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Pro Tools: Subscription & Support Plans

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques By Julian Rodgers
Published March 2022

Avid’s Inner Circle program regularly adds new content from third‑party companies to the Pro Tools subscription bundle.Avid’s Inner Circle program regularly adds new content from third‑party companies to the Pro Tools subscription bundle.

We explore the value offered by Avid’s subscription and support plans.

If you were to sample the mood of Pro Tools users online you’d be forgiven for thinking that the number one issue for Pro Tools users is resistance to subscription. I’m not sure about that, as there is a distinction to be drawn between the total user base and the proportion of the user base who are vocal online. There is also a distinction between software subscriptions per se and the value proposition of any particular software subscription. That’s something which is worth examining as, by its nature, it changes from month to month. It’s also important to point out that Pro Tools offers a conventional subscription and a support plan for perpetual licences. The two are different, but both involve regular payments to keep software up to date.

Audio software developers are in something of a no‑win situation at the moment, because the potential performance gains presented by native Apple Silicon support require a significant diversion of resources, which could potentially allow the value proposition presented by a software subscription to slip. So, how is the Pro Tools subscription/support plan looking?

New Features

The core of the support plan model is of course the updates. Rather than saving up all the new features for a big integer update, Avid are issuing regular updates following more of a ‘little and often’ approach. New features can be rolled out as soon as they are ready, rather than waiting until there are enough of them to justify a major update, without any pressure to hoard attention‑grabbing features for the integer release.

The last few updates have been dominated by the release of the Hybrid engine in Pro Tools 2021.6. While it only affected users of DSP‑based Pro Tools systems, this was a huge release and benefitted a very important section of the user base. We then got 2021.7, which was a housekeeping release with bug fixes but no new features, and 2021.10 introduced remote control of the Carbon interface’s preamps. As a Carbon user I can confirm that this is very cool, but if you don’t have a Carbon it’s neither here nor there. 2021.10 also introduced Komplete Kontrol compatibility and Native support for HDX hardware. 2021.12 was another housekeeping release, with Apple Silicon support for Avid video hardware.

Rather than saving up all the new features for a big integer update, Avid are issuing regular updates following more of a ‘little and often’ approach.

Additional Content

So as we can see, there have been some very significant achievements in terms of development and new features over the past six months or so. However, there are periods when the value proposition for a given month is lighter than in other months. Avid are aware of this and they have been working to supplement the offer with additional content such as premium plug‑ins, which are bundled for free with active support plans.

This year, this additional content has included a rolling programme of free plug‑ins, samples and extra content under the Inner Circle initiative. If you have a Pro Tools subscription you get access to this growing collection of resources. Each month Avid add something to the collection, which currently stands at a value of over $1700. For example, the most recent addition at the time of writing was a filter plug‑in from Minimal Audio, Rift Lite. Not a bad choice, as the filtering options in the stock Pro Tools plug‑ins are limited (AIR Vintage Filter was OK a decade ago but...).

The mixture of plug‑ins is broad and the quality shows that this is a carefully curated collection. Equivocate from Newfangled Audio sits somewhere between a graphic and a parametric EQ, and also included are cut‑down versions of some very well‑known products such as T‑Racks 5 SE and AmpliTube5 SE from IK Multimedia.

Those with long associations with Pro Tools will remember the Ignition Pack of software which used to come with Pro Tools, and while there are comparisons which can be drawn, the significant point of difference between that and the Inner Circle is that the Inner Circle is an ongoing offer which grows over time. There are discounts, training resources from Groove 3 and PureMix, sound‑effects bundles and production music on offer too. It’s an interesting way to add value, and while some of the products might not appeal to you individually, there is likely to be something which sticks around in your plug‑ins folder. In my case it was Comeback Kid, a delay plug‑in from Baby Audio. I love delays!

Among the recent plug‑ins added to the subscription package is Baby Audio’s Comeback Kid delay.Among the recent plug‑ins added to the subscription package is Baby Audio’s Comeback Kid delay.

Whether or not the Pro Tools Subscription represents value for money very much depends on who you are and what you do when you use Pro Tools. Taking the HDX‑owning post‑production professional as an example, the answer would have to be an unequivocal yes. The value and performance gains that the Hybrid engine bring are undeniable, and any such user who was on a static, perpetual licence at the time the 2021.8 update was introduced would have felt very left out indeed.

Software Instruments

It’s fair to say that most SOS readers aren’t involved in post‑production, however, so let’s look at one of the more music‑oriented aspects of Pro Tools that’s frequently criticised for being less capable than the competition: software instruments.

UVI’s Falcon has been available for free to subscribers since late 2018, but in November 2021 Avid made version 2.5 available to Pro Tools users. This bottomless synth could be thought of as Pro Tools’ answer to the Alchemy soft synth that ships with Apple’s Logic Pro. The two instruments are different, but they are both heavyweight soft synths, and Falcon can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a hybrid instrument that combines conventional and exotic synthesis algorithms with sampling. Effects and modulation options are equally thorough and, thankfully for an instrument of this scope, it ships with many, many presets to get you started.

The latest update to UVI’s Falcon soft synth adds over 100 new presets, new effects including a Tube Screamer model, and a number of sounds based on the Korg MS20.The latest update to UVI’s Falcon soft synth adds over 100 new presets, new effects including a Tube Screamer model, and a number of sounds based on the Korg MS20.

Version 2.5 adds over 100 new presets, including a number of sounds based on a “classic MS monosynth”. UVI don’t specifically say that these are based on the Korg MS20, but I can’t imagine what else they could mean! They feature both a low‑ and a high‑pass filter, with resonance controls marked as Peak just as they are on that classic hardware synth.

The effects incorporated in Falcon were already comprehensive, and have now been joined by that ubiquitous green overdrive, the Tube Screamer. There’s also a slew of new sequencer options, from the timbre‑shifting Waves Sequencer to the generative Rain Sequencer.

Although the addition of Ableton Link to Pro Tools makes life much simpler for those wishing to extend their MIDI beyond Pro Tools, the continuing lack of MPE support does mean that those who are at the cutting edge of MIDI and engaging with more sophisticated MIDI controllers will, for the foreseeable, have to look elsewhere for DAW support.

Value Added?

Returning to the original subject of software subscriptions, it is really important to remember that a lot of what people are referring to as 'subscriptions' are actually 'support plans'. The difference is that if you stop paying a subscription you lose access to the product; with a perpetual licence and a support plan you get the same benefits but will still have access to the software if you stop your regular payments, including all the updates up until the point your plan lapsed.

The problem is what happens if you have let your plan lapse and you want to reinstate it. This option is no longer available. However understandable it might be from Avid’s point of view, this policy has not been popular with those who wish to access new features that have been released after a lapsed support plan. Avid recently offered a short‑term reinstatement option for customers who entered a 12‑month support plan, and while this temporary offer expired on 31 December 2021, it does seem to indicate an acknowledgement that, however much added value they roll into the support plan/subscription offer, there are some people who will always be harder to reach.

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