Logic Audio Platinum 5.4 for OS X and Cubase

Introduction

Emagic has finally released the Mac OS X version of Logic Audio – after announcing it much earlier in the year. Along with the main program, all the Emagic software instruments and plug-ins have been updated for OS X, and there are some exciting new releases as well. As you’d expect, the EXS24 sampler, ES1 synthesizer, EVP88 electric pianos and ESB Pro Tools System Bridge are there – now joined by the sexy new ES2 synthesizer, the EVD6 Clavinet, and the EVB3 Hammond Organ. Emagic has also released OS X hardware drivers for its range of USB MIDI and audio interfaces. Logic Audio Platinum 5.4 (LAP 5.4) has a number of improvements compared with version 4.81 – although it isn’t a complete reworking like Cubase SX. Major enhancements include 64 audio instruments, 64 multiple outputs for software instruments, 64 auxiliary channels for use with the mixer, 15 inserts per track and bus, and there are 64 buses. LAP now has 128 stereo tracks, using a single audio-hardware installation, and 256 stereo tracks using multiple audio-hardware installations. Of course, only the most demanding of projects on the most-capable high-end systems will actually use all these. Logic for OS X is very similar to Logic for OS 9, with a few major differences. It uses the Quartz Engine for graphics, saving processor power. This means no more sluggish screen redraws and jerky QuickTime windows on large sessions. Access to MIDI hardware is handled using OS X Core MIDI – so you don’t need OMS any more – and OS X drivers for most popular MIDI interfaces are now available. Similarly, access to audio hardware is handled using OS X Core Audio, so there’s no longer any absolute need for ASIO, EASI or Direct I/O. Core Audio drivers are available for the built-in Apple audio hardware and the EMI 2|6, plus others from MOTU, M-Audio, Edirol and RME. Access to third-party DSP plug-ins will be handled using OS X Audio Units – when Emagic gets this together. In the meantime, you have to do without. And you’ll have to do without Pro Tools TDM hardware as well – until Digidesign get its act together. Also still missing is Rewire support, OMF Import/Export to allow project interchange with Pro Tools, OpenTL to allow data exchange with Tascam hard-disk recorders, Akai Sample Import and Rocket Network support. And Sound Diver users will have to wait for an OS X version with Autolink. That’s a lot of stuff to wait for. There are lots of small improvements in LAP 5.4. For example, the Matrix and Event List editors now feature a Mute Tool – allowing users to mute specific notes in a sequence – and Logic can now edit Release Velocity. The new I/O insert plug-in allows routing of external-effect processors into the Logic mixer – very useful. And it gets better: the new Software Monitoring preference for the audio hardware lets you listen to effects while you record without effects – so a singer hears reverb while he sings, but this is not recorded to disk. You can even monitor with, say, reverb, while recording to disk with compression or some other effect being applied. Now for something truly great: suppose you go to a studio and record a song using professional hardware at 96KHz. You take this home to run on your laptop, or on your desktop with your Digi 001. The problem: neither of these support the 96KHz sample-rate, and playing the audio back at 48KHz would halve the playback speed of the song. And if you wanted to record a guitar solo or some vocals at home, this would be at 48KHz and would playback too fast if you took it back to the 96KHz studio. Logic’s real-time software sample-rate conversion feature sorts all this out. For example, if your audio hardware supports sample rates up to 48KHz, but the song is set to 192KHz, Logic will generate audio files at 192KHz – although you will still only get 48KHz quality. When launching LAP 5.4 in OS X, you won’t notice too many differences at first. There’s a new Logic Platinum menu in between the Apple and File menus – but this is standard stuff with OS X, allowing you to access various system services along with the About Logic Platinum dialog, the XSKey Authorizations dialog, and the relocated Logic Preferences. Although the default Arrange page can look similar to version 4.81, it can also look quite different. The View sub-menu lets you select what to display. Choose the new Track Automation item, and the information at the left of the window expands to include a pop-up selector for the type of automation (volume, pan, solo, mute or whatever), a small pop-up for the automation mode (Read, Touch, Latch, Write or MIDI), and an area where the automation value is displayed and edited. If the Parameters display at the left of the Arrange window is hidden, Logic has quite a different look. There are various new plug-ins to add to the large selection previously available, including several aimed at mastering applications such as Stereo Spread, De-Esser, Limiter, Multipresser and Multiband Graphic. Although these are not likely to put Waves out of business, they are useable – and LAP 5.4 has a better selection than Cubase SX. The EXS24 sampler is an essential addition to the system – on account of its tight integration. It is also a pretty good sample-playback device that can now import Gigasampler files, and offers multiple outputs. The main output pair (1-2) is assigned to its Logic Instrument channel, while another four stereo pairs and six mono outputs are available via the new Aux channels. Finally, the ESB System Bridge works with Pro Tools TDM systems to allow Logic instruments and plug-ins to play back via the Pro Tools TDM hardware Cubase SX
I never liked the way Cubase looked in previous incarnations – the user-interface was a mess. SX has a neat, attractive, professional-looking user interface. All the garishness of its predecessors is history – yet former Cubase VST users will have little trouble finding where everything is. Steinberg has put plenty of thought into how to deal with the plethora of windows in Cubase SX. The new Windows dialog – with buttons to activate, minimize, restore or close the specified window – helps you manage these, as does the Devices panel. This is a floating window containing a list of windows that can be visible on the desktop, and clicked to open or close any listed window. You can also create recallable window layouts – such as Logic screensets. The software has been completely redesigned – keeping the best features of Cubase VST, while taking the opportunity to correct faults and improve the design wherever possible. The project file itself contains references to all the audio and video files, along with playback information, MIDI data, and settings such as sample-rate and frame-rate. As with Pro Tools, when you create a project in Cubase SX, a project folder is automatically created containing the project file and an Audio files folder. Other folders hold audio Edits (edited or processed audio files), Fades, and waveform images. This is a sensible way to do things – unlike in Logic, which leaves you to manage all this. The Mixer has been completely redesigned to look and work much more like a professional audio mixer. This is a vast improvement on the original VST mixer. From an operational perspective, everything has been rationalized and simplified wherever possible. You no longer have to specify the number of audio channels you want to use – just create as many tracks as you need up to the limits of your system. And now an audio track and an audio channel are the same thing – all audio tracks have a corresponding audio channel strip in the Mixer. This is a lot less confusing than Logic, which still lets several tracks in its Arrange page share the same channel in its audio mixer. And, unlike the Play Parameters in previous Cubase versions, track parameters in SX can’t be applied to individual MIDI parts – they always apply to complete MIDI tracks – removing another source of confusion. When recording audio, an audio file is created on hard disk and an audio clip referring to this is created in the Cubase Project file. An audio event is also created. This is the object that is placed in a track on the timeline in the Project window to play back the audio clip – this can be resized to play the section of the audio clip, and copied to play at different positions in time. You can gather several audio events together into a Part to move or copy as one. Similarly, when you record MIDI, events are created and placed in MIDI Parts. Now, if you apply some processing to a section of an audio clip, the clip is automatically adjusted so that it refers both to the original file and to the new, processed file. This feature makes it possible to undo processing at a later stage, and to apply different processing to different audio clips that refer to the same original file. The new Offline Process History dialog lets you remove or modify processing at a later time – even from the middle of the Process History, while keeping later processing that you’ve applied. Click on any audio event, and a set of blue handles appears at the top. You can adjust the overall volume of the event or create a fade-in or fade-out by dragging the middle, beginning or end handles respectively. And, brilliantly, the size of the waveform pictured in the event increases or decreases to reflect the volume settings. If you want to change the shape of the fade, double-click on the fade line to bring up a dialog where you can adjust the settings. Any mistake can be undone – even from several moves back. You can set the number of levels of Undo you want in the User Interface Preferences. Use the new Edit History window to undo or redo several actions at once.
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