Thu, 22 Aug 2013 Apple Logic Pro X review
Apple’s Logic Pro users are a patient bunch. Was their four-year wait for Logic Pro X worth it? Absolutely, says composer and producer Jono Buchanan.
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Great new musical tools, including Drummer and Retro Synth; Bass Amp Designer; radical GUI improvements
- Cons: No more 32-bit support, squeezing smaller developers
- Min specs: Mac running OS X 10.8.4 or later, with 5GB of storage for the default Logic Pro X installation. You’ll want at least 35GB of storage if you plan to install all of the optional content. (Logic Remote iPad app requires an iPad 2 or later - or an iPad mini - running iOS 6 or later.)
- Price: £129
- Star rating:
Logic Pro X is the latest version of Apple's successful and popular audio editing and MIDI sequencer software. It's a serious, powerhouse overhaul - here's our Apple Logic Pro X review, with UK pricing.
This review was first published on 6 August 2013. On 20 August Logic Pro was updated to verison 10.0.2. That update includes bug fixes for undo commands, graphical issues with the Piano Roll Editor and more.
Whilst pro-audio rivals such as Avid (Pro Tools), Steinberg (Cubase) and Ableton (Live), have spent the last four years releasing major updates to their software titles, Apple’s own Logic Pro has stood comparably still. Version 9 saw some minor revisions but little to quench its users’ collective thirst for new features.
However, that now changes with the release of Logic Pro X, which packs a significant design overhaul, new operational functions and, most importantly, new musical tools into Apple’s own pro-audio DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
For pessimists, Logic Pro X’s release was preceded by concern; the radical launch of Final Cut Pro X was broadly considered a program for Prosumers rather than specialists and, with GarageBand’s development eating into the ‘feature gap’ between interested hobbyists and the pro user, some feared Logic Pro X might represent a ‘GarageBand Pro’ of sorts.
Now that Logic Pro X has launched, these fears prove immediately unfounded, even if some smaller design features do actually borrow from GarageBand.
There are some advantages to this – the Note Editor, for instance, now gains its own Quantize and Velocity controls which have, somewhat incongruously, featured elsewhere in Logic Pro until now.
Logic Pro X review: New features
Bang, Bang, Bang
The most significant new developments are ‘classic Apple’, in that they provide relatively simple control over hugely complex tasks, promoting musical creativity along the way.
These are typified by ‘Drummer’, a new type of Instrument track which provides a number of virtual session drummers within an easy-to-navigate pane.
Real session drummers might need to ditch the day job; Drummer sounds great
Borrowing a design from the iPad’s GarageBand app, a simple matrix allows users the opportunity to choose Soft/Loud and Simple/Complex playing, with the data generated by these choices then fed into a new ‘Drum Designer’ plug-in to generate sound.
Intuitively, subtle or dramatic performance variations can be set up for different song sections, giving the impression that you’re working with a real drummer who knows the song inside out. Accordingly, Drummer can provide anything from a simple rhythmic backbone to a feature-rich drum part.
Elsewhere, other members of traditional band line-ups are supported too. There are seven new Stompboxes for guitarists (and those who like to get creative processing synth and vocal sounds, of course); but the most pleasing development is ‘Bass Amp Designer’ which brings the flexibility of the existing ‘Amp Designer’ to bass players.
Dedicated bass amps and cabinets can be paired however you choose, while the virtual microphone position allows focused finessing at the mix stage.
All of which leads neatly on to Logic’s new Mixer. This is clearer and easier to navigate with signal flow now allowing for effects plug-ins to be inserted, copied and moved much more intuitively than in Logic 9.
Focus on a ‘stacked’ sub-mix or expand to view a whole mix session
Better still, Apple has recognized that for producers mixing ‘in the box’, certain processes are becoming as ‘standardized’ as those once adopted by mix engineers working on SSL consoles. These include sub-mixing of instrument types such as multitrack drum sessions or large collections of vocals where a single, shared effect treatment proves better-sounding (and quicker to set up) than multiple instances of the same effect chain.
Logic Pro X’s new ‘Track Stack’ feature allows quick set-up of such sub-grouping, with the ‘Summing Stack’ option here instantly routing as many tracks as you choose into a submix, complete with appropriate inputs and outputs.
The Mixer can ‘jump’ between displaying a single ‘Track Stack’ for fine-tuning, and expanding out to display the whole project’s Mixer, all of which works beautifully.
Track Stacks aid sound design and production, quickly packing sounds into sub-mixes
There are benefits for electronic sound designers here too, as Track Stacks allow a number of instruments to be ‘triggered’ simultaneously, allowing producers to hear blends of complimentary sounds in real-time, as opposed to being forced to make a recording and then copying a part to several sounds in post-production.
The new ‘Retro Synth’ will appeal to the electronic fraternity too, offering a simpler interface than Logic’s previous synth arsenal but a more ‘yesteryear’ sound.
Another hugely useful feature is Flex Pitch, which expands the ‘time-based’ Elastic Audio capabilities introduced with Logic 9 (where the timing of audio files could be manipulated dramatically, and non-destructively) to pitch correction.
This means that tuning problems, both for vocalists and instrumentalists can be banished. Selecting Flex Pitch for an audio track launches a waveform editor which overlays ‘pitch blocks’ on top of each note to indicate tuning. These blocks can be dragged up or down individually, whilst global functions can also be applied – such as ‘Perfect Pitch’ – if you want to correct tuning ‘perfectly’ at a single stroke.
There’s no excuse for poor pitch with the new tuning algorithm
Beyond the core pitch of a note, ‘hot spots’ around each of these blocks allow for gain change of individual notes, vibrato amount, formant control, pitch glide and more, allowing for microscopic editing to be applied.
Users of Celemony’s Melodyne will be familiar with all of the above, yet being able to achieve similar results inside Logic natively, and without the need to ‘bounce’ edited files, provides a welcome level of integration.
Also new within Logic Pro X is the concept of MIDI FX plug-ins. Just as ‘Flex Pitch’ has learnt from Celemony’s popularity, so Ableton Live has led the way when it comes to manipulation of MIDI signals.
Logic 9’s ‘Environment’ already allowed users to warp MIDI events, but these possibilities felt more technical and less musical, so the MIDI FX plug-ins are welcome. These include a full-scale Arpeggiator, Chord Trigger, Note Repeater and various tools for usefully manipulating Velocity – including a ‘compressor’ designed to reduce dynamic range of Velocity events.
This will be of particular use to composers working with orchestral plug-ins, whose ‘Velocity performance’ – when switching between two pro string libraries, for instance – is often too broad.
Logic Pro X review: UK price and system requirements
Logic Pro X is available only through the Mac App Store and costs £139.99 in the UK (it's $199.99 in the US, for those who are interested). This is for both new and existing users of Logic - no upgrade pricing applies.
Your Mac must be running OS X 10.8.4 or later, and you’ll want at least 35GB of storage if you plan to install all of the optional content (you can get by with 5GB for the default Logic Pro X installation). You should also make sure that any plug-ins you wish to use are 64-bit: With this version of Logic Pro, Apple has bid farewell to 32bit plug-ins. There’s no bridging utility to allow those older plug-ins to work, so they are entirely incompatible with the application. But the new version hasn’t entirely abandoned the past. Projects created as far back as Logic 5 can be opened with Logic Pro X.
Logic Pro X review: buying advice
As Logic Pro 9 content opens seamlessly in ‘X’, with all of the existing features incorporated (as well as plenty added), there’s little reason not to immediately make the upgrade jump. The only note of caution is that Logic Pro X does finally cease support for 32-bit plug-ins. That may now only affect a handful of companies, including some smaller developers whose resources are limited. The upside of 64-bit operation is that the 4GB memory limit imposed by 32-bit operation in Logic Pro 9 is a thing of the past – great news for those running larger sample libraries. Otherwise, with long-asked-for features incorporated alongside unexpected new ones (including the free Logic Remote iPad app), Apple Logic Pro X comes thoroughly recommended. Four years is a long time in pro audio circles but it was well worth the wait.
If you'd like a second opinion, read on for a second review of Logic Pro X from our colleague Christopher Breen from Macworld.com.