Is your studio holding you back from creating the next big club banger? When it comes to powerful software like Pro Tools 11, your system setup is just as important as your configuration preferences and input hardware. In order to get the most out of this professional-grade audio platform, it’s essential that your computer is up to the task.
Of course, as with any widely popular software suite, enthusiasts love to debate which types of computers are best for running Pro Tools and the scores of compatible plugins you can use to customize it. Regardless what hardware manufacturers might want consumers to believe, things aren’t as simple as Mac vs. PC, especially at the professional level. Here’s what we’ve learned about running Pro Tools 11 on OS X and Windows.
Hardware Capability and Compatibility
Don’t fall for the hype; always investigate the specifics of a particular system. Although PC lovers are quick to point out that you can build a comparable studio computer to a Mac and save some cash in the process, Pro Tools employs a sufficient number of high-level software features that stability makes a big difference. The fact that most Mac systems simply work out of the box makes it a bit easier to create a studio-ready rig or editing bay without having to tinker around with settings.
A similar concern lies in the way different components interact. Yes, modern buses like USB, FireWire, and PCIe generally handle addressing and plug-and-play communication way better than their predecessors once did. Nonetheless, custom devices like external sound cards and Avid’s Pro Tools S6 Ethernet-enabled control surfaces may be more likely to run seamlessly on systems whose hardware has been compatibility tested by device manufacturers before you get your hands on it.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Windows is a no-go. For those who want to build a dream rig over time or upgrade their studio as they acquire the funds and components, it’s quite possible to create a completely serviceable setup on a PC. Windows 7 is known to have some issues, but newer versions have ironed many of these kinks out, and tutorial sites are generally good places to find helpful information about successful reference builds and installations.
GUIs and Customizability
Could you be missing out on something super cool because of your current build? While concurrent Pro Tools versions largely possess similar features, they’re not exactly the same, and the difference usually lies in what’s going on under the hood of your computer.
For instance, your favorite third-party AAX plugins may not be optimized for use with a certain operating system, meaning that you’ll have to change your workflow from what you’re accustomed to if you decide to switch. Of course, product forums usually make it easy to discover these issues and identify workarounds in advance.
OS X and Windows shortcuts and hotkeys differ due to the basic fact that the systems have different keyboard layouts and control schemes. While this may not seem like a major factor, there are definitely those who feel partial to one workflow style or the other. If you’re going to make a change, just be certain to give yourself time to learn your way around.
Some popular studio equipment manufacturers, like Presonus, note that Pro Tools isn’t fully optimized for all of their hardware; for instance, earlier installs usually disable mixer inputs when the software sees more than 32 channels. Macs may not support grouped pre-amps or other devices that can typically be used as aggregate interfaces on Windows systems.
You’ll probably encounter limitations with any custom setup, but as long as you learn about them as you go, they shouldn’t present much of a stumbling block. Check out our online tutorials to bring your Pro Tools 11 usage up to speed on any system.