Pro Tools HD Goes Native

By Frank Wells. In a long-anticipated announcement, Avid has introduced Pro Tools|HD Native. “Pro Tools HD software, running on an HD Native card, is identical to Pro Tools HD software running on an HD core card, it just doesn’t have DSP,” explains Tony Cariddi, Avid pro segment marketing manager.

The Pro Tools|HD Native system consists of Pro Tools HD software version 8.5
and the Native PCIe core card.
By Frank Wells.

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In a long-anticipated announcement, Avid has introduced Pro Tools|HD Native. “Pro Tools HD software, running on an HD Native card, is identical to Pro Tools HD software running on an HD core card, it just doesn’t have DSP,” explains Tony Cariddi, Avid pro segment marketing manager.

Pro Tools|HD Native is not a software-only solution; it consists of PT HD software version 8.5 bundled with the new Pro Tools|HD Native PCIe core card. This Native PCIe card has a primary function of connectivity, accommodating up to 64 channels of DigiLink I/O (including legacy PT|HD hardware and outboard I/O and Sync HD from the new Avid HD series) while the hardware/software marriage insures optimal system stability and performance, according to Bobby Lombardi, senior Pro Tools product manager. “In addition to doing the low latency I/O connectivity to Pro Tools,” says Lombardi, “there is an FPGA running the mixer for the I/O on the card itself, which does let us do some interesting low latency monitoring tricks.” Monitoring through the card’s mixer is akin to the monitoring capabilities of the low-latency mode on Avid Pro Tools LE and M-Audio hardware, though with added flexibility such as the capability to assign any input to any output. “This card also includes Core Audio and ASIO drivers that fully support the full I/O count on the card,” says Lombardi, explaining that the card can be used for interface with rival software products such as Apple’s Logic and Stenberg’s Nuendo for full 64-channels of I/O.

The HD Native cardUnlike Pro Tools LE, Cariddi says that Pro Tools|HD Native offers “perfect round-tripping” between native and DSP systems, accommodating full session compatibility including transfer from TDM to RTAS plug-in versions. Any system limitations, other than the maximum of 64 channels of I/O (compared to 160 channels maximum on a DSP-based system) are set by the power of the host computer. Pro Tools Accel DSP cards cannot be used with Native, though the system has been tested successfully with Universal Audio’s UAD-2 DSP powered processors (though the system has not yet been formally qualified by UA). The few TDM-only plug-ins available, as well as Avid’s new HEAT Pro Tools|HD process, are not available for PT|HD Native, though demand may prompt HEAT’s port from low level DSP code to host compatibility. Native system latency at 96 kHz with a 64-sample buffer is stated at 1.6 mS, compared to .44 mS for a similarly configured DSP system.

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Pro Tools|HD Native can run on Snow Leopard equipped Macs and Windows 7 (64-bit preferred) PCs, with a minimum of 4 GBs of RAM. For truly portable use with a laptop, an external PCIe chassis like the third party Magma ExpressBox1 would be required to house the Native PCIe card. “Pro Tools|HD Native is also compatible with ICON, and it’s also compatible with Venue Live Sound systems,” adds Cariddi.

PT|HD Native is designed to “fill the gap” between Pro Tools LE and the DSP based Pro Tools|HD systems, says Lombardi. “This is designed for professionals who want the best performance possible on the host…this gives customers the lowest latency and the highest stability out of any native system out there. And, it gives them all the features and functionality of the Pro Tools HD software.” While no native system can accommodate the needs of Avid’s most demanding end-users, states Cariddi, “we’re clearly committed to developing for the host, but also to developing for dedicated processing because our most demanding professionals want that and need that.”

Avid’s announcement offered the following testimonials from professionals evaluating Pro Tools|HD Native:

 According to Andrew Scheps, producer, mixer and engineer for bands such as the Rolling Stones, U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Pro Tools | HD Native is amazing! It was incredibly easy to set up and allowed me to open up a mix I had been working on in HD and get right to work, using the same 64 channels of analog I/O as well as my Sync I/O. I even ran the same session with all the peripherals on my MacBook Pro with a Magma chassis. It works great!”

Glenn Rosenstein, audio post expert and multiplatinum producer/engineer whose credits include Ziggy Marley, U2 and Heaven Hill, said: “Pro Tools | HD Native is the natural evolution of a tried and true recording system. It takes full advantage of today's higher revving computers, while accessing all that is right and familiar with the Pro Tools environment. Compatibility is no issue—HD Native fits transparently and reliably into my world, bringing a new flexibility and unmatched sonic performance. I've noticed a definite boost in Pro Tools responsiveness, and a significantly more aggressive workflow. The Pro Tools|HD Native PCIe card, combined with the new compliment of Pro Tools HD Series I/O's, is truly the next step."

Nick Hemingway, producer and engineer for heavy metal bands such as Cancer, Desecration and ISOR, said: “What strikes me most is how snappy Pro Tools | HD Native works on my Windows 7 platform! Hitting playback is instantaneous and Pro Tools software loading time is faster than I’ve ever experienced. Having just finished a 20 day album tracking session with Pro Tools | HD Native, I have to say it's a joy to use. Long studio days of recording 18 simultaneous drum channels with very complicated independent headphone mixes, hundreds of drop ins & industrial strength elastic audio drum editing. Pro Tools | HD Native didn't miss a beat or get bogged down through the entire session, it's simply flawless.”

Pro Tools|HD Native will be available worldwide from November 4th. The core system, software and PCIe card, retails for $3495. Additional configurations including HD I/O hardware will be available at bundle discounts.