I’ve been a Pro Tools user for years. It’s a powerful application for recording and editing audio—in fact, there are few, if any, studios you could go to in the world that don’t use Pro Tools. Avid took a bold step with the newest version by changing the plug-in format that third-party developers use for the app. While this caused some initial pain for the users, everything seems to be settling down now.
The new AAX (Avid Audio eXtension) plug-in format gave developers a more advanced native format to work with in Pro Tools 11. The initial problem was getting the plug-ins updated and released for users. While that may have delayed the upgrade for some people, there are now hundreds of AAX plug-ins available for Pro Tools 11.
There are some notable exceptions, like Universal Audio, who haven’t released updated versions yet. UA is one of my favorite plug-in developers, so I’ve been anxiously waiting for the arrival of their updates. I have been using Pro Tools 11 alongside Pro Tools 10, so I can still use the UA gear when needed.
There are a lot of things to like about Pro Tools 11. The most obvious are the changes Avid made to the pure performance of Pro Tools. With a new audio engine and 64-bit support, Pro Tools 11 is multiple times faster than Pro Tools 10. That’s just one version, and with the same hardware, you are already faster just by installing Pro Tools 11. These changes are not just numbers either—you can tell the difference in speed in your every day work, whether you’re loading the app or working with audio, especially with more complex projects.
I don’t worry too much about plug-in DSP because my Universal Audio Apollo and Quad card take most of the plug-in processing away from my system. That’s a bonus for me, but Avid also made improvements in plug-in processing that will allow me to use more plug-ins or instruments. That was a much needed improvement over previous versions.
Perhaps one of my most requested features for Pro Tools finally showed up in version 11: Offline Bounce. It seems kind of funny that with 64-bit support and a new plug-in format that something like offline bounce would be one of my favorite features, but it is.
Offline bounce gives you the ability to export your mix many times faster than real-time1. When you’re bouncing a four minute song, that may not seem like much, but it certainly adds up when you consider the big picture of doing a mix.
It’s also important to realize that it’s not just musicians that are using Pro Tools these days. With interface improvements, speed increases and the ability to use Core Audio hardware, many podcasters have adopted Pro Tools in recent years2. Offline bounce for a two hour podcast is the feature that would make or break the decision to go with Pro Tools for many.
One of my favorite things about using Pro Tools are the key commands3. Like many users, I use key commands, instead of the mouse or menus, to navigate my way through a mix or project. The main benefits are time savings and focus. By quickly zooming or grabbing an editing tool, you can save yourself the monotony of reaching for the mouse and scrolling through menus. More importantly for me is the focus: I want to stay zeroed in on the piece of audio I’m working on—any deviation from that takes my mind away from the task. That may be okay when you do it once or twice, but when it happens all the time through a mix, it becomes a needless distraction.
Pro Tools 11 comes with a few new ways to save you time that I’ve come to appreciate. For instance, if you want to add a new Aux track, you just have to double-click in the mixer window; Option + double-click adds an instrument track; and Command + double-click adds an audio track. Quick, easy and efficient.
New metering options in Pro Tools 11 is also a welcome addition. There are a number of different metering options to choose from, but for me, I’ve enjoyed the addition of gain reduction metering for each channel. Again, another time-saver and something you can see at a glance. You don’t need to have the plug-in open to gauge the dynamics of the tracks—a quick look and you can see the gain reduction right along with the normal meter.
Of course, Pro Tools 11 comes with some other great features, like Elastic Time and Pitch and Clip Gain, that have made it the go-to application for many professionals for years.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Pro Tools 11. The speed and interface improvements make the new version a great tool when recording and mixing. If there’s one thing to watch out for, it’s to make sure your favorite plug-ins are ported to AAX.