October 20, 2011

Pro Tools 10 Announced: First Look

So, in a surprise move, AVID have managed to jump ahead of other things in the queue and made themselves the subject of my first real post for the UniqueSquared blog. How did they do this? By dropping Pro Tools version 10, seemingly hot on the heels of last year’s release of version 9. From what I’m looking at, it appears November is AVID’s decided month of choice for dropping upgrades . I’m only looking at the release information we’ve been given, so I’ll tell you what I know so far.


It appears the standalone purchase price of Pro Tools is going up to $699 from the current $599. Well, that’s the standard price, as opposed to our current price. That said, it looks as though you can save money on Pro Tools 10 by picking up a copy of Pro Tools 9. You’ll definitely want to get on that if you’ve been on the fence, because once those versions leave the shelves, it would seem that train has pulled out of the station. That isn’t, however, the only opportunity to save a few clams on the upgrade before the New Price is the Only Price. The upgrade/cross grade will be honoring a grace period that will go back to the 1st of October and through the 23rd- so those who jump(ed) on that won’t be left high and dry. Not so lucky, I suppose, for those who upgraded on September 30th. Sadly, that’s just kind of how that goes. Trust me, I’ve been on the wrong side of that equation before, I’m not at all unsympathetic.

As of the announcement, the gist of the “free upgrade” policy seems to be that all purchases/ registrations / cross grades of Pro Tools 9 on or after October 1st will be eligible for free upgrade. As far as the final word on all of the upgrade matters/ your personal situation goes, it’s probably best to check here.

Probably the best bargain on the table is picking up an Mbox Mini 3 + Pro Tools 9 Software at the $629 MAP (again, check out our price). The upshot of this is that, as long as you’re buying in, you might as well get an extra interface. Even if you’re an Apogee loyalist, or something to that effect, it never hurts to have an extra sound card lying around. You know, in case you end up traveling and want a “just in case” interface. I always like to imagine myself doing some DJ set where I use an older laptop I have and an interface that isn’t my main for the sake of having some big rock star style finish where I dump Jell-O over everything, set fire to my gear or just beat the whole rig to death with a baseball bat or crappy guitar. Outside of these pointlessly destructive urges, I personally never have trouble finding a use around the house for extra interfaces. It isn’t just the Mbox Mini either- all of the current iterations of the Mbox series hardware that include Pro Tools 9 will be eligible for the free upgrade. At any rate, Pro Tools 9 will be bundled with them through the end of the year, so it could be a pretty Pro Tools oriented Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus for those who are so inclined.

What’s new

Now, with all the dollars and cents out of the way, we can get down to what exactly is different about the updates to the software. The one that has my eyebrows raising the most is the new Channel Strip. As I write this I have yet to lay eyes or ears on the thing, but it’s toting the “System 5 EQ” and a “Compression Modeler,” so it sounds like a channel strip alright. If this thing performs as well as the SSL emulation currently appearing in Reason 6/ Essentials/ previous versions of Record, it could easily open Pro Tools up as a one stop solution for bands trying to figure out the quickest way to get a decent studio together.

So that’s pretty cool, especially added in with the rest of the bundle of virtual instruments included. Among the highlights of these are the Boom drum machine/sequencer, the DB-33 tonewheel organ (yes, with a rotary), the Mini Grand, the Vacuum tube synth and the Xpand 2 synth and sample workstation. The Pro Tools effects bundle has swollen quite a bit over the years as well, now including over 70 effects, processing and utility plug ins. With Channel Strip on the channels and Maxim on the master bus, Pro Tools has seriously brought its A-Game to the mixer section. The flat gray routing matrix of a few years ago is a quickly fading memory.

The next feature that’s caught my eye addresses a situation that had really hampered the work flow of those of us drawn to incorporating samples, found sounds and cut up loops. Pro Tools 10 brings the ability to deal with multiple file formats and bit depth to the table. Better yet, it is doing so without any file duplication in the process- so project bloat will not be the immediate consequence of taking advantage of the feature. On top of this, Pro Tools is now supporting 32-bit floating point file formats- meaning higher resolution sound for recording and importing and more headroom for your tracks. This is all a very big deal and just might win back the hearts of more electronic oriented producers who had drifted away over the past few years to programs like Ableton that allowed them to quickly and easily pull audio into their project for mangling.


It is worth mentioning, because I am focusing on the Native system as far as it goes, mainly because we aren’t selling HD systems and also because the compare contrast between the two is tedious. As far as the native specs go, I would be remiss if I didn’t address them. Pro Tools 10 will support 96/48/24 tracks at 48/96/192 Khz respectively. Depending on hardware capabilities, it will be possible to record 32 tracks of audio simultaneously- which is by no means a limited count. Alongside your tracks, you’ll also be capable of running 160 aux tracks and up to 256 busses. These numbers are, in my studio, just more than I can possibly think of needing. I’m pretty sure that I could handle a small orchestra on these specs, and if I did somehow need more, well, that’s when I would make the leap to an HD system and take advantage of their large expansions on the above numbers. I would also require at least 2 engineers to deal with such a prospect. This might also lead me to develop some kind of system for getting coffee in on an endless intravenous injection. Just thinking about it gives me a headache and makes me wonder what it’s like to be Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman. Actually, a lot of things, like bills, make me wonder what it’s like to be Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman. I’ll save elaborating on such musings for a rainy day. The bottom line is that the Native specs are impressive and the HD specs are intimidating.

Final Thoughts

There’s been a lot of talk among certain quarters that, as much as it may be “industry standard,” PT has really fallen behind over the years. Typically these complaints revolve around keeping up with the other DAWs on the market regarding some of the modern features users are coming to expect. The efforts made between versions 9 and 10 to escape the hardware dependency have done a lot to address the most unavoidable complaint about previous versions. The instrument and effects suite updates have made leaps and bounds towards addressing gripes about bang for the buck. It seems that in recent years AVID have made a solid effort to listen to their users and that will go a long way toward Pro Tools maintaining an enviable position in the market as a name synonymous with computer based recording.

This is a pretty good deal, overall, and though I have yet to take the new version for a spin myself, it’s certainly on my to do list. I can’t help but think it might be a great time to finally pick up that summing DAW for some Ableton or Reason based users who had been looking for a reason to choose PT over Logic for somewhere to finish off tracks. It’s also a hell of a post production solution for users of DAWs that don’t have the facilities, like the above mentioned Ableton and Reason. Yes, Ableton does have some video support, but it is hardly built for spot type edits and the video support in Live is shaky at best. Pro tools has long excelled at such tasks and remains one of the best audio editors out there today. If you’ve turned away in the past, AVID is giving you more than a few reasons to reconsider. If you’re a long time user, it looks like they are trying to keep your requests met, so hopefully there’s something in the new version you would have traded your first born for. While they haven’t specifically said anything in press releases yet, I believe AVID are letting you keep your children for the time being. We’ll keep our eye out for more details on the new version and try to keep you posted. By the time this posts, AVID should have formally announced the release and the data I lack will be available to me. So, if you guys have some questions, fire away.



  1. Matt says:

    Umm. . . Avid is saying free PT9 crossgrade if you purchase AND registered between Oct 1 -20. So you can stop trying to sell us on the idea that we should buy PT9 now from you. . . It’s too late.

    1. LonelyPaul says:

      I wasn’t really trying to push the cross grades- I simply posted the sentence “The upgrade/cross grade will be honoring a grace period that will go back to the 1st of October and through the 23rd- so those who jump(ed) on that won’t be left high and dry.” This was based on the release Avid sent us. With the exception of the date difference, what mention of cross grades was made agrees with your contribution. Thank you though, as you reminded me that we should probably post a direct link to Avid’s site since we certainly aren’t in the position to give the most definitive information on the matter. We are applying an edit to the post.

  2. Steven Trotman says:

    seems pretty awesome. a great upgrade from the previous version. The ability to record 32 tracks in one setting saves time and energy, like ten garagebands in one

  3. Flux302 says:

    Considering that apples logic still refuses to allow au plugins to send midi between each other, and the fact that pro tools has grown increasingly aware of producers and the need for proper midi implementation and fx, I’d say this is looking very tempting.

  4. Ben says:

    Pretty steep considering Avid just extracted $250 out of those of us with their Pro Tools LE interfaces a year ago. They didn’t give me any financial incentive to upgrade and a handful of new plugins aren’t going to do it for me. The only competition (in terms of upgrade frequency) I can come up with is that Cakewalk does yearly upgrades, but at least they have the good sense to reward upgrading customers – $100 for Sonar X1 Producer from 8.5 Producer. When X2 comes up, I’m willing to bet it’ll be $100 too. Besides, it’s not about the software (or at least it shouldn’t be) – it’s about the music.

    I’m really only interested in what the new plugin technology means. Presonus just made their big announcement in conjunction with Celemony about the crazy new workflows possible using their new ARA plugin interface. I am really only interested in PT10 if AAX can do something similar. Otherwise I’ll just sit on 9 until RTAS goes away and re-evaluate.

    There are some really interesting things, though – 32-bit floating point sessions means that you’re not ever going to clip the audio engine because you have what’s effectively an infinite dynamic range. That’s pretty badass.

    The big question I have is what this means for Pro Tools 9 official qualification with Lion. Right now 9.0.5 is BETA support for the new OS. Mac users aren’t going to sit well with a mandatory $300 upgrade just because they get a new Macbook Pro.

    1. LonelyPaul says:

      It’s definitely a “take the good with the bad” thing as far as update frequency goes. I can remember a time when it seemed like version 6 had been around for a century. It’s good to see Avid having taken such a scheduled approach to the process since the re-brand- but the expense can really feel like paying dues annually. It’s tricky- as much as people seem ready for a new version of Ableton Live after their “pause for stability”- I am always dreading the day they announce it and I have to set my upgrade pennies aside or decide I don’t need whatever new shiny things are on offer. You’re right though, it is about the music before anything else. If I were in the middle of a project and using version 9 and everything was going just fine, I certainly wouldn’t jump to upgrade and possibly interrupt my flow.

      RE: Lion- Oddly, even though PT hasn’t been my main DAW for a few years now, one of the first things I think when a new Mac OS is announced is “how long will official qualification take this go round?” – and vice versa for Pro Tools upgrades. Hopefully Avid are applying more speed to that part of the game these days…

  5. Josh E. says:

    Nice article, LonelyPaul! I haven’t used Pro Tools in years since I have converted to Ableton and Reason. I enjoyed reading your overview and since price is a major contributing factor, I’ll have to hold off on the Pro Tools conversion and stick with my current setup. However, this does look promising, but not worth the switch for me. I am willing to try this new AVID product either through a friend or fellow musician just because I want to keep myself updated with the ever changing digital production software suites in the market. Anyways, keep up the great work!

    1. LonelyPaul says:

      I completely sympathize with you on the price front. I am a huge fan of Reason- especially the most recent upgrade- and have been using it since version 1 – and Ableton as well. Right now I am quite happy with the workflow I have going between those two. Much like yourself, I feel compelled to keep up with the new, but reluctant to convert my workflow. I don’t know that v. 10 will necessarily warrant me changing that either… but I can’t help but applaud what is on offer. I try never to fall too far behind on PT just because it always seems like it is bound to come up in a situation where I’ll need to be ready to deal.
      I think that the best thing happening here is that they are playing the game of pleasing the mid-level consumer as well as higher tiers of the industry- a formula that Apple certainly invested in with Logic- and that Ableton also drifted toward with Suite. I haven’t actually used Sonar (or, not since it was called CakeWalk and I mixed while living in a shoebox in the middle of the road), but looking over the fence it always looked like a party over there- often with that package having some toys inside I’d love to have. I feel like it goes without saying that Propellerhead are of the same mindset that a new customer would like an integrated package. In some cases, it is because they want seamless integration- but when coming in cold, it is nice for anyone to be able to get to the “studio” and skip the guesswork of wondering if they are using the right tools. I guess the most clinical way of addressing it is to call it “value added content,” but it certainly boosts the appeal of any DAW for a new user trying to get the tools to get them up and running. Pro Tools had been, in my humble opinion, addressing this insufficiently in the previous releases. So, I am just pleased to see progress on that front.

  6. Mark says:

    nice job, man. very informative.

  7. Scott Lapointe says:

    Question. Do the mbox versions come with the ilok key or does that stillhave to be purchased seperate?

    1. LonelyPaul says:

      Scott- Good question. They do include a special little Avid iLok that at least accounts for your Pro Tools iLok license key. HOWEVER, I am unsure at present whether or not this iLok functions as a standard iLok / stores other licenses. It sure would be awesome if it did- but that just seems like the kind of magic that is too good to be true. At the same time, it is hard to see why it wouldn’t. I will look into figuring that out when I am not getting “Monday-ed.”

      Regardless, the little Avid iLok version is kind of slick looking. It’s all gray and badass… Though I have always liked the iLok I have with the turquoise, grey, reminding me of old G3 towers color scheme.

  8. Brilliant blog sir! But do it make beats?

  9. Scott Lapointe says:

    OK Cool thanks for looking into the extra licensing.

  10. Brian says:

    Are you sure the Xpand synth is included? I installed Pro Tools 10 and I don’t have Xpand. When opening an version 9 project with Xpand, its grayed out.

    1. LonelyPaul says:

      Brian- according to this Xpand is included- see under “Virtual instruments and audio content.” That said, I know Avid sometimes require that you jump through a hoop or two to enable things. Having not installed 10 on my own system, I wonder if you possibly disabled the Xpand package during your install and need to revisit this end. As for version 9 and 10 compatibility issues, I am unsure if there are any issues. Is it working when you start a version 10 project?

  11. [...] this, but it is probably good news. If you all recall, not too many months ago I wrote about the October announcement by Avid of the Pro Tools 10 and an admittedly confusing pricing scheme. Looking back, I almost think the post should have [...]