Pro Tools 8 is up on Digidesign’s website. Rather than copy and paste their features, I’ll let you read. This may not shake you from your music making tool of choice, but it looks like it could be, at long last, the substantial refresh for Pro Tools users of that platform have been waiting for. I can quickly sum up the strategy (“strategies” and “tactics” being on the American political mind lately):

  • Get all the instruments and effects in the box: Apple’s Logic Studio set the bar for this by first bundling lots of soundmakers,then cutting the price. Digidesign has been busy with their talented AIR group designing some very nice stuff, so this is a no-brainer. Updated: as readers note, you still don’t get a sampler as with EXS24 in Logic and now Dimension Pro in SONAR. Then again, you could add on your on own; is that really a deal breaker for folks?
  • Fix the UI (conservatively): Without rocking the boat, obviously Pro Tools was long overdue for a fresh coat of paint and some enhancement.
  • Beef up MIDI: This was long Pro Tools’ weak spot, perhaps because of its lineage as an originally audio-only product (the opposite of most of its rivals); MIDI seems to be better integrated with existing paradigms for editing
  • Edit pitch more fluidly: AutoTune and the magical note-editing Melodyne are probably safe, but more fluid editing of audio pitches is making its way into audio software in general
  • Integrate scoring: The fruits of Digi’s Sibelius acquisition, real, modern music notation is finally in a major DAW (not the dated, clunky implementations elsewhere). My only concern: I hope Sibelius continues to make progress as a dedicated notation tool, because having myself spent long hours over scores, a lot of composition happens outside software like Pro Tools for other reasons.

The notation feature, to me, is probably the biggest story. As a long-time Sibelius user and with some interesting composer contacts, I expect to look at how this works in some depth. Congratulations to Sibelius and Digidesign for pulling this off; I’ll be in touch.

Actually, let’s do better. I’m through really reviewing DAWs. You know why? If I used every DAW, I’d never get any music made. And, oddly, the process of even trying to review something as broad as a tool like Pro Tools just about short circuits any music logic anyway. So I’d rather build a network of gurus in each, and talk about actual music production rather than feature lists – the latter is the developer’s job, anyway. If you’re game and consider yourself an advanced user, get in touch. I’ll have more on organizing this soon.

In the meantime, Digi has posted some videos; free registration on their site required.

Pro Tools 8 Announcement + Demo Videos

Update: keep the comments coming. To me, the challenge all these tools face is that people are (naturally) entrenched in what they’re using. So, yes, it’s possible to say Pro Tools is playing “catch up,” but to play devil’s advocate, you could easily say the same about its competition. My preference remains for “native” hosts with their more flexible hardware and software support, and because personally I’m more creative in an Ableton Live or SONAR (or tracker!); that’s me. Digidesign sent out an open letter about promising interoperability. I’ll be interested to see what they mean, as I don’t immediately see that addressed in any way here. But certainly, I respect the utility of each of these tools to someone. The loyalty of those user bases is part of why progress tends to be incremental, not revolutionary. You have to serve their needs first.