Upgrading Pro Tools HD 7, HD 8, HD, 9, 10 or HD 11 : Gear Glut Alert!

Aural Exciter Software for Pro Tools HD

Aural Exciter Software for Pro Tools HD running on Snow Leopard

So a rather large monkey wrench has been tossed into the Nashville music machine recording engine! Avid has released Pro Tools HD 11 and it doesn’t play well at all with much of the the gear required to support earlier HD versions. Used Accel PCI and PCIe cards, digital converters and more are being dumped on the market as studio owners realize their gear is dated, and if they intend to move to 11, nearly worthless. Control 24 mixer control surfaces that cost about $8,000 new a couple years ago are not supported in PT 11 and are being offered as low as $2,250 on eBay, with few takers. I suspect it will be tough to get $600 for one in a year or two.

Almost all professional grade studios and most project studios in the Nashville area use Pro Tools HD (Or HD2 or HD3) software. Home studios and others may run Cubase, Logic or regular Pro Tools but Pro Tools HD is king in dedicated pro studios. On my last project I worked in three different studios around the area. Because my home base, Nashville Trax runs Pro Tools HD2 and the others run HD too, it was easy to interface with the other two studios by transporting the music files on portable hard drives. No individual file consolidation necessary, just click on the PT session file icon and the song session opens, ready to go, sweet!

HD is far more expensive than regular PT because it’s more robust and has more features. The initial software cost alone is $6,000 to $11,000 more than the $300 to $600 regular Pro Tools costs. Plus you need expensive hardware too, each piece costing in the multiple thousands. Now most studios that move to 11 will upgrade from an earlier PT HD version so the pain of acquisition will be greatly mitigated, but it still isn’t cheap. For example, going from 7 to 11 is a $2,500 jump.

The big problem, and I heard this from several fellow studio owners, then confirmed it on Avid’s website, is that PT HD 11 supports no plug-ins (for quality reverb, EQ, compression, etc.) from earlier versions. If you’ve invested in $50K of extra plugs and you’re running HD10 you either stay with 10 or try to sell the plugs while you can, usually for pennies on the dollar. But a lot of engineers swear by their favorite plugs and won’t give them up without a fight. Many plugs don’t even have comparable 64 bit AAX versions that will work in 11 yet.

“I can’t afford to move up; I have way too much invested in plug-ins.” one owner confided.

“Avid has ticked off a lot of people in this town with 11 and lost some customers,” said a session musician.

I suspect there will be much kicking, screaming and gnashing of teeth, but most studios will eventually cross the bridge to 11. Nashville is a world class recording environment and PT HD is still the best thing on the planet.

So a lot of studios that ran early PT versions for years are taking advantage of the used gear glut and upgrading to a higher level of HD or moving from PT to PT HD. But that can be a nightmare because the operating system on the studio’s Mac (Pro Tools HD runs better on a Mac so few serious studios use PCs/Windows) must match up with the version you’re upgrading to.

To help fellow up graders out I thought I’d post some useful info:

To upgrade to HD7 you’ll need to run the Mac Tiger operating system 10.4.2 through 10.4.8. The old G5s often had it as well as Mac Pros. Beware of purchasing one of the short-run Intel Mac Pros from around 2006 unless you get the original disc or unless the Tiger version your upgrade requires is already on it. The Tiger OS X disks for the Intel machines were machine-specific. Otherwise, there are lots of retail Tiger versions for Power Macs and G5’s.

There’s little difference between PT HD 8 or HD 9 and 8HD licenses are dirt cheap. But if you can afford to jump to 10, do so, a lot of pro studios will be hanging at 10 for at least another year or two, some for good.

Also, check out the limit your computer will upgrade to! If you’re trying to jump from Tiger 10.4 to Mt. Lion 10.8 it’s not likely to happen.

HD 8 requires Mac OS X Leopard 10.8.0 to 10.5.8

HD 9 is Snow Leopard 10.6.2 to 10.6.8

HD 10 is 10.6.7 Snow Leopard to 10.7.4 Lion

HD 11 requires Mountain Lion.

Be careful, I’m talking about software. If you purchase any of those cats you should NOT hear a GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! If so, forget exchanging it, run for your life : ) b.e. watson

Do you produce music at home or in a commercial studio? Did you realize how inexpensive and EASY it is to get a Nashville session quality player on your projects? Yes, make your project better or even make a profit! Tell your country music clients you have Nashville quality pedal steel guitar and fiddle tracks available and they’ll sell themselves! Add a markup and voila, easy money in your pocket! Or how about saxophone? Harmonica? piano? Bass guitar? Acoustic? Electric? Mandolin? Vocals? You name it, we can probably do it?

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