a damaged application
					     crossed out with red line
					     because this will not
					     happen any more

For several years, people downloading Ardour for macOS have
had to deal with various kinds of messages (from Apple) saying
things like “This program comes from an untrusted source” to
“The file is damaged”. As of Ardour 8, macOS users downloading
Ardour won’t see this stuff any more, because we have given up
and paid $100 to join Apple’s pay-to-play scheme. Our builds are
all notarized now, and so people on macOS should have the same
smooth experience they get from other macOS software
downloads.

MIDI Arpeggiator Plugins

Thanks to Dr. Albert Gräf, Ardour now comes with three MIDI arpeggiator plugins, which
are intended to be added to a MIDI track before the instrument plugin. All 3 arpeggiators come
with a number of factory presets which demonstrate their use. Dr. Gräf also provides a
more detailed description.

The default Arpeggiator is a traditional monophonic arpeggiator which takes chords as
MIDI input and turns them into arpeggios when transport is rolling. The arpeggiator is sample
accurate, follows the tempo map and offers various controls to let you modify parameters such as
velocities, octave range, and pattern mode.

The Barlow Arp (after Clarence Barlow) automatically utilizes the current time
signature and division to produce rhythmic accents in accordance with the meter by varying the
note velocities in a given range.

Last but not least, the Raptor: The Random Arpeggiator is an advanced arpeggiator
with random note generation, harmonic controls, input pitch and velocity tracking, as well
as automatic modulation of various parameters. Raptor has many more parameters than the
other two plugins and is thus more difficult to use, but can also produce much more varied
output.

Improvements and Bug Fixes

  • Disable translation by default on Windows &
    macOS. Too many new users have issues with translations,
    including crashes. Translation is still available on these
    platforms, you just need to enable it in Ardour’s preference
    dialog.
  • Auto connect metronome when using an audio interface for the first time.
  • Fix many off-by-one-pixel drawing errors.
  • Fix MIDI capture/playback alignment issues on macOS.
  • ALSA: disambiguate multiple soundcards with the same name.
  • Provide rubber-band drag select of region gain points.
  • Lua: allow tracking editor selection.
  • Fix semi-random crash when removing a track/bus.
  • Improve performance of calculating tempo-map based grids.
  • Many fixes and improvements for BBT markers.
  • Keep MIDI data in position during tempo mapping.
  • Choice to use audio time (samples) or music time (bars
    & beats) now shared between a session & all markers
    it that session. (can
    be chosen in session properties dialog, in the Miscellaneous
    section there). This choice also affects which rulers are
    shown by default (though you can change that for a given
    session and your choice will be remembered.
  • Add workaround for blank audio/MIDI setup dialog on some XWayland systems (Linux).
  • Fix location/marker rippling when cutting locations.
  • Fix height of tempo ruler curve elements.
  • Clicking on any sort of marker now offers configurable behavior, including locating to that position.
  • Clips velocity sensitivity control now operational for external MIDI hardware used to launch.
  • Allow playhead to be optionally included as a snap target.
  • Fix long-standing subtle issues with the JACK audio/MIDI backend.
  • Fixed bug where undo operation could delete plugins.
  • Fix build script to work with Python 3.12.

MIDI Related

  • Fix playback of MIDI notes which start at current playhead position.
  • Fix potential loss of MIDI playback caused by automation and transport events.
  • Quantization swing fixed.
  • Swing amount now varies from 0 (no swing) through 100
    (triplet swing), 150 (hard swing), 200 (sextuplet swing) to 300 (maximum swing).
  • Set length of “percussive mode” drawn MIDI notes to 1 tick, which prevents any accidental overlap.
  • Fix MIDI SMF track splitting (which could previously result in a corrupt session).
  • Recording from MIDI track header piano roll now works.

Plugin Related

  • Add ACE Stereo Routing plugin.
  • VST3: work around crash in UAD plugins when using mono configurations.
  • Reduce the number of plugin-related calls to TempoMap::get_grid().
  • Lua processors can now come with factory presets.
  • Fix sample rate of plugins when loading a 2nd (or 3rd…) session.
  • Correctly compute tempo passed to LV2 plugins.

Control Surfaces and Devices

  • Console 1 support now allows navigation and editing of plugin parameters.
  • MIDI binding map for the Devine Versakey.
  • MIDI binding map for the Donner StarryPad drum pad controller.
  • MIDI binding map for AKAI MPC Mini (mk1 & mk2) and MPK miniplus.
  • MIDNAM file for Kurzweil SP4.

Removals

There comes a point in all long-lived software where the best
thing for users and developers is the removal of certain
functionality that was either ill-conceived or poorly
implemented. Ardour 8.0 is no different, and features these removals:

  • Remove option to hide or deactivate tempo map
    markers. The potential for confusion or even madness from
    this option became clear, and we opted for sanity.
  • Remove option to “glue to bars & beats”.

    For
    the time being, MIDI regions and data always use musical time
    (bars, beats) for their position and length. Audio tracks and
    regions use audio time (samples) for their position and
    length.

    Location markers and named ranges use the session
    default time domain
    (music or audio) and will follow that setting if you
    change it.

  • Remove the essentially useless “Audition tool”. Use the
    audition action instead (bound to “a”), which also handles
    multiple selected regions properly).
  • Remove attempt at scrub-dragging (sort of like a tape
    machine). This never worked well, and just isn’t relevant to
    a generation raised without much exposure to “rockin’ the
    reels”

Contributors

Albert Gräf, Alexander Mitchell, Asahi Lina, Ben Loftis, Devine Versakey,
Hoger Dehnhardt, Hyeok Kim, John Emmas, Maciej
Bliziński, Mads Kiilerich, Paul Davis, Renato Luiz de Freitas Cunha, Robin
Gareus, Violet Purcell, Dominik Martinez

Translators

  • Alexandre Prokoudine (Russian)
  • Edgar Aichinger (German)
  • Julien Taverna (French)
  • JungHee Lee (Korean)
  • Martin Vlk (Czech)
  • Krzysztof Gajdemski (Polish)

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