Five Lessons Learned From Upgrading Digidesign’s Pro Tools

So I broke down, caved in, joined the bandwagon or whatever you want to call it.  Although there are arguably better choices for home recording, at the end of the day I just couldn’t resist the call of Digidesign’s Pro Tools.  I’ve had extremely great experience using Steinberg’s Cubase and Adobe Audition, so hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to say the same about Pro Tools.  So far the experience hasn’t been all that great, but you’ll definitely get a little entertainment from my escapades and at the same time pick up a little knowledge about home recording.

  1. No support for Windows Vista.  As of August 1st, Digidesign’s website requests that users continue using XP until a Vista version of Pro Tools is released this summer.   I’m waiting patiently, but the warm days are quickly becoming few.  I just hope the execs over at Digi aren’t planning to use the official September 21st date as their end of summer deadline.
  2. Pro Tools sessions cannot run on the same hard drive that an operating system is installed on.  This especially applies to laptops since its hard drive will not spin fast enough to support recording and playback of audio.  This means that you must first purchase a second hard drive if you plan on doing anything at all.
  3. I had no intention of learning about hard drive chipsets, but once again, after purchasing a Western Digital 500 gig My Book firewire hard drive (USB is also not allowed with Pro Tools), I learned that the company no longer makes their external drives with the Oxford chipsets required by Digidesign.  Yet another trip to the store.  In the end I decided to just build my own custom external setup using a Hitachi internal drive and AMS enclosure.
  4. Dell laptops have an unacknowledged design flaw with the electrical grounding of their laptops.  For whatever reason, when used in conjunction with a pair of powered monitors, a ground loop is created from the computer’s wiring and therefore causing a loud hum.  Finally, after hours of research and a pained experience with a useless Guitar Center employee with no clue about balanced TRS cables, I was back in business thanks to a .69 cent two pronged ground adaptor.
  5. Pro Tools is extremely resource heavy.  I was forced to order an external laptop fan (Dell also has a ventilation and airflow design flaw with their Inspiron series) to keep the computer from overheating and the motherboard from frying… again.

So what lessons have we learned?  Always do your homework before investing valuable time and money in a new DAW.  There are a number of high quality options available for digital recording including Cubase, Sonar, and even the free, open source Audacity.  However, if you decide to make the plunge into Pro Tools please heed my advice.  Make sure you have a quality desktop or non-Dell laptop.  Your best bet would most likely be to invest in a Mac and forgo all the compatibly issues.  Of course then you would must trade off PC compatibly issues to deal with lack of freedom and Apple’s ironfisted rule over proprietary hardware.

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