M-Audio Pro Tools Recording Studio
Plug 'n' play, the muso way
Indeed, the lack of input monitoring on the Pro Tools M-Powered Essential software is just mean-spirited, there’s no reason not to have it. It’s just been disabled to encourage an upgrade, but five minutes of this and the only thing you’re encouraged to do is abandon Pro Tools and give something else a try, like GarageBand. It’s a shame really, as the effects – including a Tech 21 SansAmp PSA-1 guitar amp plug-in – really hit the spot.
You also get the Structure Essential plug-in from Digidesign’s Advanced Instrument Research group. This features 64 virtual instruments, and a virtual keyboard to test them out but, unlike GarageBand, you can’t play using the Qwerty keys. A MIDI controller offers the best way to play the on-board synths. Many new controllers utilise USB and just about any decent keyboard made in the last 25 years will have MIDI, but you’ll need a MIDI interface to link it up to a computer.
Convenient and compatible, but sonically challenged
In many ways, Pro Tools reflects the way that signal routing is achieved on more conventional hardware mixing consoles, so it would be worth learning this version if it wasn’t so annoying. Indeed, just about every time you want to do something clever, you’re faced with a menu icon that spells upgrade. Yet, as such, this isn’t an upgradeable product. There are no discounts on moving to higher level Pro Tools products. This is entry-level and there are no sweeteners.
Portable, with guitar, line and mic inputs the FastTrack hardware alone is appealing but, in use, the reality is very different. The mic input is noisy, the mode switch thumps loudly and the software shortcomings make taken-for-granted tasks cumbersome. While the Pro Tools Recording Studio is unashamedly entry-level, the real shame is how it disappoints in crucial areas. ®
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