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AAX - Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by Michael Venia on

AAX plug-ins..  We're using them.  We're waiting for more support from our favorite plug-in makers.  But what are they, exactly?  And why has Avid changed to the new format? Here is an FAQ to hopefully answer most of your questions:

Q:  What is AAX? According to Avid, AAX is a new unified plug-in format, and there are 2 types:  AAX DSP, AAX Native.  With AAX, you can share sessions between DSP-accelerated Pro Tools systems and native-based Pro Tools systems and continue using the same plug-ins.  (More about 'DSP' and 'Native' below)

Q:  What does AAX stand for? AAX stands for "Avid Audio eXtension"

Q:  What is the purpose of the new AAX format? In order for Avid to create a 64-bit version of Pro Tools, a new plugin format with 64-bit processing was needed. AAX is that format.

Q:  How will AAX 64-bit plugins be better than before? As with other softwares that make use of 64-bit processing, 64-bit AAX plugins will be able to take advantage of much more RAM. 32-bit plugins cannot do this, and are limited to 4 GB. Therefor, your sessions within Pro Tools 11 can run more effects and virtual instruments than ever before!

Q:  What are the old Pro Tools plugin formats? There are three plugin formats that came before AAX:

1. TDM TDM plug-ins are uniquely powerful because they use the dedicated hardware found on the DSP cards of Pro Tools|HD and VENUE systems rather than the limited resources of the host computer. ~Avid

2. RTAS Real-Time AudioSuite (RTAS) plug-ins are host-based, relying on the host computer’s processing power to process audio in real time. Functionally, RTAS plug-ins offer many of the same benefits of TDM plug-ins. Their parameters can change in real-time, they can be fully automated, and their effects are not permanently written to the audio file. Since they are host-based, RTAS plug-ins share computer processing resources with a number of other functions. ~Avid

3. AudioSuite AudioSuite plug-ins employ file-based processing. Depending on how you configure a non-real-time AudioSuite plug-in, it will either create an entirely new audio file or alter the original source audio file with the processing included. AudioSuite plug-ins are useful for conserving DSP power. They are also suitable for certain types of processing where there is no real-time benefit or application, such as normalization or time compression. ~Avid

Q: I am running Pro Tools 10. Plugin wise, what will I need to do when upgrading to Pro Tools 11? In a nutshell, only AAX 64-bit plugins are compatible with PT 11. Even the 32-bit AAX plugins you were using with PT 10 will need to be updated to the 64-bit versions. This also means that you will have to wait for AAX 64-bit plugin support from developers who have yet to update their formats. (Most 3rd-party developers are in the process of transitioning to AAX PT 11 compatible formats)

Q: My favorite plugins are not yet AAX compatible. What are my options? There are a few options:

1. Don't upgrade to PT 11 quite yet and wait for more AAX support.

2. Upgrade to PT 11, but have PT 10 installed alongside so that you can still make use of your old plugins when needed. Yes, you can open and run PT 10 when you have PT 11 installed.

3. Suck it up and jump in with both feet!

Q: What is the difference between DSP and Native? DSP stands for "Digital Signal Processors". This means that DSP plugins make use of audio processing hardware to take on the burden of audio processing. Therefor a system with DSPs can do a lot more work in real time. On the other hand, Native plugins are limited to the processing power of the host computer.

Q: Is AAX here to stay?  Should I expect more Pro Tools plugin formats to be released in the near future? No, Avid has assured us that AAX is their 64-bit plugin format designed for the future. Near-future versions of Pro Tools will be using the new AAX format, and it is clear that Avid is not looking back. 3rd-party developers are expected to keep-up and graduate to the 64-bit paradigm.

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