Welcome to the final section of the Pro Tools 12 Review. For previous parts, visit the review section HERE. This section details the overall review for Pro Tools 12.
Part 5: Review
During the course of these Pro Tools 12.7 Explained series, a lot of ground has been covered. What started out as just a review of Pro Tools changes since version 11 became so big that it had to be broken into parts just to go over all of the major bells and whistles. This in itself should demonstrate that Avid is on the right path to undoing years of complacency in comparison to other companies. This brings us back to this reviewer at the beginning of this series sitting with my cursor hovering over the “buy now” button of Logic. Was all of this enough?
The short answer is a fairly emphatic yes. Although there are some things that make me raise my eyebrow and ponder (All Access Plan, lackluster tech support, and pricing), performance and functionality wise, Avid has really made massive strides. While there is no mention anywhere of any enhancements to the Avid Audio Engine, the amount of AAE-9173 errors has plummeted drastically on my system. A little unsettling is these errors have been replaced by the sound of my laptop cooling fan screaming like a Banshee, but the program runs like a race horse. I went into Pro Tools 12.7 almost certain my sessions would be full of snowflakes on just about every track (a veritable “winter wonderland of Track Freezes” if you will), but since upgrading, I only track freeze by choice to keep the CPU fans from flying out of the laptop like a helicopter. Gone are the days of hitting the space bar, praying that I can at least hear 30 seconds of audio without overloading and stopping. That in itself saved me from changing DAWs – something I dreaded due to having to re-learn a whole new system.
I’ve always liked the way Pro Tools was set up. Although it wasn’t my first pick (I started on Cakewalk, then Cubase), it made the most sense to me; but as my skills grew, the performance on Pro Tools didn’t. For years I simply pushed through the constant freeze ups, crashes, and errors that brought creativity to screeching halt. I can’t stress how bad it was having to press play so many times due to Pro Tools telling me my $3000 MacBook was out of CPU. My wife’s patience had run thin as well. After buying two new MacBook Pros in 4 years, a thunderbolt interface, and HD Native system, she was through hearing “just let me buy (insert new item) and this will all stop”. I say all of this not for pity, but to stress just how fed up I was with Avid. I also say this to render some credence to this review. I was not going to be easily swayed like a fanboy this time around. I went into this review like the biggest staunchest opponent of Avid. I was ready to rip them a new one, drop the mic and go somewhere else. I was half frustrated and half relieved when it was becoming clear there wasn’t much to tear apart.
It seems there isn’t a major area of this software that hasn’t been meticulously looked at, fixed, and even improved further. This is apparent in the fact that there is more than one way to handle tracks that either are using up too much processing, or need to be sent to other collaborators that do not have the same plugins. Commit works excellent at putting a final stamp of tracks that do not need to be tweaked. It encourages finality and to not look back on many decisions. Bouncing takes all of the routing out of the equation by allowing exporting right in the window. Although Avid could expand on these two by allowing the option to sum multiple selected tracks to one Committed or Bounced stem, this is a great start to an indispensable feature. Track Freeze works perfectly to free up processing until the track is ready to be committed. Being able to Freeze or Commit up to certain inserts takes these additions even further, thus creating a whole new workflow for sessions.
The new editing and visual updates take workflow even further with Clip Transparency, Tandem Trimming, Overlap Shadows and Layered Editing. I could never go back to not having the Clutch Slip mode for dragging audio. Fades have never been easier with live feedback and batch fades in one window as well. The ability to send fully overlapped recordings or edited tracks to new playlists preserves clips I otherwise would have totally forgotten have existed. Subscription plans even have some benefits with the massive trove of plugins that come with it for the duration of your plan. Cloud collaboration is even an exciting new feature. The list goes on and on, but there are some areas that I feel aren’t quite “there” yet.
I understand the new subscription model. I don’t mind a company needing constant revenue stream to further improve the software. Where it does bother me is in bug fixes and OS updates. Just because a person isn’t paying $400 (HD) $99 (Standard) a year doesn’t mean that person should have to stay on the last OS the version you have supports in order to stay functional. Now I have to pay $400 just to keep Pro Tools HD running AND have features ANOTHER company have offered me for free in a new OS. There needs to be some sort of system to accommodate this. I get if I don’t pay to stay current I can’t get the latest and greatest bells and whistles, but don’t hold my entire computer hostage in the process. I also get this is probably tough to accomplish, but operating systems do it all the time with service packs. This in itself almost pushes me to start learning another DAW in the meantime. I don’t feel I’m asking for much just to be able to use an older version of Pro Tools and update my computer’s OS at the same time.
Although this doesn’t affect me, it would be nice to be rewarded for needing multiple copies of Pro Tools. Some sort of discount for needing multiple subscription plans would make dedicated users feel a little more appreciated. I also feel that if a studio needs HD for a month, they should be able to get it for a month. Not have to buy a whole year. Smaller studios run on razor thin budgets and I’m sure are more than happy to pay to play, but at least give an option to use it on a more temporary basis.
Now we move onto Cloud Collaboration. This tool is going to get a lot of use here at Everything Recording HQ. Tracking with session musicians has never been easier… if those musicians use Pro Tools. I get that integrating with other DAWs is a huge task, but at least let people collaborate with the free version of Pro Tools as well. And for those people who use the free version, allow for remote controlling of the session to make it easier for the person who isn’t familiar with the DAW. A live streamed recording is somewhere in the future I feel, but at least add a voice chat and ability to help them out remotely.
I get that it is very easy for me to “arm chair quarterback” all of these changes and rant and rave about how this should be simple to change. The truth is Avid has improved by leaps and bounds. Sure they may have some distance to go in business model but if you notice, most of the gripes I had didn’t have anything to do with the actual software.
Many were merely suggestions for further enhancements which I’m sure they are already working on. Overall Pro Tools have not only plugged the hole in our metaphorical ship we described at the beginning of this series, but have built a faster, more comfortable vessel that encourages creativity and even circumvents pitfalls that aren’t even their responsibility (like older machines or plugin happy engineers). Although I came into this expecting to finally get to rage quit a DAW that I spent years using, I walked out its biggest proponent.
Overall I have a renewed sense of trust in the “industry standard DAW”. I do not feel that Avid will be resting on their laurels and even if they did, they’ve added enough features in the past 2 years to sit back and relax. I’m sure they won’t but that’s just how good the software is now. So for any of you looking to drop Pro Tools from your studio, just at least do yourself the favor of trying Pro Tools 12. I would be willing to bet the “itch to switch” will go away.
For more information and to choose a package for you, visit http://www.avid.com/pro-tools