DSP In Pro Tools - It's Not The Holy Grail It Once Was And May Not Be For You

There was a time when to get real power and flexibility from Pro Tools then one had to take the plunge and invest in their hardware DSP solutions, either HD or HDX. However this option is becoming less necessary for modern music making.

If you are considering how to develop your Pro Tools enabled studio then things you need to consider.

DSP Comes In All Shapes And Sizes

Pro Tools HD/HDX systems are not the only solutions to offer DSP, the hugely popular UAD powered platform uses DSP chips to power the Universal Audio plug-ins. Waves now have their DiGiGrid platform to offer DSP power for Waves and possibly other third party vendors.

Studios Come In All Shapes And Sizes

It is sometimes easy to forget when working in music how small track counts can be compared to those working in post. Post sessions can extend to hundreds of tracks and can make the average album session look like a Portastudio when compared. In this scenario then the need for high track counts at high sample rates and with near zero latency make the need for Pro Tools HD/HDX a no brainer without it these sessions would be impossible to run.

Virtual Instruments Change The Equation

When it comes to composing in Pro Tools and using virtual instruments for making music, then DSP is nigh on useless. Yes it might take the strain away by using DSP for audio plug-ins already in this mix, but 99% of VI plug-ins require the power of native processing. Pro Tools 11 helped a great deal by going to 64bit processing, this means that all the memory in a computer is available for hosting large sound libraries.

Native Processing Is Enough For A Lot Of People

We ran some tests at Pro Tools HQ last week with the new Mac Pro ‘trash can’. We ran a couple of sessions, one with tracks running native versions of Avid Channel Strip and Dverb, as well as 32 channels of Eleven. In the second test we inserted a copy of Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb on every channel, which claims to be super efficient. In both tests we ran out of tracks and voices before we ran out power.

Latency, Latency, Latency

The million dollar question for many people is the issues of latency. As track counts get larger and sample rates to as high as 192Khz then this has an impact on latency. For some people this is going to require them to invest in Pro Tools HDX, there’s no getting around that. However for those working at lower sample rates then there are equally well thought through solutions, for example the UAD Apollo Console offers near-zero monitoring when tracking and also enables the user to monitor via UAD plug-ins when tracking, you can even choose to just monitor or print the effects, like a good old tape machine. You can see this in action here. Other brands also offer monitoring solutions, such as Focusrite, RME, MOTU and many more, although the elegance of the implementation can differ greatly.

What Should You Do?

Well that depends on what you need your Pro Tools system to do. Let’s answer the question with some questions for you to consider?

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Using Filters On Compressors In Pro Tools

In this Pro Tools video tutorial Russ shows how using filters on compressors can help to control dynamics in complex material.

Often a compressor is required on a track but with complex material the compresor may be triggered by a certain frequency such as the kick drum in a loop. Russ shows how filters enable you to zone in on a certain part of the sound such as the snare.

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It's Time To Use The 'F' Word - The Most Underrated Plug-in We All Have

I’m going to use the ‘F’ word in this article, it may offend some of you, but there’s a plug-in that is overlooked by many people and it’s about time I was straight about it.


There it is I said it, filter. It sits in most plug-in folders often neglected, forlorn, feeling abandoned like some kid being last in the picking list for the soccer team. Filter waits, hearing the favourites getting picked again and again; ‘vintage something’ always gets picked early on, oh filter wishes he could be a vintage anything, it seems with that moniker you get picked for the team every time.

Then the picking continues ‘compressor’, ‘channel strip’, ‘reverb’, ‘delay’, but nothing. Filter stands there knowing that they could be so helpful if you would just pick them… just once.

You might think he’s too simple, not sophisticated enough to do the job, but while the other guys are posing with their skeuomorphic GUIs, old 1 Band EQ has untapped potential.

Joking apart, a simple filter has the potential to do most of the job in a mix. You won’t find a lot of top engineers who don’t use them all the time, I’d go as far to say that apart from a reverb I could knock out a decent mix just using filters, I certainly wouldn’t want to do a mix without the trusty filter.

I use the 1 Band EQ and the filters on it all the time, it cleans up the top and bottom of my mixes, deals with harsh top end.

There’s a reason a lot of classic consoles had filters on them… they are so damned useful.

If you are overlooking the simple filter when picking your team, then next time you make your choices put filter at the top of the list. You’ll be surprised how useful filter is on the team and you’ll wonder why you didn’t pick filter sooner.

If you want to see it in action then watch this video here

Blue Cat Audio Team Up with Sound Radix To Offer A PatchWork & 32 Lives Bundle

Our friends at Sound Radix and Blue Cat Audio have teamed up to bring you Blue Cat Audio’s PatchWork and Sound Radix’s 32 Lives together in one bundle.  Nir Averbuch from Sound Radix told us…

This special bundle of PatchWork and 32 Lives, makes it possible to run 32 bit Audio Units plug-ins, such as the popular Sylenth1, in Pro Tools 11. 

Even better is if you go to the Sound Radix store they are offering this amazing bundle with a 20% discount. Normally these two plug-ins would cost $178 but at the moment you can get the bundle for $129.

Great Deals on iZotope RX3 & RX3 Advanced And Get RX4 For Free

Our friends at RSPE Audio Solutions and Time+Space Distribution are offering a great deal on RX3 & RX3 Advanced and if you take advantage of this offer, which runs until September 4th 2014 you will also get RX4 when it comes out later in September,

RSPE Audio Solutions

Time+Space Distribution Ltd

New features in RX4 already announced include…

  • Clip Gain: Easily adjust and balance the volume of vocals and instruments with this new non-destructive editing feature.
  • Dialogue Denoiser: Reduce distracting background noise from dialogue and vocals in real time (now a standard feature with both RX 4 and RX 4 Advanced).
  • RX Connect: Streamline your process with a round-trip workflow compatible with Pro Tools, Logic, and other popular hosts

New features in RX4 Advanced already announced include….

  • Leveler: Automatically balance the volume of your mix, freeing more time for creative mix decisions.
  • EQ Match: Ensure a consistent-sounding mix by seamlessly matching multiple recordings with varying sonic profiles.

If you have been thinking about getting iZotope RX then this is a brilliant time to do it. Also great news is that they have moved Dialog Denoiser from the Advanced version to the normal version, so if you buy RX3 now when RX4 comes out you will get to use the excellent dialog denoiser either as a plug-in or in the standalone iZotope application.

Pro Tools Expert Podcast 130

Russ, Mike, Neil and James are back together to bring you another show with talking points, tips, tricks and questions answered.

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Recording Guitar In Pro Tools With The Universal Audio Apollo Twin

If you are new to the Apollo Twin audio interface and are a Pro Tools user then Russ takes you through getting the Apollo Twin set-up with Pro Tools to record guitar.

In this video tutorial you can learn about

  • the Apollo Console application 
  • low latency monitoring in Pro Tools
  • monitoring with UAD effects via the Apollo Console
  • recording with the effects via the Apollo Console
  • using the Apollo Twin console for re-amping the guitar from Pro Tools

This free video tutorial is applicable for all versions of the Universal Audio Apollo interface.

Watch this free video tutorial here

5 Things To Think About When Buying A New PC - Part 2 - Noise

In this 5 part series Robin Vincent helps those wanting to buy a Windows machine find the best machine for the job. In part 1 he looks at the heart of the Windows PC the processor, in this seconrd part he talks about the important consideration of noise in a recording studio.

It’s remarkable how much noise we’re prepared to put up with from our computers. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a machine room in which to stack up all the noisy gear then computer noise can be seriously detrimental to your creative environment, not to mention your state of mind. You don’t have to put up with it. If you need a system that’s going to give you every ounce of power then some noise may be inevitable but let’s look at ways in which we can minimise it so that ideally it sits somewhere below our studio noise floor. 

There are three main sources of noise in a PC: cooling fans, PSU and hard drives.

Cooling Fans

You’ll find cooling fans on the CPU heatsink, often in the front and back of the case, and usually on the graphics card if you have one. The CPU is the hottest part of the system and so any cooling solution is designed to pull heat away from that area. This is usually some sort of metal heatsink on which is fixed a fast moving fan to pull the heat away or to blow cool air upon it. Case fans act as a way of bringing cold air in and blowing hot air out, ideally in a single direction. High performance graphics card have a GPU which also gets very hot and requires its own cooling. So that’s potentially a lot of fans trying to move air about as quickly as possible. The noise you hear is not that of the fan’s mechanism (if your fan squeaks then it’s time to replace it) but rather of the air being moved. 

There are two factors that dictate the amount of noise a fan will make – size and speed. The smaller the fan and the faster the fan the louder the noise will be. Larger fins on a fan will move more air so you can use a 120mm fan running slower to move the same amount of air as an 80mm fan running faster. So, what you need to move the maximum amount of air with the minimum of noise are large, slow moving fans. There are all sorts of factors involved in fan design in terms of efficiency and noise but the key ones are rotation speed measured in RPM and airflow measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). 

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Post EDL: Tip 3 - Dialogue Reverbs

Got some dialgue that needs some space around it; here are some tips to consider.

  • For dialogue mixing, nothing makes your adr stick out further than by using stereo reverb in the middle of mono sync - narrow it down!
  • Darkening the reverb often helps too, as sparkly fairy dust highs from the reverb on a dull sync clip with highlight it painfully in the mix.
  • Remember less is more with dialogue reverb. It is easy to get carried away.
  • Pre-delay is your friend, using pre-delay and increasing it can help the sense of space around dialogue without having to have such long reverb times.
  • Check out Michael Carnes’ (the Reverb Guru) salient advice on Exponential Audio’s web page for nifty reverb tips and techniques - to quote Mike Thornton, “what he doesn’t know about reverb isn’t worth knowing”

If you have some tips then let us know in the comments section.

Sound Radix - AAX AudioSuite Compatibility

Sound Radix the creators of Auto-Align and SurferEQ have announced AAX AudioSuite compatiblity.

This will now enable users to be able to print their tracks by copying and pasting their settings.

Check out our review of Sound Radix Auto-Align here