The story so far: Pro Tools has traditionally been tied to software, including their LE software which requires an Mbox or 002 interface. Then Digidesign purchased M-Audio,
a company that had become the fastest-growing music maker in the
business by selling hardware accessories for all of Digi's rivals.

Well, if you've been waiting to see what news comes out of Digidesign's M-Audio acquisition, here's your answer: yawn. The new Pro Tools M-Powered is nothing more than a repackaged version of Pro Tools LE that runs on "select" M-Audio devices.
Supposedly this offers a "seamless workflow between studio, stage, home
and the road" — well, sort of. Not even all M-Audio hardware
interfaces are compatible: your Audiophile 192 and 2496, FireWire 410
and 1814, and Ozonic are M-Powered, while everything else is . . . X-cluded? It's got the same plug-in bundle as the Pro Tools LE that ships with the Mbox but actually lacks the Mbox's "Music Production Enhancement Suite" with limited versions of Live, Reason, AmpliTube, SampleTank, and T-RackS EQ.

Let me say that again: this is Pro Tools LE minus the software bundle
with a handful of M-Audio drivers (and nothing else) thrown in.
US$349.95 list.

Meanwhile, current Mbox users get shafted.Wanted to upgrade to
multi-channel recording? Tough luck, sucker. You're locked into your
Mbox, or you can upgrade to an 002, or you can buy a "select" M-Audio
interface and then re-purchase Pro Tools LE — sorry, "M-Powered."

There's only one thing interesting about this announcement: it's
a tacet admission by Digidesign that they could support other hardware
and simply don't want to. You know, there's an amazing solution to this
whole problem: it's called Core Audio (on Mac) and WDM (and Windows),
and it's supported by every competitor out there. It works
really well: it's really stable and reliable. (In fact, the only Core
Audio driver I've had trouble with is the one for the Mbox.) With
common driver support, your customers can pick whatever audio hardware
they want. Think about it, Digi, won't you?

Nothing against high-end TDM systems — they have their advantages,
and yes, do legitimately require specialized hardware. But if you've
been looking for a truly "seamless workflow
between studio, stage, home and the road," I have two words for you: Ableton Live. And, no, I will not be ReWiring that into Pro Tools LE.

  • Guest

    I'm not sure about this, but I seem to remember reading an article or forum explaining how one can fairly easily configure Pro Tools LE to work with non-Digi equipment.

    Of course, I didn't read this until I had sold my Mbox for a more flexible system, so it didn't help me much.

    If my memory is correct, this supports Peter's view that Digi is just holding back in order to make more $$$.

  • admin

    Not likely. LE is specifically designed only to work with Mbox, and now this handful of additional hardware.

    Here's my point about Digi: why? Why invest in an LE system that locks out other hardware? You don't have any of the advantages of a high-end TDM system from Digi, and you sacrifice flexibility with audio hardware, VST/AU/DX support for plug-ins, and all in an audio environment that lacks a lot of the functionality of its competitors.

    If you're loyal to this system because you like making music in it, then that's fine, of course, but for a new user I just can't find ANY reason to recommend Pro Tools LE or M-Powered. If someone can think of one, let me know.


  • Guest

    HA !

    Oh – that is funny.
    Thanks for the good laugh.

  • Guest

    I got tired of getting screwed by Digidesign. I had a Digi001 and played Digidesign's "pay for updates everytime the Mac OS was upgraded" game. It sucked. I sold my Digi001 got a MOTU 828MKII and have never looked back. I say boycott Digidesign! Boo! Digidesign! Boo!

  • admin

    That's the irony here — M-Audio's hardware may be owned by Avid, but some of it's great. So buy the M-Audio box and ignore Pro Tools M-Powered.

    Or buy MOTU. Or Lexicon. Or Edirol. Or Mackie. Or Focusrite. Or . . . really, any number of things. Even the Mbox would be appealing, but its Core Audio and ASIO drivers are so poor it's barely usable with anything other than Pro Tools LE.

  • Guest

    That's the concept. Live it, Love it, Enjoy it – get use to it.

    LE wasn't designed for M-Box. That's just folly. Digi has had PT running with out TDM for years before the M-Box. That is the magic behind DAE. The UI and audio editing is completely abstracted from the playback engine.

    Yes, Digi could support any number of interfaces, but they make their money off the hardware, and that's why they wont support outside gear. Marketing 101 people.

    The thing is they don't have to either. ProTools has become such the standard because it really was the first solution to the professional audio tasks, and while you might not want to admit it they still do it better then anyone else (well Deck is probably as close as you'll get, and that is because well it use to be ProTools).

    While PT (currently) sucks for creating music, it is fantastic for editing, mixing, and nothing even comes close for post.

    Every Last Dime!

    Is there hope? Sure, because Avid and Digi developed a file interchange format you can create compatible work with out PT, but what app comes close to doing this? Nothing currently.

    Logic is also doing something innovative with the new computers. You can now via gigabit ethernet plug in another G5 and it's effectively like adding a Digi Farm card. And it costs less! Or at least it can depending on what G5 you get.

    But you still can't edit, or mix like you can with ProTools.

    So be happy that Digi is supporting some M-Audio kit so that you can sport PT on your Powerbook with something besides the M-Box.

  • admin

    Not sure I follow you: "While PT (currently) sucks for creating music, it is fantastic for editing, mixing, and nothing even comes close for post."

    Isn't the whole point of editing and mixing to create music, or did I miss something? Anyway, if you're referring to MIDI vs. audio editing and mixing or even post, it simply isn't true: PT is good, but not somehow fundamentally better than everything else. Name a specific feature that's critical to music, or mixing, or editing, that isn't possible in Logic / Cubase / Nuendo / SONAR / DP. I even know people successfully doing post in some of these programs and loving it. Only thing stopping them? The dominance of PT in the market means they have to keep PT systems arounds for file interchange. Meanwhile, Pro Tools software is so behind in so many respects that it's still worth it for many people to run Logic or DP as a front-end to their pricey TDM / HD system.

    OMF interchange is supported by other software, incidentally, though it's a bit buggy. Whether that's the other developers or Digi/Avid protecting their empire by poorly documenting it, I don't know.

    But let's separate the issues here: Pro Tools is NOT fundamentally better than its competitors (particularly in software). You can choose it because you like the way it works, the plugins available, etc. But it's not the only choice, even at the high-end. That's the reason you're starting to see a trickle of high-end studios moving to Nuendo, SONAR, and Logic — and saving a huge bundle of cash in the process. I think PT is entrenched enough and enough people like it for various reasons that that will remain a trickle for a while, but it's just not fair to say "you can't edit or mix" with other programs. It ain't even remotely true.

  • Guest

    PT is great for editing, but it lacks important facility for creation. The audio sequencers are just a whole lot better at it – that is why we use apps like Logic and DP to create, but they don't compare to PT for mixing and editing. Sure you CAN do post in them but they don't DO post nearly as well as PT.

    OMF is a monster to be sure, but we are very lucky to have it, and it does work very will with DP -> PT. It is to Avid and Digi's credit that they came up with the format. Sadly they didn't include midi.

    And yes PT is much better then it's competitors at what it does best – which is mixing and editing. That is why it is the standard and will continue to be so for some time – but when I say PT in this context I and speaking of the TDM version. Still on the UI front PT is optimized for editing and really does out perform the others in this area.

    As for Nuendo and Sonar, yeah well if you want the madness that is M$ you are welcome to it. OS X is a much happier environment to be in, but that is a completely different discussion.

    If you are really talking about high end studios the amount of cash that you are talking about is insignificant compared to one day of down time. It's not worth the risk. Just get PT on OS X and get your work done instead of working on your computer.

    You know if you want to see some really good video on this check out Robert Rodriguez on the "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" DVD film school extras. You'll see what it is really like to use these tools by someone that is a master with them.

  • Guest

    nullnull :sigh

  • admin

    Tell me what specific features PT has that its competitors don't for mixing and editing. I'm not saying there are none; I just want specifics. I've worked with PT and didn't find anything in terms of mixing/editing that can't be done on a system like Logic. I've seen people do post with Logic and DP and be perfectly happy. (I've heard about SONAR and Nuendo systems in pro studios, too, but haven't talked to those people.)

    There seem to be only two reasons for bouncing out mixing and editing to Pro Tools again: one is file compatibility, and the other seems (as near as I can figure) to be simple personal preference. But translating personal preference into "it's simply better" is not the same thing. If anyone can demonstrate some specifics, I'll hear them out. For musicians, I don't think there's any contest: PT is more expensive, and less capable. But when even engineers who have used both ultimately say, well, PT is just for file compatibility, has some nice things but not fundamentally better, then I wonder.

  • Guest

    someone please tell me what does TDM stand for? Thanks you

  • admin

    Time Division Multiplexing, for the record. Nothing special about that per se: it's just a data encoding technique for digital signals, used by many mobile phones and phone networks, too, among other things.

    What it really means when we say Digideign TDM is the ability to use specialized Digidesign-brand hardware chips (DSP) to do all the audio number-crunching, instead of your computer CPU. Digidesign is built around a proprietary DSP platform for all its audio heavy-lifting (TDM). Lots of developers have supported it, including a number of hardware manufacturers, so you can get effects on your computer that were previously hardware-only.

    That's the good news: the bad news is, the hardware is expensive (a good TDM system, like the Digidesign HD, runs into many thousands of dollars FAST, while Pro Tools LE systems don't use DSP hardware), and you can only use Pro Tools software (or Logic Pro or Digital Performer as front-ends).

    Meanwhile, processors get faster, to the point that you don't necessarily need DSP hardware, and new systems from companies like TC Electronic offer DSP at a much cheaper price.

    That's why a lot of people, even some pro studios, are starting to look elsewhere.

    (see, not such a newbie question after all)

  • scurbro

    Cool dude. 8)That's a hella good answer. I actually kinda knew what time division multiplexing is but had never thought about how it related to digital recording.
    Good info, appreciate it. Sometimes newb questions are the best ones to ask! :grin

  • Guest

    Technically TDM describes a data protocol (basically flow control) which enables data from many sources (in this case digital audio data) to share a limited common communications pathway. One easy way to get a basic understanding of this technology is by looking at the evolution of telephones. In the case of phones, this pathway is a circuit or for wireless phones, a "radio channel", a particular frequency, a set of "radio channels" or spread of radio spectrum, while the signal sources are multiple phone users.

    Way back in the 60-70s people used to have IMTS car telephones. These phones required two radio channels, one which you would listen to and another which you would talk on (for duplex communication). It was a pretty inefficient system. The service was costly and not many users could be supported on such such systems as the minimal channel set amounted to essentially a "party line" shared by all customers. You had to wait until the channel was unused in order to make a call.

    The cellular revolution ushered in several significant technological and ideological innovations, specific to this topic is the idea of allowing multiple users to "share" the same data pathway at *nearly* the same time. Thus, several people can be, each using the SAME channel, carrying on different conversations simultaneously. This is facilitated through what is known as Time Slicing. Basically, each user gets a specific window of time to transmit their data. The time windows are small and each small packet of data is sent and directed to its proper destination, the process happens continuously in a stream, and thus you have Time Division Multiplexing.

    To understand how this is significant in digital audio we need to take a look back at the editing systems of the past. A little over a decade ago Digidesign system sizes and track counts were quite limited (two to four simultaneous audio tracks), both due to the hardware design of the Macintosh computer and Digidesign's own NuBus audio cards. The problem was how to move massive amounts of data around (between system components) without disrupting or overloading the NuBus archetecture. Everything in a computer is essentially time specific, especially when dealing with streaming processes like digital audio (or video for the mater) so it's impossible to tell some processes to wait until the data paths are open for them to use. The audio will hicup, the video will drop frames, etc. Rather than compete for bus time with the computer processor, memory, video cards and network activity, the best solution that presented itself was to build another communication bus specifically dedicated for digital audio signals.

    Rather than design such a bus with a dedicated path for each device requiring communication (an unbelievable complicated and bulky undertaking) a better solution presented itself. The uses of TDM architecture would allow a smaller, more efficient bus, and additionally it would allow the flexibility to rout data from various sources to others. This data routing flexibility was a MAJOR benefit which can not be understated. With the new dedicated audio communications bus, Digidesign was able to remove all the audio traffic from the already crowded Macintosh NuBus. This ushered in Digidesign's large multitrack systems. The systems grew from the single card SA4s to 16 channel Pro Tools systems, then on and on. The NuBus still had to contend with processor issues, memory, video cards, network activity, and disk access. Which, by the way, was now placed under additional load due to the reads and writes for the digital audio.

    Eventually the NuBus gave way to PCI and with the desire/requirements to support even more DSP power on Digidesign's audio cards, the initial incarnation of TDM gave way to more advanced versions capable of supporting more DSP devices, greater track counts 32, 64, 128… and higher bit depths as well as greater sample rates, etc.

    As it relates to Digidesign hardware, the TDM nickname came into existence around a decade ago because of the audio cards which used the new technique. Firstly it was used by Digi's engineers as a convenient differentiation between the newer cards and the older cards. Thus people would say "hand me that TMD card" to avoid confusion. That, combined with some marketing reinforcement and long ago it became a fixture.

    Lastly, a few things to note: TDM is not specific to Digidesign. It was invented and developed by the telephone industry (many guesses as to who and where, given the time frame and specifics). It is now used ubiquitously. However, Digidesign did pioneer its use in digital audio and mixing applications. For those who may wonder, yes, I worked for Digidesign for nearly a decade. As to the "every last dime" reference, (lol, now that's an old insider comment). The former character and pioneering spirit of that once fine little company, today, bears about as much resemblance as the new hardware does to the old.

  • admin

    I had the basic understanding of what TDM was, but not with all the history there; thanks!

    Back to the present product, I had a chat with my friend at EMF yesterday (GRM Tools developer) about why he still prefers Pro Tools (both LE and TDM) to its competitors. I ultimately don't expect us to have any more resolution than we would saying "Accordions are BETTER than pianos! Why are you playing a piano?" — because so much of what a tool is has to do with how people have made use of it.

    Anyway, I've been keeping my Digi rant out of print for a long time; it was time to say something. Digi has a great marketing plan, and M-Powered is great marketing. But I think Digi has again missed the point. It's not just about hardware choice — we love our software choices. Live is a host, not just a ReWire client, and a lot of the Mbox/PT LE market could absolutely go to Live instead. Then there are all the sequencers, plus new entries like Tracktion.

    M-Audio is at its best when it's supporting these other options, as with iControl. And Pro Tools is NOT a one-size fits all solution for the entire music market — any more than Logic is, or Reason is, or anything else is. It's fine when Digi marketing says that, but when new users come to the impression that in fact Pro Tools is the only way to go, that to me is sad. I've seen too many people choose the wrong tool for their work because of marketing hype.

    Then again, rants aside, I'm not worried. I think the trend in the business remains diversity. I'd be a little worried if Pro Tools got bundled with every M-Audio interface — but that hasn't happened. Yet.


  • Guest

    Sure is a lot of whining in this thread. Digi makes great products and markets them well, which they have to do in order to stay in business. Even the "ex employee" gets a cheap potshot in about the "character" of the company. Give me a break.

  • admin

    Fair enough. I don't think saying "Pro Tools is not a one-size fits all solution" is whining necessarily, but I hear you.

    At the moment, I would really prefer wining. Some suggestions:

    (oh yeah, why did I allow myself to just be a music writer again? Maybe WS is hiring . . .)

  • Guest

    Mmmmm.. for the record, I've been drinking Pinot Noir for years, not just because some stupid movie made it glamorous.

    Anyway, I agree that PT is not a one-size fits all. I use PT, Reason, Deck, Peak, and iTunes for file conversion. So there's five apps already…

  • Guest

    I am a completely new digital audio user about to plop down my first investment and I have to say, I looked into Live and really like what I see. As a session guy, producer and artist, all the medium to big studios in NY I do work in use ptools (to my surprise, some of them just use LE!) and this is really swaying me. I see that there are times I am going to save money after tracking in a big room by doing some of the basic editing at home and then bringing the project back to the room for the mix and then to the mastering room. I also played around with editing music to video which I will want to do and Ptools worked great with that as well. I know everyone has their specific criteria and applications, but for my needs I don't see what could work better. I have to add that the whole new ptool m-audio thing I just heard about on these pages has thrown me for a loop because now it seems i have to start to learn about all these boxes and figure out what hardware to get – whereas before it was digi and thats was it! Gadzooks!

  • Guest

    Hi ppl.
    I think, when you have a Big Company ( Avid ), making tools for musicians and artists like softwares for microcomputers worldwide, and , when this Company ( Avid ) can buy another Big Company ( Midiman ), means…Why not let ppl use our tools to make music with another kind of sound card?
    Its a very good news, man !
    The big thing was the fact, recording with a 99 bucks sound card and saving this data in a CD , and giving for us the chance to finalize our music work in a PRO studio, very very very good huh ?
    Ok, you have money to buy a 2" studer analogic tape and a SSL or Neve audio console to mix ? Congratulations … but … I think majority ppl dont have much money to spend in music these days. Tecnology only help ppl to maKE recordings…The individual talent is another story…
    I know musicians which have only an acoustic 30 dollars guitar playing good good music, real thing huh >??
    The tecnology will only help us to make music, but tecnology never give talent to make good music, u know >??
    Ok, democracy of knowledge…its a good thing…
    PT M doing this with m audio sound cards…good, but if i have an cheap and antique Crystal generic sound card, i will can use pro tools or damned hell tools to help me in recording tracks >? I hope so with PT C . Peace.

  • Mammoth

    What version of Pro Tools can I run on my Ediro UA-1000?

  • Guest

    You can't, you either need digitech hardware, or Pro Tools M-Powered and M-Audio hardware.

  • Josh

    Screw PT. I like it but the lack of hardware support is so lame it makes me sick sometimes. If your on PC it's SAMPLITUDE 10 all the way, mac its LOGIC no question.

  • Gues

    I know this article is getting pretty old now, but it's amazing how the topic is still so relevant… or is it? Open source is a tumbling snowball that might eventually eat up much of the recording market. With companies like google in the habbit of buying huge companies and giving their product away for free, it makes you wonder how long some companies like Digi might last in the real world future. I doubt the high end market will leave any time soon from their precious PT rigs, and I don't blame them one bit. For for the real world, those thousands of Mbox owners might look elsewhere in the near future.

    Modern processors are moving so fast so quickly, that there really shouldn't be any need for a TDM setup soon. Eight core processors are on their way, and quad cores have already made leaps and bounds on top of themselves. Most motherboard will support 16GB of ram, if not 32GB, limiting us mostly by chip size. With DDR3 we're seeing FSB rates of 1600hz!

    From what I see the recording industry is due for another revolution in the next 10 years. As computer based recording changed everything, so will the fact that pretty soon joe shmoe will have more power in his tower than some of the early render farms for 3d animation!

    If the open source groups decide to tackle making a GOOD DAW that supports most VSTs out there, watch out!