Any Pro Tools session can be opened on any Pro Tools system.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Pro Tools

There's no denying that Pro Tools is the industry standard for digital audio production. Pro Tools is the go-to system for studio recording engineers, sound editors, sound effects designers -- just about anyone who works with music or sound for a living. That said, being the industry standard has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage is once you learn how to use Pro Tools, you have the skills to work in many different audio environments. The basic software functionality doesn't differ significantly from the cheapest home system to the highest-end professional rig. So the time you invest in learning how to use the software will continue to pay off throughout your career.

The disadvantage of Pro Tools being the industry standard is that it's expensive and proprietary. You can't buy Pro Tools software on its own. It won't even work without a Pro Tools-approved audio interface. The interface functions as a physical anti-piracy key, sometimes called a dongle. So if you want to learn the industry standard, you're going to have to fork over the cash and invest in the whole system.

What does that mean for musicians? For one, you can't use Pro Tools with just any audio interfaces or sound cards that you already own. And you can't shop around for a better deal on audio interfaces, because you're stuck with the few that work with Pro Tools. Some musicians chafe against this very closed, proprietary system and opt for other more open platforms.

Since Pro Tools is designed for professionals, it's not as user friendly as a home-recording tool like Garage Band. It takes time to learn the nuances of the system, even years. Pro Tools is designed to be extremely versatile, which means that there are tons of tools and editors and plug-ins that you may never use. The danger is getting lost in all of the details and becoming overwhelmed. Luckily Pro Tools comes with a helpful instructional DVD and there are many colleges, professional schools and even music stores that offer Pro Tools training classes.

So how do you get your hands on a Pro Tools system and how much should you expect to pay? We'll talk about that in the next section.