Digidesign is fond of incremental upgrades with smaller improvements, and today’s release of Pro Tools 7.3 should bring some nice work enhancements to Pro Tools users.

The most intriguing new feature is called “Send to Sibelius”, a single button that allows you to transfer music from the MIDI tracks in a Pro Tools project to Sibelius for notation. Before you get too excited, though, there’s nothing really unique here other than the button. According to a thread on Sibelius’ help forum (registration required), this feature only exports MIDI data and imports in Sibelius. That’s possible in every competing DAW. Frankly, I’m glad to hear this, because I’d rather see more interoperability between notation software and all music tools — we should get to choose our favorite tools, not have them chosen for us by large corporate owners (hello, Avid/Digidesign acquisition of Sibelius).

Other improvements actually turn out to be more significant — but this upgrade does cost:

  1. Dynamic Transport: Run playback independent from the current selection.
  2. Loop trim: Turns MIDI and audio regions into loops, and draw loops into tracks Acid-style. (Not new to users of some other programs, but nice nonetheless.)
  3. Bar-locked MIDI regions: Yes, hello Ableton — and, well, quite a lot of other programs.
  4. Create Click Track: This is a pretty good idea; I’m surprised others haven’t done it, as well, as it’s so easy to implement.
  5. Interface customization: Store and recall window layouts, zoom toggle preferences, and track height, plus drag-and-drop plug-in settings.
  6. Post production: More QuickTime video editing/export features, multi-channel field audio matching. Those of you using Pro Tools for post can tell me whether this matters to you or not.

Here’s what I really don’t understand: how much the upgrade costs. If you’re using HD 7.2, LE 7.x, or M-Powered, you’ll pay US$49 – $79, which seems like a lot for what are fairly small feature enhancements. True, competing products often charge more like $150 upgrades, but recent updates like SONAR 6, Cubase SX 4, Live 6, and DP 5 offered significantly bigger enhancements. And an HD 7.3 upgrade costs a whopping US$199. Weirdly, the best deal seems to be if you’re still stuck on LE 6.x, in which this only costs US$75. The phrase “Hold on to your hats” in the Pro Tools announcement seems just silly.

In fact, most of the upgrade seems centered around quantizing edit tools and regions to bars and beats, something that’s already been done quite nicely in other programs — with other significant features (integrated iZotope warping in SONAR, live performance looping in Ableton,etc.) that Pro Tools lacks. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t intend to review features on paper, partly because I’ve spent a lot of time using Pro Tools, and am now much happier using other software.

I know I haven’t exactly been earning points with Digidesign as it is, but I’m still baffled by the value proposition in a lot of cases. Those of you feeling the Pro Tools love, carry on.

Digidesign 7.3 Feature Details [Flash videos, specs on HD, LE, M-Powered versions]