DAWs have come and gone but Pro Tools has stayed the course.
Many producers don’t know that Pro Tools was actually the first DAW. When it was first launched in 1991, it was so revolutionary that it replaced traditional analog editing methods within half a decade.
Even today when the DAW industry is expected to grow to $3B and competitors abound, Pro Tools retains its position as the go-to DAW for pros. You might find bedroom producers and home studios running Ableton and FL Studio. But you’ll rarely, if ever, find a pro studio that doesn’t use Pro Tools.
This particular status also makes it difficult to buy gear for Pro Tools. Because it caters largely to a serious, professional clientele, budget equipment makers don’t feel the need to support Pro Tools exclusively. It doesn’t help that the Pro Tools format for plugins (AAX) is different from the more traditional VST format.
Thus, if you’re in the market for a $100 keyboard or a $200 audio interface, you’ll find plenty of offerings that will plug and play seamlessly with Ableton or FL, but struggle with Pro Tools.
Conversely, high-end gear that struggles to work with Ableton will often run smooth as butter with Pro Tools.
Keeping this in mind, here’s a closer look at all our recommended offerings for Pro Tools:
1. Keyboards and Controllers
Our recommended keyboard for Pro Tools is a beast from Akai – the Akai Pro Advance 49. Should you manage to actually get your hands on one (the Advance line is notoriously out of stock most of the time), you’ll discover a keyboard that packs all the best of Akai in a single package. The pads are highly responsive MPC-style and boast RGB. The knobs are large and chunk. And the keys are the best Akai has ever made.
Seamless integration with Pro Tools is just another plus.
If you’re looking for something cheaper, try the Alesis VI49. Fantastic keys, great integration, and tons of control options.
2. Audio Interfaces
Pro Tools is notoriously fussy about audio interfaces. A lot of lower end offerings (especially from M-Audio) refuse to work seamlessly with Pro Tools.
For a truly well-rounded audio interface, you’ll have to go all the way up to Universal Audio’s astonishingly good Apollo Twin MK2. It’s expensive, but the audio quality is as pristine as you can get and it works wonderfully well with Pro Tools.
If you’re on a budget, I highly recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen). It won’t give you the same clarity as the Apollo Twin, but you can’t really complain much at the price.
3. Control Surfaces
With control surfaces, you have limited options. Pro Tools is notoriously hard to integrate with. It doesn’t help that Avid itself makes the best control surfaces for Pro Tools, killing any outside competition.
From Avid’s extensive stable of control surfaces, I recommend the Avid S1 Surface. It’s not cheap but it integrates incredibly well with Pro Tools and offers everything you’d want in a control surface.
For non-Avid offerings, I’d recommend the PreSonus FaderPort. You can get the single fader, 8 fader, or 16 fader variant as per your needs. It integrates well with Pro Tools and will also work with other DAWs should you decide to switch.
For our complete list of recommendations, see this guide to the best control surfaces for Pro Tools.
It’s never easy recommending laptops for any DAW because this entire segment has such a massive churn rate. That said, some things remain true even in this volatile sector. Namely, that Apple still makes the best laptops for creatives.
My recommended Pro Tools laptop is still Apple Macbook Pro 16″ (2020). Right now, I would recommend the old Intel based Macbook Pros. The new M1 chip Macbooks (aka ‘Apple Silicon’) are fantastic, but we’re still in the 1st gen of this chip. I’d wait for Apple to iron out the kinks in the 2nd gen chips. Plus, by then, software makers would have fine-tuned their offerings for Apple Silicon as well.
But if you want a laptop right now, the 2020 Intel Apple Macbook Pros are still your best bet.
If you’re on Windows, try the ultrabooks from Lenovo and Dell, specifically Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. If weight is not a concern, try the Dell Precision 5520.
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