This is big…huge…massive…and that’s just the size of the box Logic ships in. In fact, at almost 13½cm deep, it’s 1½cm deeper than the Steinberg Cubase SX3 box and a whole 5½cm deeper than the Cakewalk Sonar 4 Producer Edition box (reviews of both coming soon BTW). Of course some people say that size isn’t everything…not that they’ve ever said that to me…as a rapper I’m big…huge…massive…and then some… but there’s a reason why the Logic box is so big…it’s full of manuals (unlike the Cubase box, which is full of…air) and once you start to read them and to realise just how much wicked new functionality has been added to this latest version of Logic, you start to wonder how they managed to fit it all into one box…even one this big…as Logic Pro 7.0 is not so much a sequencing package as an entire studio in a (very big) box.
Check out what’s new… distributed audio processing, support for Apple Loops, Garage Band import/support, three new instruments, nine new effects plug-ins, over 100 enhancements including software instrument layering (which lets you play multiple soft synths simultaneously), ‘Pro Tools’ style auto crossfades and shuffle editing… Yup, you have to hand it to Apple, when they release a major new version of their software, they really do release a major new version of their software….but this is so much more. Check the subtext (or should that be subroutine) and you’ll realise that Logic Pro 7.0 is also a statement about the future of computer based music itself. Four things say this loud and clear.
First up is ‘network-distributed audio processing’, which enables you to network together multiple Macs and automatically share the audio processing load between them. Cubase already offers something similar, but requires each machine to have its own audio interface. Logic, on the other hand, requires no additional hardware or software, you just install on each machine a piece of software called ‘Logic Node’ (that’s included in the box), then hook them up to each other via Ethernet. This means that instead of shelling out big bucks for over priced DSP cards, you can just buy extra Macs (or Xserves for that Mac-in-a-rack experience) as and when you need them. It also provides an added incentive to upgrade regularly as doing so will no longer mean having to trash your old hardware (as long as it’s at least a G4) making this win win and a very shrewd move on Apple’s Part.
Secondly is Logic 7.0’s new found support for ‘Apple Loops’ and ‘Garage Band’. Apple Loops are like ‘Acid’ loops. Their tempos and pitches can be changed independently of each other and they contain meta tags enabling easy classification and searchability (by musical genre, type of instrument, etc.). Originally developed as part of ‘Soundtrack’, which was only available with Apple’s pro desktop video app ’Final Cut Pro’, it proved so popular that it was spun off into a separate application and as a result there are now tens of thousands of Apple Loops available (some by Apple, others by third party manufacturers).
Garage Band meanwhile, is part of Apple’s ‘iLife’ suite and is effectively a very simplified version of Logic with extra instruments and the ability to use Apple Loops (Garage band is to Logic what iMovie is to Final Cut Pro). Many musicians have been using it as a quick and dirty musical sketchpad, but since it is not a pro app, they’ve had no way of doing anything with these ‘sketches’. Logic Pro 7.0 changes that by adding all 25 Garage Band instruments and the ability to import Garage Band songs. Also added is full support for Apple Loops, a utility to create your own and a library of 1000 to get you started. This is great news not just for pro musicians, but also for ordinary punters who have developed an interest in making music after playing round with Garage Band or Soundtrack, as they now have a pro audio app to which they can migrate, making Logic Pro 7.0 the godfather of Apple’s audio apps.
Third up, Apple have thrown almost everything and the kitchen sink into this version of Logic, transforming it from a midi+audio sequencer into an entire audio workstation cum studio production environment.
As I said earlier, there are three new instruments. Sculpture is a component modelling synth that harnesses the power of the Mac to provide complex models of vibrating natural material i.e. glass, steel, nylon or wood, allowing for more accurate simulations of natural instruments than ever before. You can mix materials, morph between them and select vibration type i.e. bowed, plucked or blown, making this the ultimate instrument for anyone who likes models, vibrators, or to be blown…
Ultrabeat is a 25 voice beat box that combines a classic step sequencer (synced to Logic) with sound sources that include phase oscillation, FM synthesis, sample playback, modeled analogue (subtractive) synthesis, a noise generator and a ring modulator and the EFM-1 is a 16 voice DX 7 style FM synthesizer.
Still on the instrument front, the EXS24 sampler has had a few minor improvements and now comes bundled with a 3.5 gig sample library that includes the entire contents of the ‘Extreme Analogue’ and ‘Extreme Digital’ libraries (which were previously available separately). Unfortunately though, there’s no sign of the ‘Extreme Hip Hop’ library, something which I take personally! Also there’s still no support for EMU format samples…which I seem to remember was promised around the turn of the century…or other equally important formats like ‘Kontakt’.
There are also no less than eleven new ‘FX’ modules including ‘Guitar Amp Pro’ which models various classic guitar amps, cabinets & speakers and can be used to amp/re-amp guitars or as an FX module for other sound sources; ‘Ringshifter’ which combines a ring modulator and a frequency shifter for retro 70s style metallic clangorous robotic weirdness; ‘Vocal Transformer’ which enables you to play with the pitch and formants of vocals independently of each other; ‘Pitch Correction’ which is an ‘Auto Tune’ style vocal intonation corrector for correcting dodgy vocalists…or for that that authentic Cher ‘Believe’ sound; ‘Match EQ’ which ‘acoustically matches two audio signals’, allowing you to stay at the top of the curve by stealing other people’s curves for that authentic [insert whoever] sound and ‘Linear Phase EQ’ which provides 8 band EQ curve manipulation without corrupting the phase of your audio signal and which is specially tailored for mixdown and mastering situations.
There’s also ‘Multimeter’ which is not actually an FX unit but an audio analysis tool incorporating an industry-standard 31 band spectrum analyzer, a ‘Goniometer’ which aids finding a balanced stereo image for the mix by visualizing the signal’s stereo phase, a ‘Correlation Meter’ which gauges the phase relationship of a stereo signal and a ‘Level Meter’ which shows the current signal level on a logarithmic scale (both the Correlation and Level Meter are available as separate plug-ins)…and continuing the studio in a box theme, Apple have included ‘Waveburner’, the CD writing and audio editing software that was previously a separate application. In fact, the only thing missing seems to be a high end multiband compressor, as many people feel that the existing one doesn’t really cut it for pro audio mixes.
Fourth up, there’s now XML import and export for easy movement of data between Logic and applications such as Final Cut Pro (and a bunch of others); Quicktime Movie soundtrack import and export; support for AAC; and ID 3 tagging for MP3s, making Logic the audio cornerstone of Apple’s much bigger creative solutions strategy. The bad news is that Logic 7.0 doesn’t offer Plug in delay compensation…the good news is that Logic 7.1 does and will be available as an upgrade in 2-3 weeks (for £13.99 or $19.95). Which only leaves a couple of major complaints.
First is the lack of sample accurate editing in the arrange window, which is an absolute essential requirement for much of the work I do and the main thing separating Digidesign’s Pro Tools (which has offered this ability for years) from Logic. Since it’s obvious that Apple have spent the entire decade putting in place a strategy to usurp Pro Tools (in exactly the same way they usurped Digi’s parent company Avid with Final Cut Pro), they really need to get on the case with this one ASAP.
Second and far more controversially (and I’m nothing if not controversial), is the user interface. In the past, Logic always had the reputation of being the most stable, reliable, versatile pro audio package, sporting the best functionality, best manual and worst user interface to the extent that lots of people were willing to put up with unstable versions of Cubase or under functional versions of Pro Tools simply because Logic was just too much of a bitch to learn. Admittedly this new version has had a makeover, something that most long term users will love, but the changes are cosmetic and while Logic Pro 7.0 may look better and be easier to use than ever before, compared to products like Reason and Ableton Live, there’s still a steep learning curve for first time users. So now that Apple have successfully changed OS, implemented Core Audio & network distributed audio, assimilated Emagic and integrated their entire product line into one uber package that fits perfectly between Final Cut Pro & Garage Band, surely the last piece of the puzzle must be to use their legendary design expertise to ‘Think Different’ and come up with a radical rewrite that makes everything far simpler and more user friendly?
Finally…yes I know I said I only had a couple of complaints, but I’m Jewish, I can always find more…though it’s not really a complaint, more a question…WTF happened to Sounddiver? This was Emagic’s universal patch librarian and editor that enabled you to edit and store patches for pretty much any midi keyboard or module. Granted Logic is now so comprehensive that it really can replace an entire studio setup and for many it will, but since there’s no way that some of us are going to part with our vintage gear, I’d lile to see it built into a future version.
As for my conclusions…with more enhancements than a Baywatch babe, this is the best version of Logic ever. Admittedly there’s still room for improvement, but the simple fact is that with this release Apple have succeeded in transforming Logic from a midi + audio sequencer into a complete audio production environment while retaining the package’s legendary stability. Bottom line…Logic Pro 7.0 is, without question, the most comprehensive and best value pro audio application in the entire history of computer music!
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