Pro Tools 2023.3 and Icon

Pro Tools 2023.3

Pro Tools 2023.3 – Does Icon Still Work?

In month 3 of 2023, Avid released Pro Tools 2023.3.  It’s so much easier to keep track of versions these days, don’t you find?  In many ways, the beauty of the subscription model. 

If you’re a Windows user, you can skim the next few paragraphs. Nothing to see here.  For you, nothing has changed.  For now. Same for Mac Pro users, all of whom are Intel-based.

For M1 and M2 Mac users with Icon consoles – the headline is:

Right here, right now in Spring 2023 – the new Pro Tools release still works fine with your console.

The caveat being that it has to run under Rosetta2, like every version of Pro Tools up to this point if you have an M1 or M2-propelled Mac.   Only now there’s a checkbox to check when you Get Info the Pro Tools 2023.3 Application.

The most significant new feature in Pro Tools 2023.3 was the long-awaited ability to run natively, free to savour that sweet, sweet Apple Silicon.  Pro Tools no longer needs Rosetta2 when using an M1 or M2 Mac (such as a Laptop, newer Mac Mini or Mac Studio) – unless there’s any hardware or software in the setup that still demands it (various plugins, Icon, C24 – any of these will make it necessary).

Rosetta2 is a background translation process, rather than an app in the usual sense, which enables a Mac built on Apple Silicon to run software written for a Mac with an Intel processor. Software such as Pro Tools, up to now. 

Rosetta (version 1 or 2) exists because Apple transitioned users from one generation of hardware products to another, in the knowledge that this would take time and must be seamless while the ecosystem caught up.  Opinions abound on the internet as how much Rosetta dilutes the performance of the apps it enables.  The lived experience of Pro Tools users, particularly the post houses and studios where HDX hardware is the norm, suggests that when it comes to doing the the work, it’s a non-issue.

So, for right now, no change.  

I have, or want, an Icon console – Has the used market reacted to Pro Tools 2023.3?

Much of this  – in theory at least – is old news.  It’s priced-in and has been for years.  Nobody who’s been awake can say they didn’t see this coming, or can’t see what’s next.

Icon users, buyers and sellers have become accustomed to living in this uncertain world.  Many have been here long enough to have their own parking space.  It was fully a decade ago in 2013 when D Command and D Control officially entered the twilight zone by reaching their Final Sale Date.

Back in 2018, the Resurface newsfeed acknowledged another important milestone along the path to oblivion – End of Support.  At the time, we said:

Typically, unsupported ‘legacy’ hardware will fall by the wayside as a side-effect of advances in other areas of the DAW software; Whether through necessity, design, coincidence or accident.

This is still true today.  Five years on – it’s just a step closer.  It’s another milestone: the first version of Pro Tools, since Icon was launched in 2004, which doesn’t support Icon without an asterisk.  The asterisk – running Rosetta2 – seems like a fair trade.  For now, at least.

What comes next?

In that last check-in to the twilight zone in 2018 we talked about the unknown-unknowns.  The single biggest of these was when this particular milestone would arrive.  Now that we’re here, what’s left in the unknown column for the Icon user running Pro Tools?

  1. The ongoing ability to run new Pro Tools versions with Rosetta2
  2. The ongoing existence of Rosetta2

Guesswork isn’t helpful, but if we had to guess, we’d say number 2 would happen before number 1 – that Rosetta2 disappears in a future MacOS update, shortly after Apple is satisfied that it has served its temporary purpose.   Whichever of these happens first, it’s a milestone either way.

That’s when you can’t get the newest Mac OS, and/or newest version of Pro Tools, and connect to an Icon.  Let’s call that Day X.

Day X is important to Icon users, even if nobody’s accusing them of obsessively chasing the latest kit. 

The typical Icon user wants business continuity, and what works well for the foreseeable future.  Here at Resurface we can still remember the phone ringing, when S6 was unveiled at trade shows in 2013, with customers wanting to buy the old stuff…while they still could.  Because of course, none of this happens instantly on the day of release.  The forums may light up, but the studio doesn’t go dark.  We simply reach the next milestone: Day X.

Pro Tools 2023.3

The state-of-the-art in cutting edge Mac CPU, OS and Pro Tools on Day X-minus-1, will be the ultimate platform for ICON users.  Not ultimate as in awesome, ultimate as in last.   For those familiar with pubs,  Day X is drinking-up time.  ‘What next’ then becomes a pressing concern, as it often is in pubs.  This needs to be given careful thought, as it seldom is in pubs.  That next milestone heralds a hardware move.  That one’s potentially a boulder.

Meanwhile, in other corners of the ecosystem, companies like Neyrinck are looking at what can be done to circumvent some or all of this obsolescence, to chip away at those milestones.  Fader control of Icon D Command (excitingly agnostic of DAW or MacOS version) has been around for some time – albeit with its very own set of asterisks.

It’s been coming, for a decade or more.  As they’ve been saying in Silicon Valley, since it was just A Valley: The next one might be the big one.

And yet, Icon consoles are still changing hands, powering through the work and earning their living in professional studios around the world.  Delivering return to their owners in buckets. 

These owners aren’t oblivious to any of this.  For many, 5 or 10 years is plenty to have paid off and written-down an S6, had they wanted to go that route.  Perhaps, now that S6 is the same age that Icon was when it was replaced, they’re betting on leapfrogging S6 if a successor emerges?