Apple Logic Pro X Reviewed
By John Krogh
Tue, 10 Dec 2013
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It’s been four years since Apple released a major update to their flagship digital audio workstation, Logic Pro. During that time speculation among the professional music community has been running wild with hopes for a game-changer, not to mention fears that Apple might forget the faithful. As a longtime Logic user myself, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety when Apple announced the latest incarnation of Logic, dubbed Pro X (ten), back in July. I’ve had time to live with Logic Pro X (LPX from here on) for a while now, and I have to say, quite happily, that this version offers more for keyboard players, sound designers, composers, and songwriters than any previous release to date.

PROS: Intuitive user interface. Best-in-class virtual drummer instrument. Updated vintage keys offer even more vibe. Track Stacks open the door for unprecedented sound design possibilities within a DAW environment. 

CONS: Smart Control moves aren’t recorded as part of a MIDI performance when mapped to MIDI hardware controls. Channelizing MIDI controllers within track stacks is not as straightforward as it should be.

Bottom Line: By far the most features for the least money in any DAW—as long as you’re on a Mac. Whether you’re a new or experienced Logic user, Logic Pro X will not disappoint.

$199.99 | apple.com/logic-pro


User Interface
 
The most apparent change in LPX is a majorly overhauled user interface that goes well beyond cosmetic tweaks. In my brief with Apple I was told that one of the goals with this version was to present a design that encourages “progressive discovery.” Part of what this means is that “advanced” features of the user interface can be hidden to simplify the experience for new users, making it easier for them to acclimate without getting overwhelmed by the details. As users become more experienced, they can dive deeper by enabling these hidden aspects of the interface. Sounds good in theory.

When I first launched LPX the software asked me if I was a new or experienced user. I chose “experienced,” which should have enabled the entire interface, advanced features included. However, LPX launched in the “newbie” mode, but this was a glitch. Foe example, with Advanced Tools turned off I found that I couldn’t enter tempi with a decimal place. When I tried entering a tempo of 126.4 bpm, the simplified transport interpreted the entry as 1,264 bpm! [UPDATE: As we saw that the Advanced Tools were hidden, we naturally inferred that new user mode was the cause of this. However, upon testing with a clean install on a new iMac at Keyboard central, we found that the new/experienced user dialogue only determines whether to point you to a "What's New" document and has no effect on whether Advanced Tools are shown or hidden. By default, they're shown, which is the correct behavior. --Ed.]

Once I enabled “Show Advanced Tools” from the Advanced Preferences options, however, I was in business. You can see a preview of what gets hidden with Advanced Tools turned off in Figure 1, below.

 
 
Fig. 1. Much of Logic’s feature set can be hidden to make things simpler for new users. Top: The new Navigate menu with Advanced Tools disabled. Bottom: The same menu with Advanced Tools turned on.
Another goal Apple had was to make Logic more, well . . . logical. To this end, the names of certain features, menus and windows have been changed to be clearer and immediately intuitive. The Arrange window, where audio and MIDI track regions are laid out horizontally in typical linear fashion, is now simply called the Track window (duh). Basic record settings such as metronome count-in and MIDI cycle record options are now organized under the new Record menu (double duh). 

Most of the interface changes make a lot of sense and generally improve workflow. There’s less need for modifier keys—bypassing and moving plug-ins can be done by clicking and dragging as there’s no need to use the Option or Command keys in tandem. A darker background color scheme combined with brighter foreground colors provides better visual feedback. (It’s easier to see the cycle area, muted regions, and the solo/mute states of tracks, for example.) The transport, previously positioned along the bottom, is now along the top, thereby eliminating the risk of accidentally clicking in the OS X application dock. 

Accessing instrument presets is now done on the left-hand side of the screen via the new Library Browser. Browsing instrument presets used to be done from the right-hand side, but the instrument plug-ins themselves were shown on the left in the dual channel strip Inspector pane. This was always a bit of a disconnect for a lot of people, but won’t be now.

As I browsed through the new Patch Library (more on this later) I couldn’t help but notice the generously sized and detailed graphic representations of the source instruments. Facsimiles of various classic synths from Waldorf, Moog, Yamaha, and others are displayed to imply the sound source currently loaded. It’s great eye candy, and you can size the icons smaller or hide them entirely.

Some of the new onscreen areas—the aforementioned Patch Library browser and the Smart Controls window, in particular — eat up a fair amount of screen real estate. I found that on my 27" screen the interface quickly became crowded, leaving little room for me to actually see my tracks. Maybe this gives me the perfect excuse to upgrade to multiple screens!

A nice touch that new and existing users alike should appreciate is the Quick Help feature. It shows the name and function of whatever you hover the mouse over. I found this to be a great way to short-cut my learning curve during the review. Overall, seasoned Logic users should have little difficulty adjusting to the interface and new users should have a much easier time getting up to speed compared to previous versions.

Next: Remote Control via iPad

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