The long awaited revision of Emagic's flagship product, Logic Audio, has finally hit the streets with Version 5.0, and it looks like the research and development team has been busy. The update boasts enhancements that include overall performance optimization; numerous new plug-ins and virtual instruments; and, of course, the necessary revision to the automation architecture. Emagic has also teamed up with the folks at Mackie to create a control surface and ancillary models that even the most ardent mouse tweakers should consider as necessary tools in their production arsenals.
Total recall seems to be the feature du jour in digital audio workstations (DAWs) these days, and Emagic has taken it a step further by introducing a tactile option with the Logic Control surface. Virtually every parameter within Logic can be recalled, manipulated and transmitted via the control surface. In addition to the typical fader, pan and mute capabilities, the ability to tweak plug-in settings, virtual instruments and even custom SysEx faders is a powerful option that transforms Logic's capabilities into a real-time, tactile experience.
After installing the software, the first thing I wanted to check out was the much hyped and heavily anticipated automation update. Up through Version 4.8, editing automation within Logic could be a bit cumbersome. The parameters and resolution were built around MIDI, and automating some parameters was spotty and inconsistent; plug-in automation was especially unreliable.
With Version 5.0, Emagic has created an all-new, track-based, sample-accurate automation engine (see Fig. 1). Just about every parameter can be automated, including effect plug-ins and audio instruments. The automation engine is sample-accurate with 32-bit resolution and works independent of the sequencer's record status, so tweaking offline is possible and easy to do. Plug-in and instrument delay compensation is an optional feature, so time-based latency issues — a thorn in the side for many DAW users — have been addressed.
The fader automation and Hyper Draw functions have been integrated into a system that works similar to a traditional moving-fader mixing console. The various Automation modes can be activated by a selector button on the faders. Read, Write, Latch and Touch modes are selectable via a mouse click. Automated parameters are displayed in the Arrange window with the full name and values, and color-coded automation data is displayed directly in the Arrange window as envelopes with break points. Parameter adjustments on a fader object, including plug-in parameters, automatically show up highlighted with the name of the parameter as data in the color-coded submenu beneath the corresponding track in the Arrange window.
The ability to draw automation curves has been implemented, and curves are freely adjustable between convex, concave, S-form or linear shapes. Break points can be freely drawn, edited and scaled. Automation data can be viewed or hidden on the corresponding track, and various controller data can be nested within a track. The ease of use in dealing with curves is a far cry from the old Hyper Draw. Other automation features that should be considered for future development are a Trim/Update mode, grouping and snapshot capabilities — functions that are found in even the most basic automation packages on consoles.
I've been using moving-fader automation on consoles for years, and one feature I like to tap into is the ability to adjust the “ramp” recovery time, or the time it takes a fader to return to its original setting before being changed, while updating faders in Logic's Touch mode. For example, if you're doing a mix and want to touch up levels on a track, you can move a fader to the desired level, release the fader, and it will glide back to its original state at the rate that is set in the Ramp Time parameter setting. That allows for smooth level transitions, slow fades and other useful fader automation tools. I was happy to find that Logic allows you to do this with any parameter — including plug-in settings. I was quickly automating parameter sweeps that would have taken much longer if I had to draw them in.
LOGICAL CONTROL — FINALLY
Joining forces with Mackie, Emagic worked diligently to develop a control surface that would mesh tightly with the application. The result is the Logic Control surface along with the XT expansion unit, and, as expected, the units are indeed Mackie-like in look and feel (see Fig. 2). Logic Control works with Logic 5.1 and above, and the XT Expander adds another eight physical faders. The units link to Logic via MIDI, and each unit requires its own MIDI In and Out ports.
The interface comprises eight channel strips with 100mm Penny & Giles motorized, touch-sensitive faders, along with a master fader. Each channel strip is made up of a rotary pan pot with an LED and buttons for Record-Ready, Solo, Mute and Track Select. Communication between the application and the hardware is bidirectional; therefore, on-screen changes or those made within Logic Control are updated on the fly. Logic Control displays the loaded song's track names, instrument names and virtual-instrument names. Users can switch layers via the Left and Right Bank buttons, which enable the eight channel faders to access an unlimited number of audio and MIDI channels. Parameters are shown on a two-line display that runs across the top of the control surface.
The faders' main function is to control channel levels, whereas the rotary controllers can be switched between track, pan, EQ, sends, plug-ins and software instruments using the six Assignment buttons. Each of the Assignment buttons allows the user to switch between Multi-Channel View and Channel Strip View. Multi-Channel View shows the selected control setting for each channel. When more than eight controls are needed at a time, the user will need to scroll through to the next set of eight faders unless an XT expander is being used.
Setting up the Logic Control within the application is fast and intuitive. After linking up with the program, the control surface quickly displays track names and virtual-instrument names. The program also checks to see if Logic Control's firmware is current with the software version that is running. Firmware updates are embedded in the application, and as more functionality is implemented within the development of the program and the controller, updates to the firmware may be necessary. So, in this sense, the control surface is as much a work in progress as the program is. In my case, a firmware revision was indeed necessary to install; however, the process was easy, and the results were rock solid.
In addition to the controls found in the application, the transport section has a shuttle wheel with a latching scrub wheel. The control surface also includes Automation Control, Save and Undo buttons; keyboard modifiers; and a set of function keys. Multifunction Zoom and Page Through buttons are located close to the scrub wheel.
Once I got up and running, the responsiveness between the application and Logic Control was fast and smooth. Accessing the automation parameters via the controller is as simple as pushing a button. Mixing with a mouse, in any application, pretty much sucks, so it felt good to allow my fingers to tweak faders and plug-in parameters that I've been moving on-screen for so many years. I've always felt that mixing is as much about performance as it is about engineering.
PLUG-INS AND INSTRUMENTS
Now that it is firmly the age of the DAW, just about everybody is developing plug-ins and software-based virtual instruments. Emagic jumped into the fray quite a while ago and has been handily exploiting the increased out-of-the-box CPU power. With the Logic 5 series, the plug-in choices are numerous. More than 50 plug-ins are included right out of the box: various delays, reverbs, distortions, dynamics, modulation effects, BitCrusher, Auto Filter, Enveloper, Spectral Gate and others. Of those, Phase/Clip Distortion, Denoiser, DeEsser, Tremolo, Stereo Spread, Exciter, SubBass, Limiter, Adaptive Limiter and a Multiband Compressor are all new. The plug-ins range from basic utilitarian to the downright tweaky. The sound quality and tweak factor, especially of the newer ones, range from good to excellent. In the overcrowded sea of plug-ins that has flooded the market in the past few years, Emagic has continued to develop and release plug-ins that stand above much of the competition.
Pro-level users who use Logic as a front end for Digidesign Pro Tools hardware can route the native Emagic plug-ins and instruments through the Digidesign Direct Connect bus via Emagic's ESB TDM plug-in. Emagic has also announced that it is porting a number of its plug-ins as TDM versions in the third quarter of 2002. Support for HTDM has also been announced for release in Q3.
In addition to the audio plug-ins, Emagic has released two new virtual instruments: the EVOC20 and the ES2. The EVOC20 consists of two virtual instruments and two plug-ins based on a 20-band filter bank. The instrument includes a MIDI polysynth section enabling it to act like a conventional vocoder. The filter bank can be spread and shifted, and both units allow the user to select just a part of the input spectrum for analysis and exploitation. One part of the package is a vocoder plug-in that utilizes a monophonic oscillator to track the pitch of the input signal and is fed to one of the vocoder inputs to produce variations on the vocoder sound. Another function is based around a user-adjustable filter bank with the ability to morph between two filter settings, as well as to adjust the resonance of each filter band.
Using the instrument out of the box, I was amazed at the variations and quality of sounds that I was able to get. Presets designed to highlight timbral and rhythmic aspects of the EVOC20 are installed, providing starting points for custom settings.
The other virtual instrument, the ES2 polysynth, follows a three-oscillator, two-filter topography and has the ability to combine elements of analog, FM and wavetable synthesis to produce a range of sounds. The oscillators include all the standard analog waveforms, as well as a large selection of “digiwaves.” Analog-style phase sync has been modeled, and the ES2 includes dynamic vector synthesis and various tempo-related functions for rhythmic effects; the two filters can be used in series or parallel. In addition to onboard effects, the ES2 has innovative features that include constant beat-oscillator detune and a variable-percentage randomize function for modifying existing patches within controlled limits. It is relatively intuitive to use and can produce complex, evolving textural sounds, as well as convincing analog emulations.
Although it is clear that this is a major revision in which energies were directed at the automation and control surface, quite a few other enhancements to the program are present. Tweaks were made to the look and feel of the Arrange window, and the transport functions have been enhanced. Multiple Undo is now a (welcome) option. The notation functions have also been given a large number of improvements: the ability to color notes by pitch, velocity or musical part; multiple-page view; a new step-time input; and an editing facility (which works in the Score, Matrix and Event List windows).
Various improvements have been made to the EXS24 sampler, including the ability to use virtual memory when the onboard RAM isn't enough. REX2 file support has also been added. Logic 5.0 also has support for importing and exporting OMF audio files. All products in the Logic series now offer support for 24-bit, 96kHz recording. Mac OS X support is planned for a revision later in 2002.
Logic Audio has always been a major player in the sequencer market, and as CPU speeds have increased and drive space has become cheaper, Emagic has done well to exploit the technology at hand in innovative and powerful ways. The automation and other goodies that are now part of the application — not to mention the plug-ins — make this update well worth the money. Add the Logic Control surface into the equation, and powerful things are definitely on the horizon for what is now a major step in the program's evolution.
Logic Audio Platinum 5.0
$949 (software only)
Pros: REX2 file support. More accurate track-based automation. Support for as many as 32 instruments. Dedicated hardware controller. Updated look and feel. Excellent plug-ins.
Cons: Trim, Snapshot and Update functions missing from automation package (but planned for future update).
Overall Rating: 5