Avid’s Pro Tools is pretty much the industry standard for folks that edit audio for a living, including musicians, radio journalists, and other audio producers.
But it ain’t cheap. When I started working in radio news nearly 15 years ago, Avid offered a basic free version cleverly called Pro Tools Free. But it was discontinued years ago. Now you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a full version of Pro Tools, or buy hardware that comes with the more limited Pro Tools Express.
But later this year Avid will launch a free version again. It’s called Pro Tools First.
The new version of Pro Tools has the same basic features as the full version, but it’ll have a lot more limits.
Among other things, users will be limited to 4 input tracks and 16 tracks for editing. There’s support for 32-bit, 96 kHz audio, but not for 32-bit 192 kHz audio. And there’s no support for exporting your works to MP3, iTunes, or SoundCloud.
Users will be able to add features by purchasing plug-ins from the Avid App Store though… so if you don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with an $899 version of Pro Tools, this could be a more affordable option.
There are other free and affordable options for audio editing. Reaper only costs $60 for a discounted, personal license. Audacity is free and open source. And there are many other free and paid options for Digital Audio Workstations.
But if you’re considering a job in audio production, it’s a good idea to learn how to use Pro Tools… and it’ll be nice to have a free option for doing that again.
Pro Tools First should be available sometime in the first quarter of 2015.
There’s always Ardour (ardour.org) if you use Linux or Mac. It’s free* and open source, and is way more capable than Audacity. Not sure how it compares to Pro Tools these days.
*Completely gratis only if you build from source. They charge a tiny fee ($1 US) for pre-built binaries.
I liked Ardour a lot, but version 2 is the last version that’s properly supported on a Mac and hasn’t been updated for some time. Development focuses on version 3, which is pretty good, but you can’t use it on a Mac and save your plugin settings unless you compile it from source, and the developer has basically said the Mac version isn’t a priority. I’d consider switching to Linux, but then you wind up with spotty support for audio interfaces, especially firewire ones, and a severe lack of plugins. On features, it competes fairly well, but the lack of a proper Mac release combined with the dire audio situation make it tough to recommend unless you’re a die hard Linux user. I’ve since switched to Logic.
I hadn’t realized there was no full binary release for Mac. That’s unfortunate.
I’m a long-time Pro Tools user, in fact I have a Mac dedicated to it (I use Linux for everything else). I once tried getting Pro Tools Free to work on Wine, with no success. I’ll probably try the same with Pro Tools FIrst just for kicks.
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