I’ve heard a lot of people say that they do their composing in Logic or Cubase and then export it all to mix/master in ProTools. But I never hear them say why. I used ProTools a long time ago, and I’m sure it’s changed since then. But I can’t really think of anything I’m lacking in Logic when it comes to getting music mixed down. What is it that ProTools has for mixing that goes beyond what Logic and Cubase can do?
Well, I’m hardly an expert on Pro Tools, but I’ve used it for some audio-only projects (recording and editing vocals, mostly), and it is real nice and smooth for that - as one might expect from a DAW that started out as audio-only.
I really don’t get along with the MIDI side of Pro Tools, though, and that’s why I went with Cubase - and now, with Cubase Pro 10.5, I don’t really feel a need to use anything else, for audio or MIDI. It can do basically anything I can think of in terms of audio editing, routing etc, and even odd things it “can’t” do officially can be done with some workarounds.
So, why Pro Tools? Well, I can think of three possible reasons, at least:
- It’s an industry standard, still (AFAIK) dominating the studio domain, which makes it handy if you to exchange projects, rather than stems.
- Pro Tools HD (dedicated hardware) is a scalable ultra low latency solution that runs loads of third-party plugins on the actual DSP hardware, so that’s a no-brainer when you want instant response and monitor mixes with plugins in a setting where random glitches are unacceptable.
- As a result of the above, lots of people are deeply familiar with it, especially when it comes to audio work. Why learn mixing on another DAW if you already have, know, and like Pro Tools?
Usually if you’re not sold on Pro Tools, it’s unlikely someone can sell it to you, the differences are micro workflow differences that add up to something significant in some cases, depending what you are doing. So it is super unsexy to talk about. That’s what I’ve learnt over the years haha. Stick with what you love honestly and don’t worry about that FOMO.
I’ve used Pro Tools for a bunch of years in recording studios and at home, the main differences would be the precise, reliable audio editing functionality (yes many daws including logic are unreliable in their graphic and audio feedback when you chop and move things around especially in a precise setting) and workflows that you can build through the audio editing tools and keyboard shortcuts. Many people scoff at keyboard shortcuts, but yes they are unique in the way you can set the up in pro tools. Especially shortcuts with no modifiers for most actions. If you’re doing 10,000 micro actions, this matters - A LOT.
The audio editing is graphically more precise and responsive than my experience with Logic or other DAWs.
Clip gain: In other DAWs but has a rare implementation in PT. It is editable in the arranger view has the ability to add more points within a single clip and add precise volume adjustments to the source audio file volume level (this matters because its sample accurate this way and not subject to unreliable latency compensation applied to automation in most DAWs). It has the added benefit of also graphically showing the change to an audio waveform in realtime as you move the clip gain curves and points. This feedback is super useful for example tastefully flattening out vocal recordings in level in a specific way before they hit a compressor. You can see at a glance what you’re doing to the audio before it hits the compressor.
The mixer console is very well laid out and organized, the VU meters are very clear, customizable to all the standards, and overall readability is some of the best in any DAW. Mixer view also has color coding by shading the entire channel strip (Logic still needs to add this for overview readability imo). Also, this is a taste thing, but personally I don’t like dynamic inserts (if you add more inserts the list of inserts gets longer). Pro tools has a static 8 slots for inserts and they are always there. This becomes useful when you are dealing with many varied lengths of fx chains and wish to keep them organized in a specific way that doesn’t always start from the top, might skip a spot etc. This can end up helping readability of your fx chains when you have 100s of tracks. Same thing applies to Sends here.
Another subjective thing - the included plugins. In my opinion they’re pretty great. But of course if you are happy with your own, this means very little.
There are other things like the deactivate and hide workflow for tracks being a lot better implemented than Logic. I can deactivate entire channels and hide them in one shortcut. This is a more granular process in Logic, last time i tried it earlier this year. Not as clean, you have to manually deactivate plugins using a separate shortcut modifier etc etc it’s a long boring story haha.
The Commit function is also better implemented than most daws, allowing you to commit up to a specific insert fx. That’s not all, it will automatically deactivate the plugins that were committed and include a copy of the non-committed fx on the resulting new track. Little details like that are nice when you are doing a lot of repetitive tasks like this too.
Anyway, as you can see, I don’t think there’s really much ‘killer feature’ in Pro Tools. In my experience its workflow enhancements that are Tailored specifically for engineering or general audio work (foley, dialogue etc) where it shines. Most other DAWs are primarily designed for music composition and production. Pro Tools is primarily designed for audio engineering. Basically if you are a fussy, and intensely detail oriented engineer, Pro Tools got your back. If you’re not one of those people, there isn’t much to love about Pro Tools imo, stick with what works for you! (Disclaimer you might be surprised but I recently moved from PT to Logic, I have my reasons but that’s for another post haha)
Hope this adds some kinda helpful perspective and good luck!
Thanks for those explanations! It sounds like there are a lot of little things that are just more tailored for audio engineers where tracking and mixing external instruments is their main thing. And I can understand how having more precise waveform editing would be really useful if you are doing a lot of chopping and rearranging of audio tracks. 95% of everything I record is MIDI, so any chopping/rearranging I have to do is done while it’s still a MIDI track.
When I first got into recording in college I was using MOTU Digital Perform because that’s what they had. After school was over I thought, “great, now I got to shell out money to buy a DAW,” and I definitely wasn’t in the price range for Digital Performer. But then I saw that ProTools had just come out with its first free version. I used that to great effect for a couple years, but ended up switching to Cakewalk because I wasn’t happy with the MIDI capabilities of ProTools back then. When I finally got a Mac, I picked up Logic and I’ve been on that ever since. I’m not looking to switch or anything. It just makes you wonder when you hear so many people saying it’s better for mixing when I didn’t remember anything particularly better about it back then compared to Logic now.
is the learning curve quick with protools?
In my opinion the learning curve is pretty bad for Pro Tools! (not super intuitive etc.) If you’re looking for a nice learning curve, Pro Tools isn’t a great starting point. Most other DAWs have better learning curves in my experience. Just my opinion tho
well since you said that now I’m pumped to start learning the way you explained its features helps a lot . thanks for sharing that information.
Between Cakewalk, Sonar, Cubase, Ardour/Mixbus, FL Studio, and Pro Tools, all of which I’ve used somewhere between “for some small project” through “extensively for years”, I’m… not sure about learning curves, really. It depends a lot on what you’re used to, what you need to do, and how you prefer to do things. They’re all pretty big and complex applications, and a design (and default configuration) with any particular focus will invariably make other areas more awkward to deal with.
Haha well that’s awesome glad it helped! If you’re this motivated to learn then nothing can stop you
I like the way you say design and default configuration. So underrated! Most people focus on features and abilities but honestly most daw can do what the other daw can do.
It’s very personal and it sounds funny but it’s a lot like finding a good life partner. It’s subjective as heck and there is no definitive right answer for everyone! Follow your heart and trust your instincts!
I’m so happy you brought up this subject!
Like many things I hear and read online in the wonderful audio world, people seem to repeat what other people say without pausing and taking time to think and question “why would I do this?”.
As @reflekshun said: In today’s world, almost all DAWs have the core features you need to mix if you know them well. The tool doesn’t make the quality; it’s the ears and the craftsmanship that do.
When you have 6 weeks to write 90 minutes of music, you don’t have a choice but to find a fast workflow. I mix my music as I create it in my DAW (Cubase) and deliver my stems into a ProTools session because that’s the format film/tv mixers use.
If my PT session is set up correctly with the correct timecodes, the mixer can import it into their main session, and everything should align correctly with the correct track names and markers, saving them tons of time. By doing so, I make their life easier; they’re already dealing with dialogue and foley, and I don’t want to add stress or, worse: slow down their work.
I used logic for 10+ years; if you ever want to explore Cubase, I think you’ll love it because it has all the PT features you described:
Precise and responsive audio editing and graphic interface.
Easy clip gain: Selecting the event and moving the mouse wheel up/down
Mixer: Very similar + Different meter possibilities
Great built-in plugins
Very advanced hide/show (Huge time saver in big templates)
– Show only tracks playing at the cursor
– Hide unused tracks
– Show/Hide all tracks containing [whatever word you want]
– Show/hide tracks by track type (Folder, Audio, Midi, Instrument, FX, etc.)
– and much more, of course
The Commit function: There’s a similar option too called “Direct Offline Processing”.
And many cool features such as advanced folder hierarchy, macros, advanced MIDI features (expression maps, etc.)