Pro Tools systems are the standards that sound engineers use for mixing music when it's recorded in the studio.

© Matt Carr/Photonica/Getty Images

Pro Tools is a rare example of a technology that absolutely dominates an industry. Every single professional audio production facility -- from recording studios to audio post-production houses -- uses a Pro Tools system. The only equivalent is the way that Avid systems dominate the film and TV editing world. It's interesting to note that Digidesign, the creator of Pro Tools, is also owned by Avid.

Pro Tools is not simple to use. And it isn't cheap, either. But what you pay for in time and hard-earned cash is an amazingly stable platform that produces the highest-quality digital music recordings in the business. Professional musicians -- everyone from the synth-heavy Nine Inch Nails to orchestral film score composers -- rely on the versatility and power of Pro Tools to deliver every type of sound imaginable, whether the source is a human voice, an analog instrument or a nearly limitless number of virtual instruments and audio effects.

What exactly is a Pro Tools system? Is it just a software package or are there lots of hardware components? Do you have to spend thousands of dollars on a Pro Tools system or are there starter versions for home recording enthusiasts? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of working with the industry standard? Keep reading to find out.