Take a deep breath and sit down – the wait is finally over. After four years, numerous updates from its competitors and many, many exasperated posts on Gearslutz, Apple’s Logic X has landed and we here in the Prime Loops ivory tower have taken it upon ourselves to bring you a comprehensive introduction and review. Keen to know what the new features are? Or whether all the fuss has been justified or not? Is it really worth the upgrade from previous versions? Steady on, grab your favourite beverage, curl up on the sofa and let’s take a look…
The first thing you notice when firing up any new piece of software is the look and design. Logic X sees the first major aesthetic revamp since version 7 and much has already been made of the apparent shift towards a more user-friendly, ‘Garagebandy’ type look. Blacks and dark greys have been favoured over lighter, more silvery hues and the transport has been lifted directly from Logic’s simpler sibling.
As a seasoned Logic 8 and recently 9 user, X’s design has a slightly plasticy quality to me and looks a little less professional than the older design. New volume sliders for example, again lifted directly from Garageband, have no dB scale values placed next to them, nor amplitude meters, both incredibly useful tools when mixing and mastering. Of course, these displays are still available in each track’s channel strip and the mixer view but the inclusion of simplified controls seems very unnecessary for those with at least a little experience of digital mixing.
For Logic newbies, the above won’t apply and may even help to make the learning curve less painful. Regardless, let’s move on to more pressing matters…
Whilst looks are the first thing you notice, the biggest excitement with a new piece of kit always comes from the shiny toys you now have at your disposal. Logic X comes with a host of fresh features aimed at producers old and new, largely bringing together elements already available from disparate sources and incorporating them beneath a single hood.
Logic X Flex Out
First up we have the brand new flex pitch feature, which has been added in accompaniment to Logic 9′s much celebrated flex time feature. Flex Pitch essentially brings you the main features of Celemony’s industry standard pitch correction tool, Melodyne, into your workstation natively. Flex Pitch auto detects how out of tune your pitched material is, then offers you intuitive controls for correcting this. As well as subtle, surgical changes to pitch it is possible to radically shift the notes contained within your audio file. Just grab onto any of the bars representing pitch, much like midi notes in the piano roll, and drag them up or down. Job done!
This tool is very powerful and easy to use, an essential addition for anyone needing to make intricate pitch changes or wanting to experiment with totally new progressions in a pre-existing recording.
Back To The Future
Next we have possibly my favourite new feature, Retro Synth. This all new/old soft synth aims at reanimating sounds from some classic analogue gear and does so with admirable effects. The four selectable source types, low pass filter and envelope generators provide an extensive palette of vintage sounds, all boasting a degree of saturation and phatness. This must be offset by a disappointingly limited routing capability, so don’t expect too much movement in your sound but Retro Synth is nonetheless a welcome addition to Logic’s already excellent selection of native synths.
Another fantastic new feature, albeit borrowed from Ableton among other places, is the ability to place midi effects on instrument tracks. This opens up soft synth programming and external midi control of hardware to a host of interesting effects, such as arpeggiation, note randomisation, transposition and more. Call up an instance of one of these effects and you’ll be introduced to the midi FX interface, which is wonderfully straight forward, featuring an economy of controls and is elegantly designed to boot. Put simply, all this makes messing around with your midi an extremely quick and enjoyable process, so there’ll be less fiddling around with copy, paste and scissor tools from now onwards!
Little Drumma Boi
Probably Apple’s most major development on the road to Logic X has been their two new drum tools, Drum Kit Designer and Drummer.Drum Kit Designer is essentially a set of pristine recorded, pre-mapped drum sampler instruments, complete with dials for sculpting the sound of each drum in the set you’ve chosen to work with. For example, you can dampen a boomy kick with the touch of a button, or tune a snare that’s just a fraction too low in pitch.
The above can be triggered either by the piano roll on an instrument track, or it can work in tandem with Drummer. Drummer is a brand new feature for those struggling to programme their own patterns, or for those who need an interesting, evolving pattern quickly. A number of virtual drummers can be selected from, each with different playing tendencies such as ‘energetic’, or ‘sparse’ – what is actually played can then be controlled using a number of handy macro controls specifying how complex the pattern is, how loud, where the kicks tend to fall in the bar and so on. Again, Drummer can actually be used to perform any instrument placed on such a track, such as Ultrabeat or a 3rd party synth.
Whilst these features won’t be a revelation to electronic music producers, those with a soft spot for indie rock or even just live percussion and cymbals will enjoy working with them. Drummer can be used just for inspiration if you don’t like the idea of having Logic do all the midi programming for you – simply right click on the drummer region in the arrange window and convert it to midi to begin tweaking on a note-by-note basis.
Stack Em High
For those forever frustrated by having far too many tracks in a given project and no way to organise them, Track Stacks is here to change your life. This wonderful new feature lets you organise related tracks into stacks which can be hidden from view when you’re not working on them. This keeps everything neat and orderly and vastly improves the speed it takes to navigate around a complex project and find the track you want to work on. Folder Stacks don’t affect how the sub tracks contained within are routed in the mixer, whereas Summing Stacks route everything to a master bus channel – perfect for drums and percussion.
Many soft synths contain valuable macro control slots, which let you break down control of complex patches into the most important elements such as filter cutoff, low EQ, distortion and so on. Even better still, these controls often allow you to chain together different sub controls so you can effect drastic changes on your sound with only a single dial. With Logic X, Apple has gone one step beyond this – it is now possible to assign macro controls to entire channel strips!
The new Smart Controls box offers 8 assignable controls for tweaking the most important features of the sound you’re working with. Using channel strips and instruments native to Logic will see this box control a number of features across the strip, from compression and EQ to volume and pan. Use a 3rd party instrument and the box assigns itself to important controls contained within the given plugin. This features makes experimenting with and automating the sound of your instrument easier than ever, taking you less time to produce complex evolutions in your sound.
Add all the above to the brilliantly easy to use design and feature set of Logic 9 and you have yourself a wonderful, feature-laden DAW at your fingertips. Whilst Logic X will not change the lives of anyone familiar with previous versions, it’s new elements and design constitute a robust improvement in ease of use and programmability. This will surely make Logic X a success in the eyes of anyone willing to give it a try.