Register    |    Sign In    |   
electronic MUSICIAN

Apple Logic Studio (Mac) Review

By Len Sasso | October 1, 2009

The release of Logic Studio a couple of years ago heralded a complete graphic redesign of Logic; updated instrument and effects plug-ins; tons of new content; bundled applications MainStage, Soundtrack Pro and WaveBurner; and a variety of enhancements. (Read my review in the January 2008 issue of EM at emusician.com/sequencers/apple_logic_studio_mac/.) And all that came with a dramatic 50-percent price reduction.

Although the changes in the new Logic Studio are not quite as dramatic, it does sport the same low price tag and offers a significantly upgraded feature set for Logic Pro 9 and MainStage 2, along with improved Soundtrack Pro 3 integration and graphic automation in WaveBurner 3. Furthermore, the content is expanded, and guitar players will rightfully be jumping out of their seats to get hold of the new Amp Designer and Pedalboard (stompbox) plug-ins.

In the main part of this review I'll concentrate on the features and content in Logic Pro 9. EM executive editor Mike Levine will cover Amp Designer and Pedalboard in the accompanying sidebar, “Modeling Paradise,” on page 46. You'll find coverage of MainStage 2's new features in the Online Bonus Material at emusician.com/online_exclusive/apple_logic_studio_bonus_material.

Before starting, several things are worth noting. PPC Macs are no longer officially supported, although some users have reported successful installs on those machines. Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) is required. Due to compatibility issues, Final Cut Pro users will need Version 7 for compatibility with Soundtrack Pro 3. For this review, I installed the full Logic Studio package on a 2.66GHz quad-core Mac Pro with 8 GB of RAM.

It's a Stretch

Flex Time is probably the most far-reaching addition to Logic Pro 9. This transient-detection, time-stretching technology enables a variety of features, including the Flex Tool, audio quantizing, drum-track slicing, Speed Fades, Convert to Sampler Track and Varispeed.

Varispeed, the simplest of the Flex Time-informed processes, is similar to the classic tape-recorder function of the same name. It increases or decreases the tempo of the entire project (not just Flex-enabled trsacks), and, of course, it follows the project's tempo changes. The range is half- to double-speed, entered as either a percentage or a target tempo. Modes include speed alone; speed and pitch (like tape Varispeed); and speed, pitch and MIDI (where non-drum MIDI tracks are transposed in semitones). Although the results are less than stunning, Varispeed is quite useful for recording parts at a more comfortable tempo or for auditioning a tempo shift. Logic 9's new Speed Fades use Varispeed to create turntable-style speed-ups and slow-downs (see Web Clip 1).

<B>FIG. 1:</b> Different Flex Time modes allow Logic Pro 9 to time-stretch almost any kind of audio.

FIG. 1: Different Flex Time modes allow Logic Pro 9 to time-stretch almost any kind of audio.

Make Mine Elastic

Like other elastic audio implementations, Flex Time starts by analyzing audio files for transients — sudden audio spikes indicative of audio event onsets (think drum hits). Logic analyzes all audio regions on a track the first time you enable that track for Flex Time editing, which you do by turning Flex view on and selecting a Flex mode for the track. Three modes — Rhythmic, Monophonic and Polyphonic — indicate the material they're best suited for. Three more modes refer to specialized processes: Slicing for typical REX-style beat slicing, Tempophone for special effects similar to granular processing and Speed for tape-speed manipulation.

Audio quantizing is another dead-simple Flex Time application. Once Flex mode is enabled for a track, you select one or more regions, ensure Flex is enabled in the Region Parameters box and choose a quantize setting. Logic then automatically quantizes the appropriate transients. If you group several tracks and enable phase-locked editing for the group, then Logic will maintain the phase relation between parallel regions.

To move audio events manually, convert transients to Flex markers and then drag them in either direction to move the corresponding event, stretching the audio on one side and compressing it on the other. If you click on a transient marker in the lower-half of the waveform display, it creates Flex markers for it and the two adjacent transient markers — a nice touch. That lets you easily move an event with minimal disturbance to the rest of the audio file. You add, delete and move transient markers in Logic's Sample editor, and you can place Flex markers anywhere in an audio clip (not just at transient markers).

Creating and moving Flex markers is great for adapting the feel of one clip to another. But for adapting audio to tempo curves, you simply need to enable Flex Time and choose the mode best suited for the material (see Fig. 1 and Web Clip 2).

Flex Time also figures in two new drum-oriented features: Slice to New Sampler Track and Drum Replacer. The former creates an EXS24 sampler instrument from the slices defined by transient markers, simultaneously builds a MIDI clip to play the slices with their original order and timing, and installs the instrument and clip on a parallel MIDI track. Drum Replacer creates a parallel (or replacement) MIDI clip based on an audio file's transient markers and uses it to trigger a drum sample of your choosing. It is intended for individual drum stems, but you can get some interesting special effects with drum mixes or even non-drum clips.

<B>FIG. 2:</b> You can temporarily disable Quick Swipe comping to make edits to your takes such as the Flex Markers shown here.

FIG. 2: You can temporarily disable Quick Swipe comping to make edits to your takes such as the Flex Markers shown here.

Second Take

Moving individual tracks and track setups (plug-ins, sends, automation and so on) between songs is much easier in Logic Pro 9 and is accomplished completely within the destination project. Locate the source project in the browser, double-click to reveal its content, select the track(s) and setup items to import, and choose to add to or replace existing content. Tempo and groove conflicts are easily solved with Flex Time.

Quick Swipe comping has been improved to let you temporarily turn it off for normal editing of takes and then turn it back on to continue creating and editing comps. For example, you can use the Flex Tool to adjust a few notes within a take and then instantly return to comp building (see Fig. 2). I did have some stability problems with Quick Swipe comping as was my experience with Logic Pro 8, but when it works it's great.

The much-requested bounce-in-place feature lets you quickly render effects and software instruments to audio. It works on a region or track basis and deposits the new audio file on an adjacent track, automatically muting the original. Bounce-in-place differs from track freezing in that it produces an easily edited audio file at the project settings rather than a hidden 32-bit freeze file.

You no longer have to use Markers to take notes about your project. The Media area of the toolbar now sports a new Notes button, which reveals a list area with tabs for track and project notes.

Sounds Abound

You'll find two important additions to Logic Pro's audio content: the Voices Jam Pack and a collection of 450 warped IR presets for Space Designer. Voices offers a broad range of vocal clips and effects from classical choirs to Bollywood to vocal percussion (see Web Clip 3). The warped Space Designer presets range from drones to moving textures to analog-circuit emulations (see Web Clip 4).

Like many manufacturers, Apple no longer provides fully printed documentation. You get a small Exploring Logic pamphlet and a PDF, an abbreviated but handy Mac Help version of the manual and the full 1,336-page manual in PDF format (downloadable from Apple's Logic Pro Support page).

Logic Studio is an excellent upgrade to all parts of this reasonably priced bundle. The new features in Logic Pro 9 and MainStage 2 are especially impressive, but the other applications in the bundle are also improved. If you're a Logic Studio user, the upgrade is a no-brainer. If you're a potential new user, you're bound to find useful features to augment your current rig.


Len Sasso is an associate editor of EM. For an earful, visit his Website, swiftkick.com.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

<B>FIG. A:</b> Amp designer offers a wide array of amp and speaker cabinet models, and lets you position one of three mic models.

FIG. A: Amp designer offers a wide array of amp and speaker cabinet models, and lets you position one of three mic models.

MODELING PARADISE

With the addition of the Amp Designer and Pedalboard plug-ins, Logic 9 has taken a quantum leap from earlier versions in its guitar-amp-and-effects modeling capabilities. The sounds produced by these plug-ins can hold their own with any third-party modeling software.


Amp Designer offers a simple interface featuring a graphic depiction of the selected amp head in the foreground, and the chosen speaker cabinet and mic model in the back on the right (see Fig. A). Pull-down menus let you swap out heads, cabinets and mic models; and by clicking on the EQ or reverb labels at the top of the heads, you can switch between many different EQ and reverb types. All of the models have tremolo.


Although the amps are all labeled “Logic,” the graphics make it obvious which ones are being emulated. You get several different Fender types, as well as Marshalls, Mesa/Boogie, Vox, Orange and Hiwatt amps, and even a Sears Silvertone model. Unlike the actual amps, all of Logic''s models have the same set of controls. This detracts a bit from the realism of the simulations, but it makes the comparison of tones between amps much easier, especially because the controls retain their settings when you switch models.


Overall, I was impressed with the sound of the models and the responsiveness of their knobs. I was particularly surprised at how natural the clean sounds were (see Web Clip 5). It''s been my experience that amp modelers tend to do better at emulating distorted tones than clean ones, but Amp Designer does both well.


Kudos also for the ribbon mic emulation, which sounds round and warm. The mic model that you choose—you also get a dynamic and a condenser—can be moved around to any position within three or four virtual “inches” from the front of one of myriad modeled speaker cabinets. I wish the mic could move a greater distance back in the “room.”

<B>FIG. B:</b> Pedalboard features 30 stompbox models and flexible routing, providing you with a huge range of effects choices.

FIG. B: Pedalboard features 30 stompbox models and flexible routing, providing you with a huge range of effects choices.


The Pedalboard plug-in offers 30 excellent-sounding modeled stompboxes. Choose your pedals from the collection on the right side of your “pedalboard” (see Fig. B), and then drag them to the main section to make them active. You can easily change the order.
Some of the pedals appear to be modeled from specific stompboxes (the Fuzz Face, for instance) whereas others are hybrids. You get a ton of fuzz and overdrive pedals, and lots of modulation effects like chorus, flanger, rotating speaker and ring modulator. You also get several delay models, a spring reverb pedal and a couple of wah pedals. I was a tad disappointed that there was only one compressor and no octave divider. But, as a whole, the collection is comprehensive and the pedals sound great (see Web Clip 6).


Routing is a breeze in Pedalboard. You can split the signal and send one feed to one line of effects (A) and the other to the opposite side (B). If you pan the outputs on the Mixer pedal, you can create huge stereo effects. You can even divide the signal by an adjustable frequency range, thereby sending only certain frequencies to the A or B effects.


Amp Designer and Pedalboard rock, literally and figuratively, and give Logic users a guitar-sound toolkit of prodigious proportions. Apple also announced Logic 9 support of the new Apogee Gio ($395), a USB audio interface and foot controller that comes premapped for the two new plug-ins.

Alert to All Users of the Disqus commenting system:
Because of a recent global security issue, the Disqus website recommends that all users change their Disqus passwords. Here's a URL about the issue: http://engineering.disqus.com/2014/04/10/heartbleed.html
comments powered by Disqus
related articles
Connect with EM
Free eNewsletter
the em poll


most popular