Pro Tools 8 Upgrade

Back in January I decided it was time to take the plunge into Ableton Live, and it was certainly a worthwhile experience. However, the release of Pro Tools 8 has also proven too compelling to resist. I upgraded from version 7.4 last week, so here are a few initial observations on the new package…

Pro Tools 8 Facelift

There has been a lot of commentary about the cosmetic improvements to Pro Tools 8, but for me this turned out to be actually fairly insignificant. There are more colours, and the interface is generally better in quite subtle ways, but it still looks very much like Pro Tools. Most things are in the same place, and I found I could get down to work straight away without too much readjustment.

Pro Tools 8 Templates

Pro Tools 8 Templates
The first change you’ll notice (apart from the splash screen) is that upon opening the program you are presented with a menu that allows you to choose to open a session (recent or otherwise), start a new session or load a template.

If you prefer, you can set this menu not to appear, but beginners will certainly find the pre-designed templates very useful – and for me they served as a useful reminder that I should update my own session templates. They can be a great way of speeding up workflow, as most people tend to use the same routing and techniques for most tracks – the templates can provide some ideas in this regard.

PT8 Now With Added Inserts

Pro Tools 8 Inserts
Although using aux channels for effects can be easier on your CPU, it is handy to have a few extra slots for insert effects too – particularly when you are very close to getting that perfect sound and don’t want to muck around with creating another bus.

In version 7.4, I was limited to five inserts, but this has now been doubled to ten. In other expansion news, Pro Tools 8 has also upped the number of tracks available for simultaneous playback from 32 to 48.

Pro Tools 8 Plugin Bundle

This is where the PT8 upgrade really begins to justify its price tag. As well as a bunch of very tasty effects (perfect for filling those extra insert slots) you get five new instruments – a grand piano, an organ, Xpand2, a drum machine and a monosynth.

If you open the Hip-Hop template, for example, you get a variety of tracks ready to rock – the first of which contains an instance of the new drum machine, Boom, and a basic beat laid down in its MIDI channel.
Pro Tools 8 Vacuum
Boom is of the classic old-skool design, and will be very easy to use for anyone who is familiar with other hardware or software versions of programmable beat generators.

The analog synth is called Vacuum, and is almost Soviet in its design – it looks like it might be right at home in a cold war submarine. However, its sound quality is of the typically high standard you expect from AIR, and it has plenty of controls for all you, er, control freaks – modulation, arpeggiation, ADSR envelope knobs, and so on.

Pro Tools 8 – Made For MIDI

Pro Tools 8 MIDI Editor
Another highlight of the upgrade package is the new MIDI editor window, which really makes the previously irritating MIDI functionality of 7.4 look entirely outmoded.

Of course, the other major DAWs have long had far superior MIDI capabilities, so this is more of a case of getting up to speed with industry standards for Pro Tools – but it is a more than welcome change.

Now that Pro Tools 8 has its own MIDI editor window, things are looking much better. A double click on any MIDI region opens the editor, where you have the notes displayed along a traditional piano-roll view, with any other modulation parameters given their own individual tracks beneath. This speeds up the process of MIDI editing enormously, and brings PT into line with the competition.


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