AAX Action

Pro Tools Tips & Techniques

Published in SOS June 2012
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Technique : Pro Tools Notes

If you're not careful, you could find that your Pro Tools HDX upgrade leaves you without your favourite plug-ins...

Mike Thornton

Mark Trombino's invaluable Plug Tools utility can help you keep your plug-ins up to date.Mark Trombino's invaluable Plug Tools utility can help you keep your plug-ins up to date.

Last month, I discussed some of the hardware issues that can arise when you upgrade to an HDX system running Pro Tools 10. As this move also introduces a new plug-in format (AAX), there are also important issues of software compatibility, which I'll look at this month.

Obviously, it's a good idea to make sure all your plug-ins are up to date before you upgrade. The Avid site is getting better for providing this information, but still doesn't provide an exhaustive list. So, yet again, I turned to Mark Trombino's Plug Tools (http://emptymusic.com/software/Plug_Tools.html), which compares the plug-ins in your system with an online database. This database is kept up to date by crowd-sourcing, but even so, it told me that a number of v10 plug-ins were out of date when I ran it, so I will be updating the online database.

Fixing MIDI

On opening an older HD session in Pro Tools 10, any TDM plug-ins that don't yet have AAX equivalents will be converted to RTAS where possible.On opening an older HD session in Pro Tools 10, any TDM plug-ins that don't yet have AAX equivalents will be converted to RTAS where possible.

Only once I was happy that all my plug-ins were up to date was I ready to run Pro Tools 10 HD for the first time. It took a long time to load, as it needed to scan my plug-in folder and perform a firmware update for my HDX card, but eventually all was well. When you open existing sessions, Pro Tools intelligently converts any old TDM plug-ins that have no AAX alternative to RTAS native versions and, where appropriate, changes other plug-ins to native, to optimise voice usage by not having AAX DSP and RTAS native plug-ins on the same track. All the sessions I tried opened, although you can no longer use any TDM-only plug-ins. In my case, there were only a few, but they included my favourite pitch-correcting plug-in, Pitch Doctor from Sound Toys.

With some of the older, established names in the plug-in world being slow to move to AAX, it's the 'boutique' manufacturers who are setting the pace. With some of the older, established names in the plug-in world being slow to move to AAX, it's the 'boutique' manufacturers who are setting the pace.

However, on my next Pro Tools boot-up, it took forever to set the audio outputs. This proved to be a persistent problem, so I started to investigate what was happening, or not happening, using the Console application, which you will find in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder on your Mac boot drive. Although I am not a Console expert, the messages that it posts can be very helpful for problem-solving, especially in conjunction with Google! In this case, I was getting repeated error messages that the computer was unable to run the MIDI server, as there were problems with some of the MIDI plug-ins. I then tried to run the OS X Audio MIDI Setup application and it wouldn't boot either. So I then removed the plug-ins from the MIDI Drivers folder and cleaned out my MIDI setup, after which Pro Tools was much happier.

Swinging The AAX

AAX Action

Having now got a stable system, it began to dawn on me how few of the plug-ins installed on my system were showing up in the new AAX format — not even Avid's own AIR plug-ins are available in AAX yet. So I started to research what plug-ins are available, starting with the list of "some 35 third-party companies” that Avid announced on launch day as having "AAX-compatible plug-ins ready or will have them ready shortly”. Avid's AAX compatibility web page can be found at www.avid.com/US/resources/AAX-plug-in-compatibility.

The news isn't amazing as of April, when this was written. Although companies such as Softube released AAX plug-ins almost on day one, others are being much slower in making the transition. You can read the gory details in the table in this article, and there's an independent database of the status of AAX plug-in releases at the Pro Tools Expert site, www.pro-tools-expert.com/aax-database/. Avid have also announced that the following TDM-only plug-ins are not AAX-compatible: Dolby Surround Tools, Line 6 Amp Farm and Echo Farm, all TC Electronic TDM plug-ins and Waves' PS22 Stereo Imager.I have to say I am disappointed at the take-up of AAX, and it is interesting to see that some smaller companies have ben very pro-active in going for it, while many bigger companies seem to be have been slower to react, including Avid themselves — why weren't all the AIR plug-ins and virtual instruments ready at the launch of Pro Tools 10? With hindsight, I would suggest that Avid were too hasty in giving the impression that a lot of the plug-in developers were ready with product when clearly a good number weren't — some still aren't ready, six months after the launch of Pro Tools 10 and the AAX plug-in format. That said, I am pleased to see AAX versions of the previously TDM-only Reverb One and Revibe, and I am looking forward to using the new Avid Channel Strip based on the Euphonix System 5 console..

AAX Action

Over the entire upgrade process, I have had more problems getting my system to play nice with Mac OS 10.7 'Lion' than getting Pro Tools 10 HD up and running on the new computer. I still occasionally come across something that needs sorting, but overall it has been a worthwhile process, and the new system feels more solid and responsive than the old one — as it should! I am disappointed at the lack of AAX plug-ins, and for some jobs I don't have the tool sets available to me that I had before with Pro Tools 9. Hopefully this will be a temporary blip, while everyone ports their plug-ins across to the AAX format, but these issues are small compared to the performance benefits I have with the HDX card and Pro Tools 10 HD software.  

Whose Plug-ins Are Available In AAX Format?

ManufacturerStatusNotesURL
AntaresMaybeCurrently formulating a strategy for the release of AAX plug-ins, and recommend that you keep checking the web site.www.antarestech.com
ArturiaPlannedHave made a statement of intent, and say that more details about 2012 release dates will be published soon.www.arturia.com
AvidReleased & PlannedHave released more AAX plug-ins in their 10.1.x updates, and have made a commitment to port their AIR instruments.www.avid.com
BIASPlannedHave announced plans to support AAX, starting with their SoundSoap restoration plug-in "in the coming months”.www.bias-inc.com
Blue Cat AudioReleasedMost of their plug-ins are available in AAX format for the Mac platform; remaining plug-ins and Windows versions coming soon.www.bluecataudio.com
CranesongReleasedThe new Phoenix II is AAX Native and DSP compatible, and was released for Mac in early November 2011.www.cranesong.com
CytomicPlannedAAX DSP and Native versions will be available in "early 2012”.www.cytomic.com
DMG AudioPlannedShould be available by the time you read this.www.dmgaudio.com
DUYPlannedAAX versions of existing plug-ins should be available soon, and a demo of their new Deep Analog EQ is downloadable now.www.duy.com
EventideReleased & Planned2016 Stereo Room and Omnipressor plug-ins available now, and will "probably be porting over some of our other Anthology II plug-ins”, but it's not clear whether the AAX DSP format will be supported.www.eventide.com
FabFilterReleasedAAX Native versions of all plug-ins released at the end of November 2011.www.fabfilter.com
FluxPlannedPlanning to beta-test AAX Native in March/April 2012 and hope to release in May or June 2012.www.fluxhome.com
IzotopePlannedAAX updates will be available "soonish”.www.izotope.com
Kush AudioPlannedWeb site states that AAX versions will be "available soon”.www.kushaudio.com
LongcatReleasedH3D plug-in is available with AAX Native support from v2.1.0.www.longcat.fr
MasseyPlannedSteven Massey reports that they are still evaluating the AAX developer kit.www.masseyplugins.com
McDSPPlannedAAX DSP and AAX Native support will be added to McDSP HD v5 plug-ins as a free update, as will AAX Native support for McDSP Native v5 plug-ins.www.mcdsp.com
Metric HaloReleasedAAX plug-ins are now available as part of the Production Bundle or separately.www.mhlabs.com
OverloudReleasedBreverb 2, TH2, SpringAge and Vintage Keyboard FX are all now available in AAX.www.overloud.com
Plug-In AllianceReleasedBrainworx, Maag Audio, SPL, Vertigo and Elysia support AAX Native across their entire product ranges, but recommend you check individual products for detailed compatibility information.www.plugin-alliance.com
ProAudio DSPPlannedMac AU and VST are in beta. Windows versions and AAX will follow.www.proaudiodsp.com
Slate DigitalPlannedAll plug-ins will be available in AAX format in 2012.www.slatedigital.com
SoftubeReleasedMac AAX versions of over 20 plug-ins available in both Native and DSP, and Native licence enables both versions.www.softube.com
SonnoxPlannedR3 and Inflator plug-ins, perhaps more, should be available by the time you read this.www.sonnoxplugins.com
Sound ToysPlannedWorking on AAX versions of native plug-ins, but TDM plug-ins unlikely to be ported.www.soundtoys.com
TC ElectronicReleasedLM6 loudness meter has been released and supports AAX Native.www.tcelectronic.com
Wave ArtsReleasedFull AAX Native support across the entire current product line, with selected plug-ins to be released in AAX DSP, provisionally in June 2012.http://wavearts.com
WavesPlannedWaves' Scott Pederson has stated that AAX Native will definitely be supported but no decision has yet been reached on AAX DSP.www.waves.com
Wholegrain Digital SystemsPlanned"DynPEQ plug-ins for Pro Tools 10 HDX will be available soon.”www.wholegrain-ds.com

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