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Logic Pro 8's New & Improved Effects

Logic Notes & Techniques
By Stereo Mike

Logic Pro 8 has not only introduced a major interface redesign, but also brings powerful new effects, alongside welcome improvements to a number of pre-existing ones.

Delay Designer is Logic's new flagship delay. Up to 26 different taps can be programmed, and each one can be individually shaped. Version 8 of Logic Pro brings with it a number of completely new effects, namely Delay Designer, Echo and Microphaser, which add to the impressive list of effects that were included with Logic 7. Alongside these new additions, stalwarts such as Space Designer, Stereo Compressor, AutoFilter, Linear Phase, Channel and Match EQ have received an overhaul, with new features and updated interfaces.

Across the board, plug-ins now feature a streamlined new header and menu with Previous, Next and Compare buttons. Assigning plug-ins from the channels is easier, since menu hierarchy has been rearranged to display plug-ins by type (such as dynamics and modulation, for example), then by name, with a final choice of mono, stereo or mono to stereo, depending on the status of the channel in question. Audio Units plug-ins are amalgamated into the first layer of the plug-in menu, so you don't have to consciously search for plug-ins by format type. In the case of multi-channel surround versions of plug-ins, additional buttons become available in the header, giving access to routing and configuration alternatives.

Let's start exploring the new Logic effects and enhanced features by first taking a tour of the newcomers.

Designer Delay

One of the major new additions to Logic's arsenal of plug-in effects is the Delay Designer, an advanced multi-tap delay with an interface that's rather reminiscent of the Space Designer at first sight. This quickly points to the fact that Delay Designer has been developed as the flagship effect in the delay family, just as Space Designer is for the reverb crowd, due to its unique convolution-based features. The key characteristics of Delay Designer are its multi-tap functionality, its ease of use and its programmability during setting up and shaping of the different 'taps'.

The Tap parameter bar is especially useful for entering parameter values when working on individual taps, while the graphical editing methods possible with the Tap display prove more beneficial for work over several taps. Notice how the Pan and Spread areas of the parameter bar are replaced by a surround panner when a surround instance of Delay Designer is being used.Taps are the separate repeats of a multi-tap delay and, in Delay Designer, these can be programmed to a grid, synchronised to the project's tempo and even manually 'tapped' by clicking the mouse rhythmically on the special Tap pads in the user interface. Furthermore, each of the taps can be shaped, using parameters such as timing, filter cutoff, filter resonance, pitch transposition (over a two-octave range), panning and level. The number and types of individually variable parameters for every tap mean that the potential delay patterns can go way beyond classic echo effects, allowing for intricate sound design and the creation of interesting musical patterns that can kick-start sonic or melodic inspiration. Furthermore, the graphical interface is efficient and intuitive in providing a user-friendly alternative to numerical editing of the parameters, which is what you find with some other delay plug-ins. And with 26 separate taps possible — alongside further global parameters — there are quite a few variables to consider.

The Delay Designer interface provides five different areas to help in dealing with the numerous design possibilities: the Sync section, tap pads, tap display, tap parameter bar and master section. The Sync section, on the left of the GUI is where the effect can be synchronised to project tempo. Drop-down menus control musical subdivision choices and the swing value percentage, which can be used to great effect when designing syncopated rhythmic delays relevant to the style of your project. For example, you could set it up so that your electronic hi-hats repeat in straight or swung sixteenths, or you could assign a dub triplet repeat to a vocal, for that Massive Attack sound.

The Tap pads (below the Sync section) allow you to 'record' a mouse-click pattern, creating a new tap for each click. Alternatively, taps can be created by just clicking at the desired position of the Identification bar in the tap display, but the former method is more intuitive, allowing the incorporation of a live feel into the timing of the repeats. The latter approach can be used correctively or simply to efficiently adhere the taps to the visual/time grid.

The Tap parameter bar, which spans the bottom of the GUI, displays numerical values for every parameter of the selected tap. It is here that you can get creative with the filter, pitch, pan and level controls. The master section, on the far right of the plug-in, gives access to overall delay feedback and wet-dry mix. These are the only two global-level parameters.

Of course, the effect could be used as a channel insert or set up on an Aux channel, then treated as a send effect, but the latter method is less CPU-demanding when used over numerous tracks, and it also means that the same patterns can be used on various elements in a mix, thus providing a 'locked' overall rhythmic feel.

Tips, Tricks & Indicators

Putting the Delay Designer to practical use reveals just how well the graphical interface works. It's fully possible to shape every tap and the overall rhythmic pattern even if you never leave the main Tap display and, in fact, that's most likely the quickest method when shaping multiple taps for the effect. Operating the plug-in gets even easier once you're familiar with its indicators.

Graphical tap editing in the Tap display is made easy, with lines representing the taps and their lengths representing parameter values. Notice the difference in how Level and Pan parameters are displayed — after clicking the respective Level and Pan View buttons — when a stereo instance is used, with the bright stereo balance dot also representing range, not just values. Option-Command-clicking a Toggle button mutes the tap (as seen on the Tap parameter display), despite the Level view button having been selected.Clicking on a tap in the main display or the relevant tap letter in the identification bar renders it brighter to identify the selection, while click-dragging or shift-clicking allows you to rubber-band or select non-adjacent multiple taps respectively. Clicking a specific parameter's View button and click-dragging vertically on the selected tap's bright line will modify the selected parameter's value, while doing the same for multiple selections will enable relative modification.

You can even command-drag in the tap display to draw in values for multiple taps as an alternative method, which feels very familiar to Hyper drawing. Option-clicking a tap will reset the chosen parameter to a default value. For parameters with two defining values, such as low- and high-pass frequencies for filter cutoff, the bright line will represent a range of values, therefore it can be dragged from the middle to move the whole range or reshaped at the top or bottom of the line to alter the high- and low-pass cutoff frequencies.

With panning, however, things are dependent on the input channel configuration. With mono to stereo configurations, click-dragging the bright line up or down pans the tap left or right, whereas with stereo instances, the pan parameter takes the form of a stereo balance dot with the width of the line representing the spread. Again, click-dragging from the middle of the line will alter the whole stereo balance, while click-dragging on either side of the dot will alter the stereo spread. Notice that, when a surround instance of the Delay Designer is selected, the pan percentage of this parameter bar is replaced by a surround panner instead.

The Toggle bar buttons available for each tap enable activation, de-activation or switching of specific parameters, depending on the selected View button, thus providing a readily accessible graphical switch at all times, while clicking any Toggle button with the Option and Command keys held down switches Mute on and off regardless of the type of View button selected. Releasing the two keys resets the Toggle buttons to their default functionality. Control- or right-clicking a tap drops down a menu — just like the contextual ones available inside Logic's Arrange window — with various copy, paste, reset and delete alternatives for the taps.

Big Cat Diary: Leopard Lands

Apple's latest version of OS X has come hot on the heels of Logic Studio and, as is so often the case these days, some third-party manufacturers seem to have been caught with their (virtual) trousers down. The Apogee Duet audio interface I've been evaluating was updated for Leopard compatibility within a few days of the OS release, while my Metric Halo UL-N survived the transition intact. Other manufacturers, however, have been slower in producing new drivers.

A few plug-in designers seem to have been bitten by the new big cat too, but there's nothing like the problems which appeared when Tiger was introduced. Many of the early adopters have had problems running Logic under the new OS, while for others it seems to have gone pretty smoothly. Most of the problems seem to stem from incompatible audio-interface drivers, so if you're taking the plunge, make sure yours is compatible.

I found that Logic 8 ran smoothly under Leopard on my Macbook Pro, which I use for basic recording and editing. However, I've decided to keep my G5 on Tiger for the foreseeable future, as I've got too much legacy software and hardware on there, not to mention the fact that it's running pretty smoothly at the moment (if it ain't broke...).

Speaking of which, I recently spoke to a very successful post-production house who are using what amounts to geriatric computers loaded with what many would consider 'outdated' software. But they have a system that works for them, and they don't want to upgrade until it's absolutely necessary. This is a salutary reminder to those of us who are eager to upgrade as soon as a shiny new bit of software or hardware appears. As a reputable Irish stout producer states, "good things come to those who wait".

Back to Logic 8, and it's interesting that Apple chose to release the 32-bit Logic before the 64-bit Leopard — albeit in a version that does remove the restriction on how much RAM the EXS24 sampler can use, in advance of the extra RAM 'addressability' that would naturally come as part of a 64-bit Logic — should Logic ever become 64-bit. We'll have to wait and see if that happens, although I'm personally not convinced that it's even essential (or desirable) for a DAW. However, I realise that this is an extremely controversial subject, as the heated discussions at www.apple.com testify.

One nice side-effect of Leopard's release is that it seems to have cured the problem some users were having when using a Mackie/Logic control surface alongside some Apogee interfaces. It's nice to have a fix, but this doesn't give much succour to those who are sticking with the old OS. I hope a Logic upgrade fixes the problem for those who prefer stripes to spots. Stephen Bennett

What Else Is New?

Things are much simpler when it comes to the fast-and-easy Echo and Microphaser plug-ins, which provide simple delay and phaser effects with a selection of easily accessible and, most importantly, relevant parameters.

A number of new features are lurking behind the Editor views of certain plug-ins (within the Control view, which is switchable from the plug-in header View button), such as the Gain-Q Couple Strength parameter of the Linear Phase and Channel EQs, the Fade Extremes parameters and frequency sliders of the Match EQ, and the Output Distortion modelling options for the Compressors. These can add musicality and analogue colouration to the respective effects and are well worth experimenting with!The Echo effect automatically synchronises to the project's tempo, while its Time parameter alters delay times in musical subdivisions, including triplets. The other controls, Repeat and Colour, determine the delay feedback percentage and the delay effect's harmonic content respectively, while the self-explanatory dry and wet parameters determine the mix of original and effected signals, and are especially useful if the Echo effect is used as an insert. Echo will come in handy when you're in need of simple delays but you don't want to have too many parameters to consider. However, and after spending a little time with it, it becomes evident just how effective Echo is in quickly achieving anything from an Elvis Presley-style short vocal echo to those Vangelis-like disappearing snare repeats.

Microphaser provides equally useful functionality, with classic phasing effects, such as synth 'swooshes' and Rhodes or guitar phaser effects. The quickly accessible parameters for achieving these are the LFO Rate frequency, Feedback percentage and Intensity percentage, which determine the speed of the phaser LFO, the amount of the effect being fed back to the input, and the amount of modulation, respectively. With such a simple interface, it won't take you long to get to grips with its functions.

Moving on, the Autofilter, which is not a new effect per se, features a completely redesigned interface, with a clearer layout than the Logic 7 version, and some brand-new functions. The filter type is now switchable between high-pass, band-pass and low-pass modes of operation (the previous version was low-pass only), and as a result the whole effect is a lot more powerful in terms of sonic results. The effects achievable here can range from subtle synthesizer filter emulations to radical manipulations of the source audio, like those normally associated with using a Sherman FilterBank or Kaoss Pad, for example. Yet the Autofilter can go far beyond recognisable results associated with the source audio, proving itself as a powerful sound design tool. Again, I'd advise hands-on experimentation to fully discover the power of Autofilter.

Logic's famous Space Designer has also seen some additions, and now includes a four-band EQ with graphical editing options, an expanded impulse response library with new surround impulses, and the equivalent of a surround output mixer for surround instances. In such configurations, the Input slider turns into an 'LFE to Rev' slider, which controls the amount of LFE signal that's mixed with the surround inputs.

The Deconvolve button has been removed, as the Impulse Response Utility that's included in Logic Studio now carries all the necessary features (and more!) for de-convolution.

Compressor Models

Logic's compressors have also been enhanced in version 8. The most significant new feature is the circuit-modelling function, which allows you to change how the Compressor responds. Options include VCA, Opto and FET designs, with two rather more spuriously named models: Classic A_R and Classic A_U. The standard Platinum model, which has been a feature in Logic for many years, is also available. Other new features include an integrated limiter, an automatic release-time option and, last but not least, new extended parameters such as side-chain filtering and analogue-style overdrive.

The Surround Balancer plug-in equips Logic with a useful interface for making the most of surround signals. Another new feature is the option to change the Compressor's output distortion characteristics, with options for Soft, Hard and Clip. Additionally, you can control the characteristics of the side-chain, with band-pass, low-pass, high-pass, parametric and high-shelving filter modes, and sliders for altering the frequency, bandwidth and gain of the filter.

True Surround

The surround aspects of Logic Pro 8's effects have been greatly enhanced with new features for the Space Designer, new plug-ins with extensive surround functionality, such as the Delay Designer, and even completely new true surround effects. Furthermore, the LFO cycles for all Modulation effects are now locked and equally distributed across all surround channels, while the LFO Phase parameter and Distribution menu become additionally available for the Modulation Delay, Tremolo and Phaser effects. This provides further control over the phase relationships between separate channel modulations and over the way the phase offsets are distributed within the surround spectrum (for example in circular, random, front-to-rear and left-to-right distribution).

Likewise, the Spread parameter in the Ensemble effect allows for surround distribution of its voices, with the Down Mixer providing a handy stereo-check option if used on the surround master channel strip. The surround version of the Match EQ plug-in provides separate filter responses per surround channel, with independent editing functionality. And the interface redesign is topped off with the enhanced Surround Panner window, making it easier to maximise the new functionality. 

Published January 2008