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Comparing Pro Tools | Carbon and Pro Tools | MTRX Studio

In 2020 Avid introduced two new audio interfaces: Pro Tools | MTRX Studio and Pro Tools | Carbon. They are both 1U units and they share a common front panel design but are two very different products. This article sets out to clarify those differences.

MTRX Studio is a DigiLink interface that requires HDX or HD Native and is suited to a variety of purposes, including music production, but really comes into its own in audio post environments that require surround and Atmos workflows. Carbon is purpose built for music production and recording and solves the problem of simple low-latency tracking in a native environment by making use of HDX DSPs that are incorporated into the interface and integrate seamlessly with the Pro Tools software.

Overview

MTRX Studio is a very capable and flexible audio interface. It is designed for the audio professional who needs the ability to interface with other audio equipment in the studio, whether analogue or digital, in a variety of formats. It features a completely configurable software controlled monitoring section that can accommodate any monitoring environment all the way to Dolby Atmos.

Carbon is specifically designed for music production—especially recording musicians and bands. The I/O complement reflects this goal, providing everything that you need to run a recording session without the need for any additional hardware.

Price Points

The two products sit at very different price points and are designed to address different pro audio markets. A Pro Tools | HDX Thunderbolt 3 MTRX Studio bundle is $9999. Whereas Carbon retails for $3999. The MTRX Studio pricing includes an HDX card which is required to connect to your host computer, although you could choose to use the HD Native Thunderbolt card instead.

The price includes a license for Pro Tools. Pro Tools | Carbon ships with Pro Tools software and Pro Tools | MTRX comes with Pro Tools | Ultimate but also includes the DADman software to enable remote control of the monitoring.

Connecting to Your Computer

MTRX Studio is a DigiLink interface for HDX and HD Native systems. It does not connect directly to the host computer but instead is connected to either an HDX card or an HD Native Thunderbolt card using the DigiLink protocol. DigiLink is Avid’s own audio connector that gives us complete control over the audio between the processing card and the interface. MTRX Studio is compatible with both macOS and Windows operating systems.

Carbon is a Core Audio AVB device. That means it plugs directly into your Mac using a qualified AVB port, whether that’s using the onboard Ethernet port or a qualified Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter. AVB is a key technology choice for Carbon. It’s an Ethernet standard that offers dedicated bandwidth, low latency streaming with precision timing and a 32-bit floating path throughout the interface and into Pro Tools. And it gives us flexibility for the future.

Ins and Outs

The I/O complement of the two interfaces points to the differences in intended use.

MTRX Studio has two mic pre-amps, perfect for recording VO, ADR or Foley. It features 16 analogue line ins and outs and ADAT connectivity for adding ADAT-enabled converters and mic pres. Importantly, MTRX Studio has a Dante port for 64 channels of Dante I/O. Dante has become a standard digital audio interconnection protocol over the past few years in both live sound and studio production. There are numerous Dante peripherals on the market that enable a variety of workflows and having this connector on MTRX Studio is an important when it comes to integrating it into a modern production environment.

In contrast with the connectivity required in a large studio environment Carbon is designed to meet the needs of a smaller studio or home production environment. It has eight mic pres to enable you to record multiple performers or mic up a drum kit, for example. It has eight line inputs and outputs that could be used for hardware inserts for studio outboard equipment such as compressors or EQ and it offers 16 additional inputs (at 48kHz) using ADAT connectors to facilitate the connection to third party converters or mic pre-amps increasing the number of simultaneous inputs to a maximum of 24 – or 25 if you include the built-in talkback mic. Carbon has four headphone outputs to give you the possibility of creating four separate headphone mixes for the musicians in your studio without having to introduce additional hardware

Monitoring

MTRX Studio has an incredibly comprehensive routing and monitoring section. It is software controlled, using an application called DADman and, as such, is completely configurable. A 512 x 512 cross-point digital matrix enables you to patch any source to any destination. The monitoring section lets you set up as many speaker sets as you need in any format, all the way up to Dolby Atmos and beyond. Cue mixes are, again, completely configurable. Set up as many headphone feeds as you need from any source and decide which ones have talkback assigned and so on. All of the monitor capabilities can be controlled via EUCON from S6, S4, S1 or Dock so the unit itself can be installed in a separate machine room. Finally, the built-in speaker EQ and delay processing allows you to apply room correction EQ and delay to your monitoring path.

Carbon gives you everything that you need to run a recording session. The monitoring is built into the interface and controllable from the front panel. You can address three sets of stereo speakers along with Dim and Cut controls and four separate headphone outputs. A talkback mic is built into the front panel.  Carbon is designed as a desktop interface to be positioned so that the controls are accessible.

Carbon and Post-Production

There is nothing to stop you using Pro Tools | Carbon in a post-production workflow but there are a number of reasons that will make it less than optimal for post-production environments. Carbon is designed for music production and is therefore equipped with stereo monitoring capabilities and does not have surround monitoring. If you were to use Carbon’s line outputs for 5.1 or 7.1 audio then you would need to route them to a hardware monitoring device to allow you to set monitor levels. You would also not have access to the flexible surround routing and downmixing that is offered by MTRX Studio using DADman. Another important factor is that when you are working to picture then you need to ensure that the picture is accurately locked to audio, without any deviation. The only way to ensure that this is the case is to use frame edge sync. Frame edge sync is derived from a Video Reference sync source and requires an Avid SYNC HD to get frame edge sync into Pro Tools. The SYNC HD connects directly to the HDX card or HD Native Thunderbolt interface and therefore there is no way to lock to frame edge if you are using Carbon as your audio interface.

MTRX Studio and Music Production

MTRX Studio is perfectly suited to music production but if you are recording multiple musicians then you will need to connect external mic pre-amps to the line inputs and use either the line outs or Dante to connect additional headphone pre-amps for cue mixes. In addition, the Hybrid Engine workflow that was pioneered by Carbon will increase the flexibility of HDX systems for music projects that include native processing such as virtual instruments.

Conclusion

For more information please read our comparison page and visit MTRX Studio and Carbon on Avid.com

Pro Tools | Carbon

For artists, bands, and producers, Pro Tools | Carbon is a new breed of audio interface—built to capture brilliance.

Pro Tools | MTRX Studio

Pro Tools | MTRX Studio simplifies your signal flow, providing connections to all your gear. Route any input to any output.




Introducing Pro Tools | Carbon

Introduction

Pro Tools | Carbon is a new breed of audio interface designed for artists, bands and producers.  It features high quality I/O and intelligently combines the power of your native CPU with onboard HDX DSP acceleration. The result is a hybrid audio production system that lets you build complex mixes whilst tracking through AAX DSP plugins in real-time at the lowest latency. All inside Pro Tools.

Why did we make Carbon?

We want the performer to experience the immediacy that you would get with analogs addressing the main issue facing the recording musician in the digital world: latency. Latency simply means recording process. It is apparent to a recording artist when the sound from their microphone arrives late in their headphones.

Using DSP-accelerated processing results in ultra-low latency and this has always been one of the benefits of the flagship Pro Tools | HDX system; you can have both power and low-latency on demand because the HDX DSP chips are dedicated to the task of processing audio. Carbon now brings that flexibility to every Pro Tools user with the Hybrid Engine.

The Hybrid Engine

With the Hybrid Engine, the Pro Tools mixer is running natively on the host computer, giving you access to the full processing capabilities of your CPU. If you want to record or overdub then simply switch your record tracks from Native Mode to DSP Mode. This moves the tracks onto a low-latency path that bypasses the native mixer and uses the HDX DSP chips that are built into Carbon. You now have a dedicated low-latency DSP mixer that is running in parallel with the native mixer.

Once you have finished recording, simply switch back to Native Mode. You can achieve all of this simply by pressing a button without leaving the Pro Tools application.

When you use the Hybrid Engine the AAX plugin format really comes into its own. Plugins with AAX DSP versions will run on tracks that are in DSP Mode and will just switch back to AAX Native when the track is put back into Native Mode because every AAX DSP plugin has a native counterpart. This means that your session will run on any Pro Tools system, regardless of the hardware and it will sound identical.

Design Philosophy

Carbon was designed from the ground up with the recording musician in mind and we haven’t cut any corners when it comes to sound quality. Our converters have four ADCs per channel, providing 126 dB of dynamic range. From input, to the HDX DSPs, and into Pro Tools, the entire gain structure works at 32-bit precision, providing exceptional headroom without any signal degradation.

Clocking is also a critical part of the design. Our clock features a double resolution implementation of the patented JetPLL jitter elimination technology for the best possible audio integrity.

Carbon’s eight mic pre-amps are a padless design and are the most transparent preamps we’ve ever made. With Variable Z built in, you can adjust input impedance to optimize or alter the tone of any microphone or instrument—from dynamic and ribbon mics, to guitars and bass.

Conclusion

Pro Tools | Carbon is aimed at anybody who wants to record music and every design decision has been made with this in mind. Built on a rich heritage, Pro Tools | Carbon combines native power with DSP performance to create the ultimate hybrid audio production system.

For more information please go to avid.com/carbon.

Pro Tools | Carbon

For artists, bands, and producers, Pro Tools | Carbon is a new breed of audio interface—built to capture brilliance.




Folder Tracks Overview

Pro Tools 2020 introduces folder tracks. Folders will transform the way you work with Pro Tools.  This blog concentrates on folder track basics so you can get up and running quickly.

Folder tracks can perform a simple organizational function or can be part of your session routing infrastructure. With that in mind, there are two types of folder tracks: Basic Folder Tracks and Routing Folder Tracks. Basic Folder Tracks are simply for organizational purposes and allow you to quickly collapse your tracks and tidy them out of the way. Routing Folders combine the organizational aspect of a Basic Folder with the ability to route audio through the folder as you would an Aux Input. You can immediately see the difference in the Mix Window or Edit Window as a Routing Folder has audio functions on the track such as inserts, sends and so on while a Basic Folder does not.

Folder Creation

There are a number of ways to create a folder. You can choose to create the Folder Track first and add tracks to it or you can create a folder based on your track selection.

To create an empty Folder Track just use the New Tracks dialogue where you will be presented with the option to create either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder.

Once the folder is created, there are a number of ways to move tracks into it. You can drag tracks onto the folder and you can see that the yellow box in the UI helps you to see which folder you are dragging on to. You can do this in the Edit Window, the Mix Windows and even the Tracks List. Alternatively, you can right-click on a track or group of tracks and select the “Move to…” option. Here you can choose to move the tracks to an existing folder. Here we can also move tracks back out of a folder using the “Top Level” option.

If you select some tracks in the session, right click on them and choose Move To… you will also see the option to create a New Folder based on track selection and you can then choose whether to you want a Basic Folder or Routing Folder. If you choose Routing Folder, then you have an option to automatically route tracks through the new folder. This creates a new bus, which has the same name as the folder, and routes all the tracks in the new folder to the bus. An even easier way to create a folder from a track selection is to use the Command + Shift + N shortcut. Finally, if you are working on a session that has come from a previous version of Pro Tools then you might have already set up your routing through Aux Inputs. In this case you can right-click on the Aux Track and choose to convert it to a Routing Folder track. Then just put the tracks that were being routed to that Aux Input into the new Routing Folder and you’re done. You can use Pro Tools’ bus interrogation feature to make this even easier. Simply right-click on the output path on the track and choose the option ‘Show Only Assignments to…’.

If a folder is open and you create new tracks directly under that folder then the new tracks will be added to the folder. If that’s not what you want to do then make sure that you close the folder before creating new tracks.

Of course, you can create folders within folders and create a complex nested folder structure. The Tracks List is a great way to keep an eye on this as it’s very easy to see what’s going on.

Opening and Closing Folder Tracks

Once the folder tracks have been created, opening and closing them is simply a case of clicking on the Folder icon by the track name, either in the Mix Window or the Edit Window or by clicking on the triangle next to the name in the Tracks View. Alternatively, there is a keyboard shortcut. Shift + f will open or close the selected folder track or tracks.

 

Metering

You will notice that both folder track types have signal indicators These are simply to show any activity that is going on with any tracks that are in the folder: green for audio and yellow for MIDI. Of course, a Routing Folder has regular track meters that are used to meter the audio going through the folder but those meters will only reflect audio that has been specifically routed through it, whereas the signal indicator will show if there is any audio on any track in the folder.

Solo and Mute

Soloing and Muting logic differs between Basic Folders and Routing Folders.

When you solo either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder track, the members are not muted. Soloing a member of Basic Folder is the same as if you pressed solo on that track and it wasn’t in a folder However, a Routing Folder behaves differently as there is audio going through the track. If you solo a member of a Routing Folder its folder is not muted.  This allows you to solo member tracks without having to worry about solo-safe.

Muting a Basic Folder will mute all of its members. However, muting a Routing Folder simply mutes the audio output of that folder. This is an important distinction as if you have tracks in a Routing Folder that are being routed elsewhere then the audio from those tracks will persist even though the Routing Folder is muted.

 

Editing

A very cool feature of folder tracks is the ability to perform editing commands on tracks that are in a closed folder. For example, if you make a selection on the closed Folder Track you can copy it and paste elsewhere on the timeline. This will be explored in other articles looking at workflows for music and post.

Conclusion

I hope that this has been a useful introduction to folder tracks and how they are implemented in Pro Tools. Dive in and try it for yourself and see how much neater your sessions look!

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Pro Tools 2019: Be More Creative During Playback

Pro Tools 2019 introduces improvements that allow users to create faster and more easily during playback.

When you’re being creative, it’s important that your DAW feels transparent.  Previously, when adding a track, plug-in, or send, playback would briefly stop whilst Pro Tools performs the action. This can be a little annoying and distracting but it also disrupts the creative flow. And this is particularly true is you are playing back live MIDI tracks. The momentary disruption will put any loops that are playing out of time and you then have to wait for a whole loop cycle to complete before things come back into alignment.

 

Make creative choices during playback

Pro Tools 2019 introduces continuous playback features that allow you to perform timeline and track interactions without hindering your creativity. Whether you are on Pro Tools software or running an HD Native or HDX system, drops in playback should no longer occur while making simple changes to sessions and projects. These include:

  • adding and removing sends and plug-ins
  • moving inserts and sends to different slots on the same track
  • dragging sends and inserts between tracks
  • adding and removing tracks
  • dragging tracks up and down
  • making tracks active/inactive
  • making changes to your I/O

This is not to say that Pro Tools will never glitch on playback. If you insert a particularly heavy instrument plug-in or delete several tracks at once, then you may get a brief pause but you will see improvement in the majority of regular interactions with Pro Tools.

 

Working with Dynamic Transport

Dynamic Transport has been in Pro Tools for some time now. It is primarily aimed at music production workflows and offers ways of working with loop playback that are not otherwise available.

In short, Dynamic Transport lets you decouple the playback location from the Timeline selection. When it is engaged, you can position the Play Start Marker independently of the Timeline Selection and the Play Start Marker can be repositioned during playback and playback continues from the new location.

Dynamic Transport is useful in conjunction with Loop Playback mode. For example, you can set a loop of, say, four bars and then have the ability to start and stop playback within the loop. Pro Tools 2019 significantly improves this workflow by allowing you to adjust the start and end points of your loop or move the loop position without interrupting playback.

 

To learn more about the latest features in Pro Tools 2019, please visit our What’s New page.

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




A Deeper Look at Voice Count Increases in Pro Tools | Ultimate 2019

Whether you are working in music, TV post, or film, Pro Tools sessions just keep getting bigger. Immersive audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos, require more tracks and users are bumping up against even the highest voice counts offered by a maxed-out HDX system. To address the trend toward bigger and bigger sessions, Pro Tools | Ultimate 2019 offers new options to increase your voice count on native-based systems.

A voice is an audio stream used for a single channel of audio on an audio track. A mono audio track uses one voice, a stereo audio track uses two voices, a 5.1 audio track uses six voices, and so on.

Prior to this release, Pro Tools | Ultimate users working natively (HD Native or Core Audio/ASIO) have only had up to 256 voices available.

 

A 50% voice increase to Pro Tools | Ultimate native-based systems

With the latest version of Pro Tools | Ultimate, the maximum available voices on native-based systems has gone up from 256 to 384—a 50% increase. In short, this means that you can now have more active audio tracks in your session. Pro Tools | Ultimate users working with native-based systems now get 384 voices as standard.

 

Voice Packs give you more flexibility to work on the largest projects

We’ve heard from users that they would benefit from more voices on native systems. This would enable them to prepare large sessions in Pro Tools | Ultimate running without HDX cards before transferring the session to the main HDX system for mixing.

This is a typical workflow in feature film production. Sound design sessions, for example, can be massive and it’s useful to have the flexibility to work on the session using a smaller, or even portable, rig. When the tracklay process is complete, the final mix can be completed using the power and guaranteed performance of HDX cards for mixing and processing. In the final mix, it is common to use multiple Pro Tools | HDX playback systems that are synchronized using the Satellite Link protocol in order to handle the massive track count required for dialog, music, sound design, foley, effects, etc.

To enable these workflows and allow for voice parity with HDX, Avid has introduced Pro Tools | Ultimate Voice Packs for native-based systems. Voice Packs let you go from the standard 384 voices up to 768 voices—the same maximum available with HDX systems. Voice Packs increase the voice count in multiples of 128. The table below shows how the voices increase as you add Voice Packs.

Voice Packs

44.1 / 48 kHz

88.2 / 96 kHz

176.4 / 192 kHz

0 (Base Software)

384

192

96

1

512

256

128

2

640

320

160

3

768

384

192

As you add more audio tracks to a session, the load on the native system will increase. So, it is important that you know your system is capable of dealing with this additional overhead. With that in mind, we offer a 30-day trial version of Voice Packs that lets you assess how well your system will handle additional voices.

 

The value of predictable performance and voice limits

Avid has always been more conservative when it comes to Pro Tools voice counts compared to some other DAWs. However, this allows us to provide a level of predictable performance that professional users require from their systems. The new voice packs offer the degree of flexibility and performance that our customers have come to expect from Pro Tools.

Visit the Avid Store for Voice Pack purchase information or the Trial page to use the free 30-day trial. For additional information on Pro Tools 2019, visit our What’s New page.

The Sound Backed by an Industry

Pro Tools | Ultimate provides everything you need to compose, record, edit, and mix audio—in the studio or in the cloud, from anywhere.




Pro Tools: Track Comping for Audio Post Production

The ability to quickly and efficiently compile a master version from multiple takes is vitally important for anyone working on ADR or VO recording. Pro Tools offers a number of ways to achieve this and we are always looking to make improvements to the workflow.

Before diving deeper into track comping workflows, a helpful tip to help organize your session: before recording immediately create a new playlist. Pro Tools automatically appends a take number to new playlists, e.g. “.01”. By starting with a new playlist, you’ll leave your original playlist free to be the one that you are going to compile on to.

The process of recording takes is simplified if you make use of keyboard shortcuts to create new playlists and use the option to automatically name the new playlist. Alternatively, you can use loop recording which can be set up to automatically create new playlists with every pass. You can also rate the take from 1 to 5 as they are recorded to help keep track of which ones you particularly like or not.

Next, we’ll take a look at the comping process itself.

Now that your ADR has been recorded, you will have all of your takes on playlists. The comp is created by taking the best parts from each take and compiling them on a single track.

You can do this using the Playlist track view. In this view, you will see all of your takes stacked on top of each other. Use the solo button next to each playlist to audition that playlist and use either the Promote button (the upward pointing arrow) next to the playlists or a keyboard shortcut to send the selected audio to the main playlist to create your comp.

Alternatively, you can work in Waveform view. First, designate which playlist you are going to compile your master takes onto by assigning a Target playlist. You can then audition each playlist to hear the different takes in turn by using a keyboard shortcut to cycle through the playlists. Again, you can make a selection in any part of the take that you like and use a keyboard shortcut to promote it to the Target playlist.

At any point you can switch to the Target Playlist with a keyboard shortcut to check on the progress of the comp and then toggle back to the playlist that you were working on.

Once you have assembled your takes, switch over to the Target playlist to fine-tune the comp. A really nice way of working is to use the new ability to audition in place. Say for example that you want to listen to alternate takes for just one word in your line of ADR. Select that word and then use a keyboard shortcut to cycle through the different takes of the word from the alternate playlists. When you do this, use Pre- and Post-Roll to hear the word in the context of the overall comp.

 

Keyboard shortcuts used in these videos

Ctrl + (Mac)
Start +   (Win)

Create New Playlist

Shift + Opt + Up Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Alt + Up Arrow (Win)

Copy Selection to the Target Playlist

Shift + Opt + T (Mac)
Shift + Alt + T (Win)

Move a Selection to the Target Playlist

Shift + Command + Up/Down Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Control + Up/Down Arrow (Win)

Cycle Audio Within Clip Selection

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Start Collaborating More Easily with Pro Tools 2018

We introduced Avid Cloud Collaboration in Pro Tools 12.5, providing a totally new way for artists to collaborate remotely by sharing Pro Tools sessions and we’re constantly looking at ways that we can improve the workflow and make collaboration as smooth and painless as possible. Pro Tools 2018 adds a new feature that makes it easier to take advantage of Pro Tools’ powerful Cloud Collaboration, enjoy revision enabled Project files, and invite others to collaborate in the cloud.

Seasoned Pro Tools users will be very familiar with Session folders and files. The Session folder can be stored anywhere on your local or shared storage and inside that folder you will find your session file, audio files, video files etc.

In Pro Tools 12 we introduced a new way of working, the Project. A Project is similar to a Session but it is Cloud-enabled and ready for collaboration. The Project is synced with the Cloud (or not, more of that in a moment) and synced to a local cache. You may want to change the location of the local cache if you want to store Projects on your media drive. To do this, just go to Preferences > Operation and set the path for Project Media Cache.

If you want to use Cloud Collaboration then you need to be working in a Project. However, you may have already started work using a regular Session. In order to make the process of going from Session to Project as smooth as possible we have added a new option in the File menu called ‘Start Collaboration…’.

When you choose this option, Pro Tools saves your current Session, duplicates it as a Project and then opens up the new Project with the Artist Chat window open and ready to add collaboration partners.

As well as being able to easily start a collaboration there are other benefits to working with Projects. Because the Project is stored in the Cloud then you can open Pro Tools on a different computer in a different location, log in, download your Project and carry on working. Secondly, last year we introduced the Revision History feature to Projects. Revision History is a powerful way of managing different versions of your work as you progress. You can give each revision a unique name and add comments in order to remind yourself of what has changed.

It’s a much neater solution than the manual ‘Save As…’ method that we rely on when working in Sessions, especially when you want to quickly switch between different version. Finally, last year we introduced the option to store your Project locally (in the Project Cache) and not back it up to the cloud.

This is useful because when the Project is not backed up to the cloud it does not impact your Avid Cloud storage allowance.

You can choose to back up your Project to the Cloud at any time. The Dashboard is the place to go for this along with everything else related to Projects. Here you can manage the Backup to Cloud, Revision History, downloads as well as Project naming and deletion.

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.