Avid announced today that it has introduced a new series of hardware and software solutions for Pro Tools|HD. In addition to changing the way Pro Tools|HD users work with their systems, the company is hopeful that these new tools — HD I/O, HD OMNI, HD MADI, and HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology) — can help usher in a new era of how users look at the audio side of Avid.
On the hardware side are three new Pro Tools|HD Series interfaces, all of which have been designed to attain a serious upgrade in A-D and D-A conversion quality. According to Avid, the HD I/O, HD OMNI and HD MADI Pro Tools|HD interfaces will enable users to achieve extremely high quality audio via digital audio conversion quality improvements, realize a variety of new configuration options, and experience increased support for open digital standards like the MADI protocol. Features of the new interfaces include advances in design, filtering and clocking and flexible digital I/O connectivity, supporting a variety of formats.
There is also a new soft-knee analog limiter called Curv in the HD OMNI and HD I/O systems, which is intended to cut the time users spend re-recording and editing by tracking hotter signals when recording, preventing distortion when overloading inputs.
HARDWARE DEBUT: HD I/O, HD OMNI, HD MADI
Starting with the HD I/O, Avid is offering its Pro Tools|HD users a system intended to give users highest-quality audio record and playback, with the option of three space-saving configurations — 16×16 analog, 16×16 digital and 8x8x8 analog and digital — in a 2 RU rack mountable interface. Pricing for the system begins at $3,995.
“The HD I/O is a product that’s customer-driven,” says Tony Cariddi, segment marketing manager for Avid audio. “A top concern across the board for independent professionals is sound quality and fidelity, and a big request was for a unit to do 16 I/O, symmetrically.
“The HD I/O does both of those. It will exceed customer expectations for sound quality — we’ve seen that in initial listening sessions with some guests [including Butch Vig]. I think people will respond well to the 16×16 I/O.”
Gearheads will have to give the sleekly designed HD OMNI ($2995) a good hard look. A compact 1RU unit, it provides Pro Tools|HD users with an everything-under-one-roof solution for recording, mixing and monitoring. Its features include state-of-the-art conversion, two world-class mic pre-amps, headphone outputs, a full-featured surround monitor section and a 14×26 channel persistent mixer that functions even when the computer is off, meaning that users can users can listen to CDs, MP3 players, keyboards and drum machines without the need for an additional mixer.
According to Max Gutnik, director of Avid audio product management, the market for the HD OMNI is independent professional and post customers in single-suite environments. “They’re saying, ‘We’d love a solution where we can record, do conversion, monitor and track, and we don’t want to have to buy eight rack spaces of gear in order to do that,’” he explains. “They want a more compact form factor.
“Obviously, this type of product has been done before. We said what we want to be able to provide for this customer is an all-in-one box that doesn’t compromise the quality in any way. That’s the challenge.”
Gutnick acknowledges the difficulties in making a unit that does a lot of different things well, but he contends that Avid has achieved just that with OMNI. “Historically, when one puts a box together that’s a jack-of-all-trades, it’s generally a master of none,” he notes. “So we paid attention to every facet here. It’s a pretty innovative box in that it sounds amazing, functions great, and integrates well into Pro Tools. Listening to the problems of the customer gave us something that does surround, tracking and monitoring in one box.
“So to sum up, the HD OMNI is for someone who wants to be able to accomplish everything they need to do with one box.”
For the hardcore user in MADI-land, HD MADI ($4,995) was designed to enhance workflow and speed up production time for broadcast, live sound and post production sound professionals, offering them the ability to easily connect Pro Tools|HD systems to industry-standard MADI infrastructures, without the need for a format converter. The system features built-in sample rate conversion on all inputs and outputs, so that users can integrate into workflows with multiple sample rates (upstream and downstream) via a single, 64-channel 1 RU rack mountable interface.
MEET THE HEAT
No one ever accused Pro|Tools HD of having that elusive analog warmth, but that just may change with the introduction of the HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology) software suite ($495). Knowing that street cred was essential to roll out something like this, Avid recruited no less than digital/analog expert Dave Hill of Crane Song.
With the HEAT software option, Pro Tools|HD systems are intended to come much closer to providing mixers with the warmth and sound of tubes, tape machines and analog consoles, but achieved sans outboard or by managing plug-in changes across multiple tracks. Instead, HEAT is designed to provide the summing yumness of real-world hardware to every track in the Pro Tools mixer using a single, global control.
“HEAT brings the magic, if you will, for Pro Tools mixes,” explains Tom Graham, segment marketing manager, Avid audio. “We recently were at a shootout with Tony Cariddi at (Los Angeles studio) The Village. We spent the day bringing up a mix on an analog Neve board, then A/B’d comparing to a Pro Tools mix summed in the box.
“So it was a Pro Tools mix summed in the Neve with 16 channels of output, and then a Pro Tools mix summed internally with the HEAT option turned on. The response from the people there was very enthusiastic. It’s an exciting thing.”
REBOOTING PRO TOOLS
As Avid rings in the new, they are most definitely ringing out the old. The Digidesign name, a music production mainstay since the mid-80’s (the company was originally founded as Digidrums in 1984), went from being a symbol of innovation and progress in audio to one associated more closely with frustration and aggravation in the years since its acquisition by Avid in 1995.
Even as its flagship product, Pro Tools, achieved ubiquity in professional audio environments of every stripe, Digidesign’s name also became synonymous with poor customer service, questionable upgrade policies and general aloofness. Arguably, Digidesign was a victim of its own success and some accompanying shortsightedness: It had made a product that did enough things so well that everyone bought it, then fell short in supporting its customers sufficiently after the sale.
Now, in the summer of 2010, the Digidesign brand has been completely laid to rest, and Avid wants the new HD products to serve notice that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. Welcome, if you will, a company that plans to do a better job of listening to its many, many customers.
“In April of 2009, we announced that we were joining our five businesses — Avid, Digidesign, M-Audio, Sibelius and Pinnacle — under the Avid brand,” Tony Cariddi says. “Creating a single business unit lets us leverage innovation across our audio and video technology portfolio for all of our customers — from the enthusiast to the enterprise.
“This brought about some internal realignment to better support our efforts — we now market to customer segments, rather than by product — and has led to some external changes — a new Avid logo, a new Web site, new packaging, new branding on Avid products, etc…