In an exclusive statement from Avid’s Director of Product Management | Audio Workstations & Control Surfaces, Francois Quereuil has confirmed speculation that the maximum number of voices for the forthcoming 6 HDX Card configuration in the new Mac Pro would be 1024 Voices, rather than the possible 1536 voices with 256 voices per card at the current voice count per HDX card. This is the statement from Avid…
“We were very happy to be featured in Apple’s keynote introducing the fantastic new Mac Pro. We are committed to qualifying all existing configurations of Pro Tools, as well as the first HDX6 setup, as early as possible in 2019. The supported HDX6 configuration will obviously deliver twice the DSP power of HDX3, and we will qualify a maximum 384 channels of simultaneous I/O, as well as a maximum of 1024 voices. This will require a Pro Tools update and we will keep you posted on a more accurate timeframe as we get closer to the new Mac Pro being available. We are also obviously very impressed with the performance of the new Mac Pro and the possibilities it opens up for all flavors of Pro Tools.”
It was great to see Avid and the Pro Tools cards featured in the Apple Keynote and confirmed Apple’s support for the ‘pro’ users. However we wanted to let you know as soon as possible about Avid’s planned supported configuration for the new Mac Pro 7,1 as it will not provide as many voices as might have been expected.
That said, we need to remember that when Avid designed the HDX system, it was built around a maximum of 3 HDX cards together and the card architecture was built around a maximum of 256 voices per card. We suspect that voice count ceiling with the HDX6 configuration might be down to how much data can be communicated between the cards. For example, it may be linked to the challenges we know that Avid are having to get the extra voice count from the HDX cards.
At the beginning of April, in the run up to the Pro Tools 2019.5 release, on the subject of the maximum number of voices on an HDX card (256 voices) being less than an HD Native and Standalone Software version running Pro Tools Ultimate (384 voices) with Pro Tools 2019.5, in our interview with Francois Mike described this increase in the voices on the HDX systems, as trying to fit a quart into a pint pot, in the sense that up until that point, the whole HDX system, and TDM before it, was based around time division multiplexing, dividing slots up into, in this case 256 slots, which sets the voice count or the maximum number of audio tracks that you can work with at any one time and was how the architecture was structured for 256 slots and asked Francois if the challenge was to effectively get the hardware and the architecture to now function with 384 slots?
“Yeah. So it's interesting because I did actually have that conversation with our head of engineering and it seems that architecturally speaking we're actually okay, like it seems like because we have a couple of FPGAs on the HDX cards and there is a link between them and it's the optimisation of this link that would allow us to increase the number of audio streams effectively that we can deal with on a given card. So, it's all about optimisation to get the extra voices. But yes, you know you've got a certain architecture that's been devised for a particular use case and we're trying to squeeze more out of it, so of course there is some risk inherent to that and we're basically seeing it now as it's been tested in the field.”
Later in the interview, Mike asked Francois about Avid taking a little bit longer to hopefully bottom out the issues to enable HDX systems to be able to offer 384 voices with an HDX1 card through to 1152 voices for an HDX3?
“I think hopefully is the term. That is absolutely the course of action we're taking. So, we've already started work on figuring out what the issue is and eliminating those 15% streaming errors and our goal is to provide 384 voices per HDX card and giving you all the way up to 1152 [voices on an HDX3 system]. Now there is still a slight sliver of uncertainty from our engineering department. I am pretty confident it feels to me like we are going to achieve this, but my engineering director is basically saying don't say it's going to happen because I want to leave no stone unturned. So, over the course of the next couple of months I think we'll have better visibility on what will happen but that's definitely our objective.”
You and read or listen to the full interview in our article Pro Tools 2019 - Why Is There A Delay In Releasing New Product Features? Avid Explain In This Exclusive Interview, but these comments may give us an insight into the challenges that Avid are having getting the last ounce of performance from the aging HDX architecture.
No Reduction Of The Maximum Number Of Channels Of Simultaneous I/O
There is more good news in Francois’ latest statement on the new Mac Pro in that the maximum number of channels of simultaneous I/O will not be limited. Currently with a Pro Tools HDX system you can have 64 channels of simultaneous I/O per HDX card, giving the maximum of 192 channels of simultaneous I/O for an HDX3 system. With 6 HDX cards in the new Mac Pro, you will get the full 384 channels of simultaneous I/O via DigiLink.