Apple has made countless interface improvements to Logic since version 6: Logic Pro 7.0.1 is prettier, more usable, and better integrated with GarageBand and Apple Loops. You can import and export GarageBand files and browse Apple Loops libraries via Logic Pro’s new built-in Loop Browser, making Logic Pro a good choice if you’re migrating from GarageBand. Whether you’re a GarageBand graduate or an audio pro, Logic’s new project manager, templates, and channel-strip presets can streamline your work and make it easier to set up projects.
With its integrated bundle of instruments, effects, and tools, Logic Pro comes closer than any other Mac app to being an all-in-one solution for music and audio production. Logic Pro caters to every kind of music production, with high-quality reverbs, delays, and spectral effects to vintage organs and keyboards to its superb WaveBurner mastering tool for fine-tuning finished CDs.
The most impressive of the version 7 additions is Sculpture, a physical-modeling synthesizer that mimics the behavior of real instruments. With Sculpture, you can create authentic-sounding percussion, string, and wind instruments, or newly imagined patches that morph between timbres and materials over time. Sculpture feels like a real, organic instrument once you’ve spent some time with it; even its sometimes-unpredictable sounds are part of the pleasure of using it. You’ll want a high-end machine to run Sculpture, though; running just one Sculpture instrument with effects used up much of my 1GHz PowerBook G4’s power, though my dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 didn’t have any problems. (If you have at least one G5 and one or more G4 or G5 Macs to connect to the G5, Logic Pro will distribute the CPU load among them via a standard Gigabit Ethernet connection.)
Version 7 also adds Ultrabeat, a versatile drum machine with incredibly powerful sound-shaping options. Ultrabeat is terrific for producing grooves, but its visually stunning interface is confusing. An extensive bank of filters lets you adjust the timbre of your drum sounds, but Ultrabeat’s strange layout and controls make it difficult to follow routing. Also, when you switch patches, Ultrabeat overwrites all pattern-editor settings, making it impossible to switch soundsets after creating a pattern. If Apple improves these features, Ultrabeat could be the perfect drum machine.
You’ll also find a new high-quality virtual guitar amp (Guitar Amp Pro) and FM synth (EFM1) in Logic Pro; both are strong tools, even if they’re not as powerful as third-party options like IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube guitar amp or Native Instrument’s FM7 synth.
Logic is unquestionably the best value in terms of the sheer quantity of its included instruments and effects, but the underlying editing and recording facilities aren’t for everyone. Logic’s looping is seamless when working with pre-built loops, but there’s no way to automatically slice up and warp audio that you’ve recorded (as you can in Cubase and Digital Performer), or even constrain audio to a tempo as easily as you can in GarageBand. A basic Beat Mapping feature can create some automatic adjustments based on audio transients, but it doesn’t have the level of control and automation available in the other programs. Apple seems to prefer that you prepare audio as Apple Loops first—not always the easiest workflow. Logic’s main Arrangement view also could be more flexible; MIDI and sample-accurate audio editing require separate windows, and channel-strip settings can obscure one another on smaller displays.
Logic can also be difficult to learn. Its audio and MIDI routing are based on a complex, underlying configuration called the Environment. Power users may like this flexibility, and new templates can help you avoid having to fiddle with the Environment, but the separation of tracks from the underlying routing can sometimes make basic tasks confusing.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Overall, I found the depth of Logic’s sound tools worth the extra effort in learning the software. If you can adapt to its sometimes-idiosyncratic way of working, Logic’s gorgeous-looking and great-sounding set of sound tools and toys can be irresistible. There’s simply no better value in all-around audio bundles.
Peter Kirn is a composer, musician, and educator. He teaches computer music at Hunter College of the City University of New York and runs the daily music-technology blog
UPDATE: Apple has announced a $20 Logic 7.1 update to Logic Express and Logic Pro. The company says Logic Pro 7.1 will add tighter integration with GarageBand and Apple Loops, automatic time-warping and transposition of loops, and will allow UltraBeat patterns to be copied between presets or dragged into the Arrange window. The update also adds full latency compensation and various other new features and enhancements.
Logic Pro 7’s instruments alone can be worth the price of admission, like the new Sculpture: it’s worth investing the time to learn this beautiful-sounding (and beautiful-looking) instrument.