What’s New in Pro Tools 9

Jolting onto the scene in the early nineties, Pro Tools quickly managed to solidify itself as the industry standard in digital recording, as evidenced by the widespread usage of its systems among music production pros and home studio indies.  From its ease of use out of the box, to serious professional applications, its flexibility and breadth of features has served varying levels of industry pros and novices alike.  Considering the first incarnation had four tracks (channel your Led Zeppelin here) and a cost of $6,000, today’s newly released Pro Tools 9.0 listing for $599 (standard version) provides major bang for the buck.

With this new version, Avid has stepped in to greatly unify key features contained in different versions (or levels) of Pro Tools resulting in a streamlined single installer for Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD, as well as features only previously available in HD, LE or with additionally purchased options (production kits).  This new single installer will search for your existing software, verify the version checking if it is authorized, and automatically cue the install of the correct version.

The new Playback Engine settings allow for choosing which of your installed audio engines you wish to use, including any third-party audio interface with supported Core Audio (Mac, including Mac built-in audio) and ASIO (Windows) drivers.  Finally, Pro Tools is open to other hardware and you can also choose among multiple interfaces from the audio settings.  This is the biggest change and one destined to cure the frustrations of those creating a studio on a budget only to realize they had to acquire hardware to match.  This means new users only have to buy software and can use their existing hardware, although bundles of hardware/software are available at a savings.  One really cool added capability is that you can now mix on the run even if no external hardware is installed.

Some of the features previously available in HD which are new to LE and lower level users are improved session and system settings, overlapping I/O paths, advanced Digibase search features, auto-scrolling tracks in the mix and edit windows, PRE support (mic pre settings built into each input), advanced Beat Detective features and delay compensation (if you use a lot of plug-ins, this intuitive feature will adjust for any delays from signal processing).

Pro Tools LE will no longer be developed as most of the specific functions in LE are now incorporated in 9.0, which Avid states effectively replaces all lower versions of Pro Tools LE software.  Also Avid says it will continue M-Powered software development but has nothing new to announce at present.

Another major change is the advanced import and export options with 9.0 now supporting the import and export of AAF and OMF sequences, previously only available as a paid option.  The AAF import includes stereo tracks and RTAS plug-in data.  Yet another value-add is the inclusion of export to MP3, with no option required for lower versions.  This should come as a relief to those of us finishing a painstaking production and mix only to find out we had to pull the final WAV or AIFF file into iTunes or some other tool to get it into an email-able format!  As MP3 is such a widely used format, this seems like a no-brainer.

Pro Tools 9.0 also offers more audio and MIDI tracks with 96 voices of audio (32 simultaneous) compared to 48 and 18 in Pro Tools 8.0, and a doubling of MIDI tracks to 512.  This new version also includes variable stereo pan depth options, more busses,  auxiliary and instrument tracks, as well as 7.1 and 7.0 surround sound with Complete Production Toolkit 2 (previously only with HD).

In summary, the cracking open (I hear pecans here) of the previously closed hardware compatibility is a monumental change and value-add, and in itself makes for a strong argument for the new version/upgrade.  Avid has intelligently integrated many sought after features from varying levels into the basic version including built-in MP3 export, AAF and OMF compatibility and more audio and MIDI tracks.   Pro Tools is sure to stay relevant as it continues to put valuable tools in the hands of anyone able to press ‘record’ as well as giving industry pros the necessary tools, while further enabling the ability to bring tracks from your bedroom to a high end studio or vice versa.

Rob Nolfe is a music royalty auditor, songwriter and owner of MZK Entertainment.

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