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October 2014
Issue: March 1, 2011

Review: Avid's Pro Tools 9

By: Josh Moyer

PRODUCT: Avid’s Pro Tools 9

WEBSITE: www.avid.com

PRICE: Starts at $599

- Sample accuracy with Automatic Delay Compensation

- Ability to interact with any ASIO or Core Audio compatible interface

- MP3 export

Avid’s release of Pro Tools 9 back in November came as a welcome surprise to many in the audio post industry. With Pro Tools 8 being on the market for only two years, I wondered how different this version would be. Happily, I discovered that Avid upped the ante, delivering a Pro Tools that offers more power and better flexibility. 

Avid has released a confident Pro Tools that stands on its own, and they are leaving it up to the user to choose the interface they want to interact with. Pro Tools 9 is compatible with any core audio or ASIO third-party interface, a huge step to a more competitive market. It also operates in stand-alone mode, running off any host computer’s ASIO compatible audio card. At first, I didn’t see this as a logical move for Avid, but after some thought I began to realize that this was a smart opportunity for them to refocus their software. They’d already begun to consolidate their strong interface line. 

From a user’s perspective it’s a definite win-win. Additionally, Pro Tools 9’s ability to interact with other companies’ interfaces — Apogee, MOTU, etc. — will allow competition with other software companies to even out. Not that Avid doesn’t offer a number of quality interface choices; the market base enjoys its “options.” In turn, Avid will be forced to consistently bring their “A” game in order to retain their current market share. Hopefully, this means a future line of products and upgrades that satisfy consumers’ demands, while pushing DAW technology forward.

UNDER THE HOOD

When I received my copy of Pro Tools 9, I was excited to try it out. The first thing I noticed when opening the box was an included dongle. Laptop owners will no longer have to lug around an interface while trying to get some editing/mixing in — a single dongle will do the trick. Installation was a breeze. Within 10 minutes of loading the installation disc I had Pro Tools 9 up and running. The look is identical to Pro Tools 8 — a consistency that has its advantages. Pro Tools 8 took some getting used to when updating from 7, but users will be able to easily jump into their next project when cross grading to 9. Because of Waves plug-in compatibility issues I experienced during my last update, I was a little nervous, but Waves V.7 plug-ins loaded without hassle. I even started up a few old Pro Tools 8 sessions… no issues. After checking Pro Tools 9’s vitals, I was ready to explore some of the new, key features I had heard about.

What was once exclusive to the Pro Tools|HD domain is now available to all Pro Tools users: Automatic Delay Compensation. Computers, namely laptops, have become more sophisticated in the last few years. These advances in technology are allowing native systems to fill a gap that’s existed between LE and HD systems. Users who don’t have the cash flow or the computer space to afford an HD system and house its proprietary cards, can now drop considerably less money while confidently investing in a powerful system. 

Automatic Delay Compensation is a step forward in closing that gap. Users can mix on Pro Tools 9 with the peace of mind that their audio will be sample accurate on the way out. Sample accuracy, by the way, has been quoted as an important feature to achieving a fuller sound by top mixers. And users can now have the assurance that their mixes will come out phase-accurate and better sounding, too, giving the final product a real professional edge.

In addition to Automatic Delay Compensation, Pro Tools 9’s track count has been expanded. Audio tracks have been doubled to 96 tracks, aux busses increased to 256, and instrument tracks to 64, a major upgrade to today’s audio environment of extensive layering. Users can also choose from an expanded palette of control surfaces. Command 8’s aren’t the only choice anymore. Avid’s Artist series and Pro series (formally Euphonix) can be used in conjunction with Pro Tools 9 through EuCon integration. 

MORE OPTIONS

Pro Tools 9 is also packaged with some of the key features once exclusive to Avid’s toolkit bundles. Gone are the days where $1,000 gets you the necessary tools to work to picture. Timecode ruler and OMF/AAF/MXF interchange now come standard. With the inclusion of a timecode ruler, engineers will have an easier time editing sound to picture and discussing audio changes with producers, editors and directors. The OMF/AAF/MXF interchange provides better connectivity with video editors, allowing their audio to line up perfectly with picture in your system. For the music folks, Pro Tools 9 includes multitrack beat detective, eliminating the frustration of having to edit drums track by track. MP3 export is also included in the package. It’s about time! 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The price point for Pro Tools newcomers will be a little high compared to other DAWs. At $599 (entry level) though, anyone with the available means will not be disappointed. Compared to previous versions and the cost of all the now included features, anyone willing to make the purchase can rest assured they are getting their money’s worth. Previous owners of Pro Tools will be able to crossgrade for $249 and take advantage of professional accuracy and flexibility. Avid has set a new benchmark with Pro Tools 9, and I look forward to checking out what’s up next.

Josh Moyer is a Producer/Engineer at Pomann Sound (www.pomannsound.com) in New York City.