Pro Tools has always been known as the gold standard in music production and recording. But does it hold up in 2021? Read this Pro Tools Review 2021 to see if it’s the right DAW for you in 2021.
The TLDR of this Pro Tools review is that if you’re serious about working with other audio professionals – like you want to be in the music industry – Pro Tools is probably going to be your best bet. That said, nowadays, there are many other DAW options out there that are much more suited towards hobbyists. Not to mention other DAWs are much cheaper.
Pro Tools: A Brief Overview
If you know anything about music production, then you’ve probably heard of Pro Tools. Pro Tools has been known as the industry standard in music and audio production.
Previously, Pro Tools was only usable with its own audio interface; however, in recent years, other audio interfaces have been able to be used with Pro Tools.
However, in recent years, other DAWs have taken over some of Pro Tools’ market share.
Most DAWs have many of the same features like audio recording and editing, a piano roll, the ability to use audio and MIDI effects, and other similar features. Instead of going over all the features that you know about let’s look at some of the main features of Pro Tools that separate it from other DAWs.
Pro Tools Features
Convert Audio to MIDI
In Pro Tools, you’re able to record an audio track and convert that track into MIDI data. What that means is you can record an audio part – for example, a piano part -, convert it to MIDI, and then have a virtual instrument double that part.
In professional music production, it’s very common to layer parts, so this is a very powerful feature, especially if you’d rather record audio than just input MIDI files.
Sometimes your projects can become large with many different tracks. What should you do to organize your tracks? In Pro Tools (and Cubase, too!) you can create folder tracks. For example, if you’re recording drums with multiple microphones, you can put them all into a folder to organize the tracks.
Or you can do the same thing if you’re layering guitars for example – you can just put all your guitar tracks into a folder and collapse that folder when you’re not working on it.
Multiple interface themes
You can use multiple themes with Pro Tools’ interface.
Every few months Pro Tools comes out with updates that bring new features to the software. That means, although you’ll be paying a subscription for Pro Tools, you’ll be able to constantly get updated software.
Another great thing about the constant updates is that you aren’t going to feel like your Pro Tools version is going to lose support.
Pro Tools isn’t going to replace your video editor, but it allows you to do some basic video features such as importing video clips, playing, editing, and exporting. You’re not going to use this for most of your video editing needs, but you can use it if you’re writing a score to a video scene.
This is a pretty neat feature that isn’t common with other DAWs. The only thing close I’ve seen is Cubase’s video playback which is also good for writing music to a scene.
Pros and Cons of Pro Tools
There are some things that Pro Tools does right and some things that it does well, well, not as well. Let’s look at these in the sections below.
Pro Tools Pros
Let’s look at what Pro Tools does well. These are the pros of Pro Tools in 2021.
The Industry Standard
Pro Tools has always been known to be the industry standard for audio and music production. In the recent decade or so with more accessible home recording setups, other DAWs have gained market share. Still, Pro Tools is known as the gold standard.
At the end of the day, many professionals use Pro Tools. If you’re wanting to work with other professionals, then you might want to learn Pro Tools instead of another DAW.
I’ve only used Pro Tools for a little bit – I’m mostly a Cubase user – but many users say that once they learn the fundamentals of Pro Tools, they have a great workflow.
Pro Tools Cons
Let’s look at what Pro Tools doesn’t do so well. Here are the cons of Pro Tools in 2021.
Pro Tools comes in three versions: Pro Tools | First, Pro Tools, and Pro Tools Ultimate. Pro Tools | First is a stripped-down version of Pro Tools that is targeted towards “students, musicians, and podcasters.”
Being free is great, of course, but the other versions of the Pro Tools can be really expensive, really fast. The “Pro Tools” version, for example, is $299 per year. That’s right, it’s subscription-based, meaning you won’t be paying one price for it.
Compare this to Logic Pro which is $199.99 for the complete version – not a yearly fee. Then you have other DAWs which are a little more expensive than Logic, but you only have to pay for once – and then again if you want to upgrade.
And then you have Pro Tools Ultimate. Pro Tools Ultimate has more features and more instruments. Many other DAWs have the option to pay more and get more virtual instruments with the DAW, but I prefer buying third-party plugins because they are usually easier to share between different DAWs and software.
Multiple versions can be confusing
This is a common theme among many, but not all, DAWs. There are multiple versions of the software that have different features and functions. Pro Tools is no different. You can see all the differences between the Pro Tools versions to decide which one is best for you.
The differences between the various Pro Tools versions aren’t as complicated as the differences between the Cubase versions, but it’s still more complicated than something like Logic Pro. Whenever I buy the non-full version of software, it always seems like there’s one function that I really need that’s missing.
One problem I’ve seen often with Pro Tools users is that the licensing can be a pain in the butt. One user said that he has licensing issues with Pro Tools every single month and that this issue makes it hard for him to hit deadlines.
Add that to the fact that Pro Tools is often used by professionals and you’re looking at some potential, big problems with getting projects done on time.
Not as Good with MIDI and Virtual Instruments
Every DAW has things it does well and doesn’t do well. One of Pro Tools’ weaknesses is that it doesn’t work as well with MIDI and virtual instruments.
Works Better with MAC than PC
While Pro Tools works with both MAC and PC, the software works better on MAC than PC.
Pro Tools Review 2021 Conclusion: Is Pro Tools Worth It?
Pro Tools used to be “the” DAW that you needed to get if you wanted to produce professional-quality music, but nowadays, there are many other options out there.
Add that to the fact that Pro Tools requires an expensive subscription, and it looks like Pro Tools would be one of the worst DAWs to get now. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that there are so many other good options out there.
That said, if you want to work with other professionals, and you want to be a part of the “music industry,” then Pro Tools is the option that you’re going to want to choose since so many other people in the industry use it.
Alternatives to Pro Tools
Some alternatives to Pro Tools include