The big news for Logic users is not the new features in Logic Pro and Express, but the new — and extremely competitive — pricing. So which of the two is the bundle for you?
By now, pretty much every Logic user must have heard that Apple are making changes to the way Logic is being marketed, the most noticeable being that the Logic range is being repackaged as just two products: Logic Pro and Logic Express. This would seem to mark the end of separately sold plug-in products for Logic — the impression we're getting from Apple is that all future plug-ins will be added to the Pro program during future upgrades. We saw some intriguing new software instruments in preview form at the January NAMM show, though these aren't in the first Pro version, and because Apple have a policy of not announcing shipping dates until they're pretty sure they can meet them, they can't give us any clues as to when they will ship. So, what is in these two new packages and what does it mean for the existing Logic user?
Whither Sound Diver?
What is still unclear at this point are Apple's plans for the Emagic Sound Diver synth librarian. It is still available as an OS 9-only product, but a beta version of Sound Diver for OS X is available for free download from the Emagic web site. This requires an XS key and therefore can only be used by existing Logic v5/6 users. Emagic and Apple are making no comment at present about the future of Sound Diver.
At The Top End
Starting with Logic Pro, this is essentially Logic Platinum plus every additional plug-in Emagic have ever produced, namely ES1, ES2, EVOC20, EXS24 MkII, EVB3, EVP88, EVD6 and the new Space Designer convolution reverb. If you're not familiar with any of these formerly optional plug-ins, see the boxes. In addition, Logic Pro naturally includes all Logic 's usual built-in processing and virtual instrument plug-ins, plus a good selection of samples to use in the EXS24 sampler. On top of this, the previously optional Digidesign support add-ons, ESB TDM System Bridge and the PTHD Extension, have been included too, whilst EPIC TDM and Host TDM Enabler are discontinued.
Looking very briefly at the key features of Logic Pro, it can handle up to a massive 255 stereo audio tracks, CPU power permitting, plus a further 64 plug-in instrument tracks. Its software mixer can be configured with up to 64 busses and 64 aux tracks, where you can have up to 15 inserts and eight sends per channel — not that you'd ever be likely to need that many! There are now over 50 built-in effect plug-ins, plus all the previously optional plug-ins, real-time and fast offline mix bouncing, and support for a number of popular surround formats including quad, 5.1 and 7.1. POWR dithering is built in for reducing bit depths from 24 to 16, while the ESB TDM System Bridge allows Logic users to combine their Mac's native processing engine (and hence all Emagic instruments and plug-ins, plus any installed third-party Audio Unit plug-ins) with a DAE Digidesign Audio Engine within Logic and route all audio through the Pro Tools hardware. Support for TDM hardware and TDM plug-ins (with compatible systems) is built-in, as is support for the newer HD and Accel systems. OMF and Open TL file import and export eases the job of moving projects between platforms and of course there's the new Project Manager for keeping track of audio files and samples. Like Logic Platinum 6, Logic Pro 6 is optimised for Apple G5 and G4 machines. Purchasers of Logic Pro get a new paperback-style Logic 6 manual, plus all the individual paper manuals for the plug-ins and electronic versions of all the manuals in PDF format.
With the Logic Pro repackaging, the version number has now crept up to 6.4 — but in truth, little has changed since version 6.3 other than some enhancements to Space Designer. For example, when IR responses are loaded, they are now automatically converted to match the sample rate Logic is currently working at, pre-delay and IR Start are now separate variables, and a 'Grace Time' feature has been added that delays the recalculating of the impulse response when you're adjusting parameters so that Space Designer is not always trying to work out the answer before you've finished asking the question. The graphical user interface has been upgraded slightly to provide faster access to key parameters, and the filter cutoff is now expressed in Hz.
If you don't have Logic Pro and don't plan on getting it any time soon, you can download an upgrade to 6.4 from previous versions of Logic 6 free of charge and enjoy all the benefits of Logic Pro other than the additional free plug-ins — your XS key will work as normal and only allow you to use additional plug-ins that have already been authorised to your key. However, I suspect lots of users will jump at the the new upgrade path to the full Logic Pro with all the previously optional plug-ins. The winners are current owners of Logic Gold or Platinum versions 5 or 6 (including the versions of Gold that came as part of a bundle) who have bought few or no additional plug-ins, because for a one-off payment of £149 including VAT, they can move directly to Logic Pro with all the trimmings. In the UK, just contact Sound Technology directly or your Emagic retailer.
This will also make a few serious users, especially those who have just bought Space Designer, want to throw themselves under the nearest passing Cubase delivery truck. The 'sick as pigs' brigade will be made up of serious Logic users who have previously bought most or all of the optional plug-ins and who have recently bought Space Designer as well. While they don't actually lose any money, they are in the unenviable position of seeing other Logic users upgrade very cheaply to what actually cost them quite a lot of money. However, this is an Apple strategy, and if it keeps costs down in the future, we could all be winners. After all, Apple are really in the business of selling computers, so if they can tempt us with low-cost but CPU-hungry new features, such as the forthcoming Sculpture physical modelling synth (which I'm assuming will be part of a forthcoming revision to Logic Pro later this year), we're more likely to go out and buy faster Macs. Of course that may not be their reason at all!
Those Lovely Plug-ins, Part 1: Effects
EVOC20 is essentially a vocoder that can be used to combine two audio sources (one via its side-chain) such that the frequency spectrum of one is imposed on the other. Up to 20 bands of analysis and synthesis are available, but further controls such as modulation LFOs, resonance and offset allow the sound to be bent and mangled in a number of very creative ways. There's also a built-in simple synthesizer that's optimised for creating the classic talking synth vocoder effects. Additionally, you can also use the filter bank and its modulation sources as an insert effect in its own right, where the simple graphical interface makes it easy to just dabble until you hear something you like. I particularly like the filter bank section for processing drum loops and percussion parts.
Space Designer is one of the latest generation of convolution reverb plug-ins and works by using an impulse response taken in a real space (or passed through a hardware reverb processor) to recreate the acoustic of the original by convolving it with any audio signal that happens to be passing through it. This technique works very well and is largely dependent for its success on the library of impulse responses that are available. However, convolution is very processor-intensive so G4 users will have to be careful how they use it — and the longer the decay time you set, the more processing power you need. G5 owners can be somewhat more cavalier about the whole thing but if you have a G3, don't even go there! Space Designer comes with a disc containing over 1000 impulse responses from natural spaces, outdoor locations, odd buildings, and of course everyone else's hardware reverbs. One restriction of convolution reverbs is that there's a limit to how much tweaking you can do to the effect without making it sound unnatural, but this one has a reasonable amount of scope and the included library is excellent. Once you've used this type of reverb processor, you probably won't want to go back to synthesized reverb plug-ins at all.
The Big Express
Logic Express is equivalent to the previous Logic Audio and comes bundled with ES1, EVP73 (a slightly scaled down version of the EVP88 'tine piano' plug-in instrument without all the effects) and EXS24P, a play-only version of the EXS24 sampler. Although this does not load Akai-format discs or permit editing sampler instruments or creating them from scratch, it does import EXS24 instruments from existing libraries, thus making it a very powerful sound module. In addition, purchasers get the Xtreme Analogue and Xtreme Digital sample libraries (which are not included with Logic Pro), and all this for a new bargain-basement price of under £200.
Though Logic Express, now at version 6, is a slightly cut-down version of Logic Pro, other than having fewer plug-ins, it offers as much in the way of features and flexibility as most users will every need. What's more, it will still run any of the optional Logic plug-ins you might have kicking around, though these are no longer available separately. There's also a simple upgrade path from the popular Logic Audio Big Box or Logic Express to Logic Pro for £499, which may well be worth it simply because of the value of the plug-ins that come with it.
Express can handle up to 48 stereo audio tracks and 16 instrument tracks, its internal mixer can be configured with up to eight busses, and the system handles audio resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz depending on the hardware you're running. Like Logic Pro, the audio engine has 32-bit floating-point internal resolution and the relatively new Track Freeze function is included, allowing processed audio tracks or software instrument tracks to be temporarily rendered as audio files to save on CPU load. Express has slightly fewer plug-ins than Pro, but users still get 28 effect/processor plug-ins plus six software instruments. You can run so many MIDI tracks there's no real practical limit and both versions feature a decent Score Editor with real-time notation and printout. For newcomers, there's a Setup Assistant in the OS X version, while OS X users can also import and export MP3 files.
Though Apple are trying to coerce everyone to switch to OS X, however, Logic Express and Logic Pro still support OS 9, and anyone moving up to OS X needs to be aware that VST plug-ins are not directly supported, so any third-party plug-ins will need to be upgraded to the Audio Units format or used with a third-party wrapper such as FXpansion's VST To Audio Units Adapter. VST plug-ins are still supported in the OS 9 version.
Those Lovely Plug-ins, Part 2: The Instruments
ES1 was one of Emagic's first optional plug-ins, and arguably also their most visually tasteless. Blessed with a front panel so green that it reminds one of freshly squeezed caterpillars, ES1 is a comprehensive monosynth. It's polyphonic and follows the analogue paradigm, but has just a single oscillator and works well for bass sounds, dance lead lines and so on. In addition to a good choice of basic waveforms, ES1 also has a sub-oscillator, distortion, glide, a fairly flexible modulation system and a choice of resonant filter types. It also has an 'Analog' control setting to alter the pitch and cutoff frequency of each note in a random but subtle manner to make the sound more analogue.
ES2 is a far more sophisticated polysynth, which still works on the analogue paradigm but is also capable of various digital synthesis methods including wavetable synthesis, and comes with an impressive library of presets to get you started. ES2 has a seriously heavy-duty modulation matrix not unlike that offered by some of the Oberheim analogue machines of yesteryear — there are 10 source/destination modulation channels that can be used simultaneously. The oscillator section comprises three tone oscillators with multiple waveforms, though there are also over 150 single-cycle waves taken from complex digital sources. These can be processed via two resonant filters, which may be set up in series or parallel, and there are distortion, chorus, phaser and flanger effects built in. The instrument features a super-fat unison mode, and there are various morphing features that can be used to create evolving sounds and textures.
ESX24 MkII is a fairly straightforward, but at the same time powerful sampler. It can read samples in EXS24, Akai S1000 or S3000, Samplecell, Recycle, WAV, AIFF, Giga, Soundfont 2 and Vienna Symphonic Library formats. It also has the ability to stream samples from disk. It operates via just two windows, the front panel and an editor, and though it doesn't have the fancy drag-and-drop facilities of some of its competitors, it is solid and easy to use. It's also simple to copy and paste layers of samples between programs. It now supports multiple outputs as well, although the way it does this isn't particularly elegant. The processing section is much like that of an analogue synth, with switchable resonant filter types, separate level envelope and filter envelope modulation, distortion and a very serious modulation matrix. Non-EXS24 sample material must be imported and converted to EXS format prior to use, so having a large hard drive to house your sample library is a good plan.
EVP88 uses physical modelling to recreate the sound and performance dynamics of classic electric pianos, and is inspired by models such as the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer EP200. Its simple interface makes it easy to choose a piano type, adjust the basic elements of the sound and add the essential electric piano effects such as overdrive, chorus and phasing. The general consensus is that EVP88 provides a very good emulation of these classic instruments, and it also exhibits a good response to playing dynamics, which is what you miss out on with sample-based emulations.
Like EVP88, EVD6 uses physical modelling, but this time its mission is to emulate the sound of the Hohner D6 Clavinet and similar instruments. It has a 60-key range and goes as far as to emulate the string buzzes and key clicks of the original. However, it goes much further than impersonating the classics as the user has plenty of control over the key parameters, including the imaginary pickup position beneath the imaginary strings. By deliberately taking the sound away from that of the Clav, you can coax a whole range of ethnic and abstract sounds from this instrument as well as some very passable harps.
EVB3 is another physically modelled instrument, this time seeking to emulate the Hammond B3 drawbar tonewheel organ. It has an authentic-looking control surface, complete with drawbars, and also features the overdrive and rotary speaker effects associated with the original as well as additional effects, such as wah. Comparisons between EVB3 and Native Instruments' B4 are inevitable, and in many ways, they're just slightly different (and both excellent) takes on the same concept. The EVB3 effects, including its wonderful rotary speaker, can be used as separate insert plug-ins on other sources if necessary.
For Future Reference
This isn't a review in the traditional sense, because very little has changed since last time we reviewed Logic other than the way the products are being sold and packaged. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to let Emagic/Apple off seeing a list of features that I feel need fixing or amending in subsequent revisions of Logic — though I can perfectly well understand why few changes have been implemented in the present version. I was very pleased when Project Manager was added, as I'd always felt Logic handled audio projects in a rather sloppy way, but now it's here, it still doesn't allow users to start new job as a new project and to know that all their files will be stored in one place. There's also the issue of linking and Instrument windows. At the NAMM show, I saw three different Emagic demonstrators trying to adjust a plug-in window, only to find that the window they were working was related to a different track to the one they thought they were working on. As linking works so well elsewhere throughout Logic, it would be nice to see an option that brings up the plug-in instrument window for the currently selected track when the Link button is on. It would also be useful to have software instrument icons come up as the track icon by default.
On a more fundamental note, the surround support provided in Logic still doesn't allow the balance between the centre speaker and the front left and right speakers to be adjusted, yet this is something all surround mix engineers need — sometimes you want a centre-panned sound to come out of the centre speaker, sometimes you want it to come out of the left and right speakers, and sometimes a mix of the two would be good. An additional slider next to the LFE slider would fix this. And finally, not because it's my last comment, but because I'm rationing myself... would it be possible to build in a master fader for Logic that comes post the Bounce mix levels, so that we could adjust the level of any externally connected active monitors (where no mixer is being used) without affecting the mix level being bounced within Logic? This is particularly relevant with surround monitoring, as a decent surround volume control costs almost as much as Logic Pro does!
Actually, you can now email us with your own comments about what you'd like to see fixed or changed in Logic because we have in place an arrangement to forward these to the Emagic design team — who will look at them. The only stipulation is that you limit your list to five features and never use the phrase "And another thing!"
Pricing & Upgrades
If bought independently, Logic Pro costs £699 and Logic Express £199. Existing users of Logic Gold or Platinum versions 5 or 6 can upgrade to Logic Pro for £149, while for those with version 4 or earlier, the upgrade will cost £499. Logic Express and Logic Audio Big Box users can move up to Pro for the same price. There is no way to upgrade to the Express version. Prices include VAT.
Leaving aside my personal feature wish-list, the outcome of these changes is that there will be many more winners than losers in the Logic upgrade market, and perhaps it is because the XS key has been so effective against piracy that Emagic have been able to drop their prices to this extent? The luckiest people are those who have only a bog-standard version of Logic Gold version 5, as they can go straight to Logic Pro without passing Go, paying only £149 into the Community Chest. However, anyone without Space Designer who has the computing power to run it should jump at the chance to upgrade.
There will also be new users who can now afford to buy seriously high-end sequencing and audio software for less than ever before, which as Ian Cullen at Sound Technology pointed out to me, leaves them with more money in their pockets to buy a faster Mac to make ther best use of it all. Equally, the affordability of Logic may tip the balance for those Windows users who'd like to switch to a Mac/Emagic combination but who were previously dissuaded by the cost.
- Excellent value.
- OS X and OS 9 still supported.
- Seems a little tough on the loyal Emagic users who have already bought everything.
The introduction of Logic Express and Logic Pro means the end user gets an incredible deal, either as an upgrade or as a new purchase.
See 'Pricing & Upgrades' box.
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