In part 1 of series designed to help people get started with Pro Tools, we looked at choosing an interface and software. In part 2, we will look at choosing a Pro Tools computer and hard drives to put your sessions and media onto.
Choosing A Computer
Not just any old computer will do to work well with Pro Tools, and I cannot recommend too strongly that you follow the advice in the compatibility charts for Mac or Windows on the Avid website choosing the page for the version of Pro Tools that you are using as the compatibility information is different for different versions of Pro Tools.
For Macs it is reasonably simple: as a rule, the current machines, as well as the last couple of generations of Macs, are approved by Avid, although there can be a time lag between a new Mac being released and Avid approving it. Occasionally, Apple launch machines that are more problematic, usually because of I/O issues. For a list of currently supported Macs for each version of Pro Tools, go to the Mac Qualified page on the Avid website.
Windows machines are more complicated, as there are many more possible hardware combinations out there, but whatever you do, don’t be tempted to go for a cheaper machine or use cheaper components. The Digidesign User Conference is full of folk who have tried and come unstuck, so don’t risk it! There is a list of approved machines on the Avid site for each of the versions of Pro Tools but you may find these are older machines and/or very expensive machines and so are had to get hold of. We do have a number of articles on this site covering a range of different Windows machines that are working well with Pro Tools.
- Case Study - Building A Low Cost Cross Platform Host Computer For Pro Tools
- Case Study - Self Building The Ultimate Cross-Platform Pro Tools Host Computer
- Upgrading A Dell Precision T550 Workstation Pro Tools Computer
- Top Tips For A Successful Windows Pro Tools Computer Self Build
- From Mac to Windows - Choosing A New Workstation Pros HP Z840 Windows Computer
- From Mac to Windows - Installing A New Workstation Pros HP Z840 Windows Computer
- From Mac To Windows Part 3 - Issues & How To Fix Them
- Pro Tools - Is 2017 The Year Of The Windows Self Build?
- Review - Scan 3XS FWX99 PowerDAW - Digital Audio Workstation PC - Part 1
- Review - Scan 3XS FWX99 PowerDAW - Digital Audio Workstation PC - Part 2
- Review - Scan 3XS FWX99 PowerDAW - Digital Audio Workstation PC - Part 3
Choosing A Drive
It is possible to record to the system drive (C: or Macintosh HD) on your computer but, like other manufacturers, Avid don’t recommend it, and there is much to be said for keeping your audio and media separate. This means adding a second hard drive. If you are going to be using large sample libraries, it is best to keep their data on another separate drive too.
There are two types of drives, the older and still current rotational drives or Solid State Drives or SSDs for short. Depending on the amount of internal space, extra hard drives can be mounted inside your computer all though this is rare now with Macs.
SSD drives are more expensive than rotational drives but you can get your data on and off SSDs much quicker than rotational drives, although you can get larger capacity rotational drives than you can SSDs. SSDs are definitely worth buying for a sample and/or Virtual Instrument drive. When looking at drives, SSDs or rotational drives, look at how long a warranty the manufacturer offers. Look for 3 years or 2 years at a push. The length of the warranty the brand offers will give you an indication how long the manufacturer thinks they will last.
We recommend you consider buying drives, internal or external, by reputable brands such as Seagate, Western Digital, G-Tech (Hitachi) as well as Crucial, Samsung and Angelbird for SSDs.
If you cannot mount extra drives insides your computer then you need to consider external drives. External hard drives connect to your computer in a range of different ways, Thunderbolt, USB-C, USB3, USB2, eSATA, Firewire 800 and Firewire 400. Firewire is largely obselete now with none of the current Macs offering it anymore and it was rare to see it on a Windows machine.
USB is now the most common format, and USB-C offers Thunderbolt and/or USB3 via the same port and is championed by Apple as a way of reducing the number of ports on a computer, especially laptops. Thunderbolt drives are fast but tend to be more expensive than the same drive with a USB port.
In the next part, we will look at setting up your computer and getting going with Pro Tools.