Apple Logic Pro X full review
Welcome to our review of Logic Pro X 10.3. You can read more about the existing feature set from Logic Pro X 10.1 and Logic Pro X in the second and third pages of this review, while a more recent update is tackled in our Logic Pro X 10.4 review.
Logic Pro is Apple's heavyweight music app, but in recent years the lines between it and GarageBand have become increasingly blurry as Apple tries to make it easier for GarageBand users to go Pro. Version 10.3 is the blurriest yet with a distinctly Garageband-y interface and some clever integration with the app on iOS, but there are some heavyweight new features for the pro users too.
This is a major update, designed to introduce an improved interface, useful new features and improvements to both performance and stability. The focus is on function, not goodies: if you've been hoping for Drummer to embrace some new genres or just some jazzy brushes we're afraid you're out of luck.
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: Interface
The most obvious change is that Logic Pro X is now prettier. The none-more-black Pro interface that works so well for photo and video is a bit of a headache for music, which doesn't need the contrast, so the lighter interface should be more pleasant during protracted sessions. It's flatter, too, and looks particularly good on a Retina display. If you're running an older Mac you might find the fonts a little indistinct; they certainly are on our 27-inch, non-Retina iMac.
Logic Pro X 10.3's interface in 'beginner's mode'
Let's not mention the fake woodgrain that appears at the far left and right of the window if you haven't enabled the Advanced Tools in preferences: the idea is to make GarageBand users feel at home, but thankfully it disappears when you switch into the Pro mode. That's supposed to happen by default when you upgrade (Advanced Tools are off by default with first-time installations), but in our case it didn't.
And here's Logic Pro X 10.3's interface in 'pro mode'
The changes aren't just cosmetic. Having automatic zoom buttons for both horizontal and vertical aspects - previously you only got vertical zoom - is a godsend on a laptop, reducing the size of the arrangement window when you pull up the Mixer, Smart Controls, Library, Browser or Editor and restoring it to its previous state when you close them again.
Other differences are more subtle. There are more colour shades for your tracks, addressing a minor but irritating omission in previous versions, and when you drag the edge of an audio or MIDI region you can see the bit you're removing in ghostly form until you commit to the change by letting go.
And in a nice time-saver, if you press Command when you click the duplicate track button it'll duplicate not just the current track's settings, but its content too.
There are some other little but useful improvements, including new key commands for moving the locators forwards or backwards one bar at a time, for creating a new arrangement marker, to close Track Stack folders and to apply Transform user presets. Once the muscle memory kicks in - or if you're like us, once you print the commands out in really big letters and stick them to the side of your screen - they'll help you to get things done more quickly without losing your focus.
Read next: Best Mac music apps
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: Touch Bar support
The Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro 2016 is the raison d'être for this update, and it's been integrated into Logic in a very straightforward way. You can use it to slide around the timeline, which is simplified in the Touch Bar so it's easy to select a particular region, and you can use it to adjust Smart Controls or play Touch Instruments such as piano or drum triggers. The Touch Bar's musical keyboard offers both piano keys and scale mode for controlling your software instruments.
It's multitouch and works fine, although you'd have to be a masochist to want to use it for anything more than creating a quick beat or figure.
Read more: How to use Touch Bar on MacBook Pro 2016
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: Selection-Based Processing
In addition to a revised Fade Tool that enables you to apply fades across multiple regions on multiple tracks, Logic Pro 10.3 introduces Selection-Based Processing. Rather than applying effects and/or plugins to an entire track, you can specify which combination should be used on a selected region or multiple regions.
That's particularly handy for vocal tracks: how many times have you had to EQ or effect an entire vocal track because of the odd unwanted plosive or sibilant in one specific bit?
There are plenty of creative possibilities too - for example you might want to apply an effect or group of effects at one point, then add them again at another, and another and another - but make sure you keep an un-processed version of the track(s) in case you change your mind later.
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: Track Alternatives
One of the frustrating things about composition and production is that there's often more than one way to arrange or perform a song, but keeping track of those different ways can be a pain. ProTools addresses this with its Playlist feature, and Logic Pro now offers a solution in the form of Track Alternatives.
Track Alternatives enables you to create multiple arrangements of the same track, so for example you might have three different candidates for the main melody or a couple of different ideas for how to edit an audio or MIDI region. No problem: just create the version you want to try as a Track Alternative and you can switch from version to version without having to change the underlying project.
Read next: Best Mac for musicians
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: iOS & GarageBand integration
If you're an artist or a podcaster rather than a producer, you'll love the way Logic 10.3 works with GarageBand on iOS. You can now share your Logic project on iCloud and access it from GarageBand iOS (2.2 or later). Logic flattens the project so that it's a single audio track, leaving plenty of room for you to add whatever you like in GarageBand. When you're back at the Mac and open your project in Logic Pro again, the new tracks are right there in your original, unflattened project - and in the right place, too.
If you've ever had a brilliant idea for a work in progress but only had your iPad to hand, or if you want to record an interview for your podcast but don't want to pack anything bigger than an iPhone, that's the kind of thing that'll make you do a happy dance.
Logic Pro X 10.3 review: The bits you can't see
We didn't come to version 10.3 with great enthusiasm, because 10.2 was a disaster for us: despite various updates and us ultimately reinstalling both macOS and Logic, it crashed constantly. Even something as simple as bouncing to MP3 would involve multiple crashes and quite a lot of swearing.
On that basis alone, 10.3 is a vast improvement: with 10.2 we'd become used to seeing the CPU and HD monitors hit the limits for no good reason, stuttering to a halt with the dreaded "disk too slow" error on projects that wouldn't tax an old iPhone, let alone a maxed-out Mac. That doesn't happen now, and projects that previously killed Logic within the first few notes no longer do so. It's faster to load and to quit too, and the infuriating gap between a project loading and Logic responding to keyboard, trackpad or mouse is noticeably shorter.
Apple's Logic Pro X 10.3 release notes detail some specific showstopping bugs that the 10.3 update has fixed, along with significant improvements to the already impressive Alchemy audio engine and to Flex Pitch. Under the hood you'll find the 32-bit summing engine upped to 64 bits, which Apple labels as High Precision Audio. Think of it like a kind of Retina for your ears: the extra bits mean more precise mixing of all your disparate audio sources, which is of particular relevance if you're working with projects intended for high-res audio formats.
The update also delivers support for up to 256 busses, genuine stereo panning and the ability to import Music XML. Software instruments can now trigger sidechained plugins - something that was previously limited to audio recordings only - and MIDI plugins can be used to control other plugin parameters, which should be enormously exciting for electronic and dance music producers.
What follows is our review of the Logic Pro X 10.1 update back in 2015. This section of the review was written by Martyn Casserly.
Logic Pro X, when it arrived in July 2013, packed a significant design overhaul, new operational functions and, most importantly, new musical tools into Apple's own pro-audio DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). You can read more about Logic Pro X in our original review, which is on the third page of this article. Now Apple has updated Logic Pro X, version 10.1 which is free to existing users (£149 to anyone else), brings new features that we will discuss below.
Logic Pro X 10.1 review: Drummer
Electronic Drummer in Logic Pro
In the previous incarnation of Logic, Apple introduced the Drummer feature, which is an incredibly easy way to create beats, fills and rolls for a track. Simply adjusting the placement of a couple of controls subtly changes the feel of a groove, and selecting from the various different virtual drummers brings noticeable characteristics to the performance. Now Apple has expanded the styles from the more traditional Rock, Alt, R&B, and Songwriter to include Electronic and Hip Hop. These aren't just token efforts either, bringing with them an additional eight drummers (there are actually ten new ones over all in 10.1) that specialise in styles such as Techno, Dubstep, and House. In use these new players are actually very good, creating authentic beats with very little effort.
It should be stated that these aren't merely loops. Instead Apple has written some clever code that analyses the song and plays along accordingly. You can even select a certain track that the drummer will follow closely to tighten the overall feel.
Drum Machine Designer
Drum Machine Designer is another addition that follows the idea of the Drum Kit Designer from Logic 10, enabling you to replace or hone any part of the virtual machine to tailor the tones to your pallette. There are also new features for playing these creations too, with Note Repeat making it easy to hold down a note for fast repeated patterns - great for rapid kick creation - and Spot Erase allowing the quick removal of notes as well.
iPad integration is also enhanced, with the updated Logic Remote app allowing you to play the Drum Machine, and other virtual instruments, in real time on your device, as well as navigating menus and settings. You can see the advantage of Apple's holistic approach here, as the iPad is a more natural surface on which to play drum pads, adjust sliders, and so forth, rather than the standard keyboard. It also means you can sit back in your chair while playing with sounds, rather than staying slumped at your desk, for which your back will thank you.
Logic Pro X 10.1 review: Editing
Time Handles in Logic Pro
It's not all handclaps and synth bass though, as Logic 10.1 sees some impressive upgrades to the editing suite. One of our favourites is the Brush Tool. To use it you select the key scale of the song, or section, and then simply drag the brush across the piano roll, moving up or down to create instant runs and melodies. Logic omits any notes not in the specified scale, meaning everything sounds like it's meant to be there. You won't really use it for the main part of a song, but as additional colour in a composition it's great fun. The piano roll also has the option to display Drum Names now, rather than allocated notes on a piano, making editing a lot easier. Time Handles allows you to highlight a MIDI section and then drag the contents to either lengthen or shorten the pattern - great for quickly creating half or double time segments - and Smart Quantize can now tidy up any errant timing in your playing, without destroying any intended playing choices.
A couple of the other main features include Region Automation, which as the name suggests allows you to create automation on certain sections of songs, and can be taken with it if you duplicate or cut and paste that section to another part of the song; while another important change is Real-time Fades, which renders the edit as you apply them, rather than creating a separate file, meaning you can hear it in real-time and also makes them compatible with Flex-pitch. Editors will also appreciate the news that the new plug-in manager now gives you the ability to create folders for your favourite effects, EQ, and audio units, all of which are included in the main menu with Apple's included plug-ins. There also various refinements to the menu layouts, an upgraded compressor, and several other subtle, but interesting additions.
Logic Pro X 10.1 review: Verdict
For a free upgrade this really is an excellent package, and takes the already hugely impressive Logic platform to another level. A professional package, and a home studio price. Brilliant.
What follows is our review of the original Logic Pro X back in July 2013. This section of the review was written by Jono Buchanan.
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 from Jono Buchanan.
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
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.
Our Logic Pro review continues. This section of the review was written by Christopher Breen.
Apple's music division has been anything but idle the past several years, but it has focused largely on the GarageBand products for consumers and mobile users. The professional crowd has seen some updates (and a reduced price) to 2009's Logic Pro 9, but very little else. Today that changes with the release of Logic Pro X, Logic Remote (a companion app for iPad), and MainStage 3 (Apple's live-performance tool, sold separately).
Those who've seen the Roman numeral X slapped onto Final Cut Pro may approach this release with some initial trepidation. Has Logic Pro been stripped of vital features to make it more accessible to GarageBand users? Is Apple abandoning professional audio engineers and musicians to cater to the prosumer user?
No and no. While Logic Pro has indeed adopted some of the look of Final Cut Pro X - with its dark visage and panes that can be invoked or dismissed as the mood strikes - Apple's digital audio workstation (DAW) has lost none of its power and gained valuable features on just about every front.
Logic Pro X review: An interface with ease in mind
Logic has long had the reputation of being one of the deepest, but most challenging DAWs to use. Since Apple acquired Emagic (the German company that developed it), it's set about making Logic easier to use. Logic Pro X takes a major leap in that direction.
Apple has rethought the placement of elements you routinely use. For instance, the transport controls have moved to the top of the window to join the buttons that represent common commands, whereas in the past these controls and buttons were split between the top and bottom of the interface. The Library pane is now on the left, as many of us tend to work from left to right, and can quickly be exposed or hidden with the click of a button. As in GarageBand, each track now has volume and pan controls within the track list, thus allowing you to make changes there rather than moving to the Channel Strip or Mixer. Overall, elements are slightly bigger than they were in Logic Pro 9, so that finding just the tool you want is easier.
Logic Pro X's redesigned interface
This doesn't mean that Logic Pro has lost its command-rich menus within the application's various panes. When you need to dig deep, they and the menu bar menus are still your avenue for doing so. But when you want to do something quickly - sketch out a new tune or perform a quick edit - the new layout makes it easier to get to the task at hand.
It also presents GarageBand users with a more familiar environment. Musicians who've grown beyond GarageBand's capabilities often come to Logic and sit, stupefied, wondering where to begin. I have little doubt that part of the purpose behind Logic Pro's redesign was to make these users feel more welcome. Close enough panes, and you find a Logic Pro that performs a darned fine imitation of the GarageBand interface. As those users become more confident with the application, it's a simple matter to expand the interface to place more advanced tools before them.
Other adjustments make Logic more logical. Elements in a channel strip and mixer - a group of effects, for example - reflect their position in the signal path. To change their position in that path, just drag them up or down to a new position. And you can now engage a Quick Help feature that, in a small window, provides tidbits of information about any item your cursor hovers over. You can easily move arrangement markers to change the order of sections in your song. The Score editor now behaves more like a notation application. And the arpeggiator, plucked from its obscure location, is now within the software instrument tracks' Edit pane.
Logic Pro X review: An interface concerned with clutter
Logic Pro's interface changes are about more than accommodating GarageBand users - in the past, pros could be overwhelmed as well. For example, suppose you're working on a project that contains half-a-hundred tracks. Regardless of how large your monitor is, you're going to perform a fair measure of scrolling as you access your tracks. But suppose you could group some of those tracks - all the acoustic drum tracks, for example - into a folder-like arrangement in the track list and then show or hide the tracks it contains with the click of a triangle icon?
That's one of the ideas behind the new Track Stacks feature - specifically, the folder stack. In this view, you consolidate tracks you've selected into a single group (thus getting them out of the way). Once you've created the folder stack, you can mute and solo the stack as well as control its volume with a single fader.
You can play all the instruments in this summing stack as a single instrument
The other idea is the summing stack. Again, you consolidate the selected tracks, but in this case you're submixing them into an auxiliary channel.
If this track contains software instruments, it can be used and saved as a patch so that it behaves like a single instrument rather than a group of instruments. For example, you've created seven tracks, all of which are analog synthesiser tracks, with Logic's instruments. Not only can you group and hide them as well as control their mute, solo, and volume settings, but you can additionally use your MIDI keyboard to play all of them at once as a single instrument.
And if you've configured the ranges for each track - so the Growly Synth plays only the first two octaves, the Crunch Synth plays every note thrown at it, and the Lead Synth plays just the top two octaves - different instruments play, depending on which key you press. Press a low key, and you hear the Growly Synth and Crunch Synth mixed. Play something in the top octaves, and you hear no Crunch Synth, as it's not mapped to play in this range. You can then save this patch and call it up for any project you work with in the future. This is a powerful method for creating layered (and fat) instruments.
Another way Apple makes Logic more accessible is through new Smart Controls. If, in the past, you created a software instrument track or applied an effect to a track and wanted to change some of that track's parameters - give a little more brightness to an instrument or adjust a compressor effect's setting—you were thrown into what could be a complicated interface with scads of controls. Smart Controls allow you to avoid this by providing a subset of simple controls for accessing that instrument's or recording's most common settings.
Smart Controls gives you access to settings you must want to adjust
For example, call up the Classic Electric Piano instrument, double-click on its icon in the track list, and its Smart Controls appear at the bottom of the Logic window. Here are eight simple knobs for exactly the kind of tweaks you'd want to perform on a Fender Rhodes electric piano - Bell, Drive, Treble, Bass, Tremolo, Ambience, Chorus, and Reverb. No sampler fiddling required.
You don't have to live with a track's Smart Controls, however. Click an Info button, and a pane appears where you can choose what a particular control will do. For instance, on my Fender Rhodes I can assign a Phaser control to what is, by default, the Bell control knob. I can then store those settings as part of a patch so that they come up every time I use it. And like other Logic controls you can assign a hardware controller to them (a slider or wheel on your MIDI keyboard, for example) and manipulate them while you play. As you do that, you can record your manipulation so that it plays back with the track.
Logic Pro X review: Give the drummer some props
Logic Pro 9 was a boon for guitar players in that it included stompbox, amp, and speaker effects. With Logic Pro X, Apple turns to bass players and drummers. Bass players will be happy to know that they can now build their own rigs as well. Included are three amp models - Modern Amp, Classic Amp, and Flip-Top Amp - as well as a Direct Box setting.
You can additionally choose from six cabinet settings - Modern Cabinet 15”, Modern Cabinet 10”, Modern Cabinet 6”, Modern Cabinet Distant, Classic Cabinet 8*10”, and Flip Top Cabinet 1*15”. There are two direct box-out settings as well. And, as with the guitar rig, you can choose a mic and its position - a Condenser 87, Dynamic 20, or Dynamic 421. While bass tracks are designed primarily for those jacking a real bass into an audio interface, as with guitar effects, you can apply your bass rig to software instruments and MIDI tracks too.
Bass players now get a configurable rig of their own
New drum features run deeper still. I'll start with the new Drummer track. Drum loops can help you sketch out a tune, but because they're loops, they tend to be pretty static. You can tweak them and insert fills but they still don't sound like the real thing.
So Apple came up with the Drummer track. These are 15 virtual drummers - sampled from some of the world's best studio cats - who live inside Logic. Create one of these tracks and choose from four styles: Rock, Alternative, Songwriter, or R&B (sorry, no Country, Jazz, or Latin). Then choose the drummer you'd like to use (and yes, they all have names). For example, Max is a punk drummer who bangs on a punchy kit. Logan is an older dude who prefers retro rock and plays a just-as-retro kit.
This may sound like just a cute way to add personality to loops, but it's far more than that. Next to your drummer are some helpful controls. From a Presets menu you can choose a substyle in that drummer's roundhouse. For example, with Logan I can choose AM Gold, Stonehenge, or Firebird (licensing issues may prevent Apple from calling it 'Freebird').
Next, you can employ an X-Y pad and move a controller between Simple and Complex on one axis and Soft and Loud on the other. Drag the control around, and the pattern changes to match your desires. For example, if you place the control in the bottom left corner (Simple and Soft), you may hear a rudimentary kick drum on beats one and three and high-hat clicks on beats one through four. Drag the control to the top right corner (the Complex and Loud corner of the X-Y controller), and the pattern gets far more interesting.
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.
Get more realistic drum tracks with Logic Pro X's aptly named Drummer track
You can also choose which drums will and won't be used in the track. For example, if you hate cymbals, just click them in the representation of the kit, and they disappear. You can also adjust fill and swing controls, adding more or less of each with the turn of a virtual dial.
But there's still more. Click on the drummer's kit, and you can not only change the kind of kit he uses, but swap out his bass drum and/or snare for a different style of drum - a bright pancake snare instead of a deeper snare, say. And for each drum and cymbal you have the option to adjust its gain, dampening level, and tuning.
You can also enable a Follow option that tells your virtual drummer to examine the other tracks and try to get a feel for its part based on what else is playing in the song. What I've heard so far from the drummer track is pretty remarkable - it sounds like a real drummer rather than a loop.
The virtual drummers are also capable of playing in time signatures other than 4/4. Thinking I'd trick the drummers, I demanded that they play in 5/4. They did. I also tried 3/4, 6/8, and 12/8, and they dutifully beat out the appropriate rhythms. I then created a track that played a measure of 7/8, two measures of 4/4, three measures of 3/4, and then a measure of 6/8. Unlike any drummer I've ever played with, this one didn't stumble once. Clever, these Apple engineers.
Logic Pro X review: Flex Pitch
With Logic Pro 9 Apple introduced Flex Time, a feature for subtly adjusting the timing of where specific notes fall. If, for example, a kick drum plays a little before the beat, you can shift it over to fall on the beat. Now, what Logic Pro 9 did for timing, Logic Pro X does for pitch with its new Flex Pitch feature.
Suppose you have a singer who's largely nailed a part, but a few notes are slightly sharp or flat. In the past you could use a pitch correction effect to try to knock them into line, but Flex Pitch takes a different approach.
For a monophonic track (meaning only one note sounds at a time), Logic can display bars indicating how “in tune” a note is. Notes in tune will display a solid bar. If a note's flat or sharp, the bar is partly full, with the direction of the empty space indicating whether it's sharp or flat. You can then gently drag the bar up or down to fill it and bring the pitch into tune. You can also make more radical adjustments and change the note entirely - drag it down a fifth, for example - to change the melody. Obviously this sounds more natural when notes are separated as they would be on an instrument track, versus a vocal track where the singer slides from one pitch to another.
If you find dragging a drag, just play the note you want on your MIDI keyboard to move it. Additionally, you can ask Logic to analyse the pitches in a track like this and extract its notes as MIDI data, which is a cool idea if you want to easily double a vocal part with an instrument.
Logic Pro X review: New and improved instruments
If you long for the analog age when Moog, Sequential Circuits, Yamaha, Waldorf and Oberheim ruled the roost, Logic Pro X has you covered with its new Retro Synth instrument. This instrument models analogue, wavetable, and FM synthesisers from years past and contains the oscillators, filters, amps, and effects you'd expect. With the click of a Settings button you can tune and transpose the instrument and determine how it will behave with your controller's mod wheel, aftertouch and velocity.
I've heard enough Yamaha DX7 FM patches to last me a lifetime, but for someone who hasn't experienced the real thing (or, more realistically, doesn't already own the real thing or their virtual-instrument counterparts), the Retro Synth is a great addition.
Long for the sounds your dad used back in the day? Try the Vintage Synth instrument
Logic Pro X includes new versions of its Vintage B3, Vintage Electric Piano, and Vintage Clav plug-ins. The B3, in particular (modelled after the classic Hammond B3 organ), is wonderful. Not only will you find the expected drawbars, vibrato, and percussion switches, but you can make a load of adjustments to the rotor cabinet (Leslie) effect, including the motor's rate and acceleration, mic placement (front or rear), and the balance between the rotating top speaker and the larger speaker at the bottom of the cabinet. If you like, you can even “age” your B3 by adjusting a series of Condition sliders. Somebody at Apple clearly has an abiding love for these old organs.
The additions to the redesigned Vintage B3 instrument are impressive
While the Vintage Electric Piano doesn't have quite as many controls as the B3, it has plenty of knobs to twiddle. As someone who played a Fender Rhodes for years, I appreciate not only the tone controls but also the included Chorus, Phaser, and Tremolo effects, which, back in the day, required the purchase of a string of stompboxes.
Guitar players haven't been left out entirely. They get seven new stompboxes - Tie Die Delay (a reverse delay), Tube Burner (overdrive), Wham (when your guitar's whammy bar isn't enough), Grit (distortion), Dr. Octave (doubles the pitch an octave down), Flange Factory (a flanger), and Graphic EQ.
Apple has also redesigned the sound library with 1500 instrument and effect patches, 800 sampled instruments, 30 urban and electronic drum machines, and 3600 Apple loops. You can also download the old Logic Pro sound library along with Apple's Jam Pack collection from within the application for free.
Logic Pro X review: Logic Remote
One of the difficulties I have working with an application like this is that my keyboard rig is 90 degrees away from my computer desk. This means that when I want to adjust something in the DAW, I have to swivel my chair about and perhaps lose the flow of what I was playing. Apple has a solution in the form of the free Logic Remote iPad app.
Logic Remote puts a virtual control surface on your iPad. As long as your Mac's running Logic Pro X and it and your iPad are on the same Wi-Fi network, you can control the most important parts of Logic remotely. This includes not only transport controls but also a mixer, complete with fader, pan, record, animation, and mute and solo controls. If you've used GarageBand on an iPad, you'll be familiar with this interface, as it pulls many elements directly from that app.
Logic Remote lets you control many of Logic's most important features from across the studio
You additionally have the ability to pull up a music controller: a keyboard, drum pad, drum kit, chord strummer, or fret board. With the controller comes many smart controls attached to an instrument - tone controls for an acoustic guitar, for example. These controllers can appear in context - you'll see a fretboard if you've chosen a guitar, for example, or both drum pads and a virtual kit if you've selected a drum kit. But you can choose any controller you like.
This is helpful for me as I don't play guitar and therefore don't know which frets and strings correspond to a particular note. Instead, I just use a keyboard for playing single note parts or the chord strummer to play a guitar track's rhythm parts.
Just one of a handful of controllers available within Logic Remote
You can also use Logic Remote to create a new track (audio, software instrument, drummer, or external MIDI track), choose instruments from the library, initiate the arpeggiator, and jump between markers. You'll also find an area for initiating key commands by tapping on the iPad. And if you need some assistance, just tap the Smart Help button to access Logic's electronic manual (good for bedtime reading). What you can't do is edit existing tracks or see an overview of your project. For these things you'll need to return to your computer.
Obviously, I prefer a real keyboard with a sustain pedal over the keyboard offered by Logic Remote, but for making simple adjustments (or playing drum parts), it's very handy. Plus, I haven't found latency to be an issue. Tap on the iPad and you hear the notes without delay. I did find, on a couple of occasions when switching between projects, that Logic Remote failed to make the switch as well. Restarting the app fixed the problem.
Logic Remote requires an iPad 2 or later (or an iPad mini) running iOS 6 or later. And it works only with Logic Pro X.