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
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
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
Next: Remote Control via iPad
| Fig. 2. Two of the display modes in the new iPad-based Remote Control. Left: Smart Controls for the new Virtual B3 organ.
||Right: Large transport controls and oft-used commands.
Third-party DAW control apps that work with Logic have
been available for years now. But Apple finally jumped in with their own
Remote Control app for the iPad, which is free and provides a lot more
than transport and mixer control. There are a total of five display
modes, including a Key Command display that lets you access up to 366
customizable commands (see Figure 2 above).
In Smart Control mode, RC shows a virtual keyboard along
the bottom of the screen, which is helpful if you want to audition
sounds when you’re not at your MIDI keyboard. However, there’s no way to
hide the virtual keys, which fill nearly half the screen. This was an
issue for me when I tried to work the Virtual B3 organ’s drawbars from
the iPad. The drawbars were too small and too close together for me to
grab combinations and “play” them the way a seasoned organist would. How
about a preference to show/hide the virtual keys? This minor niggle
aside, Remote Control is a boon for iPad-owning Logic users. “In mixing
mode, the piano keys aren’t present,” observed Keyboard editor
Stephen Fortner, “so if you have an iPad, you have a touchscreen control
surface for mixing and Logic’s transport. For me, having that extra
poke-and-go real estate next to my main workstation is the big benefit
In use, Remote Control was extremely responsive and it
quickly became indispensible. I can’t imagine using Logic without Remote
Control ever again.
Next: Patches, Libraries, and New Instruments
Patches and Libraries
In previous versions you could save entire plug-in chains
as Channel strip presets. These would include instrument settings along
with all of the settings for any plug-in inserts on the instrument’s
channel strip. However, effects that were set up on aux channels were
not saved with the channel strip settings, which meant you had to load
two presets if you wanted to recall a complete patch with its associated
send effects. This has been streamlined with a new file type called
Patches are similar to Channel Strip presets except that
Patches can include send effects and their associated aux channel
configurations, as well as multiple instruments layered in a new track
type called Track Stacks (more on this below). This takes Logic’s sound
design possibilities to a whole new level, which is evident when you
start auditioning some of the preset sounds that were created by
layering multiple instruments using Track Stacks. I’m happy to hear that
Apple invested in quality sound design, and I suspect many users will
find a lot to like with the new material.
In general, browsing and auditioning sounds is easier.
Related to the Patch file type, the Library browser focus can be
directed to present Patches or instrument-specific presets, depending on
where you position the cursor within the dual channel strip area.
Additionally, there are subtle enhancements that make the process of
exploring and choosing sounds more musician-friendly. For example, the
Revert button lets you jump back to the previously loaded preset if
you’re not happy with the one you just selected.
New and Updated Instruments
Fig. 3. Retro Synth offers subtractive, wavetable, and FM
synthesis methods. File under fun: The user interface changes depending
on the method selected. With Wavetable, shown here, the interface
becomes bright blue—a clear nod to the PPG Wave synthesizer.
Logic was once known for having top-notch virtual vintage
keyboards. But over time the built-in B-3 organ, electric piano, and
Clavinet plug-ins fell from their leading-class status as third-party
developers came to market with better emulations.
Now with LPX, Apple has doubled down on vintage keyboard
modeling once again by updating the former EVB3, EVP88 and EVD6, giving
them more intuitive interfaces, simpler names (Vintage B3 Organ, Vintage
Clav, and Vintage Electric Piano) and most importantly, new sonics.
Apple didn’t give many details, but apparently they updated instruments
employ better modeling. To my ears there was a definite improvement in
sound quality and vibe, with the Vintage B3 in particular, although this
could be somewhat attributed to an improved Leslie speaker sim.
And speaking of Virtual B3, I was pleased to find that it
has presets that allow you to control its virtual drawbars using the
physical drawbars from several popular clonewheel keyboard series,
including the Korg CX, Roland VK, and Hammond SK/XK. Nice.
Also new to the roster is Retro Synth (see Figure 3 at left),
which offers subtractive, wavetable, and FM synthesis methods. Again,
the interface is more intuitive and inviting compared to Logic’s older
synths such as ES2 (although curiously Retro Synth lacks a filter cutoff
knob—you have to tweak cutoff by dragging in the filter response
display). More importantly, the sound is a noticeable step up from the
“legacy” synths. Retro Synth certainly has more of an analog character,
though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ballsy or punchy. The filter
isn’t very aggressive, but it is capable. Considering this is a built-in
synth, I’d give it an A minus.
Next: Track Stacks and new virtual Drummer
Logic has had region-based folders for years, but LPX takes the
concept further with Track Stacks, which allow you to combine multiple
tracks and sum their outputs for easier management. There are two types
of stacks: Folder and Summing, the latter of which allows you to layer
multiple instruments and treat them as a “combi,” to use hardware
keyboard-speak. This capability means you can create sophisticated
layered sounds that comprise multiple software instruments, complete
with aux channels, and save everything as a single patch. For keyboard
players who like to “roll their own,” this is a huge workflow
improvement that opens up new possibilities for creating layered
MIDI continuous controllers aren’t channelized with Track
Stacks, however, so it’s not possible to use MIDI volume automation or
track automation to adjust volumes for individual instruments within a
stack if you’re working with sounds assigned to discrete channels within
a multitimbral instrument such as NI Kontakt or Spectrasonics
Omnisphere. There is a workaround involving aux tracks, and we'll be posting a how-to video to accompany this review soon.
|Fig. 4. Drummer is a songwriter’s best friend. Building “live sounding” grooves in a sequencer has never been easier.
Arguably the most game-changing feature is Drummer, which
combines several technologies into what I consider the most elegant
virtual drummer plug-in to date. Drummer is actually a combination of
three components: expertly sampled drum kits (via the new Drum Kit
Designer sample-based instrument), a library of fantastic MIDI drum
performances played by 15 different drummers, and the Drummer Editor,
which features an X/Y pad for directing the intensity of the
performances in terms of loud/soft, simple/complex, genre, and more (see
Figure 4 at left).
More than simply spitting back canned drum performances,
Drummer has built-in musical intelligence, so as you massage the
settings from the editor, Drummer will produce variations according to
song section (e.g., intro, verse, chorus, and so on, determined by the new Arrangement Markers) and musical intentions (e.g., less or more fills, grooving on toms versus hi-hat, and more). In a word, it’s brilliant.
Next: Smart Controls, MIDI Effects (video), and our overall conclusions.
Ever wish Logic had a way to create macros for controlling
multiple plug-in parameters at once or to easily get your hands on just
the right controls for making dramatic and musical tweaks to an
instrument’s sound? Now you can with Smart Controls, which feature a set
of screen controls, each of which can be used to modify one or more
plug-in or channel strip parameters for a given track.
By default, Smart Controls for LPX’s built-in instruments
automatically map to parameters according to what most users would want
to tweak. When Vintage B3 is selected, for example, Smart Controls are
provided for a set of drawbars, rotary speed, chorus on/off, percussion
settings, distortion, and more, putting all of the tone-shaping controls
right at your fingertips. With a synthesizer, Smart Controls provided
filter settings (cutoff, resonance, attack, release), oscillator mix,
and so on.
One gripe: I discovered that Smart Control moves aren’t
recorded the way other MIDI-mapped controls are—you need to use one of
the automation write modes (Write or Latch). This means an extra step if
you want to record a MIDI performance along with Smart Control moves,
and the potential to mistakenly overwrite your Smart Control moves if
you don’t switch automation modes before cycling playback. Even so,
Smart Controls add a level of musicality to the Logic experience that I
suspect every user will appreciate.
Logic Pro X's new MIDI Effects are partially demonstrated in the video below.