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DiGiDesiGN PrO TOOLs 8
Developer: DAw software
Platform: [Mac/PC]
Price: variable
release: Out now
Pro Tools isn’t so popular within the drum & bass scene. Why not? The Pro Tools drum machine is called “Boom”. Is this thing really going
Perhaps it’s in a name – drum & bass producers, whilst being technical to stand up to Native Instruments Maschine? You can’t drag and drop
geniuses, like a bit of rough and ready; something colourful and quirky, your own samples into it, which instantly alienates Boom from drum &
and perhaps not anything that implies dead seriousness. Cubase is there- bass users. Even Maschine’s predecessor – Battery – let you do that… for
fore the current king of D&B sequencers, with its nice, shiny graphics years. This virtual drum machine gives you some solid kits to start sketch-
and delicious-looking plug-ins. Logic isn’t exactly a looker on the other ing with, including the ubiquitous 808, 909 and 606. However, these are
hand, and is steadily building up a hoard of haters, but it’s well rooted in lacking in the editability department. Boom lives up to its name in that it
drum & bass culture. There aren’t many Pro Tools users in drum & bass bombs big time.
consequently – can you name any? Some have actually converted away
from it! As is the case with DJ Fresh, who at one stage had a fully fledged Vacuum is a monophonic virtual-analogue synthesiser. This uses a
DigiDesign rig. Full Cycle might still use Pro Tools – a little birdie tells us highly novel engine that hasn’t really been seen before – “Vaccum Tube
– but other than them it’s slim pickings. Synthesis”. If the name alone is enough to make you clammy between
the thighs then get this – it really does sound like shoving 10,000 volts
Pro Tools 8 must be purchased with a DigiDesign soundcard bundle. You through a set of Dillinja’s finest Eastern-European light bulbs. Adding
can get the cheapest, sub-£400 offer in the form of the cute, functional the sexual nuances of vacuum tubes to a digital instrument is nothing to be
Mbox or, alternatively, anything up to a behemoth Pro Tools rig cost- sniffed at… not when it’s done with this much panache.
ing £20,000+ [see for price guides]. Regardless of
the hardware you purchase you’ll receive the same selection of plug-ins, On top of the aforementioned instruments, AIR has created 20 all-new
instruments and mixing facilities, including surround; and there are LE effects plug-ins. Aside from the obligatory Phaser, Reverb, Chorus and
versions, with locked off features for cheaper prices. Distortion you have some new beasts, like a rip-off of Logic’s bizarre
Spectral Gate – the Filter Gate – as well as a dynamic delay, tone genera-
Drum & bass and dance-music users don’t tend to care for surround tor and a “lo-fi” sound degrader. Throw in all of the original Pro Tools
sound, so let’s talk about something they are interested in. Pro Tools 8 has extras, including the Maxim Limiter and some Bomb Factory business,
five new software instruments, dubbed the “Complete Collection”; and and it becomes clear that DigiDesign have loaded up Pro Tools 8’s bases
also a shed-load of new effects plug-ins. Apple decided to include all of with processor goodness.
Logic’s optional, expensive plug-ins about five years ago with the full ver-
sion of their flagship sequencer, which has, arguably, inspired other de- Moving away from AIR, users and non-users of Pro Tools alike will be ex-
velopers like DigiDesign to up their creative game and come up with their cited to learn that DigiDesign has finally developed a proper MIDI editor.
own alternatives. In the past, drum & bass dudes weren’t exactly thrilled by And whilst it isn’t perfect it definitely stands up strongly against competi-
DigiDesign’s decision to include weak third-party plug-ins and demos of tors, and represents a huge step in converting the Cubase and Logic faith-
other in-house goodies. Now, AIR (Advanced Instrument Research) is at ful. Well, it’s only taken them 20 years. Automation lanes in Pro Tools
the helm of Pro Tools’ newest and best creative plug-ins. Let’s take a look are now separate from audio lanes, which makes everything a little bit less
at what they’ve brought to the table in 2009. Here are Pro Tools 8’s five confusing when automating plug-ins, volume and pan over time. Better
new software instruments, courtesy of the AIR group: still, Pro Tools is now hideously easy to hook up to external MIDI devices
due to a new MIDI hijack function, which is accessible via one mouse click
The sequel to AIR’s original PT synth has a horribly awkward name, and and a single knob twiddle.
whilst it was pretty cool back in the day it deserved an update in the face of
stiff modern competition. Its sample engine contains not only a standard Aside from the countless other sharp improvements in Pro Tools 8, comes
virtual-analogue mode, but wavetable features and sample playback. That the best version of Elastic Audio to date. This wonderful algorithm not
means you can load this sucker with genuine analogue waves from classic only allows you to time stretch audio non-destructively in real time at
synths, in the vein of Spectrasonics’ classic Trilogy. In line with Cubase incredible quality, but change the pitch freely as well. Ableton Live had
and Logic’s plug-ins, Xpand! 2 has received a digital facelift and looks all better watch out, because the transpose and stretch powers of Pro Tools 8
the better for it. Whilst Xpand! 2 isn’t the best synth ever, for a bread- have become pro in every sense of the word.
and-butter workhorse, that’s native and doesn’t crash your system, you
could do a hell of a lot worse. And finally, Pro Tools doesn’t look so damned drab anymore. It’s had a GUI
redesign. Don’t expect a vortex of colour though, or you will be very disap-
Next up is Mini Grand. No, it’s not one thousand pounds-worth of pointed, because it retains the cold, serious, functional look of the past.
Monopoly money. It’s actually an acoustic piano instrument in the vein
of Native Instrument’s solid Akoustik Piano. It sounds as you’d expect So, Pro Tools was and remains an industry-standard product aimed at the
it would, letting you alter timbre and tone via different virtual models serious producer / engineer. With version 8, it’s taken a giant leap towards
and reverbs. It has a useful economy mode too and the option to reduce the echelons of creativity where dance-music producers dwell. It isn’t quite
polyphony if your crappy computer is straining. Not earth-shattering, but there yet, but anyone wanting to check out Pro Tools 8 will be pleasantly
not bad either. surprised by its solidarity, new MIDI editor and plug-ins. And whilst Pro
Tools remains stereotyped as expensive, people can take full advantage of it
DB33 is a bit like Native Instrument’s Elektrik Piano. Like Mini Grand, with some of the reasonable sound cards such as the Mbox.
it isn’t quite as good though, but it IS native to Pro Tools and highly
functional. Although it doesn’t have pedals it sounds undeniably lush.
Interestingly, it can be used as an effects unit when processing sequencer
lanes, via things like rotation speed, preamp and mic positioning, stereo
spread and mix levelling.
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