Digidesign’s new Pro Tools LE 8 is a huge improvement on previous versions, especially for the songwriter.pt web

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Pro Tools LE 8
LIST PRICE: $299.95
WEBSITE: www.digidesign.com

Digidesign’s new Pro Tools LE 8 is a huge improvement on previous versions, especially for the songwriter. With a vast array of virtual instruments, a new look, easier editing capability (including newly integrated Sibelius Score editing) and a dedicated MIDI Editor, Pro Tools HD 8’s slightly stripped-down younger brother has stepped up its game and become a better writing tool, while remaining in the forefront as a recording platform.

To the already familiar Pro Tooler, the first thing that you’ll notice is the change in the look of the interface. The darker color scheme threw me at first, but it is less fatiguing on the eye; no more feeling like writing and recording are a staring contest with the screen. It is obvious that Digidesign is trying to compete with Apple’s Logic, which until now has been seen by many as the superior writing program. Well, they have more than caught up with the times.

The virtual instruments are effective and easy to use when creating songs from scratch. Best of all, they actually sound good. “Boom” is a versatile drum machine that is both handy for writing and realistic in creating drum sounds. There are tons of loops to write with as well. “Mini Grand” offers rich virtual piano sounds, and DB-33 delivers a smooth Hammond B3 organ sound (with a Leslie rotating speaker effect that can be used separately); both are useful and powerful in a song arrangement. Rounding out the keys section is “Vacuum,” a killer synthesizer with some seriously meaty tones that are not unlike real tube distortion. As if that weren’t enough, the Xpand!2 feature has samples galore. This should be plenty to work with, even for electronica artists.

In version 8, editing and mixing are easier and quicker than with earlier versions of Pro Tools. Up to 48 stereo audio tracks are available this time, so there is less worry about running out of room for that massive virtual instrument arsenal. There are 10 inserts per channel, which makes plenty of room for plug-ins. If anyone needs more than ten plugs on a track, I pity the fool, but there are so many plug-ins in this thing, it’s mind blowing. With Elastic Pitch on board, the songwriter who can’t carry a tune in a bucket need not worry, and Elastic Time makes it simple to change tempos should you decide to turn a slow ballad beat into speed metal. And if, God forbid, human beings are being used on the session, Beat Detective can put those rushing and dragging rhythms into perfect time.

Speaking of “keeping it on the grid,” the grid lines show through the waveforms so it’s easier to line things up when cutting and pasting or rearranging parts of the song.

I realize some of these digital recording features are foreign to the uninitiated out there. Worry not, Pro Tools still has the strong suit that made it famous, in that it’s easy to learn. Basic demos can still be created the day you buy the program. If you are accustomed to an earlier version of Pro Tools, the good news is that even with all these new bells and whistles, the general workflow is the same. Dig in.

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