In this review I’ll take a look at some of the things Digidesign has done to keep Pro Tools 8 a leader in the DAW market.. To start is sports a refined less bright overall look. Instead of a plain background, the new look uses various shades of gray, with a bit of of black. The new color palette is both easier on your eyes and the cpu. Styled to match the new feel, the buttons, faders, and pans look like realistic pan pots.
Pro Tools 8 includes A.I.R effects and instrument plugins. Various new effects include: three types of reverb (Basic, Spring, & Non-Linear),modulation effects including a talk box, two delays, a bit crusher, and many more. The plugins GUI’s have been tailored to the new Pro Tools 8 color scheme, and consist mainly of analog styled buttons, and knobs with a lot of character.
The Pro Tools packahe now includes 20 effects, Digidesign has included 6 instruments as well. Xpand!2 and Structure Free are well known, out of the four left only one is really worth spending your time on. Apart from Vacuum, which will be talked about below, the three remaining instruments include: Boom a simple drum machine, Mini Grand, an acoustic piano, and DB33 a tone wheel style organ. The instruments sound ok but hopefully as Digi releases updates they will improve them. You should keep in mind is that these plug ins are suited to serve as a catalyst to get ideas down which they do quite well.
The last instrument, Vacuum, is a a Vintage Tube Synth. It includes 2 VCO’s, LPF and HPF with saturation, VCA, 2 ENV’s, LFO, 2 slot MOD Matrix, arpegiator, and a module that gives the ability to add drift to the VCOs. There is a parameter DUST but it is subtle and hard to tell what it adds to the sound. Vacuum can produce smooth all the way to screaming leads. It also covers thick basses with all the right harmonics, and gorgeous sounding pads. Being that the arpegiator is very easy to use (Up, Down, Rnd, U&D), a little adjusting of the synth’s envelopes and modulation matrix, along with the arpegiator, will allow for interesting textures.
Waveforms can now be viewed in the audio regions with various views such as peak, power, or rectified. Peak view displays the + and – values around the zero crossing line. RMS calculates the average level of the audio waveform, handy for mastering. Rectified collapses the waveform so that the – and + values are added to show the difference between them. Waveform editing has also been made easier by allowing the you to select a Grid mode alongside any of the other three modes. Doing this allows regions to the moved in the session snapped by Grid. Lastly, “Restore Last Selection”, a new key command, has been implemented to fix the issue of all those instances where one might end up losing their edit selection .
LE and M-Powered users now have larger track count of 48 compared to 24. Optimization results in better utilization of your cpu. A savings of 30-40% cpu has been noted from the previous 7.4 version. If you work drum machines and extenral synth now you can enjoy offsetting the beat clock going to each midi out. Files siszes of 4GB are now supported in session, including mixed file formats without having to convert them first.
The Edit window also contains new features, besides the updated look. The individual sections of the tool bar can now be re-arranged to better suit your preferences. This is done by a control-click (Windows), command-click (Mac), on the component. You are also able to drag it into the area that you choose. Elastic audio, with updated and the ability to adjust both pitch and time. Strip Silence now allows processing down to -96db. The tool bar now has indicators that show midi note lenght, velocity and whether or not the note being edited will be played or not. Now as many automations as needed can be opened. Further, an extra collapsible midi editor is located at the bottom of the window for precise editing. With this window you can select with of the midi tracks are viewed which enables more than one midi region to apear in the same piano roll. Pro Tools 8 expands the number of inserts available to open on any individual track from 5 to 10.
In conclusion it appears as if Digidesign steered Pro Tools 8 more towards the producer market. While doing this it has maintained the industry standard of professional working environment that audio engineers on all levels can appreciate.