Pro Tools First Steps Part 1 - Choosing A System

03-28-2015 03:00 PM

Many people find getting started with Pro Tools a bit daunting and so I thought it would be useful to have a series on starting out with Pro Tools, taking you through setting up your PT system, creating your first session, some tips & tricks and finally some basic troubleshooting advice. But first lets take a look at specifying your first system.
Time spent at this stage will save you lots of grief and problems later.
Choosing An Interface

A Pro Tools system consists of three main components: the Pro Tools software, a Mac or PC computer, and additional hardware that handles audio and possibly MIDI input and output.
The interface can be an Avid or an M-Audio one of any of the approved 3rd party interfaces since the release of Pro Tools 9. Since the introduction of Pro Tools 11 there are some interfaces that no longer work like the SYNC I/O (original “blue”) Pro Control, Control 24, and the TDM HD Core and Accel cards. Then there are others that are no longer supported but still work like the 192 I/O, 192 Digital I/O, 96 I/O, 96i I/O, MID I/O, Pre I/O (Blue) 002 family, and Command 8 control surface.
This is both good and bad news. It is bad news if you want to remain at the cutting edge and have a current system that will run the latest version but good news if you are happy not to have the latest version as you will be able to pick up a secondhand system much cheaper as folk sell off their older systems. Russ is happily using a Digidesign Command 8 with the latest version of Pro Tools.
Choosing The Software

In the main with Pro Tools it is a choice between Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD, but for some Pro Tools Express, Pro Tools MP9 or Pro Tools SE will be fine, some of these are now only available as old stock or second hand from eBay. Avid have announced a free version of Pro Tools, Pro Tools First, but in our opinion the limitations outweigh the gains, even for a free version.
Pro Tools HD
Comes bundled with Pro Tools|HDX and Pro Tools|HD Native systems only; can be used with or without hardware
Pro Tools
Can be purchased alone or as part of a Pro Tools software/hardware bundle; can be used with or without hardware
Pro Tools Express
Comes bundled at no charge with Mbox and Mbox Mini interfaces only. It is curretnly equivalent to Pro tools 10.3.4 and is limited to 16 tracks.
Pro Tools MP 9
Can be purchased alone or as part of a Pro Tools MP software/hardware bundle; requires an M-Audio interface
Pro Tools SE
Comes bundled at no charge with many M-Audio interfaces; requires an M-Audio interface
Pro Tools LE
Remember this is a version of Pro Tools available prior to v9 and required a compatible older Pro Tools interface like an Mbox or 002
In the next part we will take a look at choosing an interface and suitable hard drives.