Two years ago, the Apple Logic Studio update boasted a complete rebuild of Logic Pro as well as a plethora of new content, effects and plug-ins.
MainStage, Soundtrack Pro, and WaveBurner were also added to the package. Surprisingly, this giant increase in content was offered at half the price of the previous version.
Now Apple is shipping the next generation of the bundle — featuring Logic Pro 9 — with major upgrades and more than 200 new features. This review will give you an overview of the entire package and highlight the most exciting new features.
Logic’s new Amp Designer and Pedalboard are ideal competitors for Digidesign’s Eleven and Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig. Pedalboard’s 30 modeled stompboxes and flexible routing provide a giant range of effects options and the virtual Pedalboard allows you to select your stompboxes and determine their order in the signal path. The collection is comprehensive and includes everything from fuzz, overdrive, distortion, and compression to reverb, delay, flange, phaser, tremolo, and wah.
Amp Designer’s straightforward interface provides a graphic representation of the selected amp head, speaker and mic model. Pull-down menus allow specific heads, cabinets, and mic models to be selected. All of the heads have tremolo, and by clicking on the EQ or reverb labels, you can switch between many different EQ and reverb types. There are 25 amps, 25 speaker cabinets, and three mics that Amp Designer allows you to virtually position. Amp Designer does a fine job replicating both clean and distorted tones and I (an avid ribbon-mic user) was surprised at the quality of the ribbon-mic emulation.
Logic Studio’s MainStage 2 now incorporates Playback and Loopback plug-ins. This makes it possible to trigger backing tracks and add the features of a hardware-based looper to a live performance. I must note that the new Apogee Gio USB audio interface and foot controller (at $395 street) is the perfect complement to MainStage 2, Amp Designer and Pedalboard. It provides foot control over transport functions, punch-in, looping, and Pedalboard effects and comes premapped for these plug-ins.
The new Bounce Regions in Place feature allows effects and software instruments, with or without active plug-ins and automation, to be quickly rendered to audio. The new audio is placed in an adjacent track, and the original is automatically muted. This is different from track freezing in that it produces an audio file that can be easily edited at the project settings instead of a hidden 32-bit freeze file.
An impressive new Logic 9 feature list is Flex Time, which allows the quick and creative manipulation of timing and tempo. It is essentially Pro Tools’ Elastic Time on steroids. Flex Time is the most significant and encompassing addition to Logic Pro 9, and it facilitates several new features, including the Flex Tool, Audio Quantizing, Speed Fades, and Varispeed. Convert to Sampler Track and Drum-Track Slicing are two other non-Flex Time associated, but very cool, features worth mentioning.
Users who are already familiar with Pro Tools’ Elastic Audio or Ableton Live’s Warp will quickly adapt to these features. Otherwise, you’ll probably need a bit more time to feel comfortable with the function as it’s quite encompassing.
There are big improvements on the documentation front, too. The new Notes button reveals a list section with tabs for track and project notes. Each channel strip has a track note making it easy to jot down details like microphone type, signal path, etc. Larger event documentation can be stored in the Project Notes. Notes can hold up to 20,000 characters.
The complete Logic Studio package is $499. Upgrading from Logic Express is $299 and upgrading from Logic Pro or Logic Studio is $199. An Intel-based Mac running Leopard OS 10.5.7 or higher is needed to run all of the applications. This release marks the departure of PPC support (which is personally disappointing). Logic Studio requires a hefty hard-drive commitment as 9 GB of free space is required to install the applications and required content and an additional 38 GB is required for the optional content.
I successfully installed Logic Studio on my Apple MacBook Pro 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB RAM for this review, and the majority of my monitoring was done through a Benchmark DAC- 1 converter (utilizing the computer’s optical output) and Dynaudio BM5A and Focal Twin6B monitors. I also installed the package on my Apple Macintosh 2 GHz Dual Processor G5, and even though it is no longer officially supported by Apple for Logic, I had minimal difficulties with its operation. However, it did run extremely slow, making it difficult to use for processor-intensive applications such as the new Flex Time features.
The overall look and feel of Logic 9 is unchanged from the previous version. You can still toggle through the Mixer, Editor, and Arrange windows or you can work within the single integrated workspace. In the Mixer window, the arrow keys can now be used for channel-strip selection, and the Tab and Shift-Tab keys work the same when naming Mixer channels. Additionally, channel strips’ rewritten EQ thumbnails have a speedier re-draw and are easier to read. Volume and Send automation levels are now adjustable in 0.1 dB increments, which I’ve found extremely helpful when making minute adjustments. Quick Swipe Comping, which I fell in love with in Logic 8, has been improved as well and can now be momentarily turned off for normal editing and then turned back on to return to comping.
On Flex Editing
The quickest way to begin Flex editing is to simply click on any audio region with the Flex Tool. Once you select from one of four modes — Slicing, Rhythmic, Monophonic, or Polyphonic — you can freely manipulate the waveform. When you need additional options and a more detailed view of what you’re editing, switch to Flex View. When Flex View is turned on and a track is enabled for Flex Time editing, Logic analyzes all audio regions on that track. There you can choose from six modes — (Rhythmic, Monophonic, Polyphonic, Slicing, Speed, and Tempophone). Modes are selected one at a time. Three modes — Rhythmic, Monophonic, or Polyphonic — are optimized to give the best results for specific types of material. Slicing mode allows you to do beat slice-style editing, but with the simplicity offered by the Flex editing interface. The last two modes produce unique effects: Speed for pitch changing, tape-style manipulation; and Tempophone for special effects similar to granular processing.
Varispeed is the simplest of the Flex Time functions and similar to the classic tape-recorder function; it increases or decreases the tempo of the entire project (not just Flex-enabled tracks). The Speed and Pitch mode operates like a tape machine where the pitch changes with the speed. The Speed mode alters the speed while the pitch remains constant. Speed, Pitch, and MIDI alters the speed and pitch and transposes all non-drum MIDI tracks in semitones. This last mode has varied results depending on the source material, but it is still extremely impressive, reminding me of the awe I felt the first time I experienced Auto-Tune in action.
Logic 9 also includes two drum-oriented features: Convert To Sampler Track and Drum Replacer. The first allows you to create a sampler instrument from audio in a track with a single operation, enabling beat re-sequencing or re-triggering of portions of an audio track at other places in the composition. Convert To Sampler Track can also make it easy to tighten a drummer’s performance with the click track or a loop. Drum Replace creates a MIDI clip based on an audio file’s transient markers so samples can be used to augment or replace the drums.
When audio files are recorded, bounced, or exported, tempo events, time stamp, and even marker data are automatically included with the file. This means, for example, with Flex Time, the audio imported from other Logic projects can automatically change to match the tempo of the current project. Tempo information can also be read by MainStage’s Playback, the new backing track player.
The resizable plug-in windows are a Godsend, especially when working with a small-screen laptop. Plug-in windows can now be enlarged by up to 200 percent, making it easy to locate and manipulate controls, even for the most complex plug-ins.
Most of my work in Apple Logic Studio was on my laptop. I’ve found that between a MacBook Pro, Apple Logic Pro, the Euphonix MC Mix, and the Universal Audio UAD 2 SOLO/Laptop, I can easily compete with a $20,000 Pro Tools system.
Thus, Apple’s feature-packed Logic Studio is truly a bargain at $499. The system sounds wonderful, the included instruments and plug-ins are intuitive, and they sound fantastic. Logic Studio is the perfect all-encompassing production tool. If you are already a Logic Studio user, you’d be crazy not to upgrade. If you are contemplating switching to Logic from another DAW or deciding which format to jump into for your first DAW purchase, the new version of Apple Logic Studio provides significant enhancements and improvements, making Logic seem more logical than ever before.
Russ Long is a producer, engineer, and mixer. He owns the Carport studio in Nashville. www.russlong.ws