A direct result of parent company Avid's acquisition of M-Audio, Digidesign are at last bringing their high-end software to the masses.
Computers have become progressively more powerful over the past few years.
--While this has been great for most of us, it has been a bit of a problem for Digidesign. This is because they make Pro Tools, the world's foremost professional digital recording software, the high-end, TDM version of which runs on their own core PCI DSP card.
The problem for Digidesign is that today's computers are more than capable of dealing with such processing requirements internally, a fact that is ably demonstrated by the likes of Sonar, Logic, Cubase and other DAW's. This means that the demand for proprietary systems such as Pro Tools TDM will diminish over the next few years. On the plus side, however, faster processor speeds and better stability mean that Digidesign can confidently produce software that runs on native processors yet retains the bullet proof reliability that they are famous for.
Rather than opening up Pro Tools to everyone, they've teamed up with new Avid 'label mates' M-Audio and produced a version of the software that runs exlusively with several of their audio interfaces. Until now, 'native' Pro Tools (Pro Tools LE) was only available with digidesign's own hardware, such as the Mbox or Digi 002.
--If you are familiar with Pro Tools LE, you will not notice any difference when you load up Pro Tools M Powered - the two programs are basically the same. In a working session there is absolutely no difference. Essentially, Pro Tools M powered is a rebranded version of the LE version that has been authorised to run with the compatible M-Audio interfaces. Most of the Full Pro Tools features are available in Pro Tools M Powered even though it is a "lite" version. One of M powered Pro Tools limitations is the track count. It has been reduced from a maximum of 96 on Tools proper to 32. The other big difference is the lack of the TDM system, which allows real-time processing without any detectable latency, M-Powered supports the RTAS plug-in format, which uses the host computer's processing power. This can introducelatency - the amount will depend on your computer and audio hardware. This is becoming less and less of a problem, though; native latencies are getting smaller and smaller, and on most machines no delay will be detected when performing with several of the supplied plug-ins inserted. This isnt to say that more complex effects won't cause you problems, though. Other than the lack of TDM hardware support, you won't find much thats different. The feel of Pro Tools M-Powered session is exactly the same as a TDM one, and the two programs are cross-compatible. You have fully featured audio and MIDI tracks with auxillary and master tracks for complete studio standard signal routings. Recordingis carried out in exactly the same way, and resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz are supported - so long as your audio hardware is up to the job, that is.
--Pro Tools audio editing is one of the reason's it has become so popular, and it remains as quick adn straightforward as ever. Highlight a segment and cut/copy/delete it; select another point on the song and paste away. What's more, with tempo grid alignment you can move parts around with ease. There's none of the awkward pattern chopping that you have to get used to with the native sequencers.
The automation system in Pro Tools M Powered has lost none of its features - everything from volume to plug-in parameters can be programmed dynamically, either by recording fader/pot movements or drawing in a contour. And the joy of this is that, if your mixing purely within Pro Tools, you have instant recall, giving you the freedom to move from track to track and back again, keeping your ears fresh.
M Powered comes bundled with the same Digirack plug-ins as LE, and also several Bomb Factory Plug-ins. These include the BF76 compressor a renowned emulation of the Urei 1176. There are trial versions of many others on the installer CD, but annoyingly, it's not made clear that they're not the full versions until you've installed them.
The MIDI track count remains the same -256- and the MIDI sequencing features are exactly the same as in Pro Tools TDM. These have never been the softwaer's strong point but Pro Tools M-Powered is Rewire friendly, so you can sync up and port outputs from programs like reason and live directly into your session. Reason is much better for MIDI sequencing though it's a shame that Logic doesn't get on very well with Pro Tools M-Powered. M-Powered is a very tempting option if you own a compatible interface and if you don't, it might be all the incentive you need to buy one.
My suggestion is buy Pro Tools M-Powered right now. You wont regret it.
Explore Pro Tools M-Powered at M Audios website.