Pro Tools 11 is the newest release of Avid’s Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) which works like a mixing console, control surface, recording system, audio converter, and data storage contained in one digital device. It gives you many additional capabilities and allows you to add other software and hardware components when you want to create music.
Pro Tools is the most dominant DAW in the audio production industry, used by professional musicians from all music genres. You can use it to record with microphones or MIDI controllers. You can edit your tracks using the built-in editing tools, add effects that come with the program, purchase plug-ins from third party providers, mix your songs with the software-based mixing boards, add on hardware consoles, and export to just about any kind of format.
While there are several options available for Pro Tools 11, this review focuses on the base software package. If you have a large-scale project that demands more power and the highest sound quality, then check out Avid’s Pro Tool HD packages.
This is the first version of Pro Tools that supports 64-bit operating systems. In fact, Pro Tools 11 is a major software rewrite that started from the ground up for truly a whole new platform in recording. For a complete list of requirements you can check out the system requirements page.
What is new in Pro Tools 11?
• 64-bit architecture means that you now have more memory available for processing your recordings. You get more processing power than ever before. This also means that you can work with larger compositions and use more effects and plug-ins in your compositions. This takes Pro Tools and your music and audio production to a whole new level.
• Avid Audio Engine (AAE) is a ground-up rewrite, and is fully optimized so that you get multiple times more processing power than from any earlier version of Pro Tools. You get all of this without having to make any changes to your existing 64-bit system. You will experience a new level of performance. You get dynamic plug-in processing so that resources are allocated on the fly as they are needed and released when no longer needed.
• Offline Bounce is now faster than real-time. You can speed up your final mix or stem deliveries at up to 150 times faster (a one-hour radio show in 45 seconds) all without losing the high-quality, accurate results that come from having a professional system. You can bounce multiple outputs from any bus, in any format. A bounced files folder will automatically be created in your session folder. You can also export to MP3 at the same time as your session bounce, add it to your iTunes library, or send it to SoundCloud or Gobbler.
• Dedicated input buffer provides ultra-low latency through dynamic processing via multiple cores. Since the resources for the plug-ins are only allocated when needed, the computer processor has more resources available especially for large plug-in sessions. Also, there are dual buffers: the one for playback is set to 1,028 samples for reliable playback; and the input buffer can be set lower for low-latency record monitoring with native systems.
• Avid Video Engine is the same core engine as in Avid Media Composer. It lets you add, edit, and play a variety of HD video formats. These include Avid DNxHD, QuickTime, XDCAM, and AVCHD directly in the Pro Tools timeline all without transcoding. You can also monitor the picture playback using video interfaces from Avid, AJA, and Blackmagic Design.
• Advanced metering means that the new meters are about 30% taller than in previous versions of Pro Tools. This gives you more information about a particular channel. The channel faders are also about 30% taller. You have four different meter types: Sample Peak, Pro Tools Classic, VENUE Peak, and VENUE RMS.
• Enhanced MIDI performance is greatly improved because of the 64-bit architecture, the AAX 64 plug-in format, and the new Avid Audio Engine. Pro Tools handles MIDI and virtual instruments, which often require large amounts of RAM for samples, with greater ease than ever before.
• AAX Native 64 and AAX DSP 64 are the only formats Pro Tools 11 supports. This means that these plug-ins deliver exactly the same audio processing quality across native and DSP-powered Pro Tools systems. Sonic parity between the Native and DSP versions of the plug-ins also enables faster than real-time offline bounce and facilitates the workflow between Pro Tools|HDX and native Pro Tools systems (HD Native, Mbox, and so on). The new format also supports 64-bit double precision processing.
• Automate while recording means that you can now write automation while a track is in input or recording. This is especially useful for live recordings, as any fader moves made during the recording can be used as a starting point for the final mix. All automation is now time-stamped for greater playback accuracy.
• Retina display support allows the new Pro Tools 11 user interface to support a higher resolution, so you can see waveforms, meters, and other GUI elements more clearly when viewing on the newer Retina displays.
• Workflow enhancements include: restore previously shown tracks using the track list; access plug-in presets through right-click menus; keep the beat with the new AAX Native Click II plug-in; add up to four seconds of fade time with the Transport Fade-In command, which helps avoid loud bursts when relocating playback; and more.
• Improved media management means that you can Accelerate file searches with the optimized Workspace Browser, which indexes on a separate thread and does not impact performance. You can browse faster through the simplified multi-pane single window, which can show volumes, session content, and catalogs. You can find SFX files faster and audition results right in the browser, and use system-based Trash/Delete commands directly in the Workspace. You will also experience better efficiency with a single database file for all volumes and catalogs.
OK, Pro Tools 11 is a remarkable release and it really is a must-have if you own Pro Tools 10 or earlier, but at this moment in time it comes with a slight caveat. Being that it is built from the ground up and is now 64-bit and uses only AAX Native 64 and AAX DSP 64 formats, some of your plug-ins and instruments may not work with it just yet. This will change over time and third-party providers are rolling out updates all the time; I see new ones coming to the marketplace on a weekly basis.
Along with the release of Pro Tools 11, Avid had the forethought to also put out a new update of Pro Tools 10 so that you could run both systems on one computer. This means that if you have projects still in 10 using plug-ins that are not ready for 11, you are not left high and dry. You can work to get up to speed with 11 until your plug-ins are up to date. For the same reason, if you are purchasing Pro Tools 11 as a new install, you also get a copy of Pro Tools 10 (10.3.6 or greater) once you activate your license during this transition period. If you want to check out a free trial you can from the Avid Pro Tools Trial page.
That said, if you are looking for a professional-level DAW, you have found one with Pro Tools 11. It is an elite production tool that has been used by musicians, producers, and sound engineers for years, and it is battle tested. If you are looking to upgrade from a prior version then this is an easy yes just for the 64-bit architecture. Because of that, I can very highly recommend it.