Avid Pro Tools 9 review

£478
Price when reviewed

Avid claims that Pro Tools is the most widely used audio production system in the industry. Depending on your definition of industry, we’d go along with that. While Cubase and Logic dominate in home and project studios, Pro Tools is established as the de facto standard in commercial studios. That’s down to the hardware-plus-software approach taken by its (Mac-only) Pro Tools HD system in the main, with DSP chips on PCI Express cards handling audio processing, and audio interfacing limited to certain Avid-branded hardware.

Avid’s cut-price alternatives are Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered. These run on Windows as well as Mac OS, and are bundled with various audio interfaces aimed at home and project studios. Still, limitations mean they aren’t up to the demands of serious use.

Avid Pro Tools 9: editor

Pro Tools LE projects are limited to 48 tracks and 32 internal mix busses – plenty for most projects, but not all. The prospect of having to spend £10,000 on a Mac and Pro Tools HD system to overcome these limitations isn’t particularly tempting.

Just as serious is the lack of plugin delay compensation, which means the latency introduced by plugins results in small timing errors. Another limitation we’ve never much liked is that other brands of audio interface can’t be used – the hardware effectively acts as a copy-protection device.

Pro Tools 9 addresses all these concerns. It runs on Mac OS X and Windows 7 and replaces Pro Tools LE. However, it’s closer to Pro Tools HD with up to 96 audio tracks (at 48kHz; fewer at higher sample rates) and 64 instrument tracks per project, plus plugin delay compensation. It’s no longer tied to Avid (or its subsidiaries, Digidesign and M-Audio) hardware, with support for virtually any audio interface via the ASIO and Core Audio standards.

These improvements mean Pro Tools on the PC is now ready to be taken seriously. Even so, in some respects, it still lags behind its main competitors, Cubase, Sonar and Logic. These applications’ track counts are limited only by hardware resources, and they all support surround mixing where Pro Tools 9 is stereo only. They also have more sophisticated mix automation facilities, particularly when used in conjunction with hardware control surfaces.

Details

Software subcategory Audio production software

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