Logic Pro 7.2

Musicians have been anticipating major performance boosts since Apple unveiled plans to switch to Intel-based processors. While Logic ran on a PowerBook G4, the performance was nothing to write home about. Musicians on the road desired a laptop powerful enough to approximate the experience of running Logic on a high-end desktop.

The arrival of Logic Pro 7.2 should be welcome news for those mobile musicians. Our tests of the first Universal version of Apple’s music-creation and audio-production software found a major performance gain when running the application on a Core Duo-based Mac. More importantly, running Logic 7.2 on a MacBook Pro delivers a very similar experience to using it on a Power Mac G5. On-the-go musicians may have the hardware-software combo that meets their performance demands.

Native need
In Apple’s tests, a 2.16GHz MacBook Pro running Logic Pro 7.2 processes 135 PlatinumVerb reverb plug-ins, 4.5 times as many as a 1.67GHz PowerBook G4. The MacBook processes twice as many Sculpture physical-modeling software instruments as the PowerBook.

In a real-world project, you’re extremely unlikely to use 135 reverbs at once, but you might want to use a number of CPU-hungry plug-ins. To test Logic’s performance on the MacBook Pro, I used an actual multi-track project that needed to combine multiple instances of Logic’s most punishing plug-in, the Space Designer convolution reverb.

I found that there was little I could do to overtax the MacBook Pro. This project managed to play in real time even after adding 13 Space Designers with long reverb tails, plus three Pitch Shifter II instances and one Ring Shifter. Our test results below show that even a marginally slower dual-core Mac mini couldn’t play the same file.

It’s also telling that a 2GHz MacBook Pro could play much of the demo content included with Logic Pro that’s tantalisingly labelled “G5 only”. The G5 Demo Song pulls all the stops in terms of Logic’s built-in effects and virtual instruments on an extensive, multi-track song. While just a subset of tracks was more than the fastest PowerBook G4 could bear, the MacBook Pro played the entire song in real time.

Render times aren’t as significant as real-time performance for music work, but they do provide an approximation of the computer’s efficiency. They also demonstrated significant improvements in performance. The MacBook Pro rendered the Space Designer test project nearly four times as fast as the PowerBook G4, and rendered the G5 demo file nearly 1.5 times as fast. But while the MacBook Pro can fairly boast desktop-class performance, the Power Mac G5s are still faster.

Other features
While Universal compatibility is the highlight of this Logic update, PowerPC-based Mac users have reason enough to upgrade as well. Version 7.2 inherits several features from GarageBand 3, including automatic ducking and speech enhancement for voice-overs and podcasts, native support for Apple’s AAC compressed audio format, and the new jingles and sound effects from iLife ’06. Enhanced control surface support and the ability to switch between channel strip settings via MIDI makes Logic easier to control in the studio and on stage. (The ability to switch channel strips means that you could, for instance, assign a different set of effects to a foot pedal to switch between guitar processors on the fly.)

Other improvements may sound arcane to audio newcomers, but they’ll be greatly appreciated by long-time and professional users of the program.

The 7.2 upgrade is a must-have if you rely upon ReWire to combine Logic with applications like Propellerhead Reason or Ableton Live. The update supports Stereo ReWire objects as well as mono, and ReWire inserts are labelled correctly. It’s a major improvement from the confusing implementation in previous versions.

Lastly, Logic now includes support for high-end hardware and software products. Logic Pro 7.2 has integrated support for Apogee’s new PCI express and FireWire audio interfaces and for the high-quality pitch and tempo shifting of Serato Pitch ‘n Time LE.

There’s only one reason not to upgrade to Logic Pro 7.2, but only if you use older Digidesign hardware and software. While Logic Pro 7.2 expands support for Pro Tools 7.x, it discontinues support for Pro Tools 6.9 and earlier. Logic no longer supports Digidesign MIX systems.

OUR VERDICT

Using a svelte Mac laptop or bargain-priced Mac mini is no longer the compromise it was for running Logic Pro. That bodes well for other high-end audio applications released, or due to be released, for Intel-based Macs. If you rely heavily on plug-ins, you’ll want to wait to make an Intel Mac your primary machine until more Universal applications arrives, as each plug-in must be optimised for the Intel processor to function. But if you’ve been waiting for a fast machine in a laptop, mini, or iMac form factor, the Intel “brain transplant” has paid off immediately. And as far as Logic Pro is concerned, whether for PowerPC or Intel Mac, there’s simply no better value in all-round audio bundles.

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