[linux-audio-user] DAW Dillema -- Seeking Advice

Greg Reddin gtreddin at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 29 16:23:46 EDT 2004


I've brought up discussions like this before, but it's been a while
and I'm finding myself at a point of decision again.  So please bear
with me.  I'd like some advice on what my next step is.

Basically, here's my problem.  I love the Linux audio world, but I am
an artist and I really need something that will facilitate making
music.  So I'm faced with the following options:

1.  Use Ardour and participate in its development.
2.  Use Audacity and participate in its development.
3.  Use something else and participate in its development.
4.  Roll my own.
5.  Buy a mac and use Digital Performer or something else.

To examine these options further:

For option 1, Ardour has a lot of features, but seems to lack in
stability and usability.  I have to restart ardour/jack several times
during a session because one or the other becomes unresponsive or
flaky.  The transport even completely stopped working last time I
used it.  I lost 2 - 4 hrs work and have not been able to get it
working again.  Granted, I have not tried too hard to receive help
with it, but I just haven't had good luck with its stability yet. 
Perhaps, my problem is more with usability than stability.  It may be
intuitive to some people to use the middle mouse button or ctl+right
button combinations, but I have a really hard time getting around in
ardour.  

Another thing about ardour that makes it hard for me to adopt it
wholeheartedly is the way it is developed.  It seems, IMHO, that
Release 1.0 should've come out a long time ago, like after real-time
multitrack recording, editing, and mixing were available.  Or maybe 
start over, do a refactor, then release when those features are
working again.  There's something psychologically limiting (to me)
when a product reaches version 0.9beta19 and still doesn't seem ready
for a "release".  To me, that seems to create a culture where things
move very slowly and gives the impression that it will never really
be production-ready.  I recognize that there are very differing
opinions on what a "release" actually means in open source.  I also
recognize that ardour doesn't have my name on it anywhere so I can't
really complain unless I'm contributing to its development.  I'm not
trying to start a war, just to figure out what direction I need to
settle on, so I'll shut up about that.

For option 2, audacity seems to be stable and easy to use.  But it
lacks some essential features, like real-time effects processing. 
The mezzo thing looks promising, but there doesn't seem to be much
momentum behind it right now.  

Is there an option 3?  Is there another Linux DAW solution that
provides (or seeks to provide) multitrack recording, real-time
mixing, automation, etc.?

I would typically omit option 4 right off the bat.  The open source
culture frowns on reinventing something that already exists.  But
there's a few reasons why I'm actually considering this option. 
First, the problems I have with ardour and audacity don't seem likely
to change.  Please don't misunderstand what I'm about to say.  I'm
not trying to offend anyone, but these are just my observations.  If
they are incorrect, please correct me.  I don't gather that there's
much momentum to build audacity into a real-time professional DAW
solution.  And it seems like ardour's development has been in a rut
for a while.  Development is happening, and new things are being
added, but the stability and usability doesn't seem to be improving. 
So, if I'm trying to build a professionally viable DAW for Linux I
could come to the conclusion that there's not currently a workable
solution. Second, I'm not convinced that "three" DAWs for Linux is an
unhealthy number.  Look at how many different commercial solutions
are available -- each one doing things a bit differently and
appealing to a different user base.  Maybe if there was another
project with a healthy development cycle, good stability, and
essential features, it would encourage the others to compete and help
push Linux over the edge and into professional viability.  There are
other reasons, but things like coding style, object model, or testing
strategy are not valid reasons in and of themselves to start a new
project.

But truthfully, given my limited skillset and other factors, it would
likely be years before a new project was able to compete even with
what's already out there, much less surpass them.  So, unless I get
an overwhelming response to this option, I'll probably not consider
it much further.

That brings me to option 5.  I've only considered this because I'm
ready to actually spend some money in the interest of making music
instead of twiddling with code and configs.  But, I'm not a big fan
of ProTools, Logic, or Cubase.  So Digital Performer seems to be my
best option on a mac -- and I really don't know much about DP (my
prior experience is mostly with Sonar and I'm simply not willing to
invest further in a Windows-based platform).  So, I'm not certain
that I will be satisfied even if I spend a wad of cash on a Mac and
some DAW software.  And of course, this thread of logic implies that
I have some money to throw at it, which, for the time being, is not
the case.

Now, I think I'm something of a poster-child for Linux audio.  I'm
enough of a tech-head that I can write some code and diagnose
problems.  I can wade through a mass of complex logic and find what I
need (usually).  My sessions are few and far between enough that I
can experiment with stuff between them.  And they are low-risk enough
(meaning that I don't get paid or get paid very little for them) that
lack of stability is not a huge risk for me -- just a frustration.  I
suspect that by the time I get to a point to actually charge real
money for my services something in Linux might be ready for prime
time whether it be ardour, audacity, or something as yet undeveloped.
 And I want to contribute financially and/or intellectually to
whatever I end up with.

So, given what little you know of me and what I'm looking for, what
would you suggest?  Would you recommend that I start following Ardour
and/or Audactiy with more interest?  Is there something else I don't
know about?  Have I actually found a need for something new?  Or
should I (for the time being) punt and invest in a Mac-based
commercial solution?

If you've gotten this far, thanks for bearing with me.  Your help is
greatly appreciated.  I know I made some statements that could be
considered controversial.  I hope I have not offended anyone and
apologize if I have.

Greg


		
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