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Digidesign Digital Audio Workstations

Without question, 1999 is the year of the DAW wars. By now, most digital audio manufacturers have products addressing this sizzling market - and for good reason. Hardware prices are attractive, software keeps getting better and there is an abundance of new and exciting technology. Yes, this is definitely a buyer's market!

Without question, 1999 is the year of the DAW wars. By now, most digital audio manufacturers have products addressing this sizzling market – and for good reason. Hardware prices are attractive, software keeps getting better and there is an abundance of new and exciting technology. Yes, this is definitely a buyer’s market!

Not a company to rest on its laurels, Digidesign has hit the market with a flood of new DAW products. The big news is that the Pro Tools 24 product line is now on the Windows NT platform.

Pro Tools

Previously available only as a Macintosh product, Pro Tools for the PC requires an Intel Pentium II or III processor with a minimum of 233 MHz, an Intel 440LX or 440BX chipset, two adjacent PCI slots, a minimum 128 MB of RAM, a qualified SCSI hard drive, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 with Service Pack 3. Functioning as a cross-platform product, Pro Tools audio sessions can be interchanged between Windows NT and Mac OS systems.

Other significant additions include a new line of system cards. Pro Tools 24 MIX ($7,995) is a single-card PCI system that provides three times more DSP power than Pro Tools 24. This is great news for TDM junkies and G3 owners looking for more card slots. Using six Motorola 56301-series DSP chips, the card’s power can be used for maximum track count, signal processing or internal mixing.

For power users, Digidesign ups the ante with Pro Tools 24 MIXplus ($9,995). By adding a MIX Farm card to a Pro Tools 24 MIX system, the MIXplus more than doubles the DSP power of the MIX core. For users who only need a MIX Farm, cards are available separately for $3,995. Systems can have up to six MIX Farms for maximum DSP power and up to 72 channels of I/O. A MIX I/O card ($795) is also available for 16 more channels of inputs and outputs. This is ideal for users who simply need more I/O capability.

Included with the MIX systems is Pro Tools 4.3. This upgrade incorporates several new features to maximize DSP. By adding a DSP Manager, the software analyzes the internal signal processing to ensure efficiency of the DSP functions. Another new addition incorporates a technology called MultiShell. Similar to WaveShell by Waves Ltd., MultiShell permits compatible plug-ins to share the same DSP chip. This provides more plug-in power for TDM processing.

Pro Tools 4.3 has also added a host of new features. DigiRack is a bundled set of TDM and AudioSuite plug-ins that include the new Dynamics II (compressor, limiter, gate and expander) and an updated EQ II (multiband parametric EQ). One caveat to be aware of is that existing plug-ins must be updated to be compatible with the MIX Core and MIX Farm.

Featurewise, Version 4.3 incorporates a new four-in-one SmartTool, which lets the user grab, select, trim and/or create fades or crossfades without switching tools. When selected, SmartTool automatically changes its function based on the current cursor position – a nice addition many users will appreciate.

Project II

Other new hardware introductions from Digidesign include Project II ($795), a 16- or 24-bit half-sized PCI audio card compatible with Mac and PC platforms. Project II was designed for use with digital sequencing programs from Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU), Opcode, Steinberg, Emagic and others. I/O connections into Project II are via a Digidesign external interface.

Project II uses Digidesign’s new direct I/O. This protocol allows direct communication from the digital sequencer to the audio interface. Without intervening with the Mac’s sound manager or the PC’s multimedia engine, the computer’s processing power can be used by the sequencer while direct I/O handles the audio. This translates into greater system efficiency.

When using two audio interfaces, up to 16 channels of I/O can be connected to the Project II card. The card also handles recording and playback of up to 32 tracks of audio, depending on the capabilities of the sequencing software. Interestingly, Project II does not support Pro Tools at this time.


As for new software, Digidesign’s latest Pro Tools plug-in is the Maxim ($445). Designed for mastering applications, Maxim combines look-ahead peak limiting, level maximization, normalization, dithering and noise-shaping (Maxim’s dithering and noise-shaping algorithms are the same as in Pro Tools). Three resolutions are available in 16, 18 and 20 bits.

Maxim’s control parameters include threshold, output ceiling, release time, gain reduction/attenuation and MIX. In addition to input and output meters there is a full-color histogram. This real-time graph plots the input signal’s dB history during playback. Maxim is available both in AudioSuite and TDM functionality for Pro Tools 4.1.1 and higher.

Line 6 Amp Farm

Distributed by Digidesign is the Line 6 Amp Farm ($595). This TDM plug-in uses Tube Tone physical modeling to emulate classic guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets. Most of the amplifier simulations are 1960s amps from Fender, Marshall and Vox. Visually, the TDM screen replicates the face of the original amp. Very cool indeed. More than 20 different speaker cabinet simulations (with different mic positions) can be combined with each amp. In addition to sounding awesome, the fun factor of this plug-in is beyond compare.

MasterList CD

Digidesign has released MasterList CD ($495) Version 2.1. This standalone host-based application creates Red Book standard CD-DA masters. The new upgrade adds support for several new SCSI-based CD recorders and additional Digidesign PCI cards (Pro Tools III and Pro Tools Project) for digital I/O and output monitoring.

As usual, Digidesign offers numerous upgrade options. Contact the company for further information.


Venturing into the arena of hard disk storage, Digidesign has announced the 9 GB DigiDrive ($1,495). This Pro Tools-compatible drive reduces noise by up to 15 dB, making it quiet enough for use in critical listening environments. Up to four units can be interlocked together in a stack configuration. An optional quick-release rack kit lets users rackmount two drives side-by-side in a 2 RU space. Each unit comes with the DigiDrive Tuner application that optimizes the drive for use with Pro Tools. The DigiDrive supports fast/wide ATTO (single- and dual-channel) and fast/wide Adaptec (onboard dual-channel) host adapters.

SampleCell II

Another new upgrade in the Digidesign family is SampleCell II Plus ($1,295). This hardware/software bundle features 32 MB RAM; records and plays 16-bit, 44.1 kHz stereo and mono samples; supports AIFF (Mac OS and Windows NT), WAV (Windows NT) and Sound Designer II (Mac OS); and features 32 dynamically allocated voices, eight polyphonic outputs and dynamic digital filters. With the optional TDM Module ($395), SampleCell II Plus adds fully integrated sample recording and playback capabilities to TDM-based Pro Tools systems for Windows NT and Mac OS.

Contact Digidesign at 800-333-2137.