My Journey “Upgrading” to Outdated Software

Posted: December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

On the heals of Waves announcing this week that they will no longer support TDM plugins comes a story of my own….

The studio finally “upgraded” from Pro Tools 9 to Pro Tools 10 a little while ago.  Mind you, Avid is currently on version 12.4.

As with many studios in 2015, the reason for the upgrade was one of necessity and not of luxury.  Our 6 year old Mac Pro finally bit the dust and we had to get a new”er” computer.  So we purchased a 2013 Mac Pro with OS 10.8.5 (again, Apple is on 10.11) and went to the latest version of Pro Tools that our hardware supported.

The problem is that our console (Digidesign Pro Control) and our I/O hardware (blue 192 I/O and Accel TDM cards) are no longer supported under the current version of Pro Tools. For the studio to upgrade to equivalent hardware to what we have, we would need to spend tens of thousands of dollars. Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the music and studio business isn’t quite what it used to be… A purchase of that magnitude isn’t exactly in the cards at the moment.

So, we went with what we could without breaking the bank.

For the most part, the upgrade went REALLY smoothly.  I honestly can’t complain. To begin with, we now have an Solid State Drive rather than the old standard disk drive. After 15 years of working on computers, this is the SINGLE fastest upgrade I’ve ever encountered.  CPU, RAM, video card….none of that ever compared to the speed increase of an SSD. It made the installations take one day rather than 3.

I’ve been using the computer for about 2 months now and haven’t really had any issues…..except the whole being-out-of-date thing.  When it’s a problem….it’s a big problem….a money sucking problem.

For example, we have a licence for Avid’s soft synth, Hybrid. Despite nearly EVERY license and plugin from Avid working ok, for some reason this one didn’t.  I went to pull up a session from the summer today and completely forgot this plugin wasn’t working now.  The main synth line for the song uses this plugin.

SO….we have a license for Hybrid 1.5. Well, you need 1.6 to work on Pro Tools 10.  Problem is, 1.6 is no longer available.  They are now selling 3.0.
Obviously this means shelling out more money IF I can get through Avid’s labyrinth of support and get them to send me a legacy installer and license.

This is just one example of how the current digital climate makes it REALLY hard to keep up, and keep working. If you aren’t on the LATEST version, you’re out of luck. But in order to STAY on the latest version, you have to constantly spend thousands of dollars to keep up.

For many small business (and especially recording studios)  this just isn’t an option.  Money is tighter than it ever was for many businesses, yet the cost to stay relevant and up to date is higher than ever.

Now, a friend of mine in the music business pointed out something on social media this week that made a lot of sense to me. He explained how the entry to get into recording is cheaper than it EVER was.  This is very true. In the past, to be a professional studio, you pretty much HAD to invest in a big Pro Tools HD system at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Now, you can get into a system that does so much more than the old ones ever did for under $5 grand.

But here’s the rub.  Those systems back then, we could get nearly a DECADE of use in some way, shape, or form. Now, we’re lucky if we get 3 years.  Although the entry price was much greater, that kept you going for much longer.

Now, I don’t want anyone to take this the wrong way. I’m not saying these companies are horrible or are just trying to get our money. That’s not the case. Technology is changing at such an incredible rate that these things are bound to happen. The unfortunate thing is that we’re in this situation in the first place.

So, as studio owners, engineers, and content creators what do we do? Do we settle for less because the price has gone up?  Our studio currently has a large 24 fader control surface.  It does a lot, and it looks nice in the room. It helps clients think, “Oh! They are the real deal!”. Do we now “upgrade” to an 8 channel  console that takes up much less space, and begins to make our purpose built, commercial recording studio look like a project studio?  Does that even matter anymore? Have the lines between, professional/hobbyist become so blurred that it doesn’t really make any difference?

One thing is for certain. We are living in very fast times. Everyone has to wear multiple hats, and one of the hats that keeps getting heavier is Technology Compliance Officer.


  1. Anne says:

    Completely agree with your comments about technology changing at an unbelievable rate. It so hard to stay on top of software changes to make sure you’re producing audio to the best quality. Thanks for the advice – really helpful!

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