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Musical musings from the BigRock Men and associates.


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To upgrade or not to upgrade....

By thebigrockroom, Sep 15 2015 12:06PM

Author: thebigrockroom

Catergory: General

To upgrade or not to upgrade! That was the question. We always knew the time would come. The world we live in revolves around constant updates and upgrades to every piece of technology we own. So it was inevitable that we would have to upgrade the studio at some point.

The studio has been quite happily running a MacPro 1,1 with Snow Leopard [OSX 6.8], Pro Tools 8 LE, XLN Addictive Drums 1 and Amplitube 3. There were a few little nuances we lived with. Mainly that Pro Tools wouldn't record the stealth pedal signal, so we essentially couldn't use it to record a Wah signal on a track, an easy fix just use a standard Wah in line. I also had my Macbook Pro Laptop running Yosemite [OSX 10.10] and that didn't really run Pro tools 8 LE very well. It would open in spirit but it wasn't happy!

We built the studio around the Pro Tools Software. At the time Pro Tools required a piece of digidesign hardware for you to run the software. We invested in a Digidesign [Avid's original name] 003 control surface for the studio, an mBox 2 for recording outside of the studio and an mBox Micro for mixing outside of the studio.

So late last year [2014] I decided to I wanted to upgrade to XLN Addictive Drums 2, mainly to get the Fairfax [Ex Sound City] and Blue Oyster Drum sounds, we had already added the Metal Pack to AD1. After downloading the Software I tried to open it in Pro Tools. Weirdly it didn’t come up in the plug in options. I could open it as a stand alone program on the computer but not on the DAW. I decided to get in touch with XLN. This is when I found out that the codec for Pro tools plug ins had changed when Pro Tools 10 was released. Oh OK!!!!!! So I looked into upgrading to Pro Tools 10…. and thats when the can of worms opened........

We discovered that Avid was just about to release Pro Tools 12. No Problem. Then I find out I needed to be running OSX 10.8.5 or higher to install PT12. The Mac Pro 1,1 was using the old Intel Core Duo chips and won't upgrade past Snow Leopard. Big Problem! So it became apparent I needed to upgrade the studio mac. That's when I started asking myself questions! How far did I want to go with this? Do I upgrade to a point or do I go as close to now as possible? Do I change my DAW? After much deliberation I decided we had to go as far as possible to try and buy us as much future proofing as possible.

So budget was gonna be tight. The studio is a hobby. So there's only so much of the family budget I can spend on it ;-) The great thing about Apple products is that they really do hold a value so we could recoup some costs by selling the old system. That helped. I looked into the new MacPro, this was out of contention straight away due to the cost. The Old Tower Style MacPro [5,1] was still holding its value, so even this option was probably out of range. So this meant looking into the iMac and MacMini. We have the infrastructure in the studio from the old MacPro and Pro Tools 8 system, namely Monitors and Digidesign 003 control surface [which runs Firwire]. So with the higher cost of the iMac and not needing a monitor meant the Mac Mini was looking like the choice. I researched the Mac Mini models. Looking into it, it felt that the 2012 i7 versions were actually going to be the best to go for as they were quad core, RAM upgradable and had firewire onboard and would be more than capable of handling the size of projects we were doing in the studio. I ended up buying a 2012 Mac Mini 17 Quad Core 2.3Ghz with 1Tb Hard Drive and 4Gb RAM. We upgraded the RAM to 16Gb straight away

With the release of Pro Tools 12, Avid has gone to a subscription service and an iLok allowing you to activate PT12 on any system. You no longer need an Avid/Digidesign piece of hardware to run Pro Tools. All our hardware interfaces are still compatible and useful, other than the mbox Micro which is kind of obsolete as you can now just use the computer speakers/headphone socket. The one issue we are having with the subscription service is we only get one user via the iLok. So if for example I need to take the iLok away with me to mix it essentially means the studio is unusable unless we start a second subscription. All of our other software we run in the studio gives you at least 2 user availability. Say a desktop and a laptop. We have discussed the Pro's and Con's of the subscription service at much length. Back in the day we had a heafty finicial outlay to buy all the hardware to make PT8 work. The subscription service is a far cheaper monthly outlay and will take a good few years to amount to what we paid for hardware initially. So there is positives, especially if Avid keep to there updating policy. It's early days so we'll see how it pans out.

After loading all the new software and hooking it all up in the studio all was looking good. We only had an initial issue getting the system to talk to the 003 console. After much googling we discovered that by simply pressing 'N' as you loaded Pro Tools you are given an option to connect to the 003. Brilliant! The next thing to check was would it see and open all our old PT8 projects. Absolutely. No issues there. Everything opened as it should. Addictive Drums 2 was now available in the plug in menu and after trying out some of the new sounds was totally worth the upgrade. Great! Next we tried Amplitube and the stealth pedal. Worked seemlessly. Now we could record wah and volume signal onto the tracks. So software wise everything is now in place and working. We've had a few little CPU gliches which after a night of checking RAM and hard drives appear to have disappeared.

And finally after discovering the ToonTrack EXMix2 software via one of our favourite YouTube channels [Frog Leap Studios]. We decided to check it out. We were very impressed at the click and play concept behind vocal effects and the mastering software and have decided this is the perfect platform to use to complete the RDH album

So onwards we go. Let’s see how long we can last on this system!!!!

Thanks for being here!


Pro Tools 12 - Avid

Addictive Drums - XLN Audio

Amplitube 3 - IK Multimedia

EZMix 2 - Toontrack

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