Once again, there's a bumper crop of news from Digi-world to report, including the long-awaited jump to version 7 of Pro Tools.
There are two major news items from Digidesign this month. The first is the new M Box 2, which is reviewed in this issue. As described in that review, the interface now features MIDI I/O — apparently the number one request from existing M Box users — and lets you use two analogue inputs and two channels of S/PDIF digital input at the same time to achieve four simultaneous channels of audio input.
Second, just before we went to press, Digidesign gave the world a sneak preview of Pro Tools 7, which should be the current version by the time you read this. Although their press release didn't go into much detail, it seems clear that some fairly major changes have been made. Perhaps the most fundamental is a new track type: Instrument tracks are, as the name suggests, designed "for improved integration with virtual instruments and MIDI sound modules", although it's not yet clear how this will work. There will also be real-time MIDI processing features, presumably similar to those found in Cubase SX and Sonar, while the ability to "group any combination of audio and/or MIDI regions together to quickly build alternate arrangements" suggests a feature along the lines of Cubase 's Play Order Track. REX and Acid file formats are now supported, there is Tool Tips help, and the M-Powered version now supports a wider range of M Audio interfaces. See Digidesign's web site for more details.
Digidesign have also announced the Pro Tools Ignition Pack, a new collection of free tools included with the M Box 2 and every Digidesign Pro Tools HD and LE system. The Ignition Pack includes updated versions of programs included in the previous free software bundle, such as Ableton Live Lite 4 Digidesign Edition, Propellerhead Reason Adapted 3 and IK Multimedia's Sampletank 2 SE, Amplitube LE and T-Racks EQ. Two new software packages have been added: Fxpansion's BFD Lite, which provides a drum studio with virtual acoustic drum kits and individual samples, and Celemony's Melodyne Uno Essential, which enables you to re-tune mono audio tracks and edit the timing of melodic lines. In addition there are range of extra 'bits', like a CD from Bunker 8 Digital Labs that has a collection of REX files, and the Pro Tools Method One instructional DVD, which covers Pro Tools system essentials from setting up Sessions and recording audio to editing MIDI, working with loops and plug-ins, automating mixes, and more. You can also promote your music around the world with a free one-year membership to Broadjam.com, an easy-to-use web service for independent musicians.
I'm looking forward to trying out DUY's Magic EQ (pictured above). This is an OS X-only TDM plug-in that can 'rip' the EQ curve from one piece of music and apply it intelligently to another. DUY claim to have developed three new technologies with impressive-sounding acronyms — OFIR (Optimal Frequency Impulse Renderer), Adaptive Spectral Matching (ASM) and Historical Audio Statistics (HAS) — and I'll be intrigued to see what Magic EQ can do.
There is also another range of 'cs' updates for Pro Tools TDM and LE software. The main fix in this set of updates is that Digidesign have responded to customer pressure to restore the keyboard shortcuts for fine-tuning automation breakpoints to the pre-version 6.9 behaviour. For more information on this, go the Download section of the Digidesign web site, click on the link for a page showing details of all the 'cs' updates, and select the correct one for your system. Especially on the Mac side, there are a lot of different versions of the software depending whether you use TDM or LE and whether you are running Panther or Tiger, so take care selecting which update to download.
Digidesign have also announced upgrades to a couple of the Digirack plug-ins. The version 6.9cs3 update of EQ III, for Pro Tools TDM, Pro Tools LE, Pro Tools M-Powered and Avid systems on Windows XP and Mac OS X, fixes a problem where the one-band plug-in would not hold its Q setting when used on mono or multi-channel tracks. The Mod Delay II 6.7cs1 plug-in update for Pro Tools TDM, Pro Tools LE, Pro Tools M-Powered and Avid systems on Windows XP and Mac OS X with Pro Tools 6.7 and higher fixes two problems. First, when tempo sync was enabled, the Mod Delay II plug-in would not follow tempo changes if the meter values were set to anything other than quarter-note resolution. Second, Mod Delay II would also set its delay time two times faster than the set tempo when tempo sync mode was used in eighth-note resolution.
In the 'acquisitions and mergers' department, Digidesign have bought Wizoo Sound Design, the developers of virtual instruments, sample libraries, and real-time effects led by keyboardist, sound designer and author Peter Gorges, Steinberg co-founder Manfred Ruerup, and legendary film composer Hans Zimmer. Presumably, the intention is to integrate Wizoo's convolution and sample-playback technologies into the Pro Tools environment. Existing Wizoo-branded products such as Wizooverb, Darbuka and Latigo will continue to be distributed worldwide through Digidesign's partners M Audio, while all future products will be branded and distributed by Digidesign.