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Sunday, November 7, 2010

AES 2010 Report Part 1 - The Rise Of Pro Tools 9

Just got back from the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention in San Francisco, so here's part one of my report. Thanks for everyone who came to my sessions (Social Media For Musicians And Engineers Part 1 and 2) and book signings. Both were a great success.

The general mood of the show was upbeat, although everyone agreed that business is tough out there, whether you're a musician, producer, artist, or manufacturer. It seems like the whole world is working harder for half the money these days. That being said, most are now accepting their new fate and determined to push through it, and that lightened the mood a bit.

The introduction of  Pro Tools 9 at AES was perhaps the the biggest announcement at a gear industry trade show I've seen in recent years. In fact, I can't remember that last time a new product had such a big buzz. If you're in the industry at any level you've probably seen numerous articles on the details of the product by now (if not, look here) so I won't bore you with that stuff yet another time. What I would like to talk about is the implications of PT 9, which are many. Here's why it will affect nearly everyone on the creation end of the music business.

1) PT 9 now plays nice with others. Until recently, Pro Tools has been a closed system. The software was more or less free, but what you really paid for was the hardware, which was a great business model for Digidesign (now Avid). If you didn't own the hardware, the software wouldn't work. Although there were a lot of reasonably low price points to enter into the Pro Tools world, you were stuck with their sometimes inadequate hardware (to be fair, some of it was quite good too), and if you wanted to get into a full-on pro system, it was going to cost you a bundle.

Now that PT 9 will talk to any hardware, not just that from Avid, a whole new world opens up. There are a lot of great DAW applications out there, but Pro Tools is the professional standard. Want to do pro-level work? Better know or own Pro Tools. Now you can stay with any hardware you prefer, and PT 9 will happily talk to it. That means that you can now use your preferred DAW and cheaply have PT 9 around for those times when you want to do transfers or a quick fix to your DAW of choice. There's no reason not to have it anymore.

By opening up the system, Avid has just opened up the rest of the non-PT world as well.

2) PT 9 has built in delay compensation. What the heck does that mean, you might ask? Some plug-ins are processor intensive and cause a slight time delay in the track in which they're used. That means that there can be some tremendous phase issues in a mix as a result.

Delay compensation was standard in the expensive PT HD systems, but not in the inexpensive LE version. That means that if you wanted to mix with all those fantastic third-party plug-ins that are available, you were forced to use one of the big systems. Now that PT 9 has built in delay compensation, anyone can do a major mix on a relatively inexpensive system. You're going to see more inexpensive laptop systems as a result, and more plug-in sales than ever.

Bottom line, Pro Tools 9 means that those engineers, producers and musicians that have refused to use PT now have no reason not to own it since it opens up so many work possibilities. On the Avid side, it means they will rule the DAW world for some time to come.

I'm not sure what the long term business model is for Avid's opening up Pro Tools system to the outside world, but I have some ideas. More on this on an upcoming post.

Tomorrow - Part 2 of my AES report.
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Unknown said...

I've always found it funny that PT LE had no delay compensation, while virtually every other DAW out there had it.

I totally understand why PT became the "Pro Standard", because the computers at the time simply couldn't handle the processing required.

These days, there's no reason why any particular DAW should be more standard than any other. Computing power keeps growing and, to me, it's so much more about what you can do with the tools you have than what brand of tools they are.

Of course, there's a large difference between tools with professional feature sets and those without, but PT can't say that it offers much, if anything more than its competitors, besides being a well known name.

Yev said...

Pro Tools has been in the DAW market what music labels have been to the music market: a necessary evil. It's expensive, inwieldy, decades behind the times, but you have to put up with it because everyone else does. The fact that ProTools makes news by offering what every other DAW had for years makes it only more clear that the time to jump that ship has come and gone.


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