Whether you have or have not read an Avid Pro Tools review before, you’ve no doubt heard of Pro Tools if you work with pro audio. The fact is that Pro Tools has been at the forefront of digital audio production for over 30 years, and it is widely considered the standard against which all other DAW software is measured.
Although Pro Tools gets a lot of attention, you may be wondering why especially if you’ve never used Pro Tools before. Is it really as good as producers make it out to be? Moreover, is Pro Tools really necessary to record and produce audio at a professional level? Is Pro Tools expensive? Does Pro Tools work with all genres or just a few? Are there comparable alternatives?
To answer all of these questions and more, I sat down and thought about my experience working with Pro Tools and digital audio in general. I want to pass along some things that I’ve learned and give you the real, honest truth about Pro Tools.
Avid Pro Tools Review: Quick Summary
Avid Pro Tools
Pro Tools got its start over 30 years ago, and today, it is widely considered the industry standard for professional audio production.
Whether you record live performances, work with digital music, edit dialogue and music for film and television, or anything in between, Pro Tools offer solutions to help you do it faster and better.
Featuring the ability to mix hundreds of audio tracks (and even more with Pro Tools | Ultimate combined with Pro Tools | Carbon), Pro Tools offers power and performance unmatched by other DAW options.
Although Pro Tools is meant to be used for recording, mixing, and mastering, it also provides a number of production tools for creating music as well.
Pros & Cons of Pro Tools
Just like with every DAW, Pro Tools has its share of positives and negatives.
I’ve worked with Pro Tools for years, and while I find that it suits my needs well, I also see some room for improvement.
I’ve included a list of pros and cons below for your consideration if you’re thinking about joining the Pro Tools ecosystem:
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
- Industry standard
- Interfaces easily with HDX and Pro Tools | Carbon
- Can integrate with virtually any genre
- Subscription pricing ensures the latest updates
- As a DAW, it has virtually everything you’d ever need to record, mix and master a hit record.
- May offer more features than an absolute beginner would need
- Could benefit from more robust composition tools
- May not work well with all third-party plugins and interfaces
What Is In This Guide
What Is Avid Pro Tools?
Pro Tools is a digital audio workstation (DAW) made by Avid. It has been a staple in the music industry for over 30 years and was among the first DAW solutions used to commercially produce releases by major labels.
In the past, Pro Tools was only accessible to big-budget studios, but today, virtually anyone can use Pro Tools and experience the same quality as the big boys without breaking the bank.
As a DAW, Pro Tools’ focus is on recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio.
You can connect audio interfaces and other outboard gear to Pro Tools through a Mac or PC and record multiple tracks at once, edit and mix hundreds of tracks in a single session and master final renders using both native effects as well as third-party plugins.
Avid Pro Tools Features & Benefits
Pro Tools offers a number of benefits and features, many of which are beneficial to both intermediate users and power users. Below is a list of just some of the many benefits of Pro Tools:
Pro Tools Handles Large Projects With Ease
If you ask the average person how many tracks they think it takes to make a song, they may give you answers like “a few” or “guitar, drums, and a singer.”
If you’re an audio production professional, you know that the answer to this question could be “in the hundreds or more”.
The truth is that between main tracking, dub tracks, scratch tracks, aux tracks, room mics, overhead mics, individual percussion mics, and more, you can easily have hundreds if not thousands of tracks in a project.
This becomes even more true when you’re working with genres like orchestral or big bands.
Thankfully, Pro Tools can cover all of this when using HDX hardware through Pro Tools | Ultimate as you’ll have up to 2,048 tracks to work with.
The best part is that when you use interfaces like Pro Tools | Carbon, much of your digital signal processing (DSP) is offloaded so you don’t have to worry about taking up valuable processing in your box.
Even if you don’t take advantage of Pro Tools | Ultimate and Pro Tools | Carbon, the standard edition of Pro Tools still provide up to 256 tracks to work with.
If you are an EDM producer, this means you have more room to include risers, vocal one-shots, and other fun additions to call attention to your track.
Hip hop producers can stack drum samples to build big beats while giving vocalists the freedom they need to experiment with layering.
Pro Tools for rock music production means you have enough tracks to dub plenty of guitars to build a huge sound that is sure to get noticed.
Pro Tools Works When Networking is a Must
I’ll be honest – most recording projects involve me sitting at the console while the artist I’m recording is in the main room.
I set up my session, ensure the artist is ready and hit record. I’ll make tweaks as I go, and when we’re done, I edit and mix.
This is a fairly straightforward procedure for most situations, but when you’re working on a major production that requires input from a lot of different audio professionals in different areas, you’re going to need the ability to network your sessions.
This is where Pro Tools’ networking capabilities come in.
Whether you’re broadcasting television media, working on scenes with a sound designer for a film, or running sound for a major live stage production, Pro Tools gives you networking options to work on sessions remotely, share control of sessions across various control surfaces, and more.
Using Pro Tools | Carbon Makes I/O Simple
Avid is famous for designing and implementing its HDX hardware into the Pro Tools ecosystem.
HDX hardware includes gear that has been designed specifically for use with Pro Tools, so it works flawlessly without any of the traditional hassles of other “plug-n-play” devices.
While I love everything about the HDX line, Pro Tools | Carbon has to be my favorite. Pro Tools | Carbon is an HDX audio interface that expands the power of Pro Tools exponentially.
The interface features eight processor cores and HDX DSP to ensure you never get bogged down by plugins and I/O again.
Speaking of I/O, Pro Tools | Carbon can handle XLR, line-in, ADAT, and 25-pin D-sub inputs, each of which can be controlled remotely from the Pro Tools interface.
Additionally, you can expect to get up to 192kHz sampling quality for the clearest sound possible.
Available at Different Price Points
Some DAW software is available as a one-and-done purchase. This works fine for some people who want to purchase a piece of software and that’s that.
That kind of arrangement may have worked in the past, but these days, I personally prefer a subscription model because it lets me stay up to date on the latest from the software developer.
With Pro Tools, my subscription means that I always have the latest version, complete with new features and patches to ensure I don’t run into compatibility issues, bugs, or other issues that can slow down my productivity or hurt my client relationships.
Comes With Many Useful Native Plugins
Plugins are some of the most helpful components when using a DAW. Everything from EQ and compression to reverb and delay are integral when crafting and balancing a mix.
There are tons of plugins on the market today, but when you install Pro Tools, you don’t have to rely on third parties nearly as much because both Pro Tools and Pro Tools | Ultimate come with over 120 powerful plugins included.
Everything from UVI’s Falcon virtual instrument to Pultec EQ modules can be used to shape your sound and help you create exactly what you’re looking for.
Distribute Your Music Right in Pro Tools
One of the best features added to Pro Tools recently is AvidPlay Distribution. Using AvidPlay, you can distribute and manage your music across a wide variety of streaming services, all done through Avid’s interface.
This service also allows you to promote your music and generate revenue from streaming without the need for a bunch of third-party intervention.
The ability to distribute and manage your music through a simple interface right from Pro Tools makes it easy and fast to get your music from your box to your fans without the traditional hassles of working through outside distribution companies.
Avid Pro Tools Versions
While some DAW software pushes you into a one-size-fits-all box, Avid offers different versions of Pro Tools for different needs.
Additionally, pricing is laid out depending on the features you need to ensure that you aren’t paying for unnecessary features.
The two main versions of Pro Tools available today are Pro Tools and Pro Tools | Ultimate.
While both versions provide a stellar production experience, Pro Tools | Ultimate includes a larger feature set and is made for the professional engineer who needs superior power when recording, editing, mixing, mastering, and while handling multiple live audio sources.
Below is a comparison and some more information to help you make the right choice:
Pro Tools | Ultimate
With Pro Tools | Ultimate, you get:
- 192 I/O using hybrid HDX engine
- 2,048 mono/stereo/surround audio tracks
- 512 aux input tracks
- 64 video tracks
- Dolby Atmos mixing
- ADM export
- Netflix Production Technology Alliance
- Satellite link
- Pro Tools | Carbon compatibility + HDX and MTRX support
Avid Pro Tools Pricing & Payment Options
Pricing for Pro Tools and Pro Tools | Ultimate is provided using a subscription model. This is beneficial since it ensures that you always have the latest updates and patches.
It also means less of an upfront investment, and this is important since DAW software and other audio production gear can be quite expensive.
As of this writing, the following are prices for the different versions of Pro Tools:
- Pro Tools – $29.99 USD/month
- Pro Tools | Ultimate – $79.99 USD/month
For more information on the latest pricing information, including any special offers, click here.
Which version of Pro Tools is right for you?
Even though I think both versions of Pro Tools offer a lot, they are intended for different types of users.
In my experience, you’re going to benefit more from the standard Pro Tools version if you are an intermediate producer with some experience under your belt.
Basically, if you’ve been using other DAWs and you’re ready to get serious about production and branch out to take on work from other studios or accept larger clients, Pro Tools will work great.
If, however, you’re planning on working with major productions, both live and in-studio, Pro Tools | Ultimate is going to give you more bang for your buck.
There’s so much networking capability in Pro Tools | Ultimate that it can serve you well in large recording environments where multiple people need to work on a session using various control surfaces.
It’s also the version of Pro Tools you’ll need if you’re going to be working on sessions remotely.
In a nutshell, Pro Tools | Ultimate is the version to choose if you already have a clear career path in pro audio that involves big budgets and complex audio problems that need solving or if you want to have access to all of the bells and whistles Avid has to offer the industry.
Alternatives to Pro Tools
Even though Pro Tools has so much to offer, it isn’t necessarily the right DAW for every producer. To help you find some alternatives that might suit your needs a bit better, I’ve included a list of some alternatives below:
Ableton Live is a DAW that I often recommend to audio enthusiasts with a passion for creating. Live is all about approaching the production process in unique ways, and this DAW provides a lot of tools to get the job done.
One of my favorite parts about Ableton Live is its arrangement and session window layout. This layout lets you create parts of a song and then arrange them on a timeline as you please.
It keeps things neat and organized, and changing around parts is a simple drag-and-drop experience.
While many producers use Pro Tools on the Mac platform, Pro Tools isn’t the only MacOS DAW I recommend. Apple’s own Logic Pro X is a great alternative to Pro Tools if you prefer to only produce using Mac and if you’re coming from GarageBand.
Logic Pro X is like a much bigger, beefier version of GarageBand. It offers plenty of modern DAW functionality, including the ability to record and mix multi-track sessions, but it shares many of the same elements found in GarageBand, making it an easy transition for GarageBand users already familiar with the workflow.
Studio One from PreSonus is often bundled with PreSonus hardware, but even when purchased as a standalone DAW, I find Studio One to be incredibly useful.
This DAW utilizes the standard layout found in other DAWs, but it features a number of native effects and instruments in plugin form that I feel really give the DAW some character.
I think that Studio One is a good introduction to the world of professional-grade digital audio, and it works well for smaller projects.
It may not have the power of Pro Tools, but it’s perfect for studios that are just getting off the ground and bedroom production.
Avid Pro Tools Review: The Bottom Line
The honest truth is that Pro Tools is not for everyone, but the people who it is for will likely be able to produce faster with better quality results compared to other DAW options.
If you’re new to digital audio, Pro Tools might be a bit much to jump into, but it’s still worth exploring.
If you’re ready to take on client projects or you have the basics of digital audio down and you want a DAW that will be able to stand up to whatever situation you throw at it, Pro Tools is definitely for you.
Avid Pro Tools
F.A.Q. About Avid Pro Tools
Is Avid Pro Tools good?
It’s often difficult for me to say that a particular DAW is “good” or “the best” because every producer and engineer has different needs.
I personally believe that Pro Tools is incredibly good at recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. It’s also great for live production tracking, and I think it’s a must-have for anyone who works on complex recording projects.
Is Avid Pro Tools free?
Avid provides free trial evaluation copies to let you try out Pro Tools for yourself. You can access your free trial by clicking here.
Is Avid Pro Tools the industry standard?
I think it’s fair to say that virtually every major studio and professional audio engineer would agree that Pro Tools is the industry standard. This is partially why I encourage people to learn Pro Tools.
On top of helping you produce more professional audio, knowledge of Pro Tools and how its workflows function can help you find work in more studios around the world compared to other DAW options.
Is Avid Pro Tools only available for Mac users?
One of the main advantages Pro Tools has over other DAWs like Logic Pro X is that Pro Tools can be used on both Mac and PC.
While I usually use Pro Tools on MacOS in the studio, I have worked on plenty of sessions in studios running Pro Tools on Windows machines.
Is Avid Pro Tools good for beginners?
I’ll be honest – Pro Tools is probably going to benefit you the most if you already have the fundamentals of digital audio recording and production down.
Because Pro Tools includes so many advanced features, newcomers may feel a bit overwhelmed.
This shouldn’t deter you from getting started now though and learning Pro Tools because, as I always say, knowing Pro Tools is great for career advancement in the audio production industry.
Can you learn Avid Pro Tools online?
While there’s nothing quite like getting your hands dirty to learn how something works, there are plenty of online resources to learn Pro Tools.
Avid hosts free online tutorials regarding all kinds of Pro Tools topics, and you can also find valuable information through Avid’s pro audio forums.
Of course, you can also look on various video hosting sites like YouTube for additional information, but I find it’s always best to get my info from the source when it comes to technical and complex pro-audio topics.