Why is Pro Tools considered the “Industry Standard” in the Audio Industry?
As soon as you enter the Recording and Post Productions world, you would need to find a recording software (often known as a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW for Short), There are A LOT of options to go through. There’s definitely Avid Pro Tools (the one This Article is About), There’s Logic Pro X, Studio One, Reaper, Cubase, Ableton, and a lot more. A lot of people swear by the program that they use and recommend that everyone uses that specific DAW, however that depends on your use case.
Pro Tools is one of the highest used DAWs in the world and a lot of engineers and institutes claim that you NEED to use Pro Tools to become a sought-after Professional in the Audio Industry.
With All The cost problems, CPU and memory errors, and getting Features SUPER LATE…(Offline Bouncing and Track Folders I’m Looking at you!) Why do people even still use it?
In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons why engineers and studios still use Pro Tools and who should use it, and who has better options to Go to?
So… Let’s get right into it
It was the FIRST Digital Audio Workstation.
Digidesign (Now Avid Technology) released “Sound Tools” (now Pro Tools) in 1989. This was a 2-track hard disk recorder and was termed as the First “Tapeless Recording Studio” in an era where Magnetic Media (Tape) was used for recording everything. Everyone who studied economics in school knows about ‘First Mover Advantage’ which means whoever introduced a product has a significant advantage over the others. But let’s not make this a history or an economics lesson. The point is whoever was frustrated with the idea of maintaining and recording on tape adopted it early. When the production of Tape came to a decline, Pro Tools was the most popular digital audio workstation and there was close to no alternative to it.
Every Studio owns and Uses Pro Tools
In continuation to the first point, as the era of tape started to decline, studios, engineers, and producers had to choose a digital way of recording, whether they liked it or not. Soon enough every studio was running a Pro Tools System, although there were more options available, studios chose Pro Tools because it was the most stable at the time *insert another crashing joke here*. Even today where there are better and cheaper DAWs available, you can expect almost every studio to have Pro Tools installed on their computers. Plus engineers who are accustomed to a DAW won’t have the time to learn another DAW because every moment costs them money.
It is mostly Non- Customizable, you’ll have to work around it
Pro Tools has a very locked system in terms of UI and customizability, which can be a disadvantage but it almost works as an advantage to it, because if you work on it and build a strong workflow, you can expect to have the same lightning fast workflow in any studio that you work at. Almost every other DAW (like Logic Pro, Ableton, Reaper, etc.) provides a way of customizing the shortcuts, Pro Tools doesn’t support that Natively (Now, there is a way for Mac users to do that, but we’ll discuss that in another article).
The Editing Tools
I also did an informal survey on Instagram, and editing tools came up way too often and I do agree that Pro Tools has a Lot of amazing editing tools like Beat Detective and the workflow is amazing.
Shortcuts Make you fast and are consistent
Pro Tools literally has a keyboard shortcut for pretty much every single thing and as my teacher says “There’re 101 ways to do anything in Pro Tools”, they can make you lightning-fast. They are also consistent, as mentioned in the last point, it doesn’t let you customize shortcuts, so for example if Cmd+Space (or Numpad 3 or F12) is the shortcut to start recording on your Laptop, it will be the same if you were in Capitol Studios or Abbey Road, etc.
Whatever works, works really Solid
The more I work with Pro Tools the more I start to like it. For someone who started on REAPER and Logic and worked with it for more than 4 years, after working with Pro Tools, however much of a CPU Hog it is, I’ve realized that the algorithms are super solid, for example, the fades — Super inconsistent in Logic but are rock-solid in Pro Tools, plus the summing engine is amazingly transparent.
Project Compatibility with other Studios and Artists
As mentioned, You can find Pro Tools in pretty much every studio around the world, you can just simply take your project in a thumb drive and open it in any Studio (Keeping in mind they have the Same Plugins). Also when you’re Sending your tracks for mixing to a professional, it does help if you’re using the same DAW as you can just trim down the session and send the project even if you have some edits in place. This makes it easier to change or Fix any editing problems that the artist might’ve done and makes the work go much smoother.
Hardware Acceleration (HDX)
To Provide more horsepower to your Pro Tools Rig, Avid offers hardware DSP acceleration cards called the Pro Tools HD-X which help take some load off your computer’s CPU, make room for more plugins, run more stable, provide more track count and provide lower latency monitoring.
The biggest problem with these cards is that they consist of pretty outdated tech and haven’t been updated since 2011 and are damn costly although they do work great.
Dedicated Controllers (Avid S1, S3, S4, S6)
Avid provides a whole bunch of hardware control surfaces for Pro Tools which work on their Ethernet-based protocol called EUcon which provides much less latency with regards to controlling and automating Parameters than other USB-based controllers. Plus with Avid Control (available for any android or iOS Device), it provides control over lots of other parameters. The ecosystem is sort-of like Apple, when you stay in the Ecosystem, it all works out smoothly.
Native Support for Dolby Atmos
Pro Tools is one of the few DAWs that support Dolby Atmos natively along with Nuendo and Cubase. You can work with Dolby Atmos on Logic Pro and Ableton with the Dolby Atmos Panner Plugin which is Free but whenever some major work is done on Atmos, it is usually done in Pro Tools since it has an Atmos Panner integrated into it and communicates well with the Dolby Atmos Renderer
Operating System Compatibility
The fact that is not limited to any operating system is a BIG plus for all the Studios. Don’t spend your money on expensive Apple hardware if you don’t have to (However, some things do work better on a Mac in my experience) and this presents a lower cost of entry for the students out there.
Who Should use it?
These days So Many DAWs are available for everyone to suit their workflow and everyone has the option of using whatever Digital Audio Workstation they like. However, If you’re a traveling audio engineer working on Major projects and do move around from Studio to Studio and exchange projects with bigger engineers or you are someone working in Large Budget Films, it is a must to learn and use Pro Tools as a Primary DAW.
For Everyone working out of their home studios, You don’t need to do this. However, it will be helpful and a key tool if you learn the basics of it when for some reason you decide to travel to studios and want to work on bigger projects. You will get an advantage over people who don’t have the following Skill.