The history of Pro Tools goes back over 30 years. For a long time, they dominated the market for DAWs. However, they now have a lot of competition and need to find ways to connect with more users.
Pro Tools First is designed to appeal to the younger generations of new singers, musicians, and producers who are just getting into the use of audio recording tools.
Avid decide to make Pro Tools First available for free. Instead of spending hundreds on DAW software, novices can get started with this free version. Unfortunately, this program has several limitations, especially when compared to the paid versions of Pro Tools.
Limits to the Number of Projects and Saving Options
The first limitation that stands out is the number of projects. With the paid versions, you can work on an unlimited number of sessions that you store locally or in the cloud. The free version limits you to three projects.
All versions of Pro Tools now include 1GB of cloud storage for free. However, when you use Pro Tools First, you can only save your projects in the cloud. You do not have the luxury of saving your files locally on your hard drive.
Maximum Supported Sample Rate Is Limited
The sample rate is limited to 96 kHz instead of 192 kHz. Luckily, they did not limit the bit depth. With all three versions, you can choose between 16 and 32 bits.
The maximum sample rate of 96 kHz is not a major limitation. When recording audio for use in a video track or for release on a digital platform, your output is likely to use a 48 kHz sample rate. With 96 kHz, you have the flexibility you need for professional audio production for these formats.
You can also still use 44.1 kHz or 88.2 kHz for tracks that you plan to burn to an audio CD. Basically, the sample rate is one of the least frustrating limitations.
You Get Fewer Effects and Sound Processors
Pro Tools First is bundled with software and a sound library, the same as the paid versions. However, the bundled software and sound library are limited.
With the paid versions of Pro Tools, you get a 2GB loop library. With the Pro Tools First version, you only get 500MB of loops. You also only get 23 effects, sound processors, and virtual instruments, compared to the 80 items included in the standard Pro Tools.
Avid Limited the Number of Supported Tracks
The next limitation is the number of tracks that you can edit in a single project. With the standard Pro Tools, you can add up to 128 tracks when using a 48 kHz sample rate. With a 192 kHz sample rate, the software supports up to 64 tracks.
With Pro Tools Ultimate, you get up to 256 tracks with a 48 kHz sample rate. Pro Tools First limits you to 16 simultaneous tracks no matter what sample rate you are using.
The number of hardware-dependent inputs is also limited. You get four inputs and four audio recording tracks at the same time. The standard Pro Tools offers 32 max inputs and the Ultimate version offers up to 192 inputs.
These limits also apply to the number of virtual instruments, MIDI tracks, and auxiliary inputs. These are all capped at 16 with the Pro Tools First software. With the standard or Ultimate versions, you can use up to 512 virtual instruments and MIDI tracks.
If you plan to use a lot of samples, loops, and other effects, you may find that Pro Tools First does not offer a lot of options. However, if you are a singer-songwriter or an acoustic band, these features may not be as important to your recording needs.
Pro Tools First Limits Many Features and Options
Besides the main hardware and software limitations, Pro Tools First is missing many features that are found on the paid versions.
With Pro Tools First, you do not get access to your revision history, track freeze, automatic delay compensation, batch renaming, clip gain, or a timecode ruler. You also cannot export your tracks to iTunes. Input monitoring, VCA mixing, and advanced metering are also gone from the free version.
If you are new to Pro Tools, you may not miss these features. While they offer convenience, they are not essential features.
Pro Tools First Does Not Require the Same Processing Power
Pro Tools First has many limitations compared to the paid versions. However, you also get a few notable advantages by downloading and installing the free version.
With Pro Tools First, you do not need to have a powerful computer with 32GB of RAM. In fact, the minimum system requirement for Pro Tools First is 4GB of RAM. If your computer does not meet the requirements for the standard Pro Tools, the free version provides a way to start experimenting with this DAW.
What Is the Biggest Complaint with Pro Tools First?
Out of the many issues with Pro Tools First compared to the paid versions, the biggest issue is related to saving your projects. Pro Tools First requires you to save your projects in the cloud. You cannot save locally.
Not having the option to store files locally is the issue that most users dislike. It requires you to constantly have an Internet connection, which may be a problem for some users.
Avid claims that purchasing one of the paid cloud storage plans may allow you to save files locally. However, they have not yet added this option to any of the cloud storage plans.
Conclusion: Should You Still Use Pro Tools First?
Pro Tools First does not include the same features and options found in the paid versions. The free version limits the number of projects, sample rates, tracks, virtual instruments, and inputs.
With these limitations, why should you still consider using this software? Pro Tools First is a free program. While it has limitations compared to other DAWs, there is no cost to download and install Pro Tools First.
Pro Tools First remains a great option for those who are just starting to learn how to use a DAW.