Modern Classic: Digidesign Digi 001
Price: $1995 (Original)
Digidesign (now Avid) released its 24-bit, host-based Digi 001 system at just the right time. The DAW market was about to go ballistic, host computers were becoming capable of handling the DSP dirty work and ProTools the aspirational software of choice. It wasn’t the first prosumer interface but it did have connections in high places. A network of professionals were already hooked on the ProTools drug, and their bona fides rubbed off on the 001, and home studios. The Digi 001 gave access to the same kind of toys as the big boys and girls of the recording world.
Priced at sub $2000, the system consisted of a PCI card capable of eight channels of digital I/O, an eight-channel breakout box with six analogue line inputs, plus two mic inputs and stereo S/PDIF. To encourage familiarity with the software, Digidesign gave away an early version of ProTools (v3.4) and the 001 itself came with a ‘lite’ version of the software entitled ProTools LE — it handled MIDI decently and shipped with a bunch of RTAS plug-ins to get you going.
There were some limitations: the LE software had a non-expandable maximum of 24 audio tracks (plus MIDI) and was limited to 48k sampling. The 001 I/O was intentionally hobbled, including a lack of wordclock.
None of this would have mattered to the home/project studio owners but if a project did expand beyond the capabilities of the 001 it could be transferred to a TDM system, plug-in settings intact, and continued. What’s more LE gave home studios a tantalising glimpse at what life might be like with a full-blown TDM system.
HOW IT CHANGED THE GAME:
PROTOOLS FOR ALL
It’s hard to imagine a world without ProTools being utterly ubiquitous. But prior to the Digi 001, ’Tools was the preserve of the pro studio, much like an SSL or a U87. That all changed with the 001 and ProTools became a byword for digital recording. Remarkably the LE starting point was closer to the ‘real thing’ than most could have hoped for at the time — home studios were now using the same user interface as the pros. Unthinkable prior to the 001. And LE was remarkably powerful for the price.
What’s more, the 001 gave us a glimpse of a native studio future. DSP cards would persist — and, of course, they still do — but the 001 demonstrated that the PC would soon be the nerve centre of the studio rather than proprietary racks of processing.
As predicted by Daryl McKenzie in our original Issue 8 review, Digidesign created a new standard, describing it as a “must-try system”.