Post-production giants Avid have announced three new versions of Pro Tools, which supersede their current offerings and will be available exclusively as part of one of the company's subscription plans.
At the entry level is Pro Tools Artist, the subscription for which costs $99 a year or $9.99 per month. Despite being the most basic version of Pro Tools, the new Artist version (which replaces the free Pro Tools First) offers pretty comprehensive music production facilities, 16‑channel multitrack recording, up to 32 audio tracks and 32 aux tracks, a maximum of 32 virtual instruments and 64 MIDI tracks, and AAX plug-in support. Pro Tools Artist will ship with over 100 bundled AAX instruments and plug-ins to get you started, including the brand-new GrooveCell and SynthCell instruments — about which more below.
And if you subscribe to Pro Tools Artist (or indeed any new version of Pro Tools) annually rather than monthly, you'll also gain access to Avid's Inner Circle, an ever-growing package of free content including free plug-ins and samples provided by a wide range of partners including the likes of UJAM, Minimal Audio, IK Multimedia, Tracktion, Plugin Alliance and many more.
Next up — and probably of greatest interest to serious hobbyists and project and professional music studio owners — is Pro Tools Studio. Priced at $299 a year or $39.99 per month, Pro Tools Studio caters for all but the most demanding professional setups, with support for 64 channels of simultaneous native I/O; maximum audio, aux, instrument and MIDI track counts of 512, 128, 512 and 1024, respectively; support for a single video track — and, importantly, the full set of Pro Tools' Dolby Atmos mixing facilities, including advanced Atmos automation. Finally, Pro Tools Studio ships with the complete collection of Avid AAX plug-ins (again including GrooveCell and SynthCell).
The new top dog is called Pro Tools Flex, and it's priced at $999 a year or $99.99 per month. For that not inconsiderable outlay, you naturally get a significant increase in track and channel counts, the former increasing to over 2000, and the latter meaning you can have up to 256 active I/O when using a native audio interface. It also includes Avid's 'gold service' ExpertPlus support plan and — crucially — a DigiLink licence, as required to use Avid's current flagship HDX and HD Native interfaces.
The move to a subscription-only model for Pro Tools is bound to upset some existing customers, although Avid have softened the blow by introducing various upgrade paths for existing owners of perpetual licences, as well as for current subscribers. What's more, they're allowing owners of perpetual licences to essentially upgrade to the latest version of Pro Tools for a one-off payment, without committing to a subscription, and with eligibility for updates for one year afterwards (though the 'get current' plan naturally means you'll miss out on updates after that year, until you either subscribe or 'get current' again further down the line).
To give you an idea of the kinds of upgrade plans Avid are offering, a perpetual Pro Tools licence owner will be able to 'get current' for $349, while a Pro Tools Ultimate perpetual licence owner will get Pro Tools Flex for a year for $749. Additionally, Avid are offering a heavy educational discount on Pro Tools Studio and Pro Tools Flex, with yearly subscriptions costing $99 and $299 respectively. Finally, if you're on a current Pro Tools or Pro Tools Ultimate subscription, you can renew it, while upgrading to the current equivalent (Studio and Flex, respectively) for $199 or $799 (compared with $299 and $999 per annum for new customers).
A final comment regarding the new subscription plans: given that most HDX and HD Native rigs are employed in the world of big-budget post-production, there's some sense to Avid reserving compatibility with their DSP/FPGA interfaces for the top-tier model, and including their ExpertPlus support with it as standard. In mission-critical situations, that kind of support is invaluable, and may well go a long way to justifying the high annual subscription costs. Meanwhile, in the music world, the significantly more affordable Pro Tools Studio still allows for 64 channels of simultaneous recording, hundreds of audio tracks, and full Dolby Atmos mixing capabilities. It's probably fair to say that for most SOS readers, Pro Tools Studio will offer everything they need and more. Indeed, the extra functionality of Pro Tools Artist compared with the very much cut-down Pro Tools First will even mean that many music creators will get plenty of mileage out of the new budget option.
In the words of Avid VP Product Management for Audio & Music Solutions, Francois Quereuil: “Pro Tools is one of the world’s most widely-used and awarded audio-production software tools and Avid's goal is to make it more accessible to a broader community of music creators. The new pricing for Pro Tools gives creators at every level, whether they’re working in music creation or audio post-production, the ability to deliver their best possible sound no matter where they’re at in their career.”
And now to Avid's new creative tools, GrooveCell and SynthCell. The former is a virtual drum machine/sequencer that combines sample playback and manipulation with a percussion-oriented groove engine, while the latter is a powerful virtual-analogue software synthesizer sporting dual oscillators, a brace of envelopes, two multimode filters, an arpeggiator, a comprehensive modulation matrix and much more. Their inclusion in even the lowest-cost new version of Pro Tools will be welcomed by creative music-makers with more modest monthly means.
For a quick at-a-glance look at the features available in different versions (and their predecessors), take a look at the comparison table below. For more detailed info on pricing and upgrades/crossgrades, check out the Avid website.