Dana Gumbiner and I both took on Logic Studio for this issue. Dana's opinion follows mine. -AH When Apple unveiled Logic Pro 8 (Tape Op #63), the high-performance audio engine that was the highlight of the previous version was still there, but the application bore the evidence of a major facelift, the first since Apple had purchased Logic developers Emagic in 2002. While long-time Logic users were suddenly faced with significant changes -and restrictions -to their workflow (even prompting reviewer Geoff Farina to deride version 8 as "iLogic"), Logic virgins were tempted by the sleek new user-interface. Ultimately, the hard-to-beat price-point of $499 for a top-tier production suite, now called Logic Studio -with DVDs worth of plug-ins, virtual instruments, royalty-free sound libraries, utility applications, and live-performance tools -became the deciding factor for many recordists who chose Logic Pro over other DAWs.
I myself sold my Pro Tools HD rig and replaced it with Logic and an Apogee Symphony system (Tape Op #59) before I ultimately settled on Steinberg Nuendo (#68), but I always kept an eye (and ear) on Pro Tools and Logic; as an owner of multiple facilities, I can't deny Pro Tool's ubiquity, and Logic Studio fast became the DAW of choice for many of the composers at my music production company. With the recent release of Logic Pro 9, I'm again reminded of why so many working musicians are picking Logic. Although the changes as a whole aren't as immediately striking as they were with version 8, the new features introduced in Logic Pro 9 are compelling enough for current Logic users to upgrade and competitive enough for users of other DAWs to consider a side-grade. Let's start with Flex Time, which provides non-destructive time-stretching and slicing of audio to match not only tempo (available since Logic 7) but also beats -moments in time where events, like transients, might occur -whether on a grid or in an adjacent track. Yes, other applications do this, but as with many things Apple, working with Flex Time is intuitive and frictionless. Flex Time analyzes audio regions, and grab-bars called Flex Markers appear on transients and where beats fall in those regions. As you drag a Flex Marker, the affected sections change color (green or orange) to denote time-compression or expansion -extremely valuable visual feedback. Moreover, if you move your mouse cursor from one track to another track while dragging a Flex Marker, the section you're editing from the first track will conform to the transients on the second track -a real timesaver for lining up two instruments. Flex Time has several modes; some are like Elastic Time in Pro Tools, while one in particular, Slice, is like Beat Detective -minus all the manual labor. It only takes a few mouse clicks to align all your drum hits. This feature alone has the potential to turn you into a beat-manipulation crack addict, and an integrated Drum Replacer further entices you to the "Dark Side".
Logic Pro 9 also marries MIDI and audio in more seamless ways (much like its competition). For example, you can quantize MIDI to audio transients, and you can now convert audio regions into sampler events. Logic's integrated EXS24 sampler instrument is available here to handle this blurring of audio/MIDI boundaries, again in a frictionless manner.
Moreover, many annoyances from version 8 have been mitigated. For example, there's now a directly-accessible Bounce-in-Place feature to render MIDI, audio, instruments, and plug-ins into single, contiguous audio files that appear where they should. Also, Quick Swipe Comping was previously too dumbed-down for me, but now you can cut/copy/paste within Quick Swipe mode, as well as apply fades and crossfades. Multi-take, multi-lane editing in general has been un-dumbed by the very virtue of being able to turn off Quick Swipe so you can freely move take regions and even punch into a take in an existing lane. And there's finally a Click Zone feature that turns your mouse cursor into the appropriate tool depending on where your cursor is hovering over a region.
Composers should investigate the many improvements to the Score Editor, including Duration Bars for precisely changing note lengths. Admittedly, I took only cursory round-the-block spins with the Score Editor and version 2 of MainStage, a bundled application that lets you reuse the channel strips, plug-ins, virtual instruments, loops, backing tracks, etc. from a Logic session to build virtual rigs for on-stage performance. If you want to write, record, and perform your music with the same sounds and settings, MainStage makes perfect sense.
Any audio engineer who works with Apple's Final Cut Pro video-editing program will appreciate Soundtrack Pro, also a part of the Logic Studio bundle. Believe me, if you know your way around a DAW, trying to edit audio in Final Cut Pro is like trying to teach dog tricks to a lazy cat. Soundtrack Pro not only bridges the very wide gap between Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro, it includes powerful tools for noise reduction, syncing audio to video, and comping. Plus, you get a library of royalty-free Foley sound effects. -AH
Now here's hear from Dana.
As a long time Pro Tools user, I've become increasingly frustrated with feeling bound to a closed system of software and hardware. I've used other DAWs in the past, of course, and have flirted with Logic dating back to the Emagic days. But only recently have I felt up to the challenge of what I perceived to be a steep and lengthy learning curve. I'm pleased to report that the transition to Logic from Pro Tools is nowhere near as difficult as I had imagined, and in fact, Logic Pro 9 has a number of new enhancements that make the switch easy. Logic is compatible with all of my third-party hardware and plug-ins -my Apogee and Metric Halo boxes worked flawlessly at boot, as did the AU versions of my plug-in suites. And my Logic mixes are phenomenally superior to my ears, primarily due to Logic's built-in plug-in latency compensation (available only in the HD version of Pro Tools, a solution costing thousands more than Logic).
Much of the workflow in Logic seems rooted in a firm commitment to user testing and refinement. The processes that are common to most DAWs are all here (composing, recording, editing, mixing), but almost always feature subtle, streamlined attributes which are well thought out and (ahem) logical. You wanna use that plug-in chain you had in a previous mix session? Select a previously saved channel-strip setting, and all of your plug-ins are loaded into that channel. Like to try slicing a rhythm section up into an alternate groove? Highlight the waveforms and select Convert To Sampler Track; the regions are now represented as individual MIDI notes quantized on a piano roll and you can edit to your hearts content. Need to simultaneously create 24-bit mix stems and MP3 non-realtime bounces? No worries. All of these thoughtful functions really add up in terms of productivity; even though I have yet to master the hundreds of shortcuts and customizable key-commands, I feel like I've already upped my efficiency game considerably.
For those looking for additional accelerated workflows, the new Flex Time features are tremendous. After choosing an appropriate Flex Mode for a track or group of tracks, one can then alter the audio non-destructively. This is very similar in principle to Digidesign's Elastic Time or Ableton's Elastic Audio, and it makes time-consuming edits somewhat painless. All of Logic's time compression and expansion algorithms sound natural and artifact-free, and choosing between the Flex Modes is intuitive. The cursor-based Flex Tool is awesome for quick tweaks. Slice Mode works particularly well with drum editing and even offers a phase-locked option. Using this mode, the audio isn't time-stretched or compressed, but is automagically chopped by transients (think Beat Detective). I found the transient detection to be accurate and quick and was impressed with the speed at which I was able to achieve finished drum edits. Of note -a drum replacement/doubler feature similar in principle to Digidesign's SoundReplacer is included with this version. The Snap Edits to Zero Crossings and auto crossfades options are handy for most region editing as well. All of these features remedy what for me was a major concern when switching platforms; I worried that my editing times would slow to a crawl. After spending some quality time with a printout of the key-commands and a few choice pages of the manual, my concerns were put to rest.
The included AU plug-ins all sound great, and there is a wonderful emphasis on performance with the included suite. The new Amp Designer and Pedalboard plug-ins offer a ton of tools ostensibly for guitarists, but well-suited for creative sound design. The GUI on the wide range of included plug-ins is mostly a model of Apple-esque simplicity, but a few left me cold (notably the venerable EXS24 sampling instrument). And the metering and analysis tools felt a bit limited when compared to the scope of the rest of the included plug-ins; the MultiMeter is a decent real-time tool, but I found myself wanting a larger, zoomable window. I'm grumbling, but realistically, most DAWs don't even include an RTA option, so there you go.
Overall, the application ran smoothly during extensive testing. I did experience the odd crash here and there in version 9.0.1, primarily when dynamically switching Flex Modes during playback. While this wasn't a consistent issue, I dutifully sent off crash reports to Apple, and I can only hope that this will be addressed in future updates.
I'm impressed! Logic feels like a good fit for me and my studio. It has the flexibility needed for pro work -scoring/notation; XML, OMF, and AAF file interchange formats; TDM support; full surround mixing; audio for video; etc. Yet it manages to offer creative solutions other DAWs lack -or charge thousands more for! While I'll continue to use other DAWs, I feel very confident in using Logic as my go-to app from here on out. ($499 MSRP, $199 upgrade; www.apple.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.