Whenever you start a new session in Pro Tools, you will be presented with a ‘Create New Session’ dialog. This window allows you to configure your new session with several settings which for the newbie might be a little confusing. We’ll take a look at what these settings are, how they affect you, and what are the most common and recommended settings to use.
1. Audio File Type
This setting determines the file extension of the audio files that will be created by Pro Tools. You get two options here — Broadcast Wave Format (.WAV) or Audio Interchange File Format (.AIFF). There is no audible difference between the two formats as they both use Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) to encode the audio. There are some slight differences in the metadata storage and capabilities but it usually does not affect your work in Pro Tools.
What to use?
BWF. Broadcast Wave Format has slightly better compatibility across Windows and Mac. It is also the standard audio file format used in the professional audio industry. Unless you have a workflow reason to use AIFF, BWF should be your choice here.
2. Bit Depth
This is one of the critical parameters of digital audio files. The available options include 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit float. Amongst other things, higher bit depths has less noise which allows for more dynamic range in your recording. 16-bit is used for CDs and has a dynamic range of 96dB. 24-bit has a dynamic range of 144dB. 32-bit float is rather different from the 16-bit and 24-bit settings as those are integer samples. 32-bit theoretically provides greater dynamic ranges and a more consistent noise floor but there aren’t many audible or significant uses yet. This discussion of 32-bit float audio files are beyond the scope of this article and maybe I’ll write one about it in the near future.
What to use?
24-bit is the best setting to use here. Although 16-bit is already more than enough for majority of the final distribution formats, it is important to record at a slightly higher quality for archival purposes. 24-bit audio files provide the best balance between audio quality and file sizes. 32-bit float audio files aren’t popular or significant enough at this time (or possibly not even in the future) to justify the additional storage and processing power required for using it.
3. Sample Rate
The sample rate is another critical parameter of digital audio files. The options here depends on the sample rates that your audio interface supports. The most basic options here are 44.1kHz and 48kHz with higher sample rates such as 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz if your audio interface supports it. The sample rate determines the highest frequency that can be recorded and reproduced with the audio file. This highest frequency, also known as the Nyquist frequency, can be calculated by dividing the sample rate by two. So the Nyquist frequency of 44.1kHz is 22.05kHz which is already higher than the average human hearing of 20Hz to 20kHz.
What to use?
If you are recording for music projects, use 44.1kHz. If you are working with video projects, use 48kHz. Higher sample rates can be used if you have a technical requirement for it but for most other purposes do not bring significant benefits.
This setting will affect the way that audio files are created for stereo tracks. Interleaved audio files are audio files that contain more than one audio channel such as a left and a right channel for stereo audio files. Earlier versions of Pro Tools did not use interleaved audio files and all stereo tracks recorded to two mono audio files, one file for the left channel and another for the right channel. Pro Tools now allow the use of stereo interleaved files.
What to use?
Interleaved. Either setting doesn’t really hurt anything as most DAWs are able to handle stereo interleaved files. I try to use interleaved files to keep my audio files folder cleaner.
5. I/O Settings
This setting allows you to choose the I/O Setting configuration to use for your new session. Options include ‘Last Used’, several default settings for Avid’s audio interfaces and I/O setups that you have saved before. I/O setups are configurations for labelling, formatting, and assigning your inputs, outputs, inserts and bus audio signal paths. If you don’t quite understand what I/O settings are yet then you’ve probably been using your default settings and that is fine too.
What to use?
Last Used is probably the best choice if you don’t know what to select here. If you are familiar with I/O setups and have create a few for your studio then select the one that you would like to use for the session.
Hopefully this article gives you a better idea of the settings in the ‘Create New Session’ dialog. Getting these settings correct will help to ensure you have fewer problems with the audio files created by Pro Tools and a smoother workflow with the correct I/O settings.
This tutorial can be extended with our Creating A New Session in Pro Tools video tutorial. Check out the video tutorial for more information.