NAMM06: Digidesign, Microsoft, Dell and Intel Get Cozy

Cool stuff from Digidesign, props from the rest      07/02/06
NAMM06: Digidesign, Microsoft, Dell and Intel Get Cozy
Big companies, big bar bill

Shorn Rah reports
Whilst the rest of the Sonic State crew were off doing extremely important things, I ventured to the upper floor at NAMM to see what Digidesign, M-Audio, Microsoft, Dell and Intel would have to say in their press conference, which incidentally, featured the best hospitality within a sixty mile radius- I indulged. With the advent of LE and more recently Protools M-powered, Digidesign has opened the way for the home and project user, selling the name that everyone wanted but couldn't afford. Although, it has to be said, the LE versions have had a number of restrictions: the number of audio channels being numero uno, plus the lack of other features that come as standard with other software or TDM and HD systems. Being a big fan of Protools, where I use it for recording and editing at my own Studio Paranormal. Digidesign are working to bring more users into the Protools way as the latest announcements will show. I had another G&T, well maybe two, and a bite at the buffet just as the press gang of Chandra and Yvette came to the stage. I must confess, that we had our suspicions that these titans had been whispering away in a secure room plotting the birth a huge new killer PC made by Dell with Intel processors designed especially for audio, maybe even exclusively for the Pro-Tools user - heck, we were even speculating that they'd drop the mac as a platform and concentrate on the PC - amazing what a few margheritas will do... Yvette commented later:
"We really want to increase our presence in the market with Windows customers so they know they don't need to buy a Mac to be able to use Pro-Tools. We simply want to reinforce how great Pro Tools is on the Windows XP platform with Dell computers and Intel processors. There's rumors out there that you need a Mac to run Pro Tools, and that simply is not true. We at Digidesign feel that Pro Tools runs equally great on both platforms, and feel it to be very important that we offer our customers the freedom to use Pro Tools regardless of which computer platform they choose." - oh well, bang goes that theory. She went on to explain that the TDM and HD platforms are predominately Mac based within commercial studios, although the LE users are split somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40 on the PC side. So, what's the news from Digidesign Winter Namm 06?
First up comes a new RTAS Multi-Synthesis Sound Factory sample-playback/synthesis workstation plug-in called Xpand! which is available FREE, yes I said FREE, from the online DigiStore (store.digidesign.com) mind you, you'll have to pay a small shipping fee. Xpand was developed by The Digidesign's new German based Advanced Instrument Research (or AIR) gGroup. The AIR group also a German based company in attendance on the stage here announceding the up coming release of Hybrid, a premium RTAS soft synth that "combines the legendary warmth of classic analog '70s synths with a full range of twenty-first century analog and digital capabilities." Featuring 10 oscillators and 23 filter modes. Also Digidesign now offers an HD system to be used with machines fitted with new PCI Express (PCIe) ports which means Pro-Tools HD is fully compatible with PCI, PCI-X, and PCIe equipped computers. Down on the show floor at the Digidesign stand they were showing this system working with the new PCIe-equipped Apple Power Mac G5's. The speed and ability of these new machines to process and handle large amounts of real-time plug-ins is truly awesome. What was of much more interest to me, existing and future Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered users is the forthcoming release of two Toolkits;

Music Production Toolkit
First, the Digidesign Music Production Toolkit (works with both Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered systems), which gives you an upgrade to 7.1 plus a powerful array of plug-ins, which really comes as a huge break through and blows away those little "restrictions" I mentioned earlier !! In the box we got the new Hybrid synth, TL Space Native Edition convolution reverb, Smack! LE compressor, SoundReplacer, (one of the most useful tools in the known audio universe) where you can replace the sound with another pre-sampled / recorded sound which is played back with the same velocity of the original recording. A must for dodgy drum hits. DINR LE noise reduction, and a multi-track version of Beat Detective (previously only available on TDM systems). And, wait for it ... the increase in audio tracks to 48 mono or 48 stereo at up to 96kHz. Plus the ability to export mixes as MP3 files for the web or MP3 players if you really feel the need to destroy, oops sorry, "compress" your music in that way. At the price of $495***USD this is huge value for money !!

DV Toolkit 2
Next, is the DV Toolkit 2, which again is of very much interest to me, for putting soundtracks together for the films I make. This is quite an advance from the original DV Toolkit providing a comprehensive collection of post production tools. It includes DigiTranslator 2.0 for importing files from applications such as Avid Xpress. Then you are able to record voice overs and Foley, remove unwanted noise, replace on-camera dialog, and of course add music. It features a powerful collection of post production plug-ins and a wide variety of specialized editing and session management capabilities only before functional available with TDM systems. Along side the DigiBase Pro file management tool and the 48 mono or 48 stereo track deal same as the Music Production Toolkit. Oh, and you can do the MP3 export thing too. The DV Toolkit 2 costs $1,295***USD and will hopefully ship in early March 2006....... we'll be reviewing both of these Toolkits just as soon as they are available at my own commercial Studio Paranormal. So stayed tuned. Not only but also, Digidesign have acquired the assets of Trillium Lane Labs LLC producers of the TL Space convolution reverb, TL EveryPhase phaser, and TL Aggro FET compressor, and more. At the top of the pile, the Digidesign Venue VENUE live console is going down a storm, and I must say it's astounding on every level, I checked it out at NAMM and was rendered speechless. With top performers like Paul McCartney taking one of these babies on the road and the installation of Venue VENUE consoles in top venue's across the globe it's all grins at Digidesign. As it is with the sales of the Icon ICON consoles which are approaching 1000 units. One of the most rewarding parts of meeting the Digidesign crew is seeing how proud they are of the company and the products they produce. Yvette - promoted from Tech Support in December to Public Relations Coordinator, explains that after 5 years in Tech Support she has a little mission to break the illusion that Digidesign is some nasty corporation. She categorically states "We're cool people making products that we love"


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