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Review: Avid Pro Tools HD Native 9 February 11, 2011

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Avid, Pro Tools, Reviews , trackback

As a start to my return from hiatus, I thought I’d review Pro Tools HD Native, which I’m currently running with an Avid HD I/O (16×16 analog configuration).

The Review:  Short version – In my experience, Pro Tools HD Native is the perfect stepping stone between high end LE systems and HD TDM systems.  So far in use, it has shown itself to be incredibly powerful and robust – with excellent converters and super low latency to boot.  Highly recommended!

The Review: (more important) Long version –

Let’s start with the basics – system details and installation.

I am running this setup on an 8-core 3.2 Ghz Mac Pro (2008-2009).  I also run a Duende mini via Firewire and a UAD PCIe card (I was anxious to see how PT HD Native would cope with these plug-in processing peripherals).  Installation was really simple – installed the PCIe Native HD card first, connected the Avid HD I/O interface via the provided mini Digilink cable, and booted up the computer (interface off at this point).  From there, I registered and activated my products on Avid.com.  That got me right to the license for Pro Tools 9 (no need to install 8.5 first) – which I transferred to my iLok via iLok.com.  (Incidentally, if anyone has questions on the install/activation process, just let me know and I can help) I downloaded the massive PT 9.0.1 HD installer (good job on the d/l speeds Avid – only took ~18 minutes).  From there, it was as simple as installing, restarting, and launching Pro Tools.

After verifying that my HD I/O was factory-calibrated correctly (which it was) and running tones through all of my newly-soldered patchbay connections to check continuity and normals, it was time to push Pro Tools Native HD to the max and see how it responded.

EDIT: Head over to the new review post HERE where I do a more controlled benchmarking test of Pro Tools 9’s performance.  Right here, I was sold on the power and features of HD Native, especially since I was at one of the lowest buffer settings for a huge mix.  While it probably wouldn’t work at a or post house or studio requiring bigger counts (as those situations could require far more computer resources, much larger I/O, ability to track larger numbers during mixdown, etc.), from a small to mid-sized music studio’s perspective, this is the holy grail.

All the features you’d expect to see in Pro Tools HD are there – for me, it’s all about the Automation!  I did a few test sessions with crazy automation just to make sure things were working correctly (which they were).

The system responds quickly – just like a normal Native system.  So far it seems extremely stable – not one crash yet – but I’ll update this post in the next month to confirm.

The section everyone looks for: the CONS of Pro Tools Native HD.

Well, this is a hard section to write at this point because I am extremely satisfied so far.  Without installation problems, bugs, workflow impedances, or performance issues… I can’t complain about much.  I think the price may still be a limiting factor for some studios.  Dealer advertised price of this bundle (Native HD + Avid HD I/O 16×16 analog) is around $8,000.  However, as with most expensive gear, it’s likely you can negotiate with your dealer for a lower price.  Additionally, Avid is offering generous trade-in deals from LE systems (i.e. a 002 or 003R trade-in will get you $1000 off the price of admission).

Of course – you don’t have to get the 16×16 analog (most expensive model).  Avid also sells the 8x8x8, the 16×16 digital, as well as the OMNI (which is probably very attractive to most project studios looking to move to HD Native).

Another option is to go with the Native PCIe card with a different company’s converters.  Lynx converters sound great and are moderately priced in comparison.  One thing to note is that with non-Avid interfaces, the latency of your system will be slightly higher (the new Avid interfaces are faaaassssttttttt).

That all being said, you get what you pay for.  Pro Tools HD Native, while not free, is an excellent professional-level system beaming with power and features.

The boring stuff to remember:

A few days before my system came in, I spent time upgrading and verifying my computer software.  Previously, I was running Leopard (10.5.2 I think…).  Why so outdated??  Because – my workflow involves getting my computer to a setup that works without bugs, and then leaving it alone, not updating anything (barring emerging problems) until I make a major system upgrade.

I started with a Snow Leopard install via disc, and then proceeded with the combo updater to 10.6.6 (Sidenote: As boring as RTFM statements are… every PT user should check out Avid’s website for compatibility.  They list very detailed specs about both hardware and software, showing you what pieces they’ve officially tested and qualified).  From there, I checked the compatibility of all my plug-ins and wirtual instruments… downloaded compatible versions… blah blah blah.  My point is: take the time to do your homework and install compatible plug-ins/VIs.  I’ve already seen a lot of performance issues on other user’s systems originating from incompatible software.  As long as you follow the hardware and software guidelines set forth by Avid, you’ll be fine (which is why they go through the trouble of qualifying as many systems as they do).

// In sum – I am very happy with the performance and features of Pro Tools HD Native 9.  I believe the future of much studio recording lies in the hands of these types of Native Systems.  While (for the foreseeable future) there is still a significant need for HD TDM-like DSP systems, I would put my money on more Native systems (i.e. Apogee’s symphony, PT HD Native, etc.) gaining ground in the next 5-10 years.

Questions about HD Native, Pro Tools 9, or anything else related??  Ask here or send me an email.




1. Damon Sink - February 12, 2011

Welcome back, Connor!

Thanks for the thorough review. As you know, I am thinking about “going native” and this really helps me to see what I would need to do. Glad to know that everything is smooth with the latest SL. Nothing like the last major PT update!

2. ConnorSmith - February 15, 2011

And it begins – first bug reported in a new post haha…

Luckily, it’s not a problem with Pro Tools, just if I want to do CoreAudio things. I have a ASC call/email in with Avid and will report on what’s happening.

I’ve been trying all week to get PT Native HD to crumple under the weight of high tracks counts, automation, and plug-ins… but it’s been robust.

3. Jonathan Fuzessy - April 8, 2011

Great Review! Thank’s very helpful.

4. ed somerville - June 22, 2011

That was a good review I am currently interested in this HD Native sysyem but would like to find some real would facts like
What kind of track count could I expect at (192 espeacialy) and 98 k
I am using a Mac 8 core bought a few months ago
also how much ram would you recomend

5. Ian - October 25, 2011

Good review and helpful. Given the PT 10 and HDX costs, I am seriously looking at PT Native as a step from my HD1 Accel system. I am in a home studio so track counts are modest (20-30 at most) but I do use a range of software instruments. Latency is my biggest concern – so my question is whether I can expect no or minimal latency with a low biter size or whether you think I would have to use their mixer work around?

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