Pro Tools' video integration is now formidable, with Avid's flagship engine built right in. Result: no transcoding for HD. Image courtesy Avid.

Pro Tools’ video integration is now formidable, with Avid’s flagship engine built right in. Result: no transcoding for HD. Image courtesy Avid.

Avid has announced Pro Tools 11, the latest version of their flagship DAW. There are no whiz-bang features in this upgrade; instead, it seems Avid was solely focused on performance. Those improvements look promising; real-world performance is one of those things that makes the biggest difference in day-in, day-out use. The engine rewrite is joined here by top-of-class video integration, benefiting from Pro Tools’ sister products in video at Avid. These still will do little to sway users of other DAWs, but that’s not new.

What is new is seeing a Pro Tools upgrade overshadowed by uncertainty about its developer. It’s a bit of a paradox: Pro Tools remains the massively-dominant DAW in high-end productions for film, television, and video; love it or hate the software, Pro Tools users routinely dominate Grammy and Academy Awards. But the announcement comes at a time when a cloud hangs over the developer’s corporate entity. (See below for an excellent, detailed editorial that makes the same argument – not to plagiarize; I simply agree wholeheartedly.) And if you’re looking for news on that front, it seems you’ll have to wait.

As for the announcement, the marketing copy also starts with a peculiar marketing claim: “Get exponentially more processing power than Pro Tools 10 using the same hardware.” It’s hard to know where Avid would find exponential performance gains, unless they know a different meaning of the word. A 64-bit engine, for instance, generally offers marginal, not exponential gains. It seems there is a new engine users are happy with, but there would have to be something horribly wrong with the previous engine for the new one to be exponentially faster on the same hardware architecture.

Weird ad copy aside, the rest of the feature list does look good:

  • Rewritten audio engine, the Avid Audio Engine, which adds 64-bit native computational support (and thus catches up with SONAR, Cubase/Nuendo, and so on).
  • Offline bounce, faster-than-realtime. (There is, of course, no reason a DAW shouldn’t do that; now it does.)
  • HD 11 metering options, scale/ballistics options. (This is actually one no one is talking about, and I’m a bit surprised; metering is one of the murkiest areas of how many DAWs work. Being able to accurately see this information it seems is a boon to mixing – not as a replacement to your ears, but certainly as a supplement. That is, if you do know what you’re doing with mixing; don’t talk to me, as I’m a useless musician.)
  • Avid Video Engine from Avid Media Composer – native playback of MXF HD, Avid DNxHD, and other HD video formats. That’s huge, actually. Audio rivals like MOTU and Steinberg lack the video products; Adobe lacks the music product. And Apple seems asleep at the wheel as far as providing integration between the Final Cut Pro X engine and Logic – this is another painful reminder of how silent Apple has been about the DAW they once enthusiastically hyped.

As an aside, this week also brought refreshes for the Fast Track USB audio interface line that add iOS support. That has become a standard feature, and it means, if unintentionally, USB class compliance for Linux and embedded devices, to boot.

The Fast Track even includes a dedicated “tablet” port (USB A, it appears) for connecting an iPad directly without the inconvenience of a Camera Connection Kit in between.


But Pro Tools 11, of course, is the big news, so back to that.

Pro Tools Expert is enthusiastic about the upgrade. (The reference to cosmetic surgery is unfortunate, but give it a read – this really does sound like the upgrade Pro Tools users have wanted for some time.) If you don’t follow that blog regularly, they’re far from cheerleaders, offering regular, fair criticism of Avid. It’s worth following all their detailed coverage, in fact, since they’re more focused on Pro Tools than this site. I enjoy writing my ramblings, but you may get more out of, say, keyboard shortcuts.

Accurate metering is another big boost, at least in Pro Tools HD. (Not the CPU meters - the audio meters behind.)

Accurate metering is another big boost, at least in Pro Tools HD. (Not the CPU meters – the audio meters behind.)

The problem with all of this is, apart from video integration, it’s hard to see much here that’s competitive with the increasing pace of rival DAWs. Ableton Live has nicely sewn up the independent producer market that was once the domain of entry-level Pro Tools versions, and, absent their one-time German rival Logic, Steinberg has released a set of rapid-fire upgrades to Cubase and Nuendo that continue to improve those DAWs. (That’s to say nothing of excellent choices like SONAR and, newly on Windows, Digital Performer, or low-cost options like Reaper, or – insert your favorite here. In fact, all this HD video playback may not change the fact that everyone writing TV music seems to use DP, for instance.)

The upgrade pricing isn’t incidental, either. The software costs US$699, but upgrades from Pro Tools 10 are running a full US$299. HD upgrade pricing runs $599; if you’re still on Pro Tools HD 9, it’s a whopping US$999. It’s good news for Avid that producers and engineers don’t like to switch DAWs, as the upgrades here cost as much (or more) than switching DAWs.

None of that matters to people who are invested in Pro Tools as a way of working. For them, those same competitors may hold little appeal. (See above Grammy and Oscar comment: many of those folks seem to be very Pro Tools loyal, indeed.) But they are also likely concerned about recent news about Avid, the company.

I’ve backed away from discussing Avid’s corporate woes, as I felt I had little to add to stories from others with a better grounding in what’s going on. But the news is very bad, indeed. Following the latest round of restructuring and layoffs in the fall, Avid made the unorthodox announcement that it had to postpone its fourth-quarter earnings announcements because of uncertainty about its actual accounting in fourth quarter 2012.

One story among many:
Will Accounting Woes at Avid Spark Big Changes or an Acquisition?

This is not like your or I getting an extension on filing taxes; Avid is a publicly-traded company, regulated by the United States’ regulatory body, the SEC. Accordingly, Avid got slapped with not one, but two shareholder class action suits.

The Screenlight article sums up the strange state of affairs. The people you see winning awards are often doing it with Pro Tools. But the future of Avid’s corporate future is uncertain.

I’d add to that situation the way in which these DAWs sometimes seem to exist on separate planets. I think Pro Tools is an excellent tool. I’m more confident of that when I see what users do with it, when it’s clear how happy this tool makes them. I feel too often, the playing field is unbalanced and overly emotional. I think it’s painful for people who use (or develop) other DAWs to see Pro Tools lag on important functionality. I think it’s equally painful for Pro Tools aficionados when emotions about Avid (and formerly, Digidesign) cloud people’s ability to see the stuff Pro Tools does really well.

I’m not sure DAW users will ever get less impassioned about their choices. So, in the meantime, we can only hope we find out what’s going on at Avid soon. It seems to me the uncertainty isn’t good for users, for employees, or for the industry.

For more on the upgrade, it’s a lot more useful watching the 45-minute AIR Users Blog in-depth on the upgrade —

— than it is a series of explosions and people impressed by… wait a minute, are they looking at Pro Tools 11 or watching crazy YouTube videos? Anyway, cue the dramatic music! This will change everything about everything! (Damnit, I want my own promo video like this. Anyone got an afternoon free?)

Comments: I’d really like to hear from current Pro Tools users. What are your plans? Are you intending to upgrade?

And has anyone made the switch from Pro Tools to another DAW in the last couple of years?

  • matt0815

    Most ridiculous Promo Video ever…

    • ahmet kizilay

      I think they are all reacting to the same feature: offline bouncing…

    • Jeff Sepeta

      video shows us almost nothing, tells us nothing in detail. i’ve learned more from car ads on tv.

  • Ian Page-Echols

    Really curious to know if the tablet port provides power to the tablet? I’m not seeing that info anywhere.

    Also, these devices for iOS really need to include MIDI, IMHO. There’s only one physical port available on iOS devices so far, so including MIDI means I buy your product instead.

    • Peter Kirn

      Will try to find that out if someone at Avid is around Messe this week. Had the same question. There’s no reason it couldn’t power an iPad, to my knowledge, but it isn’t clear to me. Agreed on MIDI, as well – time to do an updated survey of this landscape.

  • Mike Hillier

    I’m fortunate, I’ll be getting an NFR copy of 11HD, and I’ll be writing up my thoughts on it as soon as I get an opportunity. However, it’s going to be a while yet before I start integrating it into my actual workflow. There are still far too many essential plug-ins that haven’t made the leap to AAX yet for me – or anyone I know – to want to use 11 for anything more than experimentation.
    But until then I’ve made plenty of records with PT 10…

    • Peter Kirn

      Hi Mike, do pass along your thoughts; I’ll be interested to read them.

  • Luke Harrison

    I think I am going to need a new machine, which I’m due anyway, and a rethink about my setup before I even attempt to think about PT11. I really want to spend money on new software because that is the temptation, and a new computer. But really, I should buy some better speakers and some acoustic treatment to properly sort my listening room out. PT10 does everything I need (except the automation in non PTHD is pretty horrible). I keep telling myself this, but really I want the software!

    • Peter Kirn

      I would budget for monitoring and spend some time on your room, actually. Of course, that’s part of my point on the upgrade pricing – some of the competition is inexpensive enough that you wouldn’t have to choose.

    • Luke Harrison

      You’re absolutely right. My priority should be the same as it has been since I moved house – get my listening room sorted and buy some better speakers. And so it will be! A job for this summer, I think.

  • Jeff Sepeta

    If the upgrade cost is $300 and won’t run on my recently-purchased MacPro (2008) then screw Avid, I’ll just stick with Logic & Cubase. After paying $600-$800 for upgrading to the last 2 versions of ProTools, I’ve lost the ability to run a bunch of RTAS plugins which they haven’t yet brought to AAX. I did more work in Protools under version 7 without these artificial limitations. Cubase and Logic have been 64-bit for years, and have offered offline bounce since the early 2000’s when I migrated from Opcode Vision.

    • Peter Kirn

      I saw your other comment – what’s the word on the Mac Pro? Is it just that they haven’t certified all the Apple models yet for PT11, or have they made an announcement?

      Not supporting Mac Pro would definitely be daft.

    • James Yanisko

      I run a MacPro (2006) and have had no problems running PT10 on it. Just FYI. Sometimes Avid just holds back on saying things can run, so that if they haven’t tested it completely on their end yet, people can’t blame them if it in fact is struggling because of the system. That does not mean it doesn’t run. I’ve been using certain pieces that haven’t been ‘certified’ for a while now. Doesn’t mean it wont work, just that Avid won’t offer tech support to fix the issue if they think it is because of that piece.

  • erja

    As someone that doesn’t use PT but does tracking and mixing in studios that use it, non-realtime bouncing is my top request! Can’t tell you how many sessions have been padded waiting for ProTools to bounce down stems.

    It seems like a trivial thing (every other DAW I’ve used bounced down faster than realtime) but I don’t doubt that it took serious work after watching the travails of other DAW makers with seemingly minor enhancements.

    • Krzysztof Cybulski

      For me as well it’s definitely the most important enhancement!!! I can’t understand, really, how it was possible for PT to become industry standard without this essential feature!!!!

  • just passing

    The most ridiculous thing about the “exponential performance gains” claim? You can’t logically infer anything beyond a linear performance curve if you only have two data points!

    (Although strictly speaking, all “exponential means” is that it’s been raised to a power, rather than subjected to a multiple. Even a 5% performance gain can be described as an exponential increase on its predecessor. Doesn’t mean a damned thing, of course, but it sounds good on marketing copy…)

    • Reaper flies

      One thing is for sure, Pro Tools is a dog running on host CPU. For comparison, run Reaper on a Windows 7 laptop with a Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM. Try running Pro Tools 10 on the same machine. Are they inferring they’ve done some serious optimizing of code? If so, it’s about time.

  • James Yanisko

    The two things that scare me are: What is going to happen to Avid, and what is going to happen to the Mac Pro.

    These two things make our entire studio go. Sure, we could replace Pro Tools with another DAW, but then 14 audio engineer would have to relearn key commands, shortcuts, and standard practices that continues to keep us quick, and able to get extremely creative work done under crazy deadlines. Not because ProTools is better then the others, but because it is what we know, and can be very fast with!

    The upgrade price seems steep, especially when you consider that it (HD) actually DOESN’T work on any old hardware. If you haven’t upgraded (at no small fee of about 20K per room for our studio) to HDX, factor that hardware upgrade into the equation. New cards, New I/O, one way or the other (stay HD, or go native). We’ll be staying with 10 until we see what is going to happen. Though I’ll probably upgrade to 11 at home, to see what we could be using at the studio.

  • Andrew Koss

    No RTAS support at all means losing waves, antares/auto-tune, sound toys, meldoyne, lots of virtual instruments, and many many more plugins our clients use on a daily basis. We’re really thrilled with our HDX system, and would love to have 64bit PT instead of using bridge software for sample libraries, but losing RTAS is just not an option and it seems most plugin developers are a long way from ready.

  • Sebastian Rodriguez

    Faster than real time bounces & integration with Avid media composer. Sounds pretty rad to me.

  • D@rth T@ter

    Can we stop pretending that your choice of DAW is any more significant that the brand of socks you wear.

    • eon1

      errm.. when it comes to an industry leading program used mostly by audio professionals as opposed to musicians, it kind of is..

    • D@rth T@ter

      errrrrrrm…please stop regurgitating said bullshit. Here’s a simple example…you can mix in surround natively in Cubase…what possible excuse is there that you still can’t do that in the ‘industry leading program’? I do actually own Protools. The leading ‘edge’ is that old men stuck in post facilities are too lazy to learn something else. Let’s not even talk about the laughable disaster of RTAS, or features which have been absolute standard in every single other DAW (offline bouncing?)..

      The only thing leading about Protools is that people like you keep inflating the balloon that keeps it stocked in universities and post facilities for no good logical reason.

    • sigaba

      It’s not industry leading because it’s good, it’s industry leading because everyone has it. The most important bullet point for Pro Tools guys is: “Can I open this session at work?” The only people that take Reaper or Cubase seriously are people that never have to send a session to anyone.

      I’m in post and I was a tester for Nuendo 3 when it came out — their technical support was good but their sales people were completely hapless and they had no integrated console strategy, and no picture workflow strategy aside from “Pray Avid doesn’t change OMF.” Steinberg has since been through two acquisitions and its products have reached new and amazing levels of obscurity and irrelevance. They had no plan, and they seemed to only worry about creating features that appealed to editors and mixers, when they should have been appealing to studio purchasing agents, the people with million dollar budgets building mix rooms. Those people basically decide what the industry standards are.

    • Gonk

      “It’s not industry leading because it’s good, it’s industry leading because everyone has it”

      What a daft thing to say, can you not see how illogical that comment is?

      Choose your drug, I don’t care but in saying that you’ve lost your argument, straight off the bat.

      Some people have some serious inferiority complex if they are knocking how ubiquitous Pro Tools is in the recording / post industry and are more than likely basing their opinions on LE rather than the full HD software.

      Do what you want and get on it with.

    • Neil Parfitt

      Sure – you can mix in surround.. but what about 5.1 stem prints, M/X prints, stereo folds, Dolby, and various other insanity routing – across multiple systems at the same time perfectly synchronized? Cubase and Logic’s Surround are equally useless for these real-world scenarios – and can’t do it either.

      People in post facilities lazy? This goes to show you have no clue what the real world of post production is all about. There’s barely enbough time and budget to get things done now as it is. Deadlines are TIGHT. Why would you switch out a solid workflow and delivery standard for another when it’s absolutely reliable now??

      Protools is industry leading.. and there are reasons. Sure it doesn’t have a feature set of Logic or Cubase – but in Post Production sound it *doesn’t matter*. You’re using 20% of the tools non-stop while the other 80% isn’t used whatsoever. If I’m composing in Logic, I’m using a completely different set of features and tools. Which is why you’ll see Logic/Cubase/DP as a front end for composing, and Protools for mixing and delivery.

      It’s industry leading.. because it works 99% of the time. I can take my session to any studio in the world and it will open and business continues as usual. That’s the most important point. Delays cost money – and that’s what it ALL comes down to in the professional world.

      Their hardware platform is expensive, but would I trust cubase or logic recording 48 ch. of orchestra when it’s costing $400 a minute to be there? God no. The stakes are too high to mess around.

      I think of protools as a Maytag laundry machine. Sure it doesn’t have every feature in existence, but then again it doesn’t have to because it just cleans clothes.

      The thing is with DAW’s these days is that they cram as many features as possible to cater to everyone doing everything. Protools has always been Post DAW First, ATR/Mixer 2nd and Prosumer DAW 3rd… everyone who complains is in the 3rd category.

      I’ve been in post since I was 20 (33 now) – and I’ve seen everything from Fairlight, AMS Audiofile, SADIE, SAW, Samplitude, Dubbers, DP, Cubase, Logic.. literally every weird and wacky ‘new and better than protools solution’.. and i have to say this entire time, Protools is the only thing that’s been reliable, stable and CONSISTENT.

      Consistent in working, and consistent in keeping my uptime near 100% so I can make money. Sure there’s plenty of things that I dont like about it – but I could say that about any DAW out there….

    • D@rth T@ter’s the best because it’s popular within the post production niche. I deliver stems from cubase constantly…my experience is different from yours.

  • Meriol Lehmann

    The metering options is probably the thing that interest me the most in this upgrade. There’s a few nice new other features too and of course, that brand new engine seems cool. But let’s face it : the cost of this upgrade is prohibitive. And because I’ve got a HD system, it’ll cost me even more because if I want to go to 11, I’ll need to change my complete system. I’d go the HD native way but I’ll have to buy a brand new system because going from HD to HD Native is considered as a downgrade so there’s no pricing for that. ProTools is still too tied to hardware and that makes upgrades so expensive, it’s ridiculous. Now, if Presonus’ Studio One could be able to do surround sound, I think my problem would be resolved, without Avid.

  • MARSupial_possum

    I’m in, if just for its offline bounce and 64-bit. If it means sacrificing RTAS, fine, anything with “Real Time” is too slow. I’m still on MP9, but will buy 10 right away and get 11 free upon release. Finally can use PPCS6 (6.5 coming!) and FCPX with Pro Tools, ‘couldn’t OMF/AAF to MP9, can do with 10, and when I get 11, no more real time waits doing sound-for-video. About time!

  • What else but Pro Tools?

    As an instructor, we’ve felt practically obligated these last 5 or more years to teach Pro Tools as opposed to any other DAW. Not doing so seems (seemed) like doing a disservice to our students who fully intend to pursue work professionally. Has all this changed because Ableton has become popular with performance DJs or because Avid is having a cash-flow problem? Logic/Final Cut would seem the nearest alternative, but it isn’t cross platform or the tool you see in the vast majority of production houses. Cubase/Nuendo is cross platform, but Steinberg doesn’t have the video suite. And all these wonderfully affordable DAWs like Reaper, Mixcraft, Traction, etc… although light and CPU friendly, do they actually compare to the big guys feature wise?

    • PennyVonCutenstein

      Seems like you would have to say WHAT in particular you are training these students to be. As mentioned in many comments, post production (sound) houses and mix stages all use Pro Tools. I’ll leave the merits of that decision to the rest of the squabblers but the fact is that if you are a sound designer/sound super/music editor/fx bg ADR editor/re-recording mixer you will use Pro Tools. If you are training future DJ’s or composers then that’s another discussion. If students get the basics on Pro Tools those would serve them well in understanding many other DAWS. If I could give any suggestions to your students it would be to apply this knowledge of PT to anything else they encounter. Then be humble and realize that you know very little coming out of any school. It’s not that you aren’t superb teachers, it’s that all growth comes from real world experience (not simulations) and it takes a lot of time in the trenches to be valuable. People skills are the hardest to teach and what keeps you the busiest in this industry.

  • exponential frustration

    I’ve had such bad experiences with Pro Tools 9. All the way from crashes during live takes (try explaining that to your customers), to corrupting project files, to drop outs due to apparently slow data access (note: My DAW has an i7 CPU with 2 Kingston SSDs, one for OS and the other for Pro Tools). After formatting, reinstalling PT9, redownloading updates and trying all kinds of windows registry optimizing, and still getting random drop outs, I sold PT9 and bought Reaper. I have never looked back, and I will never use Pro Tools again.

    Thanks Avid!

  • Nonplus Bobby

    I had to work in Pro Tools 10 this past February — first time since working in PT7/8. On one hand, it is /so/ much more pleasant and elegant than, PT7 or 8. On the other, doing real-time bounces, i felt like my brain cells were atrophying. Still, I don’t see any value in using PT on the desktop, in a home studio, or for electronic music work. It’s archaic and underpowered compared to Nubase, Sonar, Logic. And, it only really shines in a few very specific workflows related to broadcast/film and large studio or live work (i.e., working with 100+ tracks, tracking multiple musicians simultaneously).

    also: the HD upgrade price is offensive. but I think anyone who actually invested in/believes in HD hardware deserves it so whatever.

  • Tormod Vold Mikkelsen

    Is avid cutting HUI-support with this release, or can you still use it?

  • Joe bloggs

    Only upgraded to “10” In January. Will stick with 32bit app for now
    There is not much to tempt me to pay again so soon !!

  • Neil Parfitt

    “In fact, all this HD video playback may not change the fact that everyone writing TV music seems to use DP, for instance.)”

    Where did you get that stat?

    There’s a lot of oldschool guys in the DP boat – but TONS of TV and film guys are on Logic and Cubase these days.. Protools usually for stems.

  • Clinton Nix

    Because I’m a student, I can upgrade from PT 10 to 11 for free. However, I need to make sure that Pro Tools 11 is able to work without a physical interface like 9 & 10 could (by using a driver to work with the onboard sound card).
    Does anybody know if this feature is still supported?