Review of Avid’s Pro Tools: Powerful Professional Digital Audio Production Software

In the world of Digital Audio Workstation software, you want powerful performance whether you’re recording, composing, editing, or mixing music. Avid’s Pro Tools is one of the most popular music production platforms on the market and has been the repeated choice of professional and home studios alike for years. The Pro Tools portfolio includes four editions scaling from total beginner to high profile professional, and is used by the producers of everyone from Ricky Martin to Robbie Williams.

• Pro Tools SE
• Pro Tools MP
• Pro Tools
• Pro Tools HD

Getting to grips with audio production: Pro Tools SE

This entry-level intuitive software features over 100 virtual instrument sounds and includes 16 audio tracks and 8 virtual tracks, allowing you to create high quality multilayer music or slick demos. It has a 24-bit audio resolution supporting sample rates up to 96 kHz, although this depends on the M-audio interface. It supports normal and pro-quality audio loop recording, while having 3GB of preset loops you can combine to build great mixes. There are 2 audio inputs and 2 audio outputs supporting multitracking and professional level effects such as reverb, EQ, 1 master fade, and guitar amp/distortion effects as well as composing and score editing tools, so you can create and notate great arrangements. You can playback up to 16 tracks of mono or stereo digital audio, and playback of up to 15 tracks while recording 1 track (stereo or mono) or up to 14 tracks while recording 2 mono or stereo tracks.

Professional quality production on a budget: Pro Tools MP 9

If you have mastered the basics and gained an appetite for more features and flexibility, then Pro Tools MP is the next level in digital audio mastery suitable for those who aspire to professional level production on a budget. It comes fully loaded with powerful editing tools and over 70 audio effects, including flanging, distortion, dynamic delay, reverb, chorus, and an incredibly useful ‘Elastic Time’ feature which enables you to speed up or slow down your tempo real-time without affecting pitch. ‘Elastic Pitch’ is also an included feature will enable you to manipulate your track’s pitch up or down by four octaves. You can avail of thousands of virtual instrument sounds, as well as a massive 8GB of preset loops and tracks for you to mix and a combined 80 audio and virtual tracks. It supports 18 simultaneous audio recording track inputs giving you huge multitracking potential and enabling you to mix up to 48 stereo tracks of either 16 or 24-bit resolution, while supporting up to 96kHz sample rates.

The editing tools are intuitive, user friendly and instrumental in helping you manage your production practically and easily. From the Track Compositing tool to assemble the best sections of multiple recordings together to create the perfect track, to the advanced MIDI editing windows for you to split, merge, sequence and experiment with your MIDI input, you have a wealth of editing opportunity. The Score Editor is another great feature where you can view, edit, arrange and print your MIDI audio input as music notation. It supports PCI, USB and FireWire interfaces. Pro Tools MP is a genuinely versatile, flexible and feature rich application that should be given the attention it merits in your search for truly functional audio production software and it is the perfect complement to your M-Audio interfaces.

Production Professional using diverse hardware: Pro Tools 10

If you’re an advanced production professional who doesn’t need an M-Audio interface, but you want an ASIO driver for enhanced flexibility to connect with your computer soundcard, support for EUCON hardware interfaces, or a Core Audio interface for MAC integration and you don’t require surround sound or the maximum amount of track support of Pro Tools HD, then Pro Tools 10 is probably the best option for you. If features the same effects and 8 GB sound library of Pro Tools MP but offers an increased 32 recording audio tracks and up to 96 simultaneous tracks depending on the frequency you choose (48Klhz for 96 tracks). There is also an increased 32-bit floating-point sample rate and more supported plug in formats than the MP edition. One of the main reasons to choose this edition apart from all of this is the massive 512 MIDI interfaces supported – equivalent to the HD edition but at a lower cost.

There are some exciting editing enhancements also from MP, such as Clip Gain which enables you to speed up editing and mixing by automating volume levels in an easy visual format and allowing you to cut, copy, paste that clip in any part of your session, with the clip gain settings protected. There is an extended 24-hour timeline enabling sequential versioning on longer projects and the Beat Detective tool will fix those timing kinks across multiple tracks. Collaboration is key with Pro Tools 10, you can work on projects that you’ve created on other audio editing software such as Logic or Media Composer; this offers you the ability to have the best of both worlds in audio production. It can integrate with MBox, Eleven Rack and all M-audio interfaces.

Pro Tools 10 offers you precision editing, higher resolution, faster performance and the ability to collaborate. It is high tech audio tuning that won’t disappoint.

Ultimate Professional: Pro Tools HD

Suited to seasoned industry professionals with big expectations from their audio editing software, Pro Tools HD is what Avid is all about – unfailing top quality performance and flexibility. The choice of movie soundtrack producers to the producers of some of the world’s top artists, Pro Tools HD comes bundled with Avid’s Pro Tools HDX native systems to ensure top quality performance. Everything about this system is bigger, better, bolder.

It supports all console and hardware interfaces of Pro Tools 10 and more. Connect up to 12 Pro Tools HDX systems, even by satellite link, or to Icon consoles. When used with Pro Tools HDX system, enjoy up to 768 supported audio tracks, 128 virtual tracks, 512 auxiliary tracks, and the capability to record simultaneously up to a whopping 256 tracks. There’s even up to 64 video tracks. Take advantage of Digibase Pro (Avid’s built in database browser) for some of those niggly tasks such as ejecting FireWire drives while Pro Tools stays running, or conforming a loop to a session’s tempo.

Pro Tools HD is packed full of punch when it comes to features. In addition to all those supported in Pro Tools 10, there are advanced audio, video and automation edition features, designed to make your life easier, and produce slicker tracks, faster. It’s difficult to find better recording and playback performance, as, with an extended disc cache, you can load entire sessions into RAM. Pro Tools HD outperforms many of its direct rivals, as the trusted, professional-studio audio production system.

So, what do the users say?

Avid are so confident in their Pro Tools suite that their website hosts a video of seasoned audio production experts – big hitters in the music and movie industry – sit comfortably in their studios and wax lyrical about the benefits and phenomenal features of Pro Tools. It’s hard to argue with that. Any criticism of Pro Tools by independent users seems to centre mostly around the fact that the increased 32 bit floating point samples in Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools HD doesn’t provide any discernible sound difference to the listening ear, and not on any of the feature sets or hardware supports. The lack of genuine critical opinion, lets one conclude that Pro Tools is as good as they say it is.

Summary

Avid have certainly produced a winner when it comes to Pro Tools. It’s one of the most popular and universal digital audio workstations in the world, a product more loved than hated and critically acclaimed. The Pro Tools suite offers the right level of versatility and feature availability to the right audiences. Rather than cramming bucketloads of advanced level features into an entry-level product, Pro Tools have scaled their product to perfection for each type of user. Definitely worth the investment.

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