So the rumours were true: Digidesign has previewed Pro Tools 8 at the AES convention in San Francisco. As expected, this brings with it a redesigned user interface, more free effects and virtual instruments, fully integrated MIDI and score editors and enhanced editing features.
Based on the shots that MusicRadar has seen, the UI does look more contemporary in version 8, though it's still recognisably Pro Tools. There are now dockable Editor windows and a configurable Edit window toolbar.
In terms of functionality, it looks like two of the biggest bonuses in Pro Tools 8 will be the new MIDI and Score Editor windows. MIDI editing has long been perceived as Pro Tools' Achilles heel, but perhaps no longer.
Reports suggest, meanwhile, that the new software has Sibelius-style score editing - if this is true, Pro Tools 8 could become the DAW of choice for serious composers. Digidesign and Sibelius are now both owned by Avid, so the use of the latter company's technology in the former's software makes perfect sense.
Another key enhancement could be Elastic Pitch, which is said to enable real-time transposition within the Edit window. We'd be surprised if this gave users full-on Melodyne-style editing, but it's certainly a feature we're keen to test.
On to the plug-ins, then: Pro Tools 8 includes 20 new effects from Digi's AIR development team and five new virtual instruments: Mini Grand piano, Boom drum machine, DB-33 tonewheel organ, Vacuum tube-modeled synthesizer, and the Xpand!2 sample player. There's also a free version of Digi's Eleven amp sim software and the Bomb Factory Tech21 SamsAmp amp emulator.
The inclusion of all these plug-ins suggests that, as well as attempting to appease its established 'pro' user base, Digi is also looking to take some of ground currently occupied by Apple, Ableton, Steinberg and Cakewalk, all of whom bundle plenty of 'extras' with their DAWs.
These are the headline features in Pro Tools 8 - it'll be available in HD, LE and M-Powered flavours for Mac and PC late in 2008. Users of the LE and M-Powered versions will be pleased to learn that the audio track limit for their software has been raised to 48.
For more specs, hit the Digidesign website.