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Apple Logic Pro Review

June 30, 2014
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In addition to updating its look, Apple made Logic Pro X easier to learn and use, while adding powerful features such as the Drummer track, MIDI plug-ins, Track Stacks, and Flex Pitch.
 
 
I’LL GET right to the point: The most earth-shattering aspect of Logic Pro X, the long-awaited update to Apple’s premiere DAW, is that it changed as little as it did. While there are plenty of new features and welcome GUI improvements, the program didn’t lose much more than support for 32-bit plug-ins.

This outstanding update is fully 64-bit, yet it can open projects created as far back as Version 5, as well as GarageBand sessions. Long-time Logic users can breathe a sigh of relief. But if you’re looking for a new DAW or have tried earlier versions of Logic and thought they were too cumbersome, you will be pleasantly surprised at how intuitive Logic Pro X is to use.

Instant Gratification Logic Pro X is available directly from the Mac App Store and requires OS X 10.8.4 (Mountain Lion) or later. The program is a 651MB download, which takes only a few minutes. When you launch it for the first time, an additional 2GB of “essential instruments and settings” will download.

Overall, your Logic Pro X purchase includes nearly 38GB of content, and I highly recommend you download all of it to get the most from the program. If you don’t want to commit to everything in the beginning, it’s easy to retrieve later. However, the extra content will download automatically when the program needs it, as we will see in a moment.

Veteran Logic users will notice a big difference in the overall look of the program, but the change is not merely cosmetic. Menus are better organized, transport controls sit along the top of the screen, the Score Editor and Piano Roll have been updated considerably, mixer functionality is improved and reflects signal flow, and the Library has been moved to the left. If you’re using Logic for the first time, you’ll see only the basic features when you open your first session, though it’s easy to locate the deeper stuff when you need it by using the Advanced Tools preference settings. If you had an earlier version of the program on your system when you installed Logic Pro X, all of the features will be available.

When I first launched Logic Pro X, I expected to spend considerable time configuring it before I could make a sound. Not so! I was able to get a new song going almost immediately—not bad for a DAW of this magnitude and complexity.

One feature that helps is the new Drummer track, which provides a user-friendly way to generate realistic drum parts. Select one of the 15 virtual drummers categorized by style (Alternative, Rock, R&B, Songwriter) then choose a pattern. Realtime controls let you determine the dynamics, complexity, swing, fills, ghost notes, and much more (see Figure 1). The results are Region-based, so you can create a different part for each section of a song without having to program MIDI. The sampled kits sound great, and you can customize them using the new Drum Kit Designer plug-in by swapping out instruments, as well as tuning and dampening. It’s the most musically satisfying drum program I’ve used. (Visit emusician.com to see a video showing these features in detail.)

Fig. 1. A view of the Drum Kit Designer plug-in with the Drummer editor below it. The yellow ball in the editor’s X/Y matrix adjusts the dynamics and complexity of the virtual drummer’s performance.
Fig. 2. Using the Logic Remote app on an iPad, you can control Logic Pro X from anywhere in the studio as long as there is a wi-fi connection to your computer. Shown here is a fretboard interface to play an instrument, along with its Smart Controls.
MIDI and Control
I especially like the new features that affect virtual instruments. Apple has created 9 MIDI plug-ins that you can apply to your virtual instrument tracks and transform your performances in interesting ways. The plug-ins include an arpeggiator, a modulator, a transposer, a chord trigger, and a randomizer. You can even design your own plug-in using Javascript. Up to eight MIDI plug-ins can be used on each instrument channel strip.

Logic Pro X’s plug-ins now have a set of Smart Controls, groups of essential parameter that come up when you’re working with effects and instruments. Assign these to your favorite MIDI control surface, or if you have an iPad, use the free Logic Remote app (see Figure 2). The app can be used to control the mixer and transport buttons, use key commands, tweak Smart control parameter, and play your instruments using a matching interface (keyboard, guitar fretboard, bass strings, chord and drum pads). You’ll need a stable wi-fi connection between your computer and iPad to run the app, but it’s easy to set up and use. Best of all, it allows you to control Logic Pro X from anywhere in your studio.

Logic Pro X also introduces Track Stacks, which consolidate groups of tracks in a folder with the ability to submix them to an Aux channel. Track Stacks provide an intuitive and efficient way to build layered sounds, and they can be saved as part of a Patch along with Smart Control data and channel strip settings. If you have MainStage3 ($29.99), you can access your Logic Pro X plug-ins, Patches, and Smart Controls and use them onstage.

With Flex Pitch, Logic Pro X can manipulate pitch and other parameters of monophonic recordings using a piano roll-style interface or input from a MIDI controller. You can adjust vibrato, gain, formant, and the way pitches slide between notes, among other parameters. It can also be used to extract MIDI data from an audio track.

Other new features will make guitarists and bassists smile. The Bass Amp Designer lets you assemble a virtual rig based on classic amps and cabs, as well as blend miked and DI sounds. Guitarists will enjoy the pedalboard effects such as reverse delay, tube overdrive, octaver, and whammy-style pitch control.

Logic Pro X also supports MusicXML, AAF, and Final Cut Pro X XML, and you can send your mixes directly to your SoundCloud account, iTunes or the Media Browser.

In Session Starting from scratch with Logic Pro X 10.0.1 was a breeze on my MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo. I connected my MOTU Traveler mk3 interface, selected it within Logic’s Preferences, and plugged in my Fender Strat. For my first session, I opened the Songwriter template, stretched out a Drummer track so that I had a few minutes of time to jam over, record-armed the track with the amp simulator, and hit Record. Everything worked the first time.

During the session, I tweaked the Drummer track’s performance editor so that the dynamics and complexity of the part matched each section of the song, all without leaving the creative headspace. As I was adding a second guitar part, I changed from the default drummer “Kyle” to the Rock player named “Logan.” Here’s where the additional content comes in, which I hadn’t downloaded yet. As I worked on my overdubs, Logic downloaded the 1.8GB of data it needed in the background for the new drummer. When it was finished, I could call up additional Rock kits, though the controls for the new drummers (instruments/feel) were grayed out until I relaunched the program.

Nonetheless, the best part was that I didn’t have to stop what I was doing during the download. I could continue to record my second guitar part and add a virtual-instrument bass part without interruption.

Later, I replaced “Logan” with a drum machine from the Instrument list, and I used the performance matrix to change the density and dynamics of each section of the song on the fly—nice! And as I completed the piece, I had no problem adding bus effects while mixing and creating a finished stereo file.

Perfectly Logical Over the years, DAWs have grown inordinately complex as developers have added tons of features with each new rev. What a pleasure it is to see one such company concentrate on the interface of their flagship product for a change, and make it more inviting and musically inspiring to use, while retaining the pro-level features that the power users expect.

Equally welcome is the price: For what you would expect to spend on a decent virtual instrument, you get Logic Pro X and a huge assortment of content. Best of all, Apple’s state-of-the-art DAW won’t take you a week of head scratching before you can use it.

Gino Robair is Electronic Musician’s technical editor.

 
SUMMARY
STRENGTHS: Easy to set up and use. Updated menus, piano roll editor, and notation. Backward compatible. Extensive content. Drummer track. Drum Kit Designer. MIDI plug-ins. Flex Pitch. Track Stacks. Logic Remote for iPad.

LIMITATIONS: Doesn’t support 32-bit plug-ins from earlier sessions.

$199.99 MSRP
apple.com/logic-pro

 

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