Jurassic DAW: 1st generation Mac Pro hosting Pro Tools HD TDM, upgraded

Days ago I arrived to the conclusion that to import files from my production PC to the Mac in the studio, I needed a faster solution. Every time having to make dozens of bounces, was getting really too stressful. What I needed, was the possibility to open my Reason 10 projects started at home, in a Reason rewired to Pro Tools HD in the studio, having this way complete compatibility.

The first thing I tried to do, has been checking for a Pro Tools upgrade offer in my Avid account, but not surprisingly, on their upgrade program my old system was not even mentioned , being too old.

2006 Pro Tools HD TDM Core and Accel cards
ATI HD5770 Silent found on eBay

Calling a friend and sharing my idea to update my old DAW to make run on it Reason 10, the answer of the guy, expert in computers and audio systems was something like “Max, you have a dinosaur there! What you want to upgrade? buy a new system, instead”
Even if his answer has its logic and didn’t surprised me, I couldn’t afford the cost for a new Avid audio card on a new Mac Pro and even more, I didn’t want, nor needed all that power. At the end, I was still satisfied with the zero latency and immediate reaction to commands of my old Pro Tools HD and the number of TDM plugins I can run there, are a lot more of what I ever needed, as I record real instruments and use external effects, most of the times. The problem was Reason not wanting to run in Rewire, being my Pro Tools architecture 32 bit, while this DAW from version 8.2, is 64 bit only and Reason is the platform where I like to compose more. I tried unsuccesfully a 64 bit to 32 simulator, but seems to work only in one direction,  32bit applications to run on 64bit hosts, not the opposite that is my case.

Mac Pro double processors without heatsink

Serching on internet, I found my Mac could, with a limited amount of money, partially being upgraded, at least to a certain point. What I needed were some more RAM, a new graphic card and a couple of faster Intel Xeon cores.

Cooling fan slot, the hardest part to remove





What was really an impossible task, at least to me, was having

Heatsink plate polished with Isopropyl Alcohol

a Reason more recent than version 8.1, working in Rewire with my hardware Pro Tools.

Intel Xeon core, once removed the heatsink

Unfortunately, a younger version of Reason Rewire in my system is impossible to make it run, it is not seen in the RTAS plugs list.

After a couple of weeks of trials and fails and lots of readings in specialized webs, I found a combi that works well for my machine:

Pro Tools HD 8.1, combined to Reason 8.1, perfect match even numerically! :D

Downgrading has been the only possibility to have complete compatibility. Using external gear, I can renounce to the last versions soft synths, the sacrifice is not that big using mostly real instruments.

Pro Tools and ATI 5770 PCIe cards installed

The total cost of the operation, including delivery of the parts, has been 326.80 euros

179 eu used ATI HD5770 (needed to run with the upgraded processors)
55.80 eu used 16Gb memory upgrade
92 eu 2x used 3.0GHz Quad core processors

There’s plenty of information regarding the upgrading of a Mac Pro 1.1, so it doesn’t make sense to go deeper.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information online, regarding Pro Tools HD TDM compatibility with recent versions of Reason. Through downgrading of Reason to version 8.1.1 and having Pro Tools software version 8.1, the combination is very stable and hadn’t any crash or problems.



Useful links:

The Art of Procrastination, Powertran Digital Delay Line

I’m very excited to start writing about this delay processor. A piece, I believe, that deserves some more words, as I couldn’t find too much written on it. The reason for not being popular, not to be found on its low digital resolution or for being very noisy, but for the reason that it has never been produced in series. The Powertran DDL came out in 1982 as a DIY project, published on the popular electronics magazine Electronics & Music Maker, so just a small number of units were built. The project was developed by the electronic designer Tim Orr, famous for the EMS synthesizers. The idea was giving access to the new digital technology, before extremely expensive and present only in big studios, to a wider public.


I’ve been lucky enough, to having fun with three different units of the Powertran Delay in the past, all a bit different from each other. Being the DDL a DIY project, all these processors had some modifications like the optional CV/Gate or additional knobs/switches.
The first unit I had was borrowed, a friend kindly left his Powertran in the studio and it remained in my hands for several years. Being his music more focused on acoustic instruments, he wasn’t using it anymore. Those were times when a dirty digital sound wasn’t appreciated too much and just a few bit-reduction plugins like the Digidesign Lo-Fi, existed. My friend’s Powertran had voltage control too, samples could be played from the keyboard, through a MIDI/CV interface and its dirty 8-bit sound reminded me a bit, the Emulator Paul Hardcastle had used in “19”, a song I’ve been loving so much. The Powertran delay became the crazy spice for almost anything experimental I’ve been doing, until before moving the studio to an other country, when I wanted to give it back. My actual Digital Delay was bought on eBay in a lucky bid, as very few units were still around, a few years ago. Unfortunately, my second unit, bought in the UK in 1999, had died after a few years of use and I couldn’t stay without a DDL!

The Powertran Digital Delay Line front panel is pretty simple and there’s nothing surprising, apart the time selector switches same as the MXR, we have already seen in a previous post.

Powertran DDL Time Delay buttons

The Time Delay buttons always select multiples of the original tempo. If the delay is in sync with the track tempo, pushing different switches, gives a today very fashionable Beat Repeater effect, where, for example, a loop is faster or slower, but always remaining in sync with the song. Some machines like the Powertran, had a freeze button so that the sample could be repeated without decaying, same as a sampler.


“Digital encoding for studio quality results. Time delays from 0.625ms to 1.6 seconds. Produces all popular time delay effects: Phasing, Flanging, ADT and chorus, Echo (including “freeze” for infinite repeats), Time domain vibrato, etc.”

Powertran Digital Delay Line

The Powertran Delay has a delay time of 0.625ms to 0.64 at 10KHz Bandwidth, while it has 1.6ms up to 1.6 seconds at 4KHz, these times can be halved through the delay knob.
The modulation LFO has a range from 0.025Hz, up to 17Hz and a triangular shaped waveform.

Powertran DDL circuit board

The input signal, once amplified, is passed through two switchable HPF at 4KHz and 10KHz, working as anti-aliasing filters. The ADC analog to digital converter is an 8-bit one. The dynamic range of the Digital Delay is 72dB. The RAM memory is 16K bytes.

Powertran DDL PCB L
Powertran DDL PCB R

Included are some examples of the crazy effects obtainable with this processor:

Interesting links:

Free impulse responses from Floaudio: https://floaudio.bandcamp.com/album/flo-audio-x-powertran-digital-delay-line