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Experience with open-source DAWs

  • 20 August 2019
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Do you have any experience with open-source DAWs? I really like Ardour although I have never tried any commercial solution. Many people say something like "you get what you pay for". But is this really true? Many awesome software is open source, nowadays.

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I don't have any experience with ARDOUR, nor, indeed, any DAW, but I have used (and worked on -- I am a retired computer software engineer) a lot of open source software. I have rarely paid for software apps since I can almost always find something that is open source that suits me: for example GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) as opposed to photo shop: photo shop has more features, but I am not a professional in this area, and GIMP has more than enough features for me.

Since I have never used a DAW, I can't comment on ARDOUR's features or usability.
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About 10 years ago I tried ARDOUR on a linux pc, I didn't get anything done and was highly used to FL studio. I don't have an opinion on ARDOUR for this reason.

I am not very familiar with open source DAWs. There may be lots of free options, there are also lots of paid options. It is not true that the most expensive DAW will give you the best.

The most important thing is that your DAW gets the job done.

I use FL, I like Ableton, but find it to expensive. I also really like Garageband, although I've only tried it on iOs yet.
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All I’ve published so far has been done with open source DAWs on Linux: Ardour, Qtractor, and LMMS.

Ardour is the one I use when I need features like track groups, multiple buses and side-chaining.

I started using it when its major version was 3; it’s at version 5 now and it’s come a long way especially on the front of usability.

So far I have never been stopped by some flaw or lack of feature; whatever I wanted or needed to do has been possible, so yes, Ardour is one of the DAWs that get the job done.

Qtractor is the one I use the most for simpler projects, it’s sleek and light on resources.

LMMS is great for pattern based composition, so I use it mostly for that and for quick MIDI sketches and experiments, then I tend to bounce the tracks to audio and import them in either Qtractor or Ardour. LMMS also has good built-in instruments.

The honorable mention goes to Audacity, which is not a DAW, it’s a multi-track recorder and editor, but it’s so flexible that many people use it as one, and even many articles side it with DAWs, making it a disservice as some people who expected a full fledged DAW are then let down by it.

If there’s any aspect in particular you’d like to know or discuss about my experiences so far with them, feel free to ask.

@EraDiscordia it would be very interesting to get feedback from you, since you could compare your first impressions with those you’d get from Ardour’s current release; besides, it also has a Windows version now. Also, since you’re a FL user, you might give LMMS a try: it’s inspired by the old FL and it’s also available on Windows.

As for the "you get what you pay for" saying, personally I find it often false, here’s why: with commercial material goods, since the seller has to earn a living, we get at least slightly less; with open source software, especially when it’s also free as in “free beer”, we get a lot more than what we paid for, as we get the chance to do things we couldn’t do otherwise.

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