Pro Tools Goes To 11!

Pro Tools, Protools, 11, Avid, DAW

Am I the first to make this horrid joke? I don’t know, but Pro Tools now goes to 11, which means of course it’s more better.

All joking aside, this update might be a very necessary move on Avid’s part to stay on top of the DAW game. While fears have been circulating about Avid’s financial trouble, Pro Tools still remains the industry standard for audio production, though it might be losing it’s foothold. Although I still think Pro Tools is the best for recording and editing live music, I must admit I’ve come to appreciate some of the benefits of Logic and Ableton Live over the years. If Apple’s Final Cut software displaced Avid from it’s video world throne, the apparent lack of development on Logic Pro might allow Pro Tools to reign supreme for a while longer. Pro Tools 11 has a few very important new features that bring it up to par with its competitors.

So, what’s new this time? Well, everything really. Pro Tools 11 has a totally redesigned audio engine, promising loads more processing power. And who doesn’t want that?  Users who need MOAR POWER will be happy to know that the revamped Avid Audio Engine is now built on 64-bit architecture. All of this simply means you can run more plug-ins and virtual instruments, making Pro Tools a comparable composing environment to its adversaries.

Another amazing new feature is OFFLINE BOUNCING. Why we had to wait this long for something common to other DAWS is beyond me, but it has been a major point of contention, so it’s a very welcome addition.

Other improvements are new metering options and the ability to  playback HD video. These may not seem like a big deal, but it’s the little things that make all the difference you know.

Pro Tools 11 will be available sometime later this year at these price points:

  • Pro Tools 11 software (full version) – $699 USD
  • Pro Tools 10 to 11 upgrade – $299 USD
  • Pro Tools 9 to 11 upgrade – $399 USD
  • Pro Tools Express to Pro Tools 11 cross grade – $499 USD
  • Pro Tools HD 10 to 11 upgrade – $599 USD
  • Pro Tools HD 9 to 11 upgrade – $999 USD

Reason 7: New Features Keep This DAW in the Running

Reason 7, Propellorheads

Looks like music-software makers are all racing to push out updates these days, with the recent release of Ableton Live 9, followed by the announcement of Native Instruments Komplete 9, and now Propellerheads Reason 7 is on the way.

I must admit I haven’t used Reason in quite a long time. I moved on before they even added Record. That was the ultimate reason really: Propellerheads was too slow to add features which seemed like obvious necessities. However, I do remember fondly the ability to just whip up a track in no time flat. Reason is great for this. The ease and flexibility of connecting or rearranging devices is awesome, and the graphics are just adorable. I remember thinking that Reason would be an awesome tool to demonstrate the principles of electronic music technology quickly and comprehensibly in the classroom.

Reason has come a long way since the early days, and version 7 has added some interesting features, albeit rather late in the game. These include an External MIDI device, for controlling all your outboard gear (that maybe you don’t use anymore?), slice-able audio, for quantization or use with REX player devices (which Reason pioneered 13 years ago!), some age old mix features like buses, groups, and the new Spectrum (graphic) EQ. They’ve also added Level and Pan functions within Racks, the neat-o Audiomatic Retro Transformer, to give your tracks that vintage vibe, and a whole new bunch of sounds “from dubstep to even metal”! Not only that, but more audio file formats are supported, like mp3, wma, and aac!

Not sure if Propellorheads is being tongue-in-cheek with their copy (surely they must be right? “There’s a rack for that”???). I do think these additions bring Reason up to date though, making it a real contender again in the audio world. It just seems weird to me that they allowed themselves to fall behind in the first place, when they seemed so far ahead right out of the gate in the year 2000. In any case, I am happy to see them making strides, as users new and old will no doubt have countless hours of fun banging out tracks with Reason 7.

See all the new stuff in action:

Reason 7 is currently in beta-testing and will be released in the second quarter of 2013.

Arturia SparkLE Shines

Arturia, SparkLE, drum machine

I’m a sucker for sparkly things, and the Arturia SparkLE is certainly no exception.

SparkLE is a sleek hardware/software hybrid drum-machine that is bound to light up your life (nyuk nyuk) in a few different ways. Spaceship-LIGHTshow aside, this little beatbox is LIGHT, weighing in at only 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). And of course, it will simply deLIGHT you. (End of horrible pun.)

You can build beats using the step sequencer buttons or pound them out in realtime on the pressure sensitive pads. Throw down a groove with the Looper and then introduce variation with the touch sensitive XY pad, which can control 8 filter modes (including the classic Oberheim SEM filter) and 7 different Slicer modes. Engage the TUNE mode and play a synth melody on SparkLE’s 16 keys, or simply add pitch to a percussion sound.

SparkLE, Arturia, hardware software hybrid drum machine

The SparkLE sound engine boasts a wide range of ever expanding sounds, with layering, Virtual Analog, and Physical Modeling for further tweaking. The software component offers a Mix view, effects, automation & editing capabilities, and can be used as a standalone program or AU/VST/VST3/RTAS plug-in (without the hardware connected). Alternately you can map the hardware to control your DAW via MIDI, or use the included templates for Ableton LIve and Reason.

All this functionality is built into a seriously compact (284mm x 171mm x 17 mm) and portable (comes with a travel case) package. SparkLE is a truly versatile tool for a musician on the go!

Arturia’s SparkLE is an obvious competitor to Native Instruments’ Maschine Mikro. In the race to get smaller and smaller, it wins; the Spark drum controller is thinner, takes up less desk space, and the price tag is lower ($299 vs. $399 for Maschine). Although Maschine might fair better with MPC drum pad enthusiasts, I must say I prefer Spark’s keyboard/’TR’ style layout. I’d love to get the two of them in a room for a real sonic shootout sometime.