Software Review: Pro Tools 8 – We All Make Music

Software Review: Pro Tools 8

A few days ago, I took the short trip over to Tekserve to sit in on the Pro Tools 8 Sneak Peak event. As a matter of fact I even wrote about it. But as I sat watching the “most advanced audio creation and production software” in action, all I could think to myself was, “Oh, that’s just like Logic… only not as good.”

I kept one of the handout forms from the event and just for fun, I’d like to go thru some of the listed highlights of the newest upgrade and spell it out for you how I see it.

-Beautiful, redesigned interface with new enhancements and customizability

True. They did completely overhaul the look of Pro Tools for version 8. The default background is a deep grey color (*ahem), and all the knobs and buttons have been given a more three-dimensional and realistic look. However, wasn’t the overhaul Logic went thru visually the mother of all UI redesigns? The customizability they mention allows you to colorize regions and tracks, exactly like the colorizing options in Logic, except that really all they let you do is sort of ‘tint’ the channels into a muted version of whatever color. Logic on the other hand allows you to create a veritable disco if you like. There is also a new modular tool bar where you can move around and hide or show something like 6 modules including tools and transport controls. This of course bares no resemblance to the control-click anywhere in Logic, which lets you choose from over 45 different tools, just in the top bar… let alone track headers and the transport bar.

-Five new groundbreaking virtual instruments for music creation

These are the Mini Grand piano, Boom drum machine, DB-33 tonewheel organ, and Vacuum and Xpand!2. The Mini Grand is a basic piano module. No electric models like the EVP88, just a nice basic grand piano. Good thing GarageBand has that covered because all the pianos available in the EXS24 might get confusing.

Boom is a ‘vintage’ style drum sequencer that looks mostly like Redrum with a little light show happening in one corner. That light show is actually a Matrix editor like that from Ultrabeat, only ¼ the size. Also, Boom is not capable of loading or playing back samples.

The DB-33 Tonewheel Organ? Just like the EVB3. The big talking point to that one was that the drawbars mimic the MIDI controllers, so when you pull down, the drawbars come down instead of up… well ok then.

There were also a few effects plug-ins mentioned, the two I want to touch on being Eleven, and Dynamic Delay. The Eleven included with Pro Tools is the ‘free’ version of their amp modeling plug-in. It gives you one mic, two heads, and two cabs to choose from. I’m not a fan of Guitar Amp Pro personally, but the check still falls in the Logic column here even if you only consider that the one additional microphone doubles your sound options over Eleven. Dynamic Delay is their beefed up multi-tap delay… but all you have to do is look at it and you can tell it cannot touch the functionality of Delay Designer.

-Score Editor and MIDI Editor windows

Avid bought Sebelius so the score editor looks really nice, but honestly the MIDI editor IS the piano roll editor from Logic. I did find it interesting that in the new Pro Tools you can have the MIDI editor share the bottom of the Edit Window, just like the bottom panes in Logic, but that was the only one they did it for. No Mixer, no Score Editor, no Sample Editor, all those are still in their own window.

-Create Flawless performance using new track compositing features

Pro Tools 8’s new comping feature allows you to automatically create separate playlists when loop recording, and then ‘promote them’ from those tracks into a new playlist. So, it is creating a new track and being able to copy/paste. There is no auto filling, no auto fades, no flattening, no packing external audio files into a take folder… basically what you did was make two key commands into one key command. Good thing too because my C and V keys were wearing out. This is nothing more than a bad imposter of Quickswipe Comping.

Add to all of this boasted advantages like expanding the LE version to 48 tracks (Logic Express has a top limit of 255), automation and controller lanes (already in Logic), automatically checking for updates (is this even a feature?), double the amount of inserts per channel to 10 (15 in Logic), the ability to lock regions (umm freeze anyone?), and up to 7 hours of recording time at 44.1k (Logic will do 6 hours at 96k), and you get yourself… well… a day late and a dollar short.