06/10/2010 Bookmark and Share

Pro Tools HD goes native!

Avid's flagship DAW now available without TDM

Avid have announced a new version of their flagship DAW, Pro Tools HD, which runs on the host computer’s CPU.Pro Tools HD Native has an almost identical feature set to the existing TDM-powered Pro Tools HD, including full plug-in delay compensation, support for Avid's Icon, D-Command and C24 control surfaces, surround-sound mixing and monitoring, and, just like Pro Tools HD, support for up to 192 audio tracks, 160 auxes and 128 instrument tracks. In fact, one of the only limitations of HD Native compared with the TDM-powered version is physical I/O count, though HD Native is still no slouch in that department (of which more later). The other most notable restriction of HD Native is that HEAT, the mixer add-on recently released by Avid, is not available, as it requires dedicated DSP processing to run (the same is true of all TDM-only plug-ins, such as Crane Song’s Phoenix tape emulator).<strong>Pro Tools HD Native Core PCIe card</strong>Pro Tools HD Native Core PCIe card

All audio signal processing in Pro Tools HD Native is done on the CPU, and not by Avid’s existing Core and Accel TDM cards. However, the new version does require Avid hardware to run. Specifically, a Pro Tools HD Native PCIe card must be installed in the host computer, and this, like the TDM Core card, allows you to connect Digilink-compatible audio interfaces, such as the new HD Omni box, or even the older 192 IO and 96 IO interfaces.

The HD Native PCIe card features two Mini-Digilink ports, whereas the TDM Core and Accel cards feature just one full-size Digilink socket. This, combined with the fact that Pro Tools HD interfaces can be daisy-chained, means that four Avid interfaces can be connected at a time, for a total of 64 physical inputs and outputs (each HD interface is capable of providing 16 simultaneous I/O).

It should be noted that, although audio processing in Pro Tools HD Native is performed by the CPU, the HD Native PCIe card does carry out such functions as calculating plug-in delay, and facilitating direct input monitoring, in addition to providing interface connectivity.

Logically enough, the processing capabilities of Pro Tools HD Native are directly tied to the power available in the host PC, which, given the performance of the latest generation of processors, is potentially vast. However, there are occasions when the guaranteed amount of processing that dedicated DSP chips bring is advantageous, such as when opening projects on different systems. For this reason, Avid say that they will continue to sell and support DSP-based Pro Tools HD systems and hardware.

Pro Tools HD Native is available in a variety of differently priced bundles. The card and DAW software together costs £2500, and this would appear to be suitable for existing Pro Tools HD users who already own an Avid or Digidesign interface, or for people wish to invest in one of the third-party options, such as those provided by Prism or Apogee. The cheapest ‘complete’ bundle costs £4300, and this includes the card, the software and an HD Omni interface. Next up is the 8x8x8 bundle, which comes with an HD IO instead of the Omni (the HD IO in this instance is configured with eight analogue inputs and outputs), and costs £5000. And finally, the 16x16 bundle, which costs £5750, ships with a fully loaded HD IO, capable of sending and receiving 16 analogue channels simultaneously.

Though hardly cheap, the new Pro Tools HD Native bundles do represent a significant saving over TDM-powered Pro Tools systems. For example, in order to connect four Avid interfaces to a TDM HD rig, it would be necessary to have at least one Core TDM card and one Accel card, which together are much more costly than the Native solution. The host-based nature of Pro Tools HD Native also means that, computer permitting, you get the same number of Voices (channels, auxes and so on) as would require a HD3 rig to achieve, which, again, would cost significantly more.

For more information on Pro Tools HD Native, including a chart comparing latency figures for Native and TDM systems, check out the Avid web site, below.