A Home Studio Milestone: Pro Tools Cost is Halved

In October of 2010, Avid (formerly Digidesign) announced Pro Tools HD Native. The latest in a recent string of product rollouts, Pro Tools HD Native bridges the gap between consumer grade and professional grade Pro Tools workstations.

Pro Tools HD Native allows access to the full capabilities and power of the Pro Tools HD platform, but at a fraction of the cost. Once accessible only by professional studios, the entry-level price point for a Pro Tools HD system was set at $10,000 dollars. Pro Tools HD Native allows access to comparable power for as little as $6,000, appealing largely to the semi-professional production market.

To fully understand the benefits of Pro Tools HD, both Native and DSP, one must gain insight on how these products function. Traditionally, Pro Tools HD has made use of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) through the use of Core PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) cards. Essentially, these cards act as a secondary motherboard, entirely dedicated to processing audio. The Core PCI cards can work alone as an HD 1 system, or in various combinations, branded HD 2 and HD 3, provide additional amounts of input/output (I/O) and track count. The dedicated processing power that these systems provide makes it possible for audio engineers to record and edit large sessions on an extremely reliable platform. Native processing, on the other hand, relies on the use of your computer’s internal processing power to handle these tasks.

The advantages of a traditional Pro Tools HD system do not come without a price tag. In addition to requiring a Pro Tools HD Core Card, a studio would need to purchase a Mac Pro (or Windows equivalent,) and a compatible Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog converter. Without factoring the cost of the recording console or outboard gear, this system closely reaches a $15,000 price tag, which is not typically accessible to the home studio user. Newly released Pro Tools HD Native, paired with the new interfaces from Avid, brings a turnkey system to the consumer for slightly over a third of the previous cost.

An HD Native Core Card, essential for every Pro Tools HD Native system, brings the user 64 channels of I/O, 192 available tracks, as well as 128 mix busses. This is a tremendous improvement over the previous step down, Pro Tools LE system, which only offered 18 channels of I/O, 48 available tracks, and 32 mix busses. Pro Tools HD Native also brings powerful features like Automatic Delay Compensation and Input Monitoring to the semi-professional production arena. By allowing the user’s computer to power plug-ins and mixing functions, the Pro Tools HD Native Core Card handles I/O.

Paired with the Avid HD Omni, Avid’s newest entry-level HD interface, semi-professional and professional studios can have complete access to Pro Tools HD at an affordable price of just over $5,000 The core card can also be interfaced with converters from Apogee Electronics or Lynx Studio Technology, allowing for easy integration with systems that users may already own. Additionally, Native processing power allows the engineer to employ third-party DAW software such as Apple Logic or Cubase for use with the Avid hardware. This provides a tremendous opportunity for engineers who have outgrown and are looking to upgrade their limited Pro Tools LE systems, allowing them to unlock the capabilities and sheer power of the Pro Tools HD platform.
By Hunt Hearin



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