GarageBand 10 review: Great tool for musicians (sorry podcasters)

At a Glance
  • Apple GarageBand 10

    Macworld Rating

    Musicians will be delighted with GarageBand 10. The new sounds and instruments are really good and Drum tracks now sound realistic. Podcast producers should stick with the previous version.

If you’ve followed the saga of changes wrought by this year’s iWork applications it should come as little surprise that Apple’s iLife applications have also seen their share of alterations. GarageBand version 10 for the Mac is no exception. Unlike some of these applications, however, GarageBand is a give as well as take effort. You lose features such as the ability to assemble and produce enhanced podcasts as well as the Magic GarageBand feature where you could jam along with a band of virtual players. But you also gain a new instrument library, the Drummer track, Smart Controls for adjusting common instrument and effect parameters, iCloud support, and the ability to control GarageBand with the free Logic Remote iPad app.

Logic Light

Part of accepting what GarageBand 10 is and isn’t is understanding its relationship to Apple’s professional digital audio workstation application, Logic Pro X. While GarageBand has always been a lighter version of Logic, Apple added features such as podcasting and Magic GarageBand to help make the application more appealing to a broader base of users. Those days are largely over.

Today’s GarageBand is unapologetically a Logic spinoff that concentrates solely on music. Open Logic Pro X and GarageBand 10 side-by-side and, given the striking similarity of the two interfaces, you can imagine Apple’s music creation team running down a list of Logic features and ticking off those appropriate for a music-oriented GarageBand audience. “Keep these features, lose the professional stuff, and build it. Done.”

GarageBand 10 looks an awful lot like Logic Pro X.

And that means exactly what for those accustomed to the old GarageBand? There is no support for creating enhanced podcasts—chapter markers, broadcast effects, embedded artwork, vocal ducking, and export settings designed with podcasters in mind don’t exist. As someone who has been producing enhanced podcasts with GarageBand for years I’m sorry to see these features go. But I also understand that the vast majority of podcasts are not issued in the enhanced format. My best guess is that Apple came to same conclusion.

You’ll find that the pre-made musicians found in Magic GarageBand have lost their gig as well. If you’ve used 32-bit instrument and effects plug-ins with GarageBand you’ll have to upgrade them to 64-bit versions because—as with Logic Pro X—32-bit plugins are incompatible with GarageBand 10.

The single exception is that if you pay the $5 in-app purchase price for GarageBand’s extra sounds, loops, and drummers, you’ll additionally have access to all of GarageBand’s Learn to Play music lessons (you receive two lessons with the free version) and the Lesson Store, neither of which has been updated in ages.

If you mourn the loss of these features you’ll be pleased to know that Apple doesn’t leave you in the lurch. When you download the latest version of GarageBand, the previous version on your Mac is placed in a GarageBand folder within your Applications folder. This version is compatible with Mavericks so if the features you lose in GarageBand 10 are vital to you (or you simply prefer the way the older version goes about its work), continue to use the previous iteration. Note, however, that the older version of GarageBand can’t open projects created with the new one.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Musicians will be delighted with GarageBand 10. The new sounds and instruments are really good and Drum tracks now sound realistic. Podcast producers should stick with the previous version.

    Pros

    • Great new instruments and loops
    • Drummer tracks helps create real-sounding drums
    • Smart Controls provide contextual effects and settings
    • Solid collection of amps and stomp boxes
    • Support for Logic Remote app

    Cons

    • No support for enhanced podcasts
    • Magic GarageBand goes the way of the dodo
    • No ability to access all effects
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