The History of Pro Tools Part 4 – 2007 to 2012

The History of Pro Tools Part 4 – 2007 to 2012

 The History of Pro Tools - 2007 to 2012

This is the fourth in a five-part series chronicling the history of Pro Tools from the very start of Digidesign all the way up to the present day with the release of Pro Tools 2018.1.

In this article, we start with the release of Pro Tools 7.4 which brought Elastic Audio to the world of Pro Tools through to the release of Pro Tools 10 and the HD Native Thunderbolt box.

box.

 Pro Tools 7.4 Features

2007 – Pro Tools 7.4 – The biggest new feature in the 7.4 upgrade was something Digidesign called Elastic Audio. The idea behind Elastic Audio was that it allowed you to work with audio in the Edit Window as if it was MIDI. All the things you took for granted with MIDI — moving and stretching notes and phrases, conforming loops to new tempos — could now be done with audio regions.

Elastic Audio used a combination of transient detection, beat and tempo analysis, and time-stretching and pitch-shifting algorithms. These were not new technologies, but what was new was the way Digidesign integrated Elastic Audio into the normal Pro Tools working environment to make using it as easy as possible. Major changes were made ‘under the hood’ to ensure that Elastic Audio worked as seamlessly as possible, but these were only apparent in a few places; one such is the System Usage window, which had a new CPU Usage indication for Elastic Audio. Digidesign released a number of videos presented by the legendary Phil Jackson. Here is the set of videos that related to Elastic Audio and a couple on other features in Pro Tools 7.4…

Various other aspects of Pro Tools were also improved to make integration of Elastic Audio as smooth as possible. Many of those enhancements were found in the Digibase Browser including a volume control so you can turn down the volume when auditioning samples in the browsers. A Conform to Tempo option meant that files being auditioned in the Browser would be analysed and then played at Session tempo rather than their native tempo. You could also audition loops while the Session was playing, in which case Pro Tools would wait for the downbeat and play the samples in sync with the Session.

Right-clicking files and folders in the Digibase Browser would analyse them in advance, to save you time when looking for files for sessions. They could be dragged straight into your Session Edit Window, whereupon Pro Tools would create new tracks with Elastic Audio already turned on and the files conformed to the Session tempo.

Digidesign changed the Playback Engine in v7.4.  The DAE Playback Buffer size could now be displayed in milliseconds as well as the usual ‘levels’, and there was a Cache Size drop-down menu that determined the amount of memory that DAE allocated to prebuffer audio for playback and looping when using Elastic Audio.

There were a significant number of Avid video related improvements for all the versions of Pro Tools 7.4. Pro Tools systems with an Avid Mojo now had access to all the video resolutions previously supported by Pro Tools with Avid Mojo SDI or AVoption V10. Support was added to enable the co-installation of Avid Xpress Pro 57.x with all versions of Pro Tools 7.4 on the same computer. Digidesign added a number of previously HD only features to the LE version when used in conjunction with Avid Mojo SDI hardware and 003 or Mbox 2 interfaces.

 Pro Tools 8

2008 – Pro Tools 8 – This release brought a revamped user interface, as well as Elastic Pitch, Score Editor, MIDI Editor and AIR plug-ins. The user interface received a facelift, changing from white to grey which was believed to be more pleasant for the eyes. Elastic Pitch provided a simple pitch correction option and the Universe View provided an overview of the entire session, with the waveforms displayed in more detail with 16-bit resolution.

Pro Tools 8 brought us the Quickstart window for the first time. This provided immediate access to the two most common tasks needed when starting to work: creating a new Session and opening an existing one. In addition to being able to start a new, blank Session (where you could set the usual initial audio and I/O configuration from the Session Parameters section) you could also create a new Session from a selection of Session Templates. These included templates that offered useful starting points for a number of different situations and were organised into categories such as Guitar, Music and Songwriter.

Digidesign gave Pro Tools what was described at the time as a “fresh, modern, and slightly flatter appearance and redesigned icons”. Although the layout remained basically the same, the Edit window saw a lot of tweaks to make things clearer and easier for users. For example, the toolbar immediately stood out as looking different and offered many functional improvements whilst keeping the same basic operation, and this ethos applied to most parts of the redesign.

Multiple lanes for one track came to Pro Tools with V8.  Rather than only being able to see and edit a single type of data on a track at a time, tracks in the Edit window now offered multiple automation lanes, making it possible to work with multiple automation parameters — and even playlists — simultaneously. This capability was implemented with a new Show/Hide Automation Lane(s) button at the bottom of each track’s colour strip. Clicking this revealed or concealed automation lanes beneath that particular track.

Colouring tracks became much easier to do with Pro Tools 8. The Colour Palette window now offered a Saturation slider (as well as a more general brightness slider, which was useful if you preferred the lighter look of Pro Tools 7) to adjust the amount of a track’s colour that could be applied to its background in the Edit and Mix windows.

Pro Tools 8 marked the first time you could graphically edit MIDI data outside the confines of a track lane in the Edit window. The MIDI Editor could be opened in a dedicated window or be integrated into the Edit window, for those users who preferred the single‑window editing experience. Digidesign also included the ability to display notation in the MIDI Editor which was great for those who think in score notational rather than piano roll and Pro Tools made use of the same Opus music fonts used by Sibelius.

Before Pro Tools 8, Digidesign bundled Pro Tools with various cut‑down virtual instrument offerings from third parties plus two of their own instruments: Xpand!, which provided a basic toolbox of sounds roughly akin to a hardware sound module, and Structure Free, a limited version of the company’s sampler plug‑in. Both of these plug‑ins were developed by Digidesign’s Advanced Instrument Research (AIR) group, which was launched following the acquisition of Wizoo. Since then, the group continued to release new instruments which included the Hybrid virtual analogue synth, Strike virtual drummer, the electric piano VI – Velvet and Transfuser a loop‑manipulation tool. Unlike Xpand!, all of these instruments had to be purchased separately.

However, in order to support the improved MIDI editing capabilities of Pro Tools 8, the AIR group developed a brand-new set of instruments that formed the centrepiece of the new Creative Collection bundle which was supplied with every copy of Pro Tools.  Mini Grand, which, as the name suggested, was an acoustic piano instrument, that offered a number of different models to adjust the tone of the instrument, and built‑in reverb with a few basic settings.

The new DB33 was Digidesign’s take on the classic Hammond B3 organ. that offered a choice of models that could simulate traditional tonewheels or choose from two, more synthetic‑sounding alternatives. But that was only half of the solution. The other half was the rotary speaker emulation with an additional page of ‘cabinet’ controls that let you set the speed of the rotation, along with other controls for the preamp and mic placing, where you could adjust the mix between the drum and the horn, as well as the simulated stereo spread.

Next was a monophonic synth called Vacuum, which was a virtual analogue synth with what was referred to as ‘Vacuum Tube Synthesis’ designed to bring the characteristics of vacuum tubes to a synthesizer. Boom was a virtual drum machine supplied with 10 different electronic drum kits, that offered variations on the classic 808 and 909 kits, more aggressive kits with names like Dance and Urban and a ‘CR78 makes love with a 606’‑type kit called Retro.

Finally was Xpand! 2, a new version of the virtual workstation synth with a sound engine that incorporates sample playback, virtual analogue, FM and wavetable synthesis. The new version offered over 2300 patches, compared with around 1000 in the original, and the user interface was redesigned, with all the settings implemented on a single page. Each of the four available Parts in a patch now had individually accessible arpeggiator and modulation parameters, making it possible to edit such parameters for one part without having to switch the whole interface.

The AIR group were also created 20 new effects plug-ins, that harnessed the group’s expertise to create some of the effects found in instrument plug‑ins such as Velvet and Transfuser. They covered the common bases for general production, with plug‑ins like Chorus, Distortion, Phaser and Reverb as well as effects, such as Filter Gate, Lo-Fi and Kill EQ effects from Transfuser. Dynamic Delay made creating musical‑sounding delays easier than with the previous Digirack offerings, and Reverb was considered by some as an improvement over D‑Verb.

Phil Jackson was on hand to explain the new features in Pro Tools 8 in his own special style – ‘nice’…

 Digidesign 003 Rack Plus

2008 – 003 Rack+ – Digidesign extended the 003 family with this 2U rackmount unit that featured eight microphone preamps (with front panel gain control), eight line/DI inputs, Word Clock, MIDI I/O, digital I/O via S/PDIF, ADAT light pipe connection and like the other members of the 003 family connected to your laptop or desktop computer via FireWire. The 003 Rack+ took all the built-in functionality from its predecessor and upped the feature set with eight preamps and superior A/D conversion. The 003 Rack+ preamps were the latest generation mic preamps for Pro Tools LE interfaces and used discrete, bi-polar, low-noise transistors and improved pots.

 Digidesign Icon D-Control ES control surface

2008 – ES | D-Control – Digidesign changed the appearance of the D-Control and gave us the ICON D-Control ES, as a sleeker version of the ICON D-Control in black.  The remodelled Icon offered the same workflows and HD integration as the original D-Control, the ES featured updated text graphics and switch colours, which provided better visibility in low-light environments.

Rich Nevens, Digidesign’s director of professional console sales said at the time… “We are very proud that in just over three years, ICON systems have become the consoles of choice in over 2,200 music and post-production facilities worldwide. This growing family of dedicated users continues to be one of our greatest development resources, providing feedback that has already helped us to deliver a number of key hardware and software enhancements for the ICON family. Today it is with our users’ feedback in mind that we are pleased to offer yet another important evolution in the ongoing development of the ICON range. The ICON D-Control ES balances style with enhancements that provide greater visual feedback and improved ergonomics. We are tremendously excited to introduce ICON DControl ES to the professional recording community”.

 Pro Tools Recording Studio With M-Powered Pro Tools Essentials Software

2009 – Pro Tools M-Powered Essential – This software was only ever bundled with four M-Audio product families, Pro Tools KeyStudio, Pro Tools Recording Studio. Pro Tools Vocal Studio and Fast Track. It was not sold separately, or available for download, or intended for use with any other products. Technical support for Pro Tools M-Powered Essential was only available from the Digidesign User Conference (DUC) and through Digidesign email support. It was a cut down version of Pro Tools with support for up to 24-bit/96 kHz recording depending on the M-Audio interface, with up to 16 total mono/stereo audio tracks, 4 Aux tracks, 8 Instrument tracks, 8 MIDI tracks, 1 Master Fader, up to 4 internal mix busses and 5 sends per track. It could handle up to 3 plug-ins per track and Undo or redo up to 10 operations. There were also a number of key features that were disabled in the M-Powered Essentials including Shuffle, Spot, MIDI Real-time Properties and Beat Detective.

 Digidesign Eleven Rack Interface

2009 – Eleven Rack – The Eleven Rack was not just a multi-effects unit, or an amp modeller, or just a Pro Tools interface. It was actually all three of these and more.

The Eleven Rack could be used as a stand-alone guitar processor—without the need for a computer—for live applications. It included emulations of classic guitar amps, cabinets and stompboxes, as well as a collection of rackmount effects processors and microphone emulations. You could incorporate your favourite stompboxes and effects into the Eleven Rack with the integrated effects loop that could be assigned and moved almost anywhere within the signal chain.

The Eleven Rack was also a high-quality interface for Digidesign Pro Tools, and at the time came with Pro Tools 8LE software. The interface itself was dual-DSP powered, which meant you didn’t have to worry about latency issues when recording, it was effectively a DSP interface for Pro Tools LE software. There were 8 simultaneous recording channels at 24-bit/96 kHz, with a wide range of ins and outs, including S/PDIF, AES/EBU, XLR, and 1/4″ outputs, a mic input, and two 1/4″ line level inputs.

Digidesign created a system called ‘True Z’, which matched the input impedance of the emulated amplifier’s hardware counterpart. The input impedance of a guitar amplifier can be an important factor in determining its sound, as the input places an electrical load on the pickups, changing how both the amp and the guitar react to playing. The Eleven Rack allowed a guitarist to use exactly the same sounds live as in recording and allowed the recording of the clean DI signal at the same time as the processed sound, all with zero latency.

Some time ago Eleven Rack guru James Ivey (Jivey) created a series of free video tutorials showing how to get iconic guitar sounds from top artists. They are completely free, no strings attached… well not to the videos anyway. You can find them in our article – Get Signature Sounds In Eleven Rack – Free Video Tutorials.

It is the oldest current Avid product that has not been given an end of life date by Avid and you can still find it on the Avid website.

 Digidesign Icon D-Command ES control surface

2009 – Digidesign Icon D-Command ES – Like its larger brother the D-Control Digidesign changed the appearance of the D-Command and gave us the ICON D-Command ES, as a sleeker version of the ICON D-Command.  The smaller sibling remodelled Icon offered the same workflows and HD integration as the original D-Command, the ES featured updated text graphics and switch colours, which provided better visibility in low-light environments.

 Avid drop the Digidesign brand name

2010 – Avid Drop The Digidesign Brand Name – Fifteen years after Avid bought Digidesign, the name Digidesign finally disappeared. To announce the changes Avid published an open letter explaining it all…

“As you might know, one year ago we decided to combine all the Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—into a new, unified Avid. Since then, we’ve taken steps toward transitioning Digidesign to the Avid name. We understand that you might have questions about the future of Digidesign and the product lines you’ve invested in. With that in mind, we’d like to share some information, answer some questions, and explain how these changes will affect you.

New website launching April 12th – Many of you told us that we needed to improve the navigation, organisation, and the overall user experience of digidesign.com. In order to make these improvements, a major overhaul was necessary. On April 12th, we’re going to launch a brand new avid.com website that will include all of the digidesign.com pages—plus a number of enhancements to make navigation faster and easier. At first, the website will be US-only, but over the next few months, we’ll work on moving the international Digidesign websites as well. To help you get acclimated, we’ll be posting an interim page at digidesign.com offering links straight to the pages that are most important to you.

Why move the website to Avid.com? – Not surprisingly, many of you own products from multiple Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—so we thought it would be more convenient to offer one centralized, unified website for all Avid products. We’re working toward providing you benefits like a simplified product registration process, single login ID, and a one-stop source for all product information, support, downloads, and news.

What will the new site be like? – The people behind the look and feel of Digidesign and M-Audio are now creating a new look and feel for all Avid—so don’t expect the new site to look like we sell IT products! It will feature completely new navigation and organization, making it easier and faster to find what you want. Overall, it’s a big improvement over the current Digidesign website. Our web team incorporated feedback from customers into the new site—we think you’re really going to like it.

Is the Digidesign name going away? – Yes, we are in the process of retiring the Digidesign name, but the products will live on. After talking with many of you, we discovered that most people identify more with the product names—such as Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON—instead of the company name (actually, there are some people who thought the name of the company was Pro Tools, so go figure…).

What is happening to the Digidesign team? – Rest assured, the same core Digidesign team of audio fanatics is still here, with offices in Daly City, CA. We just have a different logo on our letterhead. And since the transition, we’ve been playing key roles in creating the new Avid. Over the coming months, you’ll start to see our influence on packaging, videos, customer communications (like this one), and the overall look and feel of Avid.

Why is the Digidesign name being retired? – In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it no longer makes sense to maintain many separate brands. It’s also impractical to have multiple marketing teams, websites, newsletters, and separate methods for communicating with customers. Our new brand strategy is to combine everything under the Avid name. This will help us streamline operations and become a healthier company—which frees up more resources for product development. We figured that you’d rather see us put more money towards designing innovative new gear than maintaining five separate brands.

What does this mean for the Digidesign product lines? – You’ve seen a taste of what can be accomplished when we work together—products like Pro Tools M-Powered, Video Satellite between Media Composer and Pro Tools, the DSM monitors, and Sibelius integration into Pro Tools. Moving forward, audio and video are going to be equally important for Avid. We’re totally committed to Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON, and all the other product lines that used to be branded under Digidesign. Combining forces with the other Avid companies means more resources for our R&D department to work with, enabling us to release more great products than ever. We’re also committed to expanding our product lines further—in fact, we have some incredible new audio products in store for 2010 and beyond…

What about the M-Audio brand name? – We’ve begun the process of transitioning the M-Audio name to a product brand instead of a company name. You’ll continue seeing product names like the M-Audio Oxygen 25, and the M-Audio BX5a Deluxe.

What does this mean for the M-Audio and Sibelius websites? – Eventually, the M-Audio and Sibelius websites will be moved to the new Avid.com as well. But for now, those sites will continue to operate independently just as usual.

We truly appreciate your loyalty and continued support, and hope you take some time to explore the new website on April 12th. Sincerely, The Digidesign (aka Avid) team”.

On the DUC we found a thread started by our own Russ Hughes who said back in 2009…

“With the new AVID Brand launched it’s only a matter of time before the Digidesign name will go and we will all own Avid Pro Tools. I don’t write this as a criticism but an observation, as Shakespeare once wrote ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.

I suppose there will be the obvious group who fight to keep the name, perhaps start a poll, a petition, a sit-in, but then again in this social networking revolution it’s easy to get a million people on Facebook to join up to a ‘change the layout of Facebook and we’ll leave’ group, you get the picture?

I suppose for me the only irony is, that as Avid go more corporate and global (and they have to in a credit crunch economy) there is a danger that the users will feel less connected and disenfranchised, this is perhaps why the blog is attracting more visitors daily (over 10,000 this weekend) and still rising! The support from Digidesign to the Blog is growing weekly, because they too value the power of community, even in the harsh world of commerce.

I think we value community far more than a corporation, even more so as liberal creative types. I for one hope that the tribe continues to grow, continues to share and continues to celebrate a community who were raised on Digidesign and have used Digidesign to make their creative efforts shine. Now my only other question is can anyone make an animal out of the letters A.U.C?

Again, not a criticism, just want to know how others feel about this concept, I certainly won’t be starting any Facebook group”.

 Avid Mbox3 Range

2010 – Pro Tools Mbox, Mini, Pro – third generation. This was the first full release by Avid, although these were often referred to as the Mbox3 family or the 3rd Generation Mbox family Avid wanted to simply call them the Mbox family.

Starting with the smallest the Mbox Mini, it was a 2 in and 2 out device restricted to up to 48KHz sample rate, it had no digital I/O and only one mic preamp on a ‘combi’ socket that also offered a line input, plus a two more jack inputs, one of which doubled as a high‑impedance guitar input. Like earlier Mboxes, zero‑latency monitoring was handled in the analogue domain through a simple Mix control. There was a large volume control for the main stereo outputs and single headphone output.

The Mbox was a 4 in, 4 out unit, with 2 mic preamps, 2 high impedance DI inputs, Stereo SPDIF digital I/O, one MIDI in and out, and a dedicated monitor section with volume, dim and mono controls.

The Mbox Pro connected via Firewire rather than USB like its predecessor, but unlike its smaller siblings, required mains power. Sample rates up to 192kHz were supported, with a total of eight inputs and outputs. Four had mic preamps, two could accept DI’d electric guitars. There were two separate headphone outputs and each had their own volume controls. Low‑latency monitoring was handled using built‑in DSP and the Pro also replicated the Mbox’s Multi, Dim and Mono buttons but added Mute and Alt Source buttons as well as the ability to select up to three speaker outputs. To wrap up there was also SPDIF, MIDI and word clock I/O.

 AIR Instrument Expansion Pack

2010 – Instrument Expansion Pack – The Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack bundled the latest versions of five existing virtual instruments from Avid’s AIR division. Structure 1.1, Transfuser 1.3, Velvet 1.3, Strike 1.5, and Hybrid 1.6 made up the entire AIR instrument line at the time. The pack included 55GB of content, 16.5GB of which was new, and loads and loads of presets.

Velvet modelled the most common Rhodes and Wurlitzer instruments and included the condition of the piano, the noise made by the pedal, the key release, and the key mechanism. The latest version added a three-mode reverb (spring, room, ambience) to the effects section.

Strike could be played simply or controlled obsessively. Its main window gave access to the kit and style browser, essential mix controls, and a keyboard that allowed you to play the built-in MIDI performances or the individual elements of the kit.

Structure was a sampler that shipped with almost 18GB of content, including new orchestral samples which replaced the East/West samples in the earlier version. Structure was as much a sample-based synthesizer as a sampler. It offered two multistage envelopes, a wide variety of filter types, layering, multitimbral mode, multiple audio outputs, a modulation matrix, and built-in effects.

Hybrid was a synthesizer that combined the best of analog-style subtractive synthesis with digital wavetable synthesis. It’s design comprised of two parts, each of which had three oscillators and a sub-oscillator, multimode resonant filter, three LFOs, and four complex envelope generators (filter, amplitude, and two assignable). Each part had a 4-track step sequencer: Two parts were for pitch and velocity, and two were assignable modulation sources. Each part also had two insert effects; chorus, delay, and reverb available as master effects.

Transfuser combined musical loop manipulation with dance-oriented synths and included a new Roland TB-303 flavour module. A single instance of Transfuser could hold enough tracks of loops and synths to create an entire rhythm background for a song. Each track comprised a sequencer, a synth or loop slicer, four effects slots, and mix controls. There were also two effects sends, groove quantisation, MIDI control and intelligent randomisation.

Check out these videos from Phil Jackson as well as one where Peter Gorges from the AIR Instrument team talks about the AIR Instrument Expansion Pack.

 Avid Pro Tools HD Interface Family

2010 – Pro Tools HD Series Interfaces – The new HD Series interfaces – HD I/O, HD OMNI and HD MADI offered customers flexible configurations to support a variety of analogue and open digital formats for audio recording, mixing and playback.

HD I/O enabled customers to achieve quality audio record and playback with the option of three configurations, 16×16 analogue, 16×16 digital and 8x8x8 analogue and digital, each in a 2U rack-mountable interface.

HD OMNI was designed to free up customer workspace by integrating the functionality of a monitor controller and interface into a single 1U rack-mountable unit. It featured two mic pre-amps, headphone outputs, a full-featured surround monitor section and a 14×26 channel mixer that functions even when the computer is off, letting users listen to CDs, MP3 players, keyboards and drum machines without the need for an additional mixer.

HD MADI offered the ability to easily connect Pro Tools HD systems to industry-standard MADI hardware, without the need for a format converter. Built-in sample rate conversion on all inputs and outputs allowed customers to integrate into workflows with multiple sample rates (upstream and downstream) using a single, 64-channel 1U rack-mountable interface.

At the time Butch Vig, Garbage drummer and producer said “Anybody who is a dedicated producer or audio engineer wants the purest and most natural sound they can capture when they record, and Avid’s new HD I/O converter sounds really natural and transparent. These new interfaces have a really nice, smooth air to them – a silky quality that blows away the competition.”

 Pro Tools 8.1 HEAT

2010 – Pro Tools 8.1 & HEAT software On Pro Tools HD DSP – Pro Tools 8.1 brought support for the new interfaces, HD I/O, HD MADI and HD Omni as well as the HEAT software for HD systems only.

HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology) software allowed customers to add the realism of vintage analogue sound to the Pro Tools mixer via a single global control, eliminating the time-consuming and complex task of managing plug-in changes across multiple tracks and allowing customers to remain focused on the craft of mixing.

Designed in collaboration with engineer Dave Hill of Crane Song, the HEAT software option for Pro Tools HD systems was an innovation for mixers who valued the warmth and sound qualities of tubes, tape machines and analog consoles, but wanted to eliminate the complications and expenses of using tape machines and vintage outboard processors, or managing plug-in changes across multiple tracks.

Pro Tools 8.1 also brought changes to the I/O Setup designed to solve session interchange issues (such as maintaining studio settings on different Pro Tools systems) and provided better overall workflows for session interchange. In earlier versions of Pro Tools, I/O settings were recalled from the Pro Tools session document, so studio settings corresponding to your hardware could potentially change each time a session is opened. This could result in a temporary loss of monitor paths. In Pro Tools 8.1, I/O settings could be recalled from the system. This meant that studio settings could be maintained when opening sessions created on other Pro Tools systems.

 Avid Pro tools HD Native card

2010 – Pro Tools HD Native – Avid introduced Pro Tools HD Native, which offered the full capabilities of Pro Tools HD software whilst running entirely on a host computer’s CPU power, without the additional dedicated processing hardware included in larger Pro Tools HD DSP systems.

The Pro Tools HD Native system offered an integrated solution centred around a Pro Tools HD Native PCIe card and Pro Tools HD software. Pro Tools HD Native used the same Pro Tools HD Series interfaces for up to 64 channels of I/O with support for SYNC HD enabled accurate synchronisation to picture for post-production workflows.

The Pro Tools HD Native system also offered third-party DAW support with support for Core Audio and ASIO drivers, which enabled compatibility with applications such as Logic, Cubase and others. An integrated low-latency mixer promised near-zero latency. The Pro Tools HD Native PCIe card offered a low latency monitor path directly in the Pro Tools system.

In addition, Pro Tools HD Native offered audio conversion with up to 192 tracks of audio and up to 64 channels of I/O using HD I/O, HD OMNI and HD MADI. Users could create flexible configurations that supported a variety of analog and open digital formats. The system was also compatible with legacy Avid Pro Tools HD interfaces.

 Pro Tools 9 Interface

2010 – Pro Tools 9 – Pro Tools 9 was a significant turning point in the history of Pro Tools. Pro Tools 9 replaced Pro Tools LE and offered broad hardware I/O support, EUCON control protocol integration and collaboration enhancing features. Pro Tools HD and HD Native software were also upgraded to version 9 with the software being unified for all types of systems for the first time.

Avid pro segment marketing manager, Tony Cariddi said at the time that “more professional features are now standard to the software. By far, the most requested feature from Pro Tools LE customers was to include Automatic Delay Compensation,” as an example, with internal ADC included as standard in the Pro Tools 9 feature set, along with a doubling of the track count to 96 mono or stereo voices, an Internal bus count increased from 32 to 256, 160 aux track capability, Beat Detective as well as the components of the formerly optional Music Production and DV toolkits including the time-code ruler and AAF/OMF/MXF interchange, and an oft-requested MP3 export capability all included in Pro Tools 9 Standard.

Tony Cariddi described Pro Tools 9 as the “first ever software option for Pro Tools that gave customers a really open and flexible workflow,” a native system with ASIO and Core Audio support, that allowed it to function with Avid I/O hardware, third-party I/O devices and on computers with only built-in audio interfaces (with ASIO drivers for Windows computers).

Pro Tools 9 was available at a retail price of $599. Pro Tools HD 9 software was included in the various Pro Tools HD system bundles at current prices. The Avid Complete Production Toolkit 2 (CPTK2) option gave Pro Tools 9 users access to the full feature set of Pro Tools HD including the capability of 192 internal tracks, VCA mixing and full 7.1 surround support ($1,995.).

All versions were now authorised to iLok, and a Pro Tools 9 HD licence would authorise the full Complete Production Toolkit 2 on a native system — so many HD users would no longer need to buy a separate LE system to work on the road.

For anyone who ran Pro Tools on HD hardware, there were relatively few changes. Compared with Pro Tools LE, however, the basic native Pro Tools 9 was a lot more powerful. As well as getting ASIO and Core Audio support plus full delay compensation, users could record up to 32 simultaneous inputs on 96 mono or stereo tracks, with up to 256 buses, and use the timecode ruler and the full multitrack version of Beat Detective. AAF/OMF/MXF import and export, and MP3 export, were now included as standard. The Complete Production Toolkit 2 unlocked the full HD feature set and gave surround mixing, VCA groups and advanced automation to name a few. However, the additional plug‑ins that came with the old Music Production Toolkit 2, such as Hybrid and Smack! LE were not included and were only available as separate products.

In look and feel, Pro Tools 9 was exactly like version 8, until you explored the hidden corners of the Playback Engine and Hardware Setup dialogues when the new features became apparent. The only major one that was actually new, was the ‘game changer’. This was support for the ASIO and Core Audio driver protocols. Where an Avid interface such as the Mbox was connected, Pro Tools chose it by default but go into the Playback Engine dialogue and you got the option to switch to any of the other audio devices attached to the system. On the Mac, these included an aggregate driver that is created automatically when Pro Tools 8 is installed.

Pro Tools 9 featured the delay compensation engine that was previously only available in the HD version. It was a tried and tested implementation which embraced external hardware as well as plug‑in delays. Plug‑in delay compensation was switched off by default, but a pop‑up menu in the Playback Engine dialogue allowed the selection of Short (1024 sample) or Long (4096 sample) modes.

Like delay compensation, most of the other ‘new’ features in the basic Pro Tools 9 had been available in HD for quite a while. The multi‑track Collection mode in Beat Detective, which was previously available only in HD, or by buying the Music Production Toolkit, was now available in Pro Tools 9.

Hand in hand with VCA groups came a number of advanced automation features available for the first time in a native system with the Complete Production Toolkit 2. These included various useful ways to write multiple layers of automation for a single fader, which could later be ‘coalesced’ to a single curve, plus support for snapshot automation, where settings for the entire Pro Tools mixer, or any subset of its parameters, could be stored and recalled for individual sections of a Session. Other previously HD‑only features like Auto‑scrolling between the Edit and Mix windows were now included in all versions of Pro Tools, made it much easier to keep track of where you were in a large Session. Also included as standard was the more powerful version of the Digibase browser, complete with Catalogs, and the Export Session as Text option.

Pro Tools 9 was an unusual update, in that, nearly all of its ‘new’ features weren’t new at all. except for the biggy, support for ASIO and Core Audio was a deal that was about as big as they came, because it did away with the need to have Avid hardware connected to Pro Tools. Now you could choose from a wide pool of interfaces as long as they supported the Core Audio and ASIO protocols. but apart from that, almost everything was already in HD before Pro Tools 9 came out.

 Avid acquire Euphonix

2010 – Avid acquired Euphonix – As a result Avid integrated EuCon protocols to Pro Tools, and added the Artist Series and System 5 Family to its arsenal of control surfaces. With the acquisition of Euphonix, a leader in large-format digital audio consoles, media controllers and peripherals, Avid acquired the opportunity to deliver a broad range of audio and video control surfaces and consoles designed to meet the needs of customers ranging from the independent professional to the high-end broadcaster.

Avid continued to support and sell both Euphonix control surfaces and Avid’s existing ICON solution. Gary Greenfield, chairman and CEO, Avid said at the time “This acquisition greatly expands our portfolio to offer customers a complementary set of workflow solutions from independent producers creating music in their home studios to broadcasters preparing segments for national broadcast. We remain committed to driving interoperability and modularity across a vast ecosystem of Avid and third-party creative hardware and software solutions. And, as audio and video workflows continue to converge, we are now well positioned to deliver control surfaces that work across both audio and video applications, making the content creation process more cost-effective and efficient for our customers.”

Avid plans included the development of an open standard protocol that would expand the ecosystem of compatibility between the Euphonix control surfaces and a wide range of Avid and third-party audio and video applications, including Media Composer and Pro Tools. For existing Euphonix customers, Avid continued to support EuCon, the Euphonix high-speed Ethernet protocol that enabled its control surfaces to interface with third-party software.

 Avid Release pro tools 10

2011 – Pro Tools 10 – With the release of Pro Tools 10 Avid added over 50 new features to Pro Tools…

  • Clip based gain workflow
  • Real-time Fades
  • Extended Disk Cache
  • Improved Disk Scheduler
  • Support for NAS
  • 24-Hour Timeline
  • Visual Indication Improvements
  • Export Selected Tracks
  • Interplay Send To Playback
  • Improved ISIS Support
  • EUCON Integration Phase II
  • Channel Strip Plug-in
  • Down Mixer Plug-in
  • In App Browser for Plug-in App Store, Help etc.
  • Support for Mixed File Formats (FIle type, Bit-depth)
  • 32-Bit Float Session Format
  • Bounce To iTunes
  • Send To Soundcloud
  • Bus Interrogation
  • Low Latency Monitoring for ASIO/Core Audio
  • Audiosuite Now Preserves Metadata
  • Audiosuite Now Has Multiple Windows
  • Audiosuite Handles
  • Di-Fi Update
  • Right Click to Reveal In Finder
  • Media Composer Clip Gain Interop
  • FGS UI Localisation
  • 256 Voices (Pro Tools HD and Pro Tools with CPTK)
  • 768 Tracks
  • 512 Aux Tracks
  • Improved ADC with up to 16,000 samples (Pro Tools HD and HD Software only)
  • Extended Disc Cache
  • Field Recorder Improvements
  • Input Monitoring (with CPTK)
  • Destructive Punch (with CPTK)
  • Support for up to 2 Satellites
  • Support For D-Command Multi-mode
  • Media Composer Surround Track Interop
  • CPTK Users now get Track Input Monitoring and Destructive Punch Record

With Pro Tools 10, you could mix multiple audio file formats and bit depths within the same session, including interleaved, without any file duplication for the first time. Plus, with support for 32-bit floating-point file formats, they offered higher resolution sound when recording or importing, with more headroom to preserve the audio integrity from beginning to end.

Pro Tools 10 brought better recording and playback performance when working on a laptop with an external drive or a network-attached storage device. Pro Tools HD now allowed users to load audio files used in Pro Tools sessions into RAM for cached playback. Pro Tools prioritised files closest to the current playhead location. This way, when you started playback, those files were already cached for playback. This was especially useful when working with shared media storage such as with Avid Unity MediaNetwork and ISIS shared storage systems.

With Automatic Delay Compensation now available 4 times more delay (16,383 samples) and twice the busses to handle bigger mixes with more plug-ins.

With Pro Tools 10, all fades were now calculated and played back in real time, which eliminated the need for rendered fade files. This provided improvements in both disk performance, and file management and file exchange. Another benefit was that Pro Tools sessions opened more quickly than in previous versions of Pro Tools.

Pro Tools 10 provided clip-based gain for quick and easy gain matching of clips (formerly called regions in Pro Tools) from different sources in a Pro Tools session. The clip-based gain was applied pre-mixer, pre-fader and before any plug-in processing. This was especially useful when working with field recordings and sample libraries in post-production sessions. By adjusting the clip gain for individual clips on a single track, you could match their relative gain levels so that you do not have to execute complex track volume automation to compensate.

Pro Tools 10 now let users export any selected tracks in a session as a new session. This feature was especially useful in collaborative situations. For example, you might have been working on a large post-production session and you wanted your collaborator to only work on some dialog in the session while you continued working on other parts of the session. You could select the dialog tracks and export them as a new session. Your collaborator could then open the new session and edit the dialog. When your collaborator was done, you could import the session data from the dialog session to update the dialog tracks in your big session.

Continuing on the collaboration theme, Pro Tools added a feature that let users bounce mixes to an iTunes library with the Add to iTunes Library option in the Bounce to Disk dialog. When this option was selected, the bounced file was copied to the user’s local iTunes library. Pro Tools 10 also let users share mixes with SoundCloud using the Share with SoundCloud option in the Bounce to Disk and the Export Selected dialog. When this option is selected, the bounced file was automatically uploaded to a user’s SoundCloud account.

Pro Tools 10 brought a new clip group file format (.cgrp). Region group files (.rgp) created with earlier versions of Pro Tools could be imported into Pro Tools 10 sessions, but clip group files (.cgrp) couldn’t be imported back into earlier versions of Pro Tools. This new format also maintained clip gain settings with clip groups.

With Pro Tools 10 Avid delivered a new plug-in format – AAX that would replace both TDM and RTAS plug-ins with AAX DSP and Native versions. Avid also released several new plug-ins with Pro Tools 10 which included Channel Strip, Mod Delay III and Down Mixer.

The new Avid Channel Strip plug-in brought the channel strip of the Euphonix System 5, with exact duplication of the console’s EQ and compression algorithms. The new Avid Down Mixer plug-in could be used to automatically mix greater-than-stereo multichannel tracks (such as 5.1) down to stereo or stereo tracks down to mono. The new Avid Mod Delay III plug-in offered multichannel and multi-mono modulating delay effects. Pro Tools 10 provided improvements for working with AudioSuite plug-ins and AudioSuite rendered audio clips, which included the ability to open multiple AudioSuite Plug-In windows, Fades and Clip metadata were preserved after an AudioSuite render,  Handles were added to AudioSuite processing for trimming out AudioSuite rendered clips and a Reverse option for Delay and Reverb AudioSuite plug-ins was added.

Existing plug-ins continued to work in Pro Tools 10 so you could have RTAS, AAX Native and AAX DSP plug-ins on a system with an HDX card. TDM systems could use Pro Tools 10 with AAX Native, RTAS and TDM plug-ins but not AXX DSP plug-ins. The AAX plug-in platform offered improved floating point plug-in platform and was ready for 64 bit operating systems

However other than Avid plug-ins there were precious few AAX plug-ins available in the early days of Pro Tools 10 and for early adopters of the HDX platform, like myself, there were even fewer AAX DSP plug-ins which is what brought about our searchable AAX Plug-in database so we could keep track of all the AAX Native and DSP plug-ins.

 

 

 Avid Pro Tools HDX card

2011 – Pro Tools HDX – Avid announced a new interface card to be the successor to “Accel” cards. Avid offered complete system bundles with Pro Tools HDX & HD Omni, Pro Tools HDX & HD I/O and Pro Tools HDX and HD MADI with bundle prices that started at $9,999.

The new cards in the Pro Tools HDX system were all about power and compatibility and took the maximum number of interfaces up to 12 to allow 196 tracks, be 64-bit ready, and use the new plug-in technology called AAX which was also 64bit compatible.

In terms of power, the new cards provided five times more DSP acceleration; four times more voices; four times more delay compensation; 1,000dB of additional plug-in processing headroom; doubled the number of audio channels and reduced latency to 0.7m/s regardless of buffer settings.

The retention of compatibility between Pro Tools 10 HD software and the existing audio interfaces at the time was considered to be a sign of the respect Avid had for their Pro Tools customers. Avid chose not to save themselves a lot of expensive of development costs that were required to create a bi-compatible system, AVID chose to support both, although they warned that with the release of Pro Tools 11 users would no longer be able to use the old cards or interfaces giving time to make the transition.

 InMusic List of Brands

2012 – Avid sells M-Audio and AIR to inMusic – Avid, announced that it would sell off its consumer audio and video product lines, in a deal worth around $17 million. The InMusic Group bought M-Audio with its range of keyboards, controllers, interfaces, speakers and digital DJ equipment, and the AIR Software virtual instrument/plug-in developer. In a separate move, Avid shed its consumer video editing line to the Corel Corporation. Products involved included Avid Studio, Pinnacle Studio, and the Avid Studio App for the Apple iPad.

The AIR Software Group and M-Audio joined a family of music brands that included Akai Professional, Alesis, Alto Professional, ION Audio, Numark, plus another recent addition, Sonivox. Jack O’Donnell, owner and CEO, inMusic said at the time “With the addition of AIR and M-Audio, we’re in an even better position to push the boundaries of computer-based composition, production, and performance.  This will be very positive for musicians, who will get better software, better hardware, and a much more integrated music-making experience as a result.” The acquisitions also signalled a new relationship between Avid and InMusic with selected Akai Professional and Alesis products to include Pro Tools.

At the time Avid released a statement that said it wanted to “focus the company on its Media Enterprise and Post & Professional customers and to drive improved operating performance.  The divested product lines contributed approximately $91 million of Avid’s 2011 revenue of $677 million. As part of the transactions, certain employees of Avid will transfer to each acquiring company. Avid estimates that the proceeds from these transactions will be approximately $17 million”.

Gary Greenfield, CEO of Avid at the time also said “The changes we are announcing today make Avid a more focused and agile company. By streamlining and simplifying operations, we expect to deliver improved financial performance and partner more closely with our enterprise and professional customers. Our objective remains to provide these customers with the innovative solutions that allow them to create the most listened to, most watched and most loved media in the world. I’m excited about our future prospects.”

 Pro Tools HD Native Thunderbolt

2012 – Pro Tools Native Thunderbolt – Avid launched the first Thunderbolt product at the IBC in Amsterdam. It was almost identical to the PCIe version but had a high-quality headphone jack.  Avid explained that thanks to Thunderbolt, the new Pro Tools HD Native unit provided the “highest performance and lowest latency of any native DAW” yet.

Avid bundled your choice of either the Thunderbolt interface or PCIe card with its Pro Tools HD software and a choice of a Pro Tools HD Series audio interface. In addition to an “audiophile-grade headphone output” powerful enough to drive high impedance headphones, a few of the benefits of the new Thunderbolt interface according to Avid at the time were: “Unlike USB or FireWire-based DAWs, which are inherently prone to latency, Pro Tools HD Native employs either a high-speed Thunderbolt interface or PCIe core card to connect Pro Tools HD Series interfaces with your laptop or desktop computer. By eliminating distracting monitor latency while recording, increasing your I/O capabilities, and providing 64-bit floating-point processing for more headroom and a higher mix resolution, you get a professional native solution that meets the highest audio standards”.

In the last part of this History of Pro Tools we go from 2012 up to the present day.