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Pro Tools HD Goes Native

The Pro Tools HD Native system consists of Pro Tools HD software version 8.5 and the Native PCIe core card.

Burlington, MA—In a long anticipated announcement, Avid has introduced Pro Tools HD Native. “Pro Tools HD software, running on an HD Native card, is identical to Pro Tools HD software running on an HD core card, it just doesn’t have DSP,” explains Tony Cariddi, Avid pro segment marketing manager.

Pro Tools HD Native is not a software only solution; it consists of PT HD software version 8.5 bundled with the new Pro Tools HD Native PCIe core card. This Native PCIe card has a primary function of connectivity, accommodating up to 64 channels of DigiLink I/O (including legacy PT|HD hardware and outboard I/O and Sync HD from the new Avid HD series) while the hardware/software marriage insures optimal system stability and performance, according to Bobby Lombardi, senior Pro Tools product manager. “In addition to doing the low-latency I/O connectivity to Pro Tools,” he says, “there is an FPGA running the mixer for the I/O on the card itself, which does let us do some interesting low latency monitoring tricks.”

Monitoring through the card’s mixer is akin to the monitoring capabilities of the low-latency mode on Avid Pro Tools LE and M-Audio hardware, though with added flexibility such as the capability to assign any input to any output. “This card also includes Core Audio and ASIO drivers that fully support the full I/O count on the card,” notes Lombardi, explaining that the card can be used for interface with rival software products such as Apple’s Logic and Steinberg’s Nuendo for full 64-channels of I/O.

Unlike Pro Tools LE, Cariddi says that Pro Tools HD Native offers “perfect round-tripping” between native and DSP systems, accommodating full session compatibility including transfer from TDM to RTAS plug-in versions. Any system limitations, other than the maximum of 64 channels of I/O (compared to 160 channels maximum on a DSP-based system) are set by the power of the host computer. Pro Tools Accel DSP cards cannot be used with Native, though the system has been tested successfully with Universal Audio’s UAD-2 DSP powered processors (though the system has not yet been formally qualified by UA). The few TDM-only plug-ins available, as well as Avid’s new HEAT Pro Tools HD process, are not available for PT|HD Native, though demand may prompt HEAT’s port from low-level DSP code to host compatibility. Native system latency at 96 kHz with a 64-sample buffer is stated at 1.6 milliseconds, compared to .44 milliseconds for a similarly configured DSP system.

Pro Tools HD Native can run on Snow Leopard-equipped Macs and Windows 7 (64-bit preferred) PCs, with a minimum of 4 GB of RAM. For truly portable use with a laptop, an external PCIe chassis like the third-party Magma ExpressBox1 would be required to house the Native PCIe card. “Pro Tools HD Native is also compatible with ICON, and it’s also compatible with Venue Live Sound systems,” adds Cariddi.

PT|HD Native is designed to “fill the gap” between Pro Tools LE and the DSP-based Pro Tools HD systems, says Lombardi. “This is designed for professionals who want the best performance possible on the host…this gives customers the lowest latency and the highest stability out of any native system out there. And, it gives them all the features and functionality of the Pro Tools HD software.” While no native system can accommodate the needs of Avid’s most demanding end-users, states Cariddi, “we’re clearly committed to developing for the host, but also to developing for dedicated processing because our most demanding professionals want that and need that.”

Pro Tools HD Native will be available worldwide from Nov. 4. The core system, software and PCIe card, retails for $3,495. Additional configurations including HD I/O hardware will be available at bundle discounts.