[Ardour-Users] a few thoughts

Adriano Petrosillo ampetrosillo at gmail.com
Mon Dec 3 16:00:26 PST 2012

> The theme manager already makes a lot of this possible. Looking at recent
> changes in Ardour3 I expect it won't be too long before custom theme files
> will be available.

I have a feeling that it is very difficult to depart from the boxy,
unappealing look of Ardour because it looks like it uses standard GTK
elements, which are really aimed at general-purpose applications and
interfaces, but maybe I'm mistaken and Ardour doesn't really use GTK to
draw its interface... and probably GTK is tweakable enough to make the
interface more lively (anyway, lots of audio projects, both commercial and
open-source, use special-purpose toolkits such as JUCE, it's probably
easier this way).

> Doesn't Mixbus already do something like this? I don't use it as I prefer
> the plain, modular approach of the standard Ardour, but it looks like it
> allows channel strip mixer controls.

Mixbus is based on Ardour 2, so no MIDI, but anyway, I find Mixbus limited
and limiting, I don't know about regular channel-strips, but there are only
4 group buses, and I don't really get the reason to "port" the limitations
of hardware mixers in the digital domain, as there is no real "need" and
it's most probably a deliberate desire to limit the application's
functionality (for marketing purposes, maybe?).

Anyway, Mixbus is not what I had in mind, since it isn't really
user-tweakable, I was thinking more along the lines of "I have a track
template editor, I can "build" my channel strip according to my needs". A
truly modular (since you talk about modularity) approach.

For example, let's say you want to make a track template which features
three sections (ie. comp, eq - which both use a specific, user-defined
plugin - and send, with a track menu to choose where to), and each section
has pots for fast tweaking of so and so parameters (for example, in the
comp section, you might want to feature only an attack pot, a release pot
and a threshold pot, setting all the other parameters, such as ratio or
knee, to a fixed value, while on EQ you might want to feature three pots,
one for bass - a shelving filter set to 80Hz - one for mid - a peaking
filter set to 1kHz where Q gradually decreases from 5 to 10, and gradually
increases from 5 to 0, so that, at high boost settings it becomes a wide
peak and at high cut settings it becomes a narrow notch - and one for
treble - a shelving filter preset to 12kHz).

Or instead you might want to devise a simpler channel strip featuring only
two sections, comp and eq (maybe using DIFFERENT plugins to the one
previously described), with one knob which "modulates" threshold and ratio
together (in a certain amount and in a certain way, all user-definable from
the template editor) and a more full-fledged eq section (with parametric

Or again, a "mix bus" channel strip with a very simple eq and a
limiter-tape sat section with various controls (threshold, release,
saturation, dry/wet mix, etc.). And in "building" your own channel strips,
you can decide to graphically separate sections and colour-code them (the
background, the pot colours...) for ease of use.

This way, it would be very close to building your own mixer, combining
different channel strips for your needs... but in software, and you don't
even have to mess with plugins directly, but you have everything routed to
direct controls which can be more easily MIDI assigned, for example (I
admit taking inspiration from the modulation routing capabilities featured
in many modern synths, ie. Waldorf Blofeld or Yamaha An1x). I don't think
there is anything in the DAW world which allows this, and I think this
would be a killer feature. Of course, this approach is even more useful
with a diverse set of internal FXs, because that way, you could even
include some preset track templates in the package to have an easy and
quick way to start working (and, as time goes by, maybe think of making
your own track templates with your favourite plugins).

> The converse is also true. Some people choose Ardour because it has
> fewer annoying features than the proprietary DAWs ;-)

Yes, but you can make Ardour more appealing for BOTH types of users. Users
who want and need "eye-candy", a sleek interface, VU-meters, etc. can
choose to enable them, selecting a (hypothetical) "Modern" skin, while
users who prefer the traditional look of Ardour would only have to click on
a menu entry to revert to a classic Ardour theme.

I'll repeat myself, Reaper already does this, you can choose to have a
full-fledged UI or a simple, no-nonsense one, it's totally up to you.
There's nothing you can really lose by taking this approach, it's a win-win
situation, you keep everyone happy, and Ardour gets more donations too ;)
Of course, it needs some investment, but most things do.
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