The good news: Digidesign has made a pre-release version of Pro Tools 7.4 (all versions — M-Powered, LE, and HD) available for Mac OS X Leopard. You’re advised not to install this on a critical system and to keep regular backups, but if you’ve got a new machine waiting for a Leopard-ready version, you can give this a go now.

Update: Information on Pro Tools Compatibility for Mac OS X 10.5.3

The reason you might still want to wait on Leopard upgrading, in case this hasn’t already made you cautious: not all RTAS plug-ins are expected to be “Leopard-ready.” (TDM plug-ins run on Digi’s DSP hardware and are apparently unaffected once the host works.) We’re told developers are being advised to test rigorously because of changes to Mac OS X. This may not be limited to Digidesign. Based on reports from readers, while users are on the whole happier with 10.5.3 than 10.5.2, there are still some kinks to work out — including users of products other than just those from Digidesign and M-Audio. Best advice: stick with Tiger 10.4.x if you can for the most stable alternative.

Pro Tools Plug-in Compatibility with Leopard

Just as being patient now is advisable, though, it’s equally good advice to reserve judgment on Leopard until the OS matures. Changes made to 10.5 promise better performance on multiple-core systems, for instance — so while the short-term side effect may be glitchy audio until bugs are ironed out, once software is mature, you may squeeze out more performance. The problem is, we can’t know either way until other issues are resolved first. That means patience pays off doubly: sticking with the most stable option if you can is a good way to avoid trouble, while waiting to see how things go means you could reap some rewards upgrading once the software matures. (On the other hand, some readers have no problem, so if you have more than one machine or a new machine that requires Leopard, I’d say go for 10.5.3)

I’ll say those two words I tend to say all the time: stay tuned.

Thanks to Ray Tovey and others for the tips!