Apple’s flagship set of professional digital audio productivity tools gets a surprise makeover. But is it more than just a facelift?
Available From: www.apple.com
23July 2009 turned out to be a great day for Logic users, when an all-new Logic Studio suddenly appeared in the Apple Store, combining Logic Pro 9, Soundtrack Pro 3 and MainStage 2, along with various utilities such as QMaster, Compressor, WaveBurner, QuickTime Pro 7 and all current Apple Loop Jam Packs. While the last whole-integer update of Logic brought in a complete new interface, the transition from 8 to 9 is likely to be less of a bumpy ride as the changes are not so much transformations as additions. There are reportedly more than 200 new features, yet essentially the interface remains familiar to those who are now used to working with Logic 8.
The big news is Flex Time, which enables audio to be encoded so that you can merely click and drag on a waveform with the Flex tool to change its timing and feel, without affecting sound quality. Logic’s Flex engine also incorporates a beat- slicing element, so that audio regions can be quantised to the timing grid in exactly the same way as MIDI regions, and you can phase-lock multi-tracked drum parts so that they can be edited and quantised as one. As always with this type of feature, it doesn’t work quite as simply as the promotional videos would have you believe – as there’s no way of adjusting the sensitivity when the audio waveform is analysed, you’ll undoubtedly end up diving in and adjusting the placement of transient markers manually to get a perfect result. With that taken into account, however, the process actually works extremely well, delivering an unprecedented level of control over audio recordings. Other specialist implementations of the Flex Time engine include Drum Replacer, which creates a MIDI region to mirror an audio drum track and loads up a sampler instrument in the background so that you can easily replace or double your recorded drums with samples. Also worth a special mention is the Convert To Sampler Track command. This command transforms the often lengthy process of slicing up a drum loop into single hits and mapping the resulting chunks across a keyboard into literally two clicks. The resulting MIDI file appears almost instantly on a track containing a newly created EXS24, and the program even mutes the original audio region so that, when you press play, all you can hear are your sample slices playing back via MIDI. This is pure gold for anyone who likes to slice up and rearrange loops.
Logic 9 also offers Selective Track Import, which enables channel strips, track content and tempo information to be freely transferred between projects on a track-by-track basis. This is hugely useful in a professional environment, and alongside other additions such as Bounce-in-Place, true varispeed, guitar tab notation, new warped effects for Space Designer and the ability to edit audio within Quick Swipe comps, it shows that on the audio editing side of things, Apple has been listening closely to the demands of its Pro customers.
While there’s not much here in the way of new instruments, effects or MIDI enhancements, guitarists should be more than happy with the inclusion of the Amp Designer and PedalBoard plug-ins.Amp Designer, a collection of software emulations of popular guitar amps, features 25 different models of amp, 25 different speaker cab types and three varieties of microphone, all of which can be combined to provide a multitude of possible guitar sounds, while PedalBoard is an array of 30 virtual stompboxes that can be plugged together merely by dragging and dropping. The design and implementation of the stompboxes is just beautiful to behold, so much so that it’s worth checking out even if you don’t possess a guitar.
Elsewhere, Soundtrack Pro 3 adds automatic voice level matching, more advanced time-stretching functions and a new Frequency Spectrum view for the Audio editor, and the MainStage live performance application gets a major overhaul. MainStage 2 adds Playback, an interactive sample playback plug-in that can respond to footpedal control, while the new Loopback tool allows you to lay down multi-layered looped recordings that can be synced to the tempo of your project. There are several new template layouts that can be grouped and customised, and you can now assign multiple parameters to a single control. The full-screen interface is as beautiful and functional as before, and ReWire support has also been added, allowing audio from other applications such as Ableton Live or Reason to be routed into MainStage for triggering and processing. On top of all this, you now have the option to record your entire performance in the audio format of your choice.
In conclusion then, Flex Time alone probably makes this an essential upgrade, and serves to strengthen Logic’s quest for champion DAW status. The MainStage and SoundTrack applications are a welcome bonus, although of limited use if you don’t play live or work with video. So the ultimate question is: is Logic Studio worth the money? And the answer is yes. Oh yes. With knobs on.
Pros Flex Time is a marvel, great new stuff for guitarists, works with Snow Leopard
Cons Price has gone up, Intel-only, no new software instruments, MIDI side a little dated now
Verdict: Five out of five stars
By Dave Clews