You are here

What's New For Pro Tools In 2023?

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques By Julian Rodgers
Published March 2023

Pro Tools Studio bridges the gap between the somewhat limited Artist edition and the costly, HDX‑oriented Pro Tools Ultimate.Pro Tools Studio bridges the gap between the somewhat limited Artist edition and the costly, HDX‑oriented Pro Tools Ultimate.

What does 2023 have in store for Pro Tools users?

With 2022 behind us, now seems a good time to reflect on what was an extremely positive year for Pro Tools, and also to consider what might be next.

Last year saw an overhaul of the line‑up, which introduced the free Pro Tools Intro (a timely replacement for the discontinued Pro Tools First), and a new entry‑level version: Pro Tools Artist. This is a big shake‑up. A familiar grumble among Pro Tools users was that the standard Pro Tools product lacked features important to serious users, making Pro Tools Ultimate the only viable option for many. The new product range brings options appropriate to far more users.

Pro Tools Intro is everything Pro Tools First should have been: a free version of Pro Tools that shares the same codebase as the rest of the family, works with the same Session file format and can be used with third‑party AAX plug‑ins. Pro Tools Artist, meanwhile, is accessibly priced, and with 32 audio tracks is more than capable of handling typical music productions. However it is the mid‑tier Pro Tools Studio which is the stand‑out product for many.

If you are a serious music user who doesn’t use HDX, Pro Tools Studio is the product you’ve been waiting for. In years gone by, the distinction between LE and HD versions of Pro Tools was stable and reasonably well understood. If you wanted sufficient inputs to track a full band, enough tracks for big sessions, VCA tracks, advanced automation and surround mixing, you needed HD. Many of the most frustrating limitations were gradually lifted in the native Pro Tools Software which replaced LE, with an increase in the number of simultaneous inputs, and the availability of VCA tracks, but advanced automation features like Preview and Capture were a sticking point for serious mixers working in stereo. And if you wanted surround, you were still compelled to use Ultimate.

Replacing the old Pro Tools software, Pro Tools Studio has surround and Dolby Atmos capabilities, and advanced automation. Unless you need DigiLink connectivity for HDX hardware, or are working in post‑production, it will probably have everything you need, and is much more affordable than Pro Tools Ultimate.

While the top‑tier Ultimate product hasn’t changed, Avid did reverse their initial decision to provide Ultimate exclusively as part of the Flex package, which was aimed at large‑scale facilities. This had the unintended consequence of overlooking users who needed Ultimate but fell outside this target group. By reversing this change and reducing the pricing of Ultimate at the end of 2022, Avid showed that they are listening to and responding to the needs of their users.

New Features

Reorganising the product family is one thing, but there were also significant new features introduced in 2022, two of which addressed longstanding issues. The first was Aux I/O. The way the Pro Tools Playback Engine works has always presented issues for users looking for more flexibility, and even a task as apparently simple as connecting a USB microphone could be surprisingly difficult. Users of HDX systems have long had to make special arrangements to monitor system audio, and people working in Dolby Atmos have had to change to a dedicated playback engine, or use MADI or Dante to send their Atmos‑format audio to a second system. Aux I/O brings routing flexibility between different audio interfaces on the same system.

With Pro Tools now boasting ARA support for Melodyne, could other products soon be getting in on the ARA action?With Pro Tools now boasting ARA support for Melodyne, could other products soon be getting in on the ARA action?

Another long‑overdue feature was ARA support. While at the moment only Celemony’s Melodyne has received the ARA treatment with Pro Tools, this is expected to change.

The other big feature that’s been missing from Pro Tools was native Apple Silicon support. Pro Tools has worked well on Apple Silicon Macs under Rosetta 2, but as part of the 2022.12 release a Silicon‑native public beta was made available for all versions, including Intro users. Testing shows the anticipated leap in performance, and a fully qualified version is in the works.

What’s Next?

So, 2022 brought many of the things we’d been asking for as Pro Tools users. The question is whether this trend will continue, and if it does, what might we see first? Entering the realm of speculation and future‑gazing is always risky but here are some predictions: some safe bets, some a little more speculative.

One feature that’s already been announced (and might even be available by the time you read this) is fully qualified Apple Silicon native support. With third‑party plug‑in support for Silicon growing rapidly, the transition can’t come soon enough for owners of current Macs. Ventura support is already with us, and the speed with which Avid have achieved this (they haven’t always been the fastest on this front) suggests that new operating systems might be supported more promptly in future.

Further ARA support is something we can also be reasonably confident about. Celemony were instrumental in the development of ARA in the first place (the protocol was a collaboration between Celemony and PreSonus), so it’s understandable that Melodyne was the first ARA product to come to Pro Tools, but it’s not unreasonable to predict that other applications will be integrated soon. The post‑production community will be waiting for iZotope RX, but I’m personally waiting for Synchro Arts’ ReVoice Pro and the related VocAlign and RePitch plug‑ins to come over to Pro Tools ARA. You can get by without ARA, but once you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to go back!

Developers will be able to use the API calls made available by Avid to develop tools which can automate tasks in Pro Tools...

Something which was announced as part of the 2022.12 release was the new Scripting Software Development Kit, which Avid have now made available. This won’t be relevant to people without proper coding chops, but developers will be able to use the API calls made available by Avid to develop tools that can automate tasks in Pro Tools, and as more and more API calls are released, the potential of this deep access will grow. The SDK is intended for use either by large facilities who wish to create scripts for use in‑house, or for wider distribution. However it is used, it’s looking like the beginning of something interesting.

Avid also doubled down on their return to making hardware interfaces in 2022 with the MBox Studio, and having had a unit for some months, I can confirm that it’s a more than worthy successor to the MBoxes of old. At present, however, there’s one MBox Studio feature that isn’t yet fully realised: the set of four user‑assignable buttons in the centre of the top panel. As it stands, these can be assigned to control up to eight actions within the MBox Control software. The plan for a future release of Pro Tools is that these user‑definable buttons will be able to control Pro Tools itself. Exactly how deep this control will go is yet to be revealed, but transport control would be very welcome, particularly Back and Play, which are invaluable for automation passes. Toggling Groups, changing automation modes... the potential uses are endless, and if you want to try software control using hardware buttons but aren’t ready for a EuCon surface, this is another reason to consider this excellent new interface.

The recent MBox Studio release suggests Avid intend to keep making hardware for some time to come.The recent MBox Studio release suggests Avid intend to keep making hardware for some time to come.

There are a wealth of as‑yet unrealised items on my wish list for Pro Tools itself. One small fix would be to have folders in the clips list (having used Avid’s Media Composer, I’ve always wanted MC’s system of media Bins to be available in Pro Tools, rather than the flat list we’re currently stuck with). I also find the inability to change Playback Engine without restarting Pro Tools infuriating, and the restriction of only being able to have one Session open at a time is something else I’d love to see change. Proper support for 4K monitors is long overdue. And with the direct integration of Dolby Atmos into Logic Pro and Nuendo, Pro Tools’ approach using the standalone Dolby Atmos Renderer looks increasingly out of date.

Returning to hardware, and definitely straying into conjecture, Avid recently announced that the grey‑and‑black series of HDX interfaces, which includes the HD IO, were being discontinued at the end of 2022. This, combined with the release of the MTRX Studio, MBox Studio, Carbon and Carbon Pre makes me wonder whether more hardware releases will further establish Avid as being very much still in the hardware game. Perhaps they’ll even introduce a replacement for the HDX platform itself? It could be an exciting year...

Buy Related Tutorial Videos