November 3rd, 2010 – I’m sure you’ve all heard that Protools, along with going native, now has an SE version that ships with either a USB microphone, an interface similar to the Mbox mini, or a MIDI keyboard. You may also have heard that you don’t have to go to your local Guitar Center to buy one either; you can get them at Best Buy.
Power users may scoff at the baby Protools (after all it has a maximum of 16 tracks) however I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. At prices starting at $99 for the Avid Vocal Studio, $119 for the Avid Recording Studio, and $129 for the KeyStudio, the value is strong.
For the consumer that’s going to be picking up one of these bundles, 16 tracks will probably be more than adequate. Of course, maybe my perspective is a little skewed; when I first started recording, it was on four track tape reels (cassette and ADAT were way out of my budget). I quickly learned how to bounce down tracks to be able to record more.
Even when I tried the first versions of Cakewalk (one of the first consumer DAWs), I was limited in tracks because the computers weren’t fast enough back then. To me, 16 tracks would have been a huge luxury. But even today, I think that it would be adequate. Most of the people who are going to be buying the pack, are likely going to be recording themselves and won’t need tonnes of tracks.
I think Avid is being pretty smart with these low-cost offerings. They are including everything a person needs to get started at a super low pricepoint. When the user is ready to move on, there are plenty of higher priced offerings. I’m sure this is a direct effort against Apple’s DAW strategy: bundle Garageband for free, get users hooked and interested in Logic Express which is also very inexpensive, and then finally up to Logic Studio. Avid is one-upping this strategy by bundling hardware; what used to be a detriment in their professional offerings is now an asset in their lower ones.
When I worked in someone else’s studio, I used a combination of Protools and Logic. Logic to write songs, Protools to record vocals, and back into Logic for mixing. Even with all the improvements Logic has made with their audio editing workflow, I still find Protools faster, and more intuitive.
I am not currently running Protools (although I could get the M-Audio editions since I have FW410), so these low cost versions are enticing. As I would be using it to cut vocals only (16 tracks should be adequate for recording quick and dirty demos), the Vocal Studio is the most interesting to me. A hundred bucks for an M-Audio (on a side note, I’m sad that M-Audio as a separate brand from Avid no longer exists) USB microphone and Protools editing workflow? That seems like a very compact mobile recording solution.
I’m actually curious to hear what the bundled gear sounds like. Obviously the microphone isn’t going to compete with any Neumann, but will the interface included with the Avid Recording Studio hold up to my old FW410, or even an Mbox Mini? Have any of you had a chance to try them out?