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APPLE Logic Pro 7 (MAC OS X)

2/1/2005

With version 7, Logic has been fully folded into the Apple product line, with a new look and feel, lots of operational enhancements, and a greatly expanded collection of proprietary effects and instrument plug-ins. But under the hood it's still Logic, with all the same power, flexibility, and head scratching that that entails. Current Logic users won't need to relearn Logic, but a little rethinking may be in order. For new users, getting up and running is significantly easier.

FIG. 1: Logic Pro 7 features the Apple Pro Application look and feel.

In addition to new headline-grabbing features such as Global Tracks, support for Apple Loops, compatibility with GarageBand songs, and Distributed Audio Processing, there are numerous smaller improvements that, taken together, greatly speed up the workflow. All that power comes at a price, though; you'll need a fast G4 or G5 (preferably dual-processor) machine with a good dose of RAM and 4 GB of hard-drive space to fully install and use Logic.

Look and Feel

Logic's user interface is now pure Apple Pro, featuring rounded buttons for drop-down menus, dialog boxes with icons and tabs, and hierarchical menus throughout (see Fig. 1). In general, the graphic user interface is more ergonomic and easier on the eyes, but finding hot spots, many of which have been improved by incorporating cursor changes, seems a little more finicky. In addition, the handy two-dimensional layout for long menus such as the icon selector and the Multi-instrument's program menu is gone.

Logic's song architecture remains the same, but there is more active encouragement for saving songs as self-contained projects. When you create a new song, you are given the option to immediately make it a project, and when you save a song from a project using a new name, it also becomes part of the project. Unfortunately, you can't simply add a new song to a project.

Logic now incorporates song templates, rather than limiting you to a single autoload song. You can have as many templates as you like, and Logic comes with a useful assortment to get you started. If you do create one named Autoload, it will still be the default template, but as with other ancillary files, it now lives in Logic's Application Support folder.

Foreign Exchange

Logic's ability to render audio and exchange data with other software applications has been enhanced in several ways. Logic now supports XML and AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) import and export for increased compatibility with Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack, Pro Tools, and other DAW applications that support those formats.

You can import GarageBand songs, and Logic includes all GarageBand instruments as plug-ins. Logic can extract soundtracks from QuickTime movies as well as replace a movie's soundtrack with rendered audio from a song.

Logic's bounce function has been greatly improved. You can now bounce directly to MP3 and AAC encoded files as well as burn Red Book audio CDs during a bounce. For more fully-featured audio CD burning, Waveburner is now included with Logic but unfortunately, it is not backward compatible with previous Waveburner or Waveburner Pro projects.

Three new export options (collectively called Total Bounce) allow you to bounce audio tracks and regions directly from the Arrange window. You can select any audio region or track and export it as an audio file. Alternatively, you can simultaneously export all tracks as audio files. Exporting all tracks is especially handy for transferring time-stamped audio and virtual-instrument content to applications that don't support one of Logic's other export formats.

In the Loop

Logic is now much more loop friendly. For one thing, looping audio or MIDI regions in the Arrange window is a simple matter of dragging the top-right corner of the region for as far as you want the loop to last. (No more inserting dummy regions to terminate a loop, thank you.) For another, Logic fully supports Apple Loops.

FIG. 2: Logic''s support for Apple Loops includes the GarageBand-style Loop Browser window.

Apple Loops will be familiar to Soundtrack and GarageBand users and are similar in function to Acid files, for those familiar with that format. A new Loop Browser window, similar to GarageBand's, allows you to select and audition Apple Loops by category and to search by keywords (see Fig. 2). Apple Loops can be dragged directly from the Loop Browser into the Arrange or Audio windows.

Apple Loops on Arrange tracks adapt to tempo and transposition changes, which can be entered and displayed on the new Global Tempo and Transposition tracks. (For more on Global Tracks, see the section Global Concerns.) Some Apple Loops are audio only, while others also contain MIDI information and can be used on MIDI tracks. In a nice touch, Apple Loops with MIDI information are formatted to include channel-strip information, and importing them to virtual-instrument tracks automatically installs the plug-in instrument and effects necessary to reproduce the audio file. Among other things, that allows you to make pitch and tempo changes without the degradation that audio processing entails.

The Acid Test

If you have GarageBand installed on your computer, you already have a large collection of Apple Loops, and you can add collections from Apple, like the new Jam Packs, or from other vendors. But, Logic also comes with the Soundtrack Loops utility (also called the Apple Loops Utility) for making your own. That allows you to enter classification tags as well as place the transient markers used in time stretching. The process is easy, although not quite as seamless as it might be, because you need to drag the resulting Apple Loops back onto the Loop Browser to get them added to your collection or back onto an Arrange track to use them in your song.

Apple also added support for Acid files to Logic. Acid files can be added to the Loop Browser and used on Arrange tracks just like Apple Loops. At the time of this writing, though, they don't adapt to transposition, and not all files that claim to be Acidized are recognized. Acid support was added late in the development cycle, and Apple is working to fix both problems. The great thing about Acid-file support is the huge library of Acid files that already exist.

Node for Node

Logic's new Distributed Audio Processing (DAP) allows plug-in DSP calculations to be shared among computers networked with gigabit Ethernet connections. The computer running Logic is the host, and the remaining computers are called Nodes. The host can be any G4 or G5 capable of running Logic — a recent G4 PowerBook, for example — but the Nodes need to be G5s.

Setting up DAP is extremely simple. In the case of two machines, you connect them with an Ethernet cable, ensure that Built-in Ethernet TCP/IP is set to Using DHCP on both machines, launch the Node software application (supplied with Logic) on the Node machine, then start Logic on the Host machine and ensure that Nodes are enabled in Logic's Audio preferences. Only Logic (not AU) instrument and effects plug-ins inserted in audio and instrument tracks can be distributed. On such tracks, there is a button to enable processing on the Node machine.

I networked an 800 MHz Powerbook G4 host to a dual-G5 2.0 GHz Node machine, and tried DAP with songs of varying complexity. For example, a song with eight instrument and eight audio tracks, running a total of 33 Logic plug-ins that brought the PowerBook to its knees, played at about 60 percent CPU usage with ten tracks running on Nodes. In general, the DAP results were impressive; however, some finagling was often necessary to get Node processing working properly, and I wasn't always totally successful.

Plugging In

Logic now allows you to load and save complete channel-strip settings, including all slot assignments and all settings for the channel strip itself and each of its plug-ins. That's a tremendous time-saver, and it makes channel-strip settings transferable between songs. A huge collection of factory settings is provided covering most classes of audio objects.

The Audio Unit scanning process is now carried out in a separate application called the AU Scan Manager, which is invoked automatically when Logic starts up, and can also be launched from Logic's Preferences menu. The Scan Manager verifies a plug-in only once, then remembers its status — rescanning only when the plug-in is updated. That makes starting Logic after the initial scan much faster. Scanned plug-ins are placed in three categories: passed, failed, and crashed. By default, all plug-ins in the latter two categories are disabled, but you have the option of enabling and using them (at the risk of destabilizing Logic, of course).

Instrumental Decisions

Logic's collection of virtual-instrument plug-ins fall into four categories: GarageBand, basic, emulation, and advanced. The GarageBand instruments ensure compatibility with imported GarageBand songs, but they are also the simplest and least CPU-intensive of Logic's instruments. Don't overlook them.

A two-operator FM synth (EFM 1) has been added to the line of basic synths. Like the rest, it has a minimum of controls, but a quick spin through the factory presets shows it to be fully capable. In addition, it sports a variable-amount, randomize button for the knob-and-slider averse.

The other new kids on the block are Sculpture, a physical-modeling synth, and Ultrabeat, a classic drum-box emulation with built-in step sequencer.

Hammer and Chisel

Apple's Logic-instrument developers' design philosophy emphasizes large control panels with more buttons, knobs, sliders, menus, and numerical displays than you can possibly assimilate. With Sculpture, they've taken that philosophy to new heights, and to prove they mean business, they've included 71 pages of documentation, with two levels of programming tutorials. Sculpture (see Fig. 3) it an unusually fascinating sound-design tool, but in case you have a life, it also comes with 276 outstanding factory presets and that nifty little randomize button.

FIG. 3: Sculpture is Logic''s new component-modeling synth.

Sculpture's brand of synthesis, officially called component modeling, begins by selecting a medium, specifying how it is set vibrating, and positioning two pickups that transduce the sound for further processing. You can start with anything from a steel or nylon string to a thick wooden or glass bar; you can whack on it, blow into it, jiggle it, hang weights on it, and drop it in a tub of water; then you can take the output from the pickups and pass it through a filter, waveshaper, delay, and EQ optimized for emulating various instrument bodies. Finally, there is modulation, which has LFOs, breakpoint envelopes, MIDI continuous controllers, and morphing.

Bang the Can

Ultrabeat is a 25-pad drum synth with built-in step sequencer that is designed to emulate classic drum machines. Each pad is an independent synth, for which you can choose from a variety of synthesis methods including classic analog, FM, sampling, physical modeling, noise sculpting, and ring modulation. Filter, distortion, and EQ modules round out the signal path. To facilitate independent outboard processing, Ultrabeat offers eight stereo output channels.

Ultrabeat's 32-step pattern sequencer holds 24 patterns with anything from 8th-note to 32nd-note resolution. You can add swing to even numbered steps and accent any combination of steps. MIDI Notes C-1 to B0 can trigger patterns, and the step sequencer can be used simultaneously with incoming MIDI.

Just for Effect

Logic's complement of plug-in effects has been expanded to include a guitar-amp modeler (Guitar Amp Pro), a couple of EQs (Linear Phase EQ and Match EQ), three modulation effects (Ringshifter, Vocal Transformer, and Pitch Correction), and three visual aids for mixing and mastering (Multimeter, Correlation Meter, and Level Meter).

Guitar Amp Pro simulates a variety of classic guitar-amp and speaker-cabinet configurations. It also allows you to switch between centered and off-center miking with a condenser or dynamic mic. Tremolo-vibrato and spring-reverb effects round out the signal path. Guitar amp simulators are the must-have effect of the moment, and Logic has covered the base nicely.

Linear Phase EQ is a high-quality, high-CPU-load variant of Logic's Channel EQ parametric equalizer. It uses look-ahead technology (and hence, introduces some latency) to preserve the phase of the signal regardless of the shape and amount of equalization.

Got a Match?

Match EQ will “learn” the average EQ spectrum of two audio files (Template and Current Material) and calculate an EQ curve to make the Current Material match the Template. Its presets are all analyses of different mixing styles (jazz, funk, disco, dance, and so on) set up as the Template.

You can analyze file spectra (Template or Current Material) on the fly during playback or offline by dragging them to the Match EQ control panel. A variety of sources produce interesting and unusual Templates, including the many impulse-response files that come with Logic's Space Designer convolution reverb. You can also experiment with the amount of matching EQ applied, and even reverse its effect, thereby emphasizing the similarities rather than compensating for the differences in the two spectra.

Swing Shift

Ringshifter is a combination ring modulator and frequency shifter (see Fig. 4). Frequency shifting produces a linear shift in the harmonic spectrum, which sounds much different from the exponential, harmonic-preserving, shift produced by a pitch shifter. Frequency shifting can seriously mangle any sound, but it especially effective with percussion (see Web Clip 1).

FIG.4: The new Ringshifter plug-in offers ring modulation and frequency shifting.

Ringshifter uses an internal sine-wave oscillator whose frequency determines the amount of shift in the processed signal's spectrum. Modulating the oscillator frequency can have dramatic effects and an LFO and envelope follower are provided for that purpose. In Frequency Shifter mode, one set of sidebands can be suppressed, or the sidebands can be sent to opposite stereo channels. In Ring Modulator mode, the sine-wave oscillator can be replaced as the modulator by a side chain signal.

Pitch Correction and Vocal Transformer are primarily aimed at monophonic, instrument, and voice tracks; they can, however, be effective on other kinds of material. Pitch Correction does just that-it adjusts the pitch to keep it within a preset or user-defined scale. Vocal Transformer offers independent pitch and formant shifting, with a Robotize option that allows you to restrict or even invert the amount of pitch shift around a center pitch.

Global Considerations

Logic users have long asked for a conductor track, and Logic's new Global Tracks feature serves that purpose. Global Tracks can be displayed along the top of the Arrange window and any of the time-based MIDI editors (Matrix, HyperEdit, and Score). There are seven kinds of Global tracks — Marker, Signature, Chord, Transposition, Tempo, Beat Mapping, and Video — which can be individually suppressed and repositioned.

Most of the information displayed in Global Tracks is familiar from previous Logic versions, but in many cases it is clearer and easier to edit on a Global track. For example, at sufficient zoom, full Marker text will be displayed; key and time signatures are more easily inserted, moved, and edited; and tempo curves can be drawn in the familiar Track Automation style.

Pitch and Groove

The Chord and Transposition tracks work together to adjust Apple Loops and MIDI regions to match the harmonic progressions in your song. The tracks are interactive in that entries in either are reflected in the other. (Chord roots become transposition amounts relative the current key signature.)

FIG. 5: The Beat Mapping Global Track allows you to conform loosely played material (top) to Logic''s Bar Ruler divisions (bottom) without changing the sound.

Events can be entered manually in either the Chord or Transposition track, but in a nice touch, MIDI regions can be analyzed and have their chords automatically inserted in the Chord track. Logic is capable of quite sophisticated chord analysis, but you can also simply play in a bass line and drag it to the Chord track to create transpositions that follow the harmony of your song.

Beat Mapping is one of the handiest Global Tracks — it's how Logic's Reclock Song feature should always have worked. You start by selecting a region, and in the case of audio, analyzing it for transients indicating beats or recording a matching MIDI tap. Logic then displays beat division gridlines over region-event gridlines, and you connect them manually as desired (see Fig. 5). Each connection results in a tempo change (visible and editable in the Global Tempo Track). MIDI events between connections are automatically adjusted to preserve playback, which, because of the tempo changes, also puts them on the beat divisions.

Unsung Heroes

With all the major improvements and new features, it's easy to overlook the many, small advances in Logic 7. But the little things really do make the difference in terms of faster, smoother workflow. For example, laptop users will appreciate the Caps Lock Keyboard feature, which turns your computer keyboard into a MIDI keyboard.

User-interface improvements include being able to assign a tool (or the toolbox) to the right mouse-click, being able to hide various parts of the channel-strip display, and being able to toggle the Arrange window's Parameter Area to show only the channel strip of the selected track.

For users never quite at home with Logic's Smart Snap feature, there is now a Snap menu that allows you to control the snap behavior. In addition to Smart Snap, you can force snapping to bars, beats, division format, ticks, frames, and quarter frames. You can also control what happens when regions are dragged over each other (overlap, no-overlap, or crossfade) and when intervening regions are deleted (shuffle left or right).

Audio window improvements include grouping audio files, revealing audio files in the Finder, and simultaneously moving multiple files to the Arrange window. Arrange tracks now sport long-requested Solo buttons. Multiple channels can now be selected for editing in the Track Mixer. And the list goes on.

Logic 7 is a stellar upgrade to an already top-of-the-line digital audio workstation. Many user requests have been fulfilled; there are a number of clever, time-saving new features; and the new plug-ins alone are worth the price of admission. Performance has been improved as has compatibility with other applications and media. Upgrading is a must, and Logic deserves serious consideration as a first-time purchase.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Apple Logic Pro 7

digital audio sequencer
$999 (upgrade $299)

OVERALL RATING [1 THROUGH 5]: 4

PROS: First-rate collection of virtual instruments and effects. Instant access to complex setups with Channel Strip settings. Increased power with Distributed Audio Processing. Apple Loop and Acid file support.

CONS: Can't add new songs to a project. Apple Loop utility not fully integrated into Logic. No Distributed Audio Processing for Audio Units.

MANUFACTURER

Apple Computer www.apple.com

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