The newest version of Pro Tools offers much for both native and HDX users.
It wouldn’t be going too far to describe Pro Tools 2021.6 as a seismic release. It isn’t about a flashy new set of instruments or the like, it’s about extending the relevance of HDX for years to come. The Hybrid Engine, which gives HDX users a massive increase to 2048 voices, is of course the biggest news. Some users, particularly those using HDX systems to run big Dolby Atmos sessions, were finding voice limits to be a problem even for the most powerful systems, and the HDX Hybrid Engine has lifted the lid off these restrictions.
The general performance gains in terms of the responsiveness of systems is as welcome as it was unexpected. Avid have described the reasons for this boost in the snappiness of systems running the HDX Hybrid Engine as mysterious — maybe they were as surprised as us! It is my understanding that the Hybrid Engine, originally developed for Pro Tools Carbon as a way to get seamless shared performance between the limited DSP available on Pro Tools Carbon and the native processing available on the host computer, was subject to something of a eureka moment when Avid realised it could also be implemented for the far larger group of HDX users. Applying this free fix to an already installed user base of heavily invested users was a masterstroke which means, for example, that HDX3 systems gain over 2.5 times as many tracks as they had before. But the situation is even better value for users of HDX1 systems, who get over five times as many tracks.
While the HDX Hybrid Engine had been widely known about for some time prior to its release, other new features came as a surprise. For example, track counts have increased for users of standard Pro Tools software, and Avid have also simplified track counts for non‑Ultimate Pro Tools users — so, instead of dealing with a total number voices and having to halve that number for stereo tracks, standard Pro Tools users now get 256 audio tracks, whether mono or stereo.
But the big news for software‑only Pro Tools users is that the unpopular restriction of 32 available inputs and outputs, which has been in place for many years now, has been doubled to 64. So while software‑only users still have to contend with the latency issues common to all native DAWs, the doubling of potential I/O puts larger projects and setups within reach of non‑HDX customers. I can see some large tracking studios, as well as people who have been stuck between using software‑only Pro...