Apple really put Logic user’s patience to the test by working 4 years on a new release of their professional audio application, Logic Pro. But last week, without much hassle or rumble, suddenly appeared a new App in the App Store: Logic Pro X.
Logic Pro X new logo
If I should in one sentence characterize what the assignment of the developers was, I’d say: “Simplify the application in such a way that Garageband users can make the transition to a more complex application without a steep learning curve for the new application”. As an occasional Garageband user I can say that they lived up to that expectation, but also put at risk the loyalty of the regular Logic Pro user.
The interface has some dramatic changes, the transport bar is moved to the top of the screen and has been been simplified, although one can choose to make it more ‘Logic Pro 9′-like. The color scheme has undergone its most dramatic change since Logic Pro appeared on the market. I would say it has become more ‘American’ than ‘German’. The background has become more dark but there is an increasing use of colored and more skeuomorphism throughout the application, like the realism now visible in faders, buttons and rotary knobs. This does not always turn out to be a success: when placing black text on dark grey background I find things hard to read, something that never happened when I used Logic Pro 9.
The launch date of Logic Pro X seems rather odd. They did not make any real major anouncements and the introduction is a few months ahead of the launch of both the new OSX version (Mavericks) as well as the much anticipated new MacPro. In my case, using a 2008 MacPro with Snow Leopard (like probably most Logic Pro users) it makes it not easy to decide when to upgrade. Logic Pro X is only avalaible for the most current OS (Mountain Lion 10.8) although reports surfaced where people install it -with some manipulation- under the previous incarnation of OSX: Lion (10.7). But installation under 10.6 is a no-go. Installation of a new Logic version can be quite challenging. Not really for Logic itself but mainly considering you will have to re-install all your plugins, which can be a daunting task considering all the different protection schemes.
For the meantime I have installed Logic Pro X under a different partition on my MacPro to see what has changed and what is new. The full installation is so vast, if I remember well nearly 50 Gb, probably some alarm bells went off at my Internet hosting provider.
The first thing after installation I notice is that, despite the different lay out and new features, you will have hardly any interruption of workflow. You still can import your files from previous versions without a glitch and the workflow did not change in such a way that you will have to constantly keep the manual in reach. 32-bits plugins are no longer supported, luckily all my plug-ins have 64-bits versions. But as I progressed I would find that some elemental functionality like ‘Strip Silence’ has gone or is tucked away somewhere deep into the application.
The most important changes are:
This is a new way of making the routing and grouping of tracks easier. This could of course be done with previous version but as your number of tracks increased, it became a hard to keep all the routing under control. Also the folder option in the pre-Logic Pro X era was so clumsy that I never bothered to understand it. This has now all changed for the better.
OK, so you will from now on have a number of drummers at your disposal (and each one has its own name, like ‘Gavin’, ‘Robin’ etc.). These drummers can lay down all kinds of patterns, fills and breaks, which you can influence by dragging sliders and where you can vary between things like ‘complex/simple’, ‘loud/soft’ as well as the intensity of the hits. ‘Drummer’ is something you can choose as you create a new track, so it is at the same level as ‘Software instrument’ or ‘Audio recording’. It does not take a scientist to see this will start a nice sub branch of all kinds of ‘people’ you will be able to ‘hire’ in future releases, like ‘Guitarist’, ‘Horn Section’ or ‘Percussionist’. At first the Drummer seems somewhat restricted, but the great thing is that you can drag the Drummer tracks to Software Instruments tracks and that opens a new world of possibilities. You are now able to do fine edits to the Drummer’s patterns or replacing the Logic drums sounds with those of your own instruments.
Those are now at your disposal through the channels, where you can easily add them to your tracks. No more complex handling through the notorious Environment window, which by the way is only available by setting a check box for ‘Advanced Midi Options’. personally I would have loved to have seen a Midi FX representing a grid where you can design patterns for your drum machine plug-ins (think about a generic form of what you can do with the Ultrabeat sequencer).
This feature was already expected through the rumours before the Logic Pro X launch. It only works on a mono channel, but it’s intuitive and makes the use of complex handling through applications like Melodyne in most cases superfluous.
All the effects and synths that already were there in Logic Pro 9 have not changed. But with all those virtual analog style synths that recently were released (NI Monark, Waves Element, Uhe Diva to name a few) Apple could not stay behind and presents us ‘Retro Synth’. A very easy to use synth where you can switch easily between a 2-VCO analog, sync, wavetable or FM synth. It sounds pretty impressive to me.
iPad Remote App
Last but not least Apple is presenting us an iPad Remote app that has a plethora of functions to use with Logic. It has the more traditional (in the sense that there are other Apps that can do this) mixer window, but it also has a Maschine like button interface where you can add and edit your key commands. And it has screens where you can strum chords or make optimal use of the multitouch screen, for example by gliding through various scales, like Dorian, Blues etc.. Very reminiscing of what you can do with Garageband. The iPad Remote App even goes so far that you can edit the most essential functions of plug-ins and instruments through a new function named Smart Control. With Smart Control you can handle the most important functions of a plugin and can also be used within the Logic Pro X application itself.
Besides the above described changes and added features there are literally hundreds of little things throughout the application that make life a little bit easier. But only the main new features make the purchase of the new version more or less a no-brainer for ¢ 200 or € 180. We received more or less what was expected in the rumours advancing the laumch. Maybe one of the few things that popped up in those rumours and are not available in Logic pro X are the virtual modelings of mixing desks.
As an intense user of Logic Pro versions you may find that this upgrade was more aimed at enabling Garageband users to make the step to a more professional program. Some things that you were used to in the older Logic Pro versions may simply have been gone or moved.
Be aware that if you own an older Mac Pro and/or older operating system it might be wise to hold off the purchase until OSX Mavericks and the new Mac Pro have been introduced and then do one ‘big’ transition in one time.