Emagic is one of the oldest and most respected names in the field of MIDI and digital audio workstation (DAW) applications. Best known for Logic, the company also has a line of studio software, soft synths and a sample playback plug-in, EXS-24. The Emagic hardware line includes USB audio and MIDI interfaces and Logic Control.
Product PointsApplications: Digital audio recording, mixing, processing
Key Features: Support for Pro Tools hardware, OS X, new Channel EQ, track grouping, Project Manager, DV movie playback on FireWire, sample accurate audio display
Price: Logic Audio Big Box – $239 Logic Gold – $499; Logic Platinum – $699
Contact: Emagic/Apple at 530-477-1051, Web Site.
Logic Platinum 6.1 is the first major release since the German company was acquired by Apple Computer in July of 2002. While Emagic has not shut out their OS 9 users with Logic 6, they are clearly making the migration to OS X an attractive option.
All three versions of Logic support MIDI and digital audio recording. Logic Audio is the entry-level product. Logic Gold supports a higher number of tracks and more advanced notation. Logic Platinum is the flagship product and adds support for Digidesign’s TDM and HD hardware. Emagic also provides more plug-ins with the higher-level products.
Logic 6 under OS 9 maintains compatibility with a large number of hardware audio interfaces through its support for Mac AV (Sound Manager), EASI, ASIO, Digidesign Direct I/O, DAE and Audiowerk. In OS X, Apple has embedded some of the functionality of these drivers and audio engines into its Core Audio driver specification.
Digidesign’s Core Audio driver functions like Direct I/O in OS 9. This lets you use your Digidesign hardware for recording and playback while using Logic’s native audio engine. If you want to use your TDM plug-ins in Logic and run the signal processing on an HD, Mix or Farm card, you can use the DAE driver.
Users of Pro Tools HD hardware can use the PTHD plug-in to record tracks at up to 192 kHz sample rates. The Emagic System Bridge (ESB) lets you create tracks with a native audio engine and Digidesign Audio Engine (DAE) in the same song. With this option, you can use the native audio engine to add tracks and plug-ins when the TDM system is at full capacity.
Apple and Emagic provide tools to help get your basic MIDI and audio settings under control. In OS X, this starts with Apple’s Audio MIDI Setup (AMS). Yes, you no longer have to choose between OMS and FreeMIDI.
The Logic Setup Assistant streamlines audio driver settings and the configuration of tracks and instruments. It combines functions that are otherwise spread across several menus. New in version 6 is the Project Manager. It is designed to be a knowledge base of project-related files on your system. It keeps track of which songs use which audio files, samples used by EXS-24 instruments, QuickTime movies and plug-in settings. The “Save File as Project” option collects all audio files, QuickTime movies and samples used in a song into a single location for archival or delivery.
Audio tracks with a lot of plug-ins can consume valuable processor time. The Freeze function solves this by storing processed audio on disk. Tracks can be stored in 16-bit, 24-bit or 32-bit (float) representations. The tracks can be “thawed” if audio edits or plug-in changes are needed. Speaking of edits, Logic now provides a sample-accurate waveform display.
Video support? Logic 6 supports a floating video window as it did in earlier versions.
If you would rather dedicate a computer monitor to the video, you can do this by command-clicking the video window. Logic expands the picture to fit the monitor. Video thumbnail images can be enlarged by click-dragging the thumbnail track as you would to enlarge any track. Preferences allow you to set the space between the frames and zooming in on the timeline shows more frames.
The Track EQ in version 5 has been replaced with the new Channel EQ. This eight-band equalizer has high and low-pass filters as the outermost bands, shelving equalizers as the next bands in and four bell or peaking equalizers in the middle. Clicking on the equalization display curve, which doubles as a control, can change most of the parameters. Pivot points that show up as you hover over the line can be grabbed with the pointer to change the Q with up and down movement and change the frequency with side-to-side dragging.
Logic Platinum provides more than 50 native plug-ins. In OS X, you also have a choice of several Apple AU plug-ins. The Logic plug-ins include an assortment of dynamics processors including the Multipressor multiband compressor. Also included are delays, reverbs and some unique filters and distortions.
The track window now allows grouping of tracks for simultaneous control of volume faders and mutes. The groups function also allows simultaneous editing of multiple tracks.
I tested Logic Platinum 6.1 on a dual 1 GHz G4 Mac with 1 GB of RAM, a Pro Tools HD1 and a 96 I/O. I also used Emagic’s emi 6|2m audio interface, an Emagic amt|8 MIDI interface and an Emagic Logic Control. I ran Logic under OS X.2.6 and OS 9.2.2. Pro Tools 6.1 was also installed along with Digidesign’s Core Audio driver 1.2.
It was a quick task to add the amt|8 to the MIDI setup using AMS. MIDI keyboards and modules are attached graphically to the MIDI interface with virtual “cables” similar to OMS. My only complaint with Logic in the MIDI department is the complexity of selecting synth patches. This was a whole lot easier in Studio Vision (RIP).
The visual enhancements in Logic 6 are a step in the right direction, but the real value is in the sound. Logic continues to provide an impressive array of signal processing plug-ins with the product. There are several new algorithms in the time compression/expansion function. Emagic has optimized algorithms for pads, rhythmic material and drum beats.
Logic Platinum gives you a lot of sound- shaping power. The EQ and dynamics plug-ins are especially strong. If you are looking for some unusual electronic effects, Logic has you covered with some useful automatic filters and six distortion plugs.
Comparing the Multipressor to some of the multiband compressors on the market is not really fair, but it did tame my busiest mixes with minimal effort. The reverbs are more than adequate, but if you are fussy about your reverbs, you may want a third party plug-in or an outboard unit.
The Channel EQ is the most complete equalizer I have seen in a DAW and has one of the most intuitive and informative interfaces I have seen in any product. Having a real-time analyzer in the EQ display makes it easier to identify the frequency you want to work with. Who wants to read numbers when you can look at the sound? The graphical interface with Q control is useful and fun.
The flexibility in video window-sizing, support for tempo computation between markers and FireWire playback support make Logic an ideal scoring platform. Speaking of scoring, Logic continues to have the strongest notation package I have seen in a MIDI sequencer.
I will not go into all the add-on synths, but will say that EXS-24 is by far my favorite. Having all the sounds in the sequencer is a lot easier than looking through stacks of zip disks and its ability to ingest my Akai sample library is a big plus.
I was also pleased to see a bounce option for MP3 files. You would not want to master your songs in this format, but for quick and portable reference mixes, it is very useful.
Logic combines many professional features in a flexible package. The upgrade to Logic 6 should be considered for anyone moving to OS X or thinking about getting into a Mac for music production.
Given the amount of work Apple has done on the MIDI and the Core Audio architecture, it is clear that Apple wants to grow its market share in professional audio production with OS X. A full comparison of OS X to OS 9 is out of scope for this article but suffice it to say that the operating stability and enhanced support for dual processors are two good reasons to think about OS X. As we went to press, Emagic announced release of Logic 6.2, which includes support for the 64-bit architecture of the G5.