Studio Upgrades

A small window of opportunity gave me the chance to make a few needed upgrades to the studio. One was easy. The other very complex.

The easy upgrade was the addition of a new keyboard into the studio. We took delivery of a new Korg TR-88 music workstation. This unit features 88 weighted keys and an impressive sound engine. But, like most things digital, a bit of a learning curve to get up to speed with the more advanced operations. This unit replaces the trusty old Roland JV-80. In service since 1991, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. Amazingly, the JV-80 still works well so it may yet submit a few more sonic riffs in our studio productions.

The tough upgrade was moving the studio DAW to Pro Tools HD 7.1 cs10 from 6.9. This was a major upgrade which required a complete rebuild of the studio computer: new operating system, incremental builds of Pro Tools, upgrades of software plug-ins and system testing.

I am most of the way there.

The Apple G5 tower is a fabulous computer. I have a dual processor configuration running at 2GHz. The unit has 4GB of RAM and almost 2 Terabytes of online storage, two high-speed 250GB internal SATA drives and an array of firewire and USB offline storage. No need at all for me to upgrade this machine at the hardware level. I love this computer. Stable. Reliable. And high performance. Perfect for audio.

I needed to move from a 10.3.6 build of OS X to a 10.4.6 build. My Pro Tools technician highly recommended a clean install.

I did a full image backup of the old system disk and I did a clean install of Tiger 10.4.6. I had a minor hiccup in that I needed to update the firmware of the SuperDrive. The computer would not read the install disc. I know it sounds a bit odd, particularly to Windows users, but I had not updated the studio computer at the operating system level for about two years.

So, a firmware update allowed the machine to read the install disc. And, within an hour, a clean install of 10.4.6 was ready for Pro Tools.

Where to begin? Software licenses had to be registered. Pro Tools, and its related plugins, are all managed by license dongles called iLoks. I have so many plugins that I use two iLok dongles. I had to go online to register the new Pro Tools license and get it deposited into my iLok account. And I had to go to the iLok site to transfer the license to one of my iLok dongles attached to my computer.

Of course, the new install of 10.4.6 did not have the appropriate client to perform this transfer and thus began the night of a thousand downloads. iLok client, Pro Tools 7.0 software followed by 7.1cs10 and assorted plugins.

The iLok update and the Pro Tools HD updates were not bad. But the plugins? My goodness.

I had to update virtually every software plugin in my Pro Tools HD rig. I have somewhere over 100 plugins. Thankfully, some of them are suites, but nonetheless, I had to update about 70 times. Go to website. Download compatible plugins. Run the install software. Test to ensure the plugins instantiated properly by running Pro Tools and exercising the plugin.

Granted, almost all of the software manufacturers provide an unlimited software license for their plugins. Which meant that they had updated their plugins to work with Pro Tools 7.x and offered the download without charge. All but two.

Sony charged me $20 USD to download the upgrade to their Oxford EQ plugin. Okay. A minor annoyance. Waves, on the other hand, won’t allow me to upgrade my plugins without becoming current on their maintenance program.

I initially payed close to $2,000 USD for their plugin suite in 2003. Shortly afterwards, in a controversial move, they decided to implement a maintenance program to allow owners of plugins to keep current. I am not aware of any other plugin vendor that does the same. And so you gamble. Will there be enough of a change to your existing plugin suite that the cost of the maintenance program is worthwhile? In my case no. But now I have to spend almost $600 Canadian just to allow the same plugins to work under the new Pro Tools environment.

The phrase “rip off” comes to mind. I wish I could get off the Waves plugs but I do use a number of them. And virtually all of my sessions over the past several years use them. I am between a rock and a hard place.

A huge amount of time was spent upgrading the software side of the Pro Tools rig. I have been up to about 2am over the past couple of nights getting this stuff done. And for those of you who know me, 10pm is my usual bedtime.

Oh, yes, my blog went down for several hours yesterday. I received a number of emails alerting me to this fact. My hosting service had not allowed enough space for the database service. Their issue and they fixed it relatively quickly. Thanks for letting me know.

6 replies
  1. Matt S
    Matt S says:

    Ouch!! Technology woes 🙁

    Can we expect a review of the Korg soon?

    And by the way…how is that mesa lonestar special treating you?

  2. Jose
    Jose says:

    I don’t understand. If you upgrade Protools, you need to upgrade plugins too to work specially with the upgraded version of PT?

  3. Richard Cleaver
    Richard Cleaver says:

    Jose: yes, you need to ensure that your plugins are compatible with 7.x. Some are, some aren’t.

    You can see the full list of plugins and the supported versions by Pro Tools platform here. Most of my plugins had to be upgraded.

    As you can see from the list, upgrading from 6.x to 7.x is not trivial.

    Lots of little details to work through.

  4. Jose
    Jose says:

    Well, me being a pc user I find that weird. Once I install and register any vst plugin, it works well almost everywhere. There was once a compatibility issue with waves plugins and Sonar 5 that was fixed in Sonar 5.2 and improved in 6, but the plugins are the same. I guess PT is too egocentric.

  5. Richard Cleaver
    Richard Cleaver says:

    I’ll reserve judgement on PT egocentricity 🙂

    There was a major change in the PT platform architecture and some of the plugins had to be updated.

    Looks like the same will eventually be true for VST users and some older vst plugins.

    From the Steinberg website:

    * What is VST3?
    VST3 is the next major revision of Steinberg”™s Virtual Studio Technology and follows VST 2.4, which is the latest current version of VST. VST3 is a plug-in standard, not a product or host application. In order to run VST3 plug-ins or instruments, the host application must also support VST3.

    * Can I still use my existing plug-ins and instruments?
    Yes. Existing VST 2.4 plug-ins and instruments are fully compatible with Cubase 4. Any plug-in or instrument older than VST 2.4 must be tested and potentially updated.


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