Pro Tools: Wikis


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Pro Tools
Pro Tools Logos.png
Pro Tools LE 7.3 screenshot on Mac OS X
Developer(s) Digidesign
Stable release Pro Tools HD/LE/M Powered 8.0.3 / December 17, 2009; 2 month(s) ago (2009-12-17)
Operating system Mac OS X
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Type Digital audio workstation
License Proprietary

Pro Tools is a Digital Audio Workstation platform for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems, developed and manufactured by Digidesign, a division of Avid Technology. It is widely used by professionals throughout the audio industries for recording and editing in music production, film scoring, film and television post production. Pro Tools has three types of systems; HD, LE, and M-powered. HD is the high-end package and is an integration of hardware and software. The hardware includes an external A/D converter and internal PCI or PCIe audio cards with onboard DSP.



Fundamentally, Pro Tools, like all Digital Audio Workstation software, is similar to a multi-track tape recorder and mixer, with additional features that can only be performed in the digital domain. The high-end version supports sample rates of up to 192 kHz and bit depths of 16 and 24 bit, opens WAV, AIFF, mp3, SDII audio files and QuickTime video files. It features time code, tempo maps, automation and surround sound capabilities. Order of products from lowest to highest are as follows: Essential, M-Powered, LE, HD, HD2 & HD3.


Pro Tools was developed by UC Berkeley graduates Peter Gotcher and Evan Brooks. Both were double majors in electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley. The first incarnation of Pro Tools started life in 1984 as Sound Designer, while the pair were creating and selling drum sound chips under their Digidrums label. Sound Designer was originally designed to edit sounds for the E-MU Emulator sampling keyboard[1]. Gotcher and Brooks discussed with E-MU Systems the possibility of integrating their renamed 'Sound Tools' software into the Emulator III keyboard released in 1987. E-MU rejected this offer and Gotcher and Brooks started Digidesign.[2]

Sound Tools[3] was debuted on January 20, 1989 at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers). At this stage Sound Tools was a simple computer based stereo audio editor. Although the software had the possibility to do far more it was limited by the hard drive technology, which was used to stream the audio and allow for the non-destructive editing that Sound Tools offered.[4]

The first version of Pro Tools was launched in 1991, offering 4 tracks and selling for $6000USD. Digidesign continued to improve Pro Tools, adding a sequencer and more tracks, with the system offering recording at 16bit 44.1 kHz. In 1997 Pro Tools reached 24bit, 48 track versions. It was at this point that the migration from more conventional studio technology to the Pro Tools platform took place within the industry.[5]

Pro Tools in Popular Culture

Ricky Martin’s "Livin’ La Vida Loca" was the first No. 1 single to be recorded, edited, and mixed completely within the Pro Tools environment by Charles Dye and Desmond Child.[6][7] Garbage's Version 2.0 was the first album to be nominated with Grammy for Album of the Year that had been entirely recorded, edited and mixed through ProTools.

Miami is widely believed to be the first city to broadly adopt Pro Tools in professional recording studios, and is often referred to as the 'Ground Zero' for Pro Tools.[8]

Bob Clearmountain once expressed concern that people would acquire Pro Tools system with little understanding of the editing process.[9]

Some artists are now making a point of recording without Pro Tools. [10] Jack White of The White Stripes argues that "Pro Tools is highly inappropriate to record music... It's too easy to correct mistakes, it's too easy to fix things. We hear this sort of clean, plastic perfection that's been applied to all the tracks. That is not the kind of music we grew up loving and listening to and wanting to be a part of."[11]

The rapper GZA named his 2008 album after the program.

Pro Tools was used for creating the audio for the game Guitar Hero, using the modeling plug-in Eleven for the guitar sounds.[12]

Some notable producers and artists working with Pro Tools:

  • Mick Glossop [13]
  • Trevor Horn [14]
  • Mutt Lange [15]
  • Sting [16]
  • Linkin Park [17]
  • Gorillaz [18][19]
  • Ed Droste [20]
  • Klayton (Celldweller) [21]
  • The Beach Boys [22]
  • Brian Sheil [23][24]
  • Green Day [25]
  • Bernie Cisternas, Head Engineer at Number 9 Audio Group [26]
  • Dana"36O"Druff Fallout Entertainment CEO [27]


Most of Pro Tools' basic functions can be controlled within Edit or Mix windows. The Edit window displays audio and MIDI tracks, and provides graphical representation of the information recorded or imported. Here, audio can be edited in a non-linear, non-destructive fashion. MIDI information can also be manipulated. The Mix window displays each track's fader channel and allows for the adjustment of a channel's volume and pan, as well as being the usual place to insert plug-in effects and route audio to and from different outputs and inputs.

The creation of Pro Tools 8 has now seen the addition of a MIDI edit window which enables the user to manipulate MIDI data in either piano-roll or score windows. It also includes the addition of MIDI edit lanes so that the user can see both note, velocity and other CC data in the same window. This move would take Pro Tools from the long held 2 edit window approach to now having 3 edit windows.

Effects processing and virtual instruments in Pro Tools are achieved through the use of plug-ins, which are either processed by the DSP chips as TDM plug-ins, or the host computer as RTAS (Real Time AudioSuite) plug-ins.



Pro Tools HD systems

When run from a host Apple Mac or Windows PC, HD systems perform most audio processing on DSP cards, and use external, rack mountable interfaces to handle incoming and outgoing audio. TDM, a proprietary interconnect based on time-division multiplexing, is used for communication between the devices.

Pro Tools systems have long relied on dedicated DSP cards to handle most audio processing, due to the fact that at the time Pro Tools was first developed, consumer-level computers were not powerful enough to process high-end digital audio.[28] A HD Core PCI card or an Accel Core PCIe card is required in a HD 1 system; the inclusion of one or two additional Accel cards upgrades the system to HD 2 or 3 respectively, and increases the system's overall processing power, allowing for higher track counts and more plug-ins. An 'Expansion HD' product increases capability up to a total of 7 cards using Digidesign's PCI-X expansion chassis product, which is available with both PCI-X and PCIe host cards for the computer.

When Pro Tools HD was launched, HD Process cards were available, but owing to supply problems from DSP manufacturers Motorola[citation needed], the line was redesigned and rebranded HD Accel, which offers faster DSP chips and additional RAM. All cards contain 9 DSP chips. When Apple changed the expansion slot architecture of the G5 to PCI Express, Digidesign launched a line of PCIe HD Accel cards. The PCIe HD Core is now an 'Accel Core', whereas the original PCI-X Core remains 'non-Accel'. There are TDM plugins that require the presence of Accel chips to run and therefore cannot run on the earlier non-Accel HD systems.

Pro Tools LE systems

Consumer-level Pro Tools LE systems perform almost all data processing on the host CPU, with the exception of the Eleven Rack, introduced in September 2009, which includes on-board DSP via dual TMS320c6727b chips. A Digidesign audio card (bundled with the software) must be used for all audio I/O (recording and playback); Pro Tools LE will not run on a normal consumer-grade sound card. The hardware thus doubles as a copy-protection mechanism for the software, as the software will not function without the specialized Digidesign sound card.

There are three families of external interfaces for Pro Tools LE systems. The original MBox (2002) and current MBox 2 family connects to, and is powered by a host computer through USB (except the FireWire connected MBox 2 Pro). All have a stereo audio output, and all but the MBox 2 Micro have two line inputs and at least one microphone pre amp. The Digi002 and, currently, Digi003 family is a series of FireWire connected interfaces with larger I/O capabilities, additional methods of inputing audio and four microphone pre amps. The Eleven Rack guitar processor combines in-box DSP processing that offloads the Eleven guitar amp/speaker emulation and guitar effects plug-in running from the host PC and allows those plugins to run standalone. Eleven Rack is Digidesign's first USB2.0 based product and also includes microphone and line-level I/O.

The Pro Tools LE software is essentially a limited version of the HD counterpart, with a smaller track count, no Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC), and lower maximum sampling rate. As no additional DSP cards (with the exception of the on-board DSPs in the Eleven Rack) are required or supported, only RTAS plug-ins can be used. There is a VST to RTAS adaptation software utility made by FXpansion[1] that will allow VST plugins to be used as RTAS plugins.

Time code based grid, import of OMF and AAF files and DigiBase Pro are not available in Pro Tools LE without the purchase of the DV Toolkit or Complete Toolkit software addons.

Also, Multitrack beat detective is not available without music production toolkit.

There are other options there are not available on ProTools LE series like capture or replace regions automatically.

Pro Tools M-Powered systems

M-Audio, formerly Midiman, was acquired by Avid Technology in 2004–2005, and in April 2005, Digidesign released Pro Tools M-Powered which brought almost all Pro Tools LE functionality to a subset of M-Audio USB, Firewire and PCI interfaces. M-Powered requires M-Audio hardware as an interface and an iLok licence to use Pro Tools M Powered. Mackie Onyx-i Series FireWire Recording Mixers are qualified by Mackie for use with Pro Tools M-Powered 8 on both OS, Mac and Windows.

Pro Tools Essential

This is based on the standard version of the software and enables you to record on up to 16 audio tracks. Up to eight virtual instrument tracks can be used simultaneously, and the Structure Essential plug-in (which gives you more than 60 sounds) comes supplied. It comes bundled with 3 different M-Audio interfaces; Pro Tools Vocal Studio, Keystudio and Recording Studio which are bundles of microphone, keyboard or USB MIDI interface respectively. They are aimed at the starter market, and offer very limited scope including no 3rd party plugins & limited usb device support. No competitive upgrade path or discounts are available either, the next step up in the protools chain is the full retail purchase of one of the other versions.

Control surfaces

Digidesign control surfaces attempt to bridge the gap between old style analogue desks and modern DAWs by providing physical controls for the Pro Tools software. The latest control surface is the C|24, successor to the Control|24, a 24 fader control surface with 16 built in Focusrite "A" Class Mic Preamps. A fairly new addition to the range is the ICON: Integrated Console Environment, combining a tactile control surface and a Pro Tools|HD Accel system in one unit. VENUE, a similar system, was released for live sound applications. These large control surfaces use an Ethernet connection to the host computer, but for Pro Tools users with smaller needs, the Command|8 is a small eight fader control surface which connects via USB.

Related products and services

An official Pro Tools training curriculum and certification program, which includes a full range of Pro Tools–related courses in music and post production, was introduced by Digidesign in 2002. The curriculum is delivered by a number of schools and universities around the world.

The Music Production and DV Toolkits increase the capabilities of non HD Pro Tools systems. Both increase the maximum number of tracks and highest possible sample rate to 96 kHz and include numerous additional plug-ins. The LE only DV Toolkit adds feet and frames and timecode timelines and functionality.

AIR (Advanced Instrument Research)

In August 2005 Avid acquired the German company Wizoo, developers of software based virtual instruments. They further announced the creation of AIR (Advanced Instrument Research) a strategic development which meant Avid would be developing virtual instruments and plug-ins for use in Pro Tools.[29]

This was a move which saw the landmark redevelopment of Pro Tools in Pro Tools 8, which relied heavily on the inclusion of AIR plug-ins to bring it closer to its competitor Logic Pro. This was the first version of Pro Tools to see the inclusion of an entire virtual instrument library to assist those composing music[30] and included:

  • Structure FREE, a sample playback instrument.
  • Boom, a beat box
  • Xpand2, a multi-timbral sound playback module.
  • DB33, a Hammond Organ emulator
  • Vacuum, a monophonic vintage synth.
  • Mini Grand, Piano.

AIR also contributed reverbs, dynamics, modulation and other effects as part of the Pro Tools 8 bundle, all of these work in RTAS only.

Pro Tools timeline of releases

  • 1989
Sound Tools stereo recording & editing system
  • 1991
Original Pro Tools system is released featuring 4 voices, ProDECK and ProEDIT software, MIDI, and automation
  • 1994
Pro Tools III system, provides 16–48 voices
  • 1997
Pro Tools | 24 (24-bit audio)
  • 1998
Pro Tools | MIX (expanded DSP capabilities for mixing audio)
  • 1999
Digi 001 with Pro Tools LE (light edition of Pro Tools)
  • 2002
Pro Tools | HD system (supports 96 kHz and 192 kHz HD audio); Mbox and Digi 002 (March and Sept.)
  • 2003
Pro Tools | HD Accel system (additional DSP capabilities); Pro Tools Users group founded in Los Angeles.
  • 2005
VENUE (Pro Tools for live sound); Mbox 2; Pro Tools M-Powered (Aug); Pro Tools 7.0 (Nov), 7.1 (supports Apple's PCIe G5) (Dec.) Avid acquire Wizoo and announce the creation of AIR (Advanced Instrument Group) as a strategic development arm of Avid, creating Virtual instruments and Plug-Ins for use in Pro Tools.
  • 2006
Pro Tools 7.2 (Aug.) and 7.3 (Dec.); Pro Tools LE and HD support Intel-based Mac (May and Sept. respectively); Mbox 2 Pro; Mbox 2 Mini
  • 2007
003 and 003 Rack (Feb.); Mbox 2 Micro (Oct.); Pro Tools 7.4 (Nov.) (Elastic Audio)
  • 2008
Pro Tools 8 (Elastic Pitch, Score Editor, MIDI Tools); 003 Rack +
  • 2009
Pro Tools Essential (Limited track count for starter market); "Eleven Rack"(Guitar effects processor and Pro Tools LE DSP accelerated interface)

See also


  1. ^ Emulator Archive
  2. ^ Interview with Evan Brooks
  3. ^ Original Sound Tools Brochure
  4. ^ Video interview with Evan Brooks
  5. ^ Digidesign 20th Anniversary Video on Youtube
  6. ^ MIX Magazine - The Hard Disk Hit
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ How Pro Tools Paved The Way For Music Producers - Billboard 12/02/2000
  10. ^ The Canadian Press
  11. ^ Jack White to record solo album in 2009 - MusicRadar, June 10 2009
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ /index.html
  28. ^ Digidesign | Products | Pro Tools | Pro Tools|HD | Pro Tools|HD Overview | Pro Tools|HD | industry-standard audio production environment
  29. ^ Interview with Peter Gorges of AIR
  30. ^ Digidesign Pro Tools 8 information

External links

Simple English

Pro Tools is a Digital Audio Workstation platform for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems. It was developed and manufactured by Digidesign. Digidesign a division of Avid Technology. Pro Tools is similar to a multi-track tape recorder and mixer. It has other features that can only be done in the digital medium. The high-end version supports sample rates of up to 192 kHz and bit depths of 16 and 24 bit, opens WAV, AIFF, mp3, SDII audio files. It also supports QuickTime video files.


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