Test Drive: Avid’s Pro Tools 11

INSTALLATION

Even the installation process is a good news/bad news story. Rather than an installer that takes you through an interminable number of options, on the Mac all you need to do is drag the appropriate Pro Tools icon on to the Applications folder. Double-clicking the Pro Tools icon will initiate the installation process and allow you to choose from the various options. Windows users will see the same installer they’ve always seen. That’s the good news. The potential bad news is that Pro Tools 11 can only use the new version 2 iLoks from Pace. That’s right, you’ll end up buying a new iLok in order to use your new Pro Tools. Along with the new iLok comes a new website to register your authorizations. In fact, you don’t actually register them on the website; there’s now a new “iLok license manager” application that you run from your computer. This new workflow created quite a hair-pull when it was first introduced, although I can report that it’s working quite well now. Does it provide any significant benefit? Not really, since you still have to be online in order for the thing to work. But it’s all shiny and new; the one benefit is that it does make it easier to move authorizations between iLoks. Incidentally, this is something I have never had to do, at least not until I had to buy a new version iLok. Should you happen to remove your iLok accidentally while using Pro Tools, at least it now it gives you an option to save your session or quit, rather than simply locking up and forcing you to restart before you’d saved. A small thing, but I’ll take it.

SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

What about the aforementioned 64-bit business? What’s the big deal there? First and foremost, running in full 64-bit mode means that Pro Tools can access more than 4 GB of RAM. If one runs a lot of tracks, and particularly if one runs a great number of plug-ins, this means performance is greatly improved over the 32-bit version. It also means that more of the session data will be held in RAM, and the disk cache is actually part of Pro Tools itself. This does mean faster performance, and smoother performance, under more complex conditions. And yes, Pro Tools 11 is remarkably stable given the fact that it is a completely rewritten program in its early stages. And yes there have already been several updates issued to fix the inevitable bugs that appeared. But overall, it is by and large stable.

The downside of being a 64-bit application is that it can only run 64-bit plug-ins. Specifically, it can only run 64-bit AAX-format plug-ins. And that means that you will need to acquire 64 bit AAX versions for all of your third-party plug-ins. Audio Suite, RTAS, and TDM plug-ins are all out; 64-bit AAX is in. Fortunately, most companies who publish plug-ins for Pro Tools have caught up with the new 64-bit ANX standard [see sidebar].

Along with the new AAX format plug-ins comes a new AAX format architecture. That, along with a completely rewritten audio engine, provides what is for me the biggest benefit of all in Pro Tools 11. If you must keep your RTAS plugs but want to upgrade, you’ll be happy to know that Pro Tools version 10 is included and can run on the same computer as hosts version 11 (but not simultaneously).

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