Logic Studio 8 full review

Logic has a slightly lateral history on the Mac. Logic 7 was nearly very popular, but a combination of interface quirks, bugs, a relatively high price and inconsistencies between the Pro and Express versions left users less than completely satisfied.

So what’s changed in Logic Pro 8? First, the price has been dropped by around 50 per cent, and the dongle has gone – these two changes on their own will be enough to impress potential new users. Otherwise, most of the changes to the core package are subtle rather than dramatic.

Logic includes all the previous instruments and effects of earlier versions, but no new instruments, and just one new effect called Delay Designer. This might seem disappointing, but there’s a lot of mileage in the old instruments and effects and it’s unlikely most users will feel they’re missing out here.

Logic Studio 8 includes a package of software to complement Logic itself. There’s a huge library of loops, samples, sound effects and JamPacks which comes on six DVDs. There’s also a copy of SoundTrack Pro 2, which is Apple’s audio-to-picture editor. This is handy, but will probably only be sporadically used by most Logic users, because Logic includes a video preview option that’s functional enough for basic scoring.

Also in the box is a new live-performance tool called MainStage. We were hoping for an answer to Sony’s Acid or Ableton Live, but in fact this is a fairly simple MIDI, softsynth and effects wrapper which will turn your Mac into a keyboard-driven multi-softsynth with splits and layers. It’s certainly useful, because Apple has tried to make it as glitch-proof as possible when changing patches. But it’s not quite an all-in-one performance show-stopper, and even though it has some clever features, it’s certainly not a competitor for Live.

Logic itself has been tidied up and expanded slightly. Professionals should note that it still uses 24-bit audio rather than the smoother 32-bit, and this is now lagging behind the competition slightly. The maximum sample rate remains 192kHz, and it’s possible to connect high-end converter hardware for high-quality sound. Surround support has been added in most of the standard formats including discrete quad, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1, with a new surround panner tool to handle spatial distribution.

Functionally, you can now drive it using a single window with pop-ups for the softsynths and effects. Like most sequencers, the bigger your monitor the more efficiently you’ll work. We found that a 17-inch MacBook Pro was plenty good enough. Ease of use has been improved all round and editing has been slightly improved.

So what’s not to like? Stability isn’t quite 100 per cent – we had a couple of crashes while testing. There were also some unexplained gaps in the sample library where patches were missing in action. But the biggest gripe has to be the sheer size of the package. A full install of everything takes 49GB, although most of this is samples, and you have the option not to load the sound effects and JamPacks if you don’t want them.

Processor power is also at a premium. On our test 2.17MHz dual-core MacBook Pro, the Sculpture instrument would sometimes take around 60 per cent of the available power when played on its own. If you want to get the most from the softsynths, you’ll need a fast quad-core or even a monster eight-core machine. We found that compared to, say, Steinberg’s Cubase 4, Logic Pro 8 made heavier demands on the hardware, which in practice meant fewer available tracks. On a stock MacBook Pro or iMac you’ll be able to squeeze eight to 12 tracks from the software, although slower machines with slower disks may struggle with even that. This is fine for demos, but professionals may feel limited.

Overall, for newcomers to sequencing, Logic Studio 8 looks very persuasive. Users of older versions will also be tempted – no feature stands out as an essential buy, but the package as a whole is a big step up from Logic 7.

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