FIG. 1: Logic Pro 8''s newly consolidated Arrange window gives you collapsible editing panes, including a browser on the right and a redesigned Inspector on the left.
Apple has taken a bold leap forward with the release of Logic Studio. The package bundles Logic Pro 8 with Soundtrack Pro 2 audio postproduction software and the brand-new performance-oriented MainStage virtual-instrument and effects host. You also get several useful production utilities: WaveBurner for CD mastering, Compressor 3 for surround encoding, and Apple Loops and Impulse Response utilities. Then there are the 40 Studio Instruments; the 80 Studio Effects; and the 40 GB Studio Sound Library, which consists of Apple Loops, sound effects, EXS24 instruments, channel strip and plug-in settings, and surround impulse responses. At $499 (MSRP), the price is half that of previous versions of Logic Pro, and last but not least, the XSKey (dongle) is gone.
Logic Pro 8 is a major upgrade, and far from being dumbed down, as its user-friendly redesign might suggest, it is both simpler and more powerful. The redesign is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and current Logic Pro users will be right at home with the new version. I'll start with Logic Pro 8, then move on to the bundled content and MainStage. You'll find a separate discussion of Soundtrack Pro 2 in the Apple Final Cut Studio 2 review in the December 2007 issue (available online at www.emusician.com).
By Special Arrangement
The first thing to notice about Logic Pro 8 is the consolidated Arrange window. Collapsible panes on the left, bottom, and right house a variety of editors, media browsers, channel strips, and data displays. A transport is permanently affixed to the bottom of the window, and a customizable toolbar along the top gives 1-click access to common activities such as setting locators and merging data (see Fig. 1).
The Inspector (previously called the Parameter area) in the left pane sports two channel strips. The one to the right is context sensitive; it displays the bus or output selected on the left channel strip, giving you access to a track's entire signal path. The top of the Inspector holds fold-down versions of the familiar displays for track and region parameters.
Above the transport, you'll find tabs that reveal embedded Mixer, Sample Editor, Piano Roll (formerly Matrix), Score, and Hyper Editor panes. Using these panes is much handier for quick edits than opening new windows or changing screen sets, although both those options remain and are useful for more-detailed editing. The embedded Mixer pane is probably the only Mixer window you'll ever need, and it is improved with the addition of Single, Arrange, and All buttons accompanying the original buttons for toggling individual channel-strip types.
The collapsible pane on the right has tabs for media browsing and embedded list-style editors (Event, Marker, Tempo, and Signature). Collapsing all panes maximizes the space for arrangement tracks, and key commands to toggle each type of display within each pane make going back and forth easy.
The Media area replaces the Project Manager from earlier versions of Logic Pro. Four tabs give you organized access to all media on your hard drives. The Bin tab shows audio files used in the project (all Logic Pro songs are now saved as part of a project). The Bin replaces the Audio window, and you can still open it as a standalone window, which reveals more information. You can drag files from the Bin directly to audio tracks, and you can add files to the Bin without using them on tracks.
FIG. 2: Quick Swipe Comping lets you quickly create multiple composites from the same takes.
The Loops tab reveals the familiar Apple Loops browser. The Library tab is perhaps the biggest browsing enhancement. It is context sensitive and gives you instant access to media appropriate for the selected track and channel strip slot. For example, if you have a virtual instrument track with an EXS24 and a Delay Designer installed, you'll see EXS24 instruments when you click on the EXS24 slot in the channel strip, and you'll see Delay Designer patches when you click on the Delay Designer slot. If all slots are empty, you'll see a list of relevant channel-strip settings. If the track is assigned to an external MIDI channel strip, you'll see the possible MIDI destinations, including devices in the Audio MIDI Setup utility, objects in the Environment, and resident ReWire clients.
Finally, the Browser tab displays and supports Spotlight searches for all Logic-compatible files on all connected volumes. You can mix and match search criteria at will and restrict the search area. For instance, you might search for all ReCycle files less than a megabyte in size located on a specific hard drive.
Many common Arrange window tasks have been simplified or enhanced. At sufficiently high zoom levels, you can select and edit data as well as draw automation with sample-accurate placement. When making selections with the Marquee tool, key commands let you snap the beginning or end of the marquee to audio transients or MIDI note events. You can time-stretch audio files by Option-dragging their end points, and you can even use time-stretching algorithms from installed third-party software such as Serato Pitch 'n Time.
Multitake recording of MIDI or audio is as simple as setting the loop boundaries and then recording as many takes as you like. When you're finished, you have a fold-down region with individual takes appearing in lanes. Once you have that, creating comps amounts to selecting the desired part of each take until you've filled the space (see Fig. 2 and Web Clip 1). Unfortunately, that process, called Quick Swipe Comping, is not implemented for MIDI, but for audio it's a great time-saver, and you can even create multiple comps. Multitake recording does come at a price, however — overdub recording (in which you hear previous takes) with consecutive passes automatically placed in separate regions on their own tracks is no longer possible.
The Environment, although still there and useful for do-it-yourself setup and MIDI processing, is something you can completely ignore. Creating tracks, using send buses, activating ReWire channels, and so on automatically creates the requisite Environment objects. Furthermore, to create tracks, you select how many and what kind from a drop-down menu, and Logic Pro does the rest.
Surround configurations up to 7.1 are supported throughout the signal path. You can play, record, and process interleaved, multichannel files. You get surround level meters and a cleverly designed Surround Panner window. Busing is multichannel, and many of the newer plug-ins such as Space Designer and Delay Designer are True Surround, Logic's term for plug-ins that handle surround processing themselves. Other Logic and AU plug-ins, whether stereo or mono, support surround by means of Logic's multimono architecture.
Studio Sound Library
Logic Studio's 40 GB Studio Sound Library contains 18,000 Apple Loops, including all the Apple Loops from the first five Jam Packs; 5,000 sound effects and music beds from Final Cut Studio 2; 1,300 EXS24 sampled instruments; 2,400 channel strip settings combining instruments and effects; hundreds more individual plug-in settings; and a large collection of impulse responses for Space Designer, many of which are in full surround.
The library is impressive for its sheer size and considerable reworking to take advantage of new features. Although much of the content has been around for a while, purchasing it separately costs more than the full price of Logic Studio.
On the instrument side of things, you get significant and welcome redesigns of the EXS24 editor and the Ultrabeat drum synth. Other changes include True Surround for the Sculpture modeling synth and surround panning along with an optional compact control panel showing only the ES2 Macro controls.
One of the few complaints with the EXS24 sampler has been its cumbersome multisample editor. The redesigned editor is a big improvement. It has a more conventional multisample display, shows group and zone settings in a matrix-style layout rather than as fold-downs, and supports graphical editing of group and zone Velocity ranges.
The big changes in Ultrabeat are the Full View step-sequencer display, which lets you see and edit the steps for all 25 drum voices simultaneously, and the addition of Step Automation edit mode. In that mode, you can set a variety of voice parameters on a per-step basis (see Fig. 3 and Web Clip 2). Ultrabeat comes with a bunch of new sounds and drum kits.
FIG. 3: The redesigned Ultrabeat drum machine incorporates automation in its step sequencer.
The big effects news is the new multitap delay, Delay Designer. It supports True Surround and features 26 independent taps. In a nice touch, you can designate some taps as repeats of other taps for quick, complex echo-style setups. Each tap has its own filter, pan, and pitch controls. The Space Designer convolution reverb also supports True Surround and includes 138 new surround impulse responses.
Not strictly part of the content but worth noting are the production-ready templates, from which you can easily build projects of various types. You get templates for exploring Logic Pro's instruments and effects, for composing in popular styles, and for accommodating different production setups. Of course, you can create and save your own templates.
Until now, if you wanted to use Logic Pro's excellent built-in instruments and effects onstage, you had to run Logic and configure separate tracks, or possibly separate songs, for your various setups. Dongle anxiety aside, this was not a very performance-friendly solution. Enter MainStage.
MainStage gives you access to all the channel strip settings in the Studio Sound Library as well as any settings you might create using Logic Pro built-in or AU plug-ins. A complete setup (called a patch) includes multiple channel strips, performance settings such as key splits and layers, and controller mappings. You organize patches into Sets (folders) in any way that is convenient — parts of a song, songs in a Set, patches of a similar kind, and so on. Clever buffering makes for glitch-free switching between patches.
A collection of Sets is called a Concert. MainStage comes with a goodly assortment of factory Concerts to guide you, but you'll want to create your own. The process is fairly straightforward, but given the wide range of options, some work is involved.
FIG. 4: MainStage gives you a performance rig for Logic Pro and AU plug-ins without the encumbrance of running Logic.
MainStage has two setup modes: Layout for designing the GUI and mapping its knobs, sliders, and buttons to your MIDI devices, and Edit for creating patches and organizing Sets. The layout (which applies to the whole Concert) can get very complex, but the layout used in the factory Concerts is close to ideal. It houses eight knobs, a master volume slider, a keyboard with splits and layers clearly indicated, MIDI wheels and pedals, and a large patch selector (see Fig. 4). Onstage, anything more would probably be overkill.
Edit mode is where you configure channel strips, keyboard splits and layers, and the mapping of control panel controls to plug-in parameters. The keyboard zoning scheme is especially clever. As you might expect, you set both a key and a Velocity range for each virtual-instrument channel strip. Two additional key-range parameters called Floating Split determine how far, if at all, a key range will adjust as you play close to its boundary. For example, you might map drum-loop triggers, a bass, and a piano to lower, middle, and upper key ranges, and then set the upper Floating Split for the bass and the lower Floating Split for the piano to six semitones each. The range of drum-loop triggers will then remain fixed, whereas if you play up the bass or down the piano, the split will adjust a tritone to keep you from running out of notes.
Logic Express 8 ($199 [MSRP]) is an option to consider if you're not already a Logic user. It is identical to Logic Pro except that it doesn't support surround, distributed audio, TDM, or high-end control surfaces. It lacks Space Designer and a few instruments and effects, but it does now include Ultrabeat, Guitar Amp Pro, ES2, and the full EXS24. Upgrading from Logic Express 8 to Logic Studio costs no more than if you'd bought the latter outright (the upgrade is $299).
The pricing and bundled content set Logic Studio apart as a low-cost, professional virtual-audio solution. For composing, live recording, postproduction, and scoring for picture, it has all the bases covered. If you already own a recent version of Logic, you can upgrade for $199. If you make music on an Apple computer and have outgrown GarageBand, Apple has made it very easy to stick with the program.
Len Sasso is an associate editor of EM. For an earful, visit his Web site atwww.swiftkick.com.
GUIDE TO EM METERS
5 = Amazing; as good as it gets with current technology
4 = Clearly above average; very desirable
3 = Good; meets expectations
2 = Somewhat disappointing but usable
1 = Unacceptably flawed
digital audio sequencer$
upgrade from previous versions, $199
upgrade from Logic Express, $299
FEATURES 4 EASE OF USE 4 AUDIO QUALITY 4 VALUE 5
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Bundle includes all essential audio applications. Huge library of content. Complete ergonomic redesign. No XSKey (dongle) required.
CONS: Some popular features dropped from the redesign. Much of the audio content is not new.