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The Digidesign 003 Series

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Digidesign Digi 003 Factory

Digidesign Digi 003 Factory

Digidesign, Inc.
It's here, the next step in the Pro Tools LE world: Digi 003!

Digidesign has formally announced the next step in their Pro Tools LE family of products: Digi 003, bringing pro-level tools and world-wide compatibility to the home studio market. Let's take a look at this new upgrade for users of Pro Tools LE.

New, More Professional Features

The Digi 003 family comes in three flavors; first, the 003 Factory, a Firewire-connected control surface similar to the previous 002 control surface, bundled with an impressive selection of software tools for music production; the 003 Rack, bringing the same input and output options of the 003 in a sleek, rack-mountable package, and finally, the 003 Rack Factory, the same hardware as the Digi 003-R, but with an expanded bundle of software tools. Prices start at $1,295 for the 003 Rack, $1,695 for 003 Rack Factory, and $2,495 for the 003 Factory.

Factory Bundles

While the 003 systems come bundled with fantastic plug-ins, including the Digidesign Pro Tools Ignition Pack, you might want some more power for your new system. When purchasing the Factory option with your 003 product, you'll get some really great software plug-ins to use with Pro Tools LE, which would normally cost quite a bit more if bought individually. It's up to you if that's what you need; if so, you'll be getting a great deal. If not, you can still get into the same base system by purchasing the 003 Rack.

Included in the factory bundle: an iLok USB Smart Key (for maintaining digital licenses for purchased plug-ins), and several high-quality, premium plug-ins from Digidesign, including SansAmp PSA-1 (guitar amplifier simulation), the D-Fi Bundle (several special effects, useful for vocals), Maxim, Tel-Ray (variable delay), and many others.

Updates from the 002

One thing that caught my eye with the 003 series was the ability to now sync with other digital devices via a BNC word clock input/output. One of the biggest complaints Pro Tools users have brought up is the problem of jitter affecting their recordings, due to unstable clocking within Pro Tools. The BNC word clock I/O addresses that issue, to an extent. It certainly makes it easier to sync to a better clock source, without eating up an S/PDIF input. In fact, the word clock issue could be seen as the biggest update to the LE series.

The 003 Factory unit offers a few impressive features above and beyond what the 002 units offered. First and foremost is a jog wheel -- this allows you to navigate through your recording session a lot faster than normally allowed, especially useful for overdubs and setting cues while tracking. You'll also find another really useful feature: the ability to select and assign both plug-ins and auxiliary input options directly from the console itself. Another great feature is the ability to work with your automation modes directly from the console with dedicated controllers for automation settings, saving you the time and hassle of doing it manually with your mouse during the session. As in the 002 control surface, the 003 features a bank of eight touch-sensitive, motorized faders, along with eight motion-sensitive rotary encoders, allowing for a hands-on approach to Pro Tools mixing. Aside from that, the 003 now features two headphone outputs -- definitely a needed upgrade, allowing more than one person to now monitor on headphones (without expensive headphone distribution systems). There's also one cool feature not available on the 002 - security lock slots on both the 003 and 003-Rack, so you can lock your equipment down when you're not using it, perfect for dorm rooms.

In the Digi 003-R rackmount unit, all of the same high-quality input and output features - including the BNC word clock input/output - are shrunk into a convenient, streamlined two-unit rack-mount unit.

What's Missing?

While it's definitely an upgrade, and there's some minor problems addressed, the 003 isn't the major upgrade that most users were hoping for. In fact, without any major upgrade to the preamp or analog-to-digital stage, there's little incentive for content users of the 002 series to upgrade. But, as an upgrade to the MBox series (or any of the M-Powered setups), the 003 series represents a really good value, especially with Digidesign's trade-in options.

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