Community member Christopher Doucet has been in touch using the Contact Us page on the site to ask if we can explain the differences between Pro Tools HD Native and Pro Tools HDX, specifically the track and I/O count for each system. Christopher asks...
I am having a very difficult time finding out exactly how the HDX systems work and I was wondering if you could help me? I have an HD Native Thunderbolt and HD Omni package and I need double the track count (double the voices). I am not sure what I would need to buy to do this.
- Is it possible to double voice count still using an HD native system? Or do I need to go to HDX for that?
- If I buy an HDX card, (just the card), would that double my track count?
- If I buy an HDX card, can I still have the native system working in tandem with the HDX?
- Is it possible to just buy something like the Focusrite RedNet 5 and hook the Port 2 of the Native Thunderbolt box into the RedNet 5 and double my voice count?
Sorry if my questions seem ridiculous, but I'm really confused and don't have a ton of money to spend, so I really want to "zero in" on the exact hardware I would need to double my voice count.
Hi Christopher, thanks for the question. Firstly there are no such thing as silly or ridiculous question. If you don't know the answer and cannot make sense of the information out there then it is a valid question.
Track Count Or Voice Count
The reference you make to voice count is a good one because the track count and voice count aren't always the same. I remember the early days of Pro Tools we would have 4, 8 or 16 voices, I could have more tracks but the key thing is the voice count was the maximum number of tracks that would play sound at any one time. So in the days of Pro Tools 2.5 etc where the voice count was 4, we could have 8 tracks but we had to allocate the voices across the tracks so that the correct 4 would play when required. So in the context of current Pro Tools systems the maximum number of tracks, is effectively the maximum voice count but the voices are automatically allocated now rather than manually back in the 'good old days'.
Track Count Or I/O Count
Moving onto track count and I/O, you need to separate the maximum number of I/O and the maximum number of tracks, whether it is Pro Tools HD or Pro Tools vanilla. If you look at the table below or see the full picture on the Comparison page on the Avid site at 48k sample rate with Pro Tools vanilla you can have up to 128 tracks, but of course the maximum number of I/O is 32.
|Supported Tracks||Pro Tools HDX||Pro Tools HD Native||Pro Tools||Pro Tools First|
|Maximum simultaneous audio tracks @ 48kHz||256 per HDX card||256||128||16|
|Maximum inputs (hardware dependent)||192||64||32||4|
|Audio recording (maximum simultaneous tracks)||256||256||32||4|
Moving to HD, an HD Native or single HDX card can have up to 256 tracks at 48k but the HD Omni interface cannot handle all those at once. You will need to consider how many tracks you want to play or record at once as well as how many simultaneous inputs and outputs you need at any one time.
With your existing Pro Tools HD Native Thunderbolt solution, you can handle up to 256 tracks and that would be the same with a single HDX card system like mine as well.
Unfortunately you cannot use an HD Native card with an HDX card on the same system. An HD Native system is a single standalone system, it cannot be expanded by adding another HD Native or HDX card. HDX systems are expandable, providing you have enough pci-e slots to accommodate them, so if you need to have more than 256 simultaneous tracks then you will need to trade in your HD Native system and buy 2 HDX cards and a Thunderbolt to pci-e chassis to host them.
Number Of Interfaces
You can then buy or rent the number of interfaces you need to handle the number of simultaneous inputs and outputs you need.
In your case you could work with just your HD Omni attached to one of the ports on the HD Native Thunderbolt box and the Focusrite Rednet 5 could plug into the second port as you suggest. With that combination you can have up to 256 tracks, with the number of I/O determined by what the HD Omni and RedNet 5 can handle. With an HDX card based system for a large session when you might need a lot more I/O, which you can rent in some extra interfaces, which of course could be RedNet interfaces or Avid interfaces just for the recording session and then use your HD Omni for monitoring and overdubs when it comes to the mix stage.
Your Dealer Can Help
I hope this has helped both Christopher and others in the community who are not clear about the connection between track count and I/O count. As you can see it is not a simple outcome, there are a range of possible solutions which will depend on your individual set of circumstances and requirements and so we would recommend that you talk through all your options with your Pro Tools dealer but hopefully this article gives you a sense of the issues at play.