If you’re a Pro Tools TDM user running a pre-Intel Mac with PCI/PCI-X cards, your path to future Pro Tools upgrades is closed. The current software (8.0.1) will be the last to support the Legacy Port, 888|24 I/O, 882|20 I/O, 1622 I/O, 24-Bit ADAT Bridge I/O, PowerPC-based Macs, Mbox (original model) and Expansion|HD Chassis. But don’t fret, there are options that will save you $$$, improve performance, keep you current and offer a clear upgrade path in the years to come.
Your Apple computer upgrade options include a MacPRO 4 or 8 core system (we’re not addressing PC options in this feature). Our search found a new MacPRO single Quad-Core with 3GB of RAM for under $2300 while a dual Quad-Core with 6GB of RAM came in just under $3100. Buying used will save you more. Our source says that because of Pro Tools code upgrades bowing next year, the 8 core is your best bet. The new code promises more efficient PT operation on multi-core native DSP and the more cores you have, the bigger difference you’ll see in system performance.
Now for the cards. A straight PCI to PCIe swap of three cards (1 Core/2 Accel) will set you back about $3600. This brings the total for this upgrade to $6700 on an 8 core computer.
A solid, money-saving Plan B comes from Magma, the expansion solution company. By purchasing the Magma PE6R4 expansion chassis ($2199), you can keep your legacy cards, still run a MacPRO and keep the door open for Mac OS X and Pro Tools software upgrades. The chassis has six slots that support PCI and PCI-X, including pre-Accel Farm cards which are a real bargain now. Total cost with an 8 core MacPRO would be $5299 saving you $1400. According to Avid, the PE6R4 will be supported in the soon-to-be-officially-released Pro Tools 8.0.3 software and beyond making this an upgrade path with a future.
Magma Chassis Option
Upside: Upgrade your computer to MacPRO, Mac OS X to Snow Leopard and Pro Tools software beyond 8.0.1, save $1400 or more, keep your old cards and even add inexpensive legacy cards to your system. Benefit from MacPRO’s increased processing power allowing more instances of RTAS plugins and faster operation.
Downside: While system performance will improve, it won’t be as fast as upgraded PCIe cards from AVID
Card Swap Option:
Upside: Same upgrade paths as the Magma option. No chassis necessary provided you don’t use more than 3 cards. PCIe is the current state of the art in data transfer
Downside: Will cost you more $$$$
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