Digidesign Pro Tools HD8 Review

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jason Scott Alexander

MAJOR UPGRADE OFFERS NEW LOOK, FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS

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For an integrated solution, score editing is quite flexible. You can select, transpose, move, insert and delete notes; change keys and meters; and insert chord symbols and diagrams. The Chord Change dialog lets you specify chord diagrams (guitar tablatures) for placement on the score. Here, you can select the chord, chord quality and bass note of the chord.

When it comes time to print, the Score Setup window lets you enter information such as the title and composer of the score; whether attributes such as page and bar numbers are displayed; the spacing between staves, systems and chord symbol/diagrams; and basic page layout parameters such as whether to print portrait or landscape and with what margin sizes. Beyond any of this, you'll likely need to make use of the Export .sib files option (Sibelius 5 or higher required) for deeper notation editing and cosmetic touch-ups there.

I'm a One-DAW Man

Pro Tools 8 has proven to be an inspiring, exciting and highly creative work environment. Finally, it's everything that I need to complete a project from start to finish. I'd like to see expanded Elastic Pitch facilities, along with macro programming and real-time performance-oriented routines brought to MIDI. The Score Editor is a welcome addition but remains quite utilitarian, generating quick score displays and printouts with few frills and no lyrical support.

Most impressive is how Pro Tools 8 has finally become the “everything” DAW. The MIDI Editor not only brings Pro Tools 8 current with competing software packages, but even surpasses them in terms of the groundbreaking interface. As a songwriter, I find the ability to work with MIDI in the same way that you imagine music — as a malleable cloud of instruments and notes interacting within your head — to be nothing short of miraculous. For me, that's always been the missing link in Pro Tools — but not any more.


Jason Scott Alexander is a producer/mixer/remixer in Ottawa, Canada.

A.I.R. PLUGS EXPOSED

Until now, Digidesign has not included virtual instruments with Pro Tools. Upping the ante on its competition in this area as well, Pro Tools 8 comes with an impressive bounty of new instruments and effects plug-ins that are free. The A.I.R. “Creative Collection” gives you a hot new electronic rhythm module called Boom — whose look, feel and sound are inspired by classic analog and digital drum machines — plus a killer-sounding tonewheel organ module called DB-33, complete with full drawbar functionality and several tonewheel models for a wide range of classic organ sounds. DB-33's integrated convolution-based rotary speaker cabinet and tube preamp emulations are also available as independent effects plug-ins, and they do sound pretty awesome!

Also bundled is Mini Grand, an acoustic piano module with seven selectable models (Atmospheric, Soft, Ballad, Real, Bright, Hard and Dance) and eight velocity layers per key. Though it sounds great in a mix, when solo'ed it expectedly fell short of reproducing the subtleties afforded by the best 100-plus-GB libraries out there.

Structure Free is a scaled-down version of Digidesign's acclaimed sampler, while Xpand!2 comes with 1.5 Gigabytes of amazing new content on disc. The funkiest plug-in, though, is Vacuum. With its dusty and distressed looking front panel, this unique-sounding, dual-oscillator analog-modeling affair employs a form of synthesis based on valve emulation at the oscillator drive, mixer drive, highpass and lowpass filter saturation, and output tube amp stages. It delivers a distinctly rich and lush tone on leads, basses and pads, and can generate some pretty squirrelly special effects.
Jason Scott Alexander






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