HANDS-ON [Click above for larger, annotated image.]
1. Click here to activate Flex View, which lets you see
the Flex edits you make. Even with Flex View
turned off, you can still move audio like putty using
the Flex Tool.
2. Set the Flex mode for each track by choosing the
mode from this contextual menu; you can disable
Flex Time for individual regions if you like.
3. In this comping session, we’ve deactivated Quick
Swipe by clicking on this icon; all takes are now
ready for editing.
4. Move this individual note by dragging on the automatically-
5. The Varispeed function shows up as this button
on the transport.
6. To control Varispeed, drag up or down on this
7. This vocal track was selected and then “converted
to sampler instrument.”
8. These are the REX-like MIDI files corresponding to
the new sampler instrument slices of the vocal.
9. Here’s the vocal track loaded into EXS24, and the
edit window, where you control keymapping, pitch,
and reverse playback of each slice.
10. The Notes tool lets you write notes for the entire
project and for each track.
NEED TO KNOW
Do the new features really make
this a “left-of-decimal” update? In
the case of MainStage 2, absolutely.
Though Logic Pro 9 isn’t that different
visually, Flex Time, improved comping,
and drum replacement are just some of
the robust new features under the hood.
How guitar-centric are the guitar
amps, tab, and chord symbols?
Very; the amps and effects will please
all but the most severe tone freaks.
Bass players will feel left out, as there
are no new bass amp models. Keyboardists
will love the amps and Pedalboard,
How does Flex Time compare to
other DAWs’ audio stretching?
Sound quality-wise, it’s on par with the
best such tools in the industry. For
ease of use, it’s tops.
Can I control an external MIDI
stage rig with MainStage 2?
Absolutely. Multiple interfaces. Multiple
racks. Go for it.
Is Soundtrack Pro 3 a big
improvement over version 2? If you
do sound for picture, the enhanced
noise reduction, time stretch, and surround
tools will make your life easier.
Flex Time and Varispeed improve the
editing and creation process. Amp
Designer and Pedalboard add very
high-quality guitar amp and stompbox
modeling. MainStage’s MIDI out and
other new features kick ass. STP’s
kinks are ironed out, and it’s better for
sound-to-picture. As with first Logic
Studio release, bang-for-buck is
As of press time, some Looper and
Playback features in MainStage are a
little buggy. As in previous versions,
performance meter doesn’t always give
fair warning of impending audio engine
errors on big projects.
$499; $199 upgrade from previous
Logic Pro/Studio versions; $299
upgrade from Logic Express, apple.com
by Dominic Milano and Ernie Rideout
Apple has done a fantastic job of
surprising us with Logic’s previous “left of
decimal” releases. Logic Pro 7
introduced a bunch of amazing virtual
instruments and a decidedly improved
user interface. Version 8 (reviewed Jan.
’08) included every plug-in and Jam Pack,
plus the sound-to-picture app Soundtrack
Pro and the groundbreaking MainStage —
all at half the price of what Logic Pro
used to cost by itself. The surprise this
time was the release itself: Unexpected
whole-number versions of Logic Pro,
MainStage, and Soundtrack.
Many new features are deep-in-themenus
enhancements that improve workflow.
Some are in-your-face, such as the
powerhouse of audio editing features collectively
known as Flex Time, and the ultracool
Amp Designer, Pedalboard, Playback,
and Loopback plug-ins. Others improve
professional utility, such as the addition of
MIDI output to MainStage.
There are no substantial user interface
changes, and other than new templates
for new projects, no new
shortcuts to the depth that gives Logic
much of its musical power even as it
may intimidate the uninitiated. You still
get all the virtual instruments and
effects, the tons of loops, the notation
editor, and, yes, one of the most powerful
audio production programs in the
world. Instead of the huge printed manual,
a searchable, HTML-based quicklink
system is built in to the Help menu. Former
Keyboard editors in chief Dominic
Milano and Ernie Rideout dove in to see
how all the new stuff impacts the way
you make music.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
This is a non-trivial question. A completely
clean install takes up about 47GB. Before
you cry “bloatware,” remember what Logic
Studio encompasses: five standalone apps
(Logic Pro 9, MainStage 2, Sountrack Pro
3, WaveBurner 1.6, and Compressor 3.5),
a couple of cool utilities, all of Apple’s Jam
Packs (over 20,000 loops), 80 effects
plug-ins, about 1,700 sampled instruments,
and 40 virtual instruments. Fortunately, you
can put much of the included content on
an external hard drive; the apps that need
to live on the same drive as the OS take up
about 17GB. On our main test machine — a
new 15" MacBook Pro with a 3.06GHz
Core 2 Duo processor and 7200rpm hard
drive — a full installation took a few hours
but was otherwise painless.
NEW AUDIO FEATURES
IN LOGIC 9
Flex Time. This is actually a group of features,
and one of the most talked-about
new perks. These include Flex editing, the
Flex Tool, Audio Quantize, and multiple
tempo tools: Varispeed, Speed Fades, and
Tempo Import/Export. You select a Flex
mode from the contextual menu (different
modes for different audio material) under
the track name. When using the Flex Tool or
clicking in the lower portion of the waveform
display in Flex View, Flex markers are added
automatically at the nearest transient. You
can also manually place markers. Transients
generally occur at the beginning of drum
hits, notes, or words in a vocal line. Markers
define the area that will be affected by a
Flex edit. Dragging a marker expands/contracts
the audio between it and the nearest
or adjacent marker — audio beyond the
nearest marker is unaffected. This lets you
do all sorts of fun things. For instance, you
can change the length of words or phrases
in recorded vocals by dragging the beginning
and end points of the automaticallymarked
waveform; you can also give a vocal
line an entirely different rhythm that still
sounds natural. Also, you can manually line
up tracks that were played slightly out of
time. The Flex features can also automatically
quantize one or more audio tracks utilizing
the full range of Logic’s MIDI quantize
levels, add varying degrees of swing, extract
a groove template from one or more tracks,
and more. There’s even a “tempophone”
function (Speed Mode) if you want to sound
like you’re changing the playback speed
(and pitch) on a turntable or tape recorder.
Flex Time works well and it’s way cool. All
that’s missing now is a Flex Pitch mode, a la
the polyphonic version of Melodyne.
Varispeed. This lets you convince your
friends you can play faster than Jordan
Rudess by recording at whatever percentage
of full speed you choose, then
playing back at normal speed. While
recording, playback is slowed but pitch
is unchanged. You first have to add
Varispeed to the transport bar: Controlclick
the transport bar, and choose “Customize
Transport Bar.” Once the “-/+”
button appears, engaging it gives you a
“Speed Only” section of the transport
with a percentage you can change by
Quick Swipe. This was introduced in
Logic 8 as a way to comp multiple takes
together quickly. It was brilliant, except for
one problem: You could slice and select
from among as many takes as you wanted
to create your ideal comp at the top of the
take bin — but you couldn’t edit any of the
audio until after you had exported the comp
to a new track. That meant you couldn’t
move a single word in an otherwise perfect
vocal composite just to see if it worked
better. In Logic 9, you can disable Quick
Swipe mode once you’ve created a comp,
and doing so makes all of your takes
editable with the usual audio tools — and
with the new Flex tools, too! This means
you can move a word in, say, take 22, and
the change will be reflected in your comp.
This is a huge improvement.
AMP DESIGNER AND
Logic 7 gave you Guitar Amp Pro, with its
configurable heads, cabinets, and mic
placement. Now, the Amp Designer plug-in
is billed as a guitarist’s dream — 25 classic
heads, 25 cabinets, 10 classic reverbs,
three mics, all lovingly rendered with amazing
graphics — but it’s also a boon for us
keyboard players (see Figure 1 below). Used in conjunction with the 30 coolsounding
and groovy-looking pedals in the
new Pedalboard plug-in (see Figure 2 below), you’ve got physical models of just
about every guitar amp and stompbox
known. Routing whatever you can think of,
even a Roland V-Piano, through a crankedup,
modeled amp will produce interesting
sounds. Really — we tried honky-tonk VPiano
into a slightly distorted brown-face
“Fender” with moderate tremolo, and it was
perfect for a Beatles-esque track. Putting a
virtual (or real) Wurly, Rhodes, ARP String
Ensemble, Minimoog, or Hammond through
a bunch of stompboxes yields everything
from classic tones to experimental bliss.
The blogosphere has complained that
some of the amps are noisy (when they’re
cranked up, they are), but hey, so are real
guitar amps when turned up.
Fig. 1. Amp models are faithful and detailed; so are the graphics. Most guitarists will recognize the sound, but even the Logic logo treatment on each of the 25 models gives a huge clue as to the real amp that was modeled. You can mix and match heads and cabinets, and choose and position the virtual mic model.
Fig. 2. Been wanting to run EVB3 through multiple Leslie sims? With Pedalboard, now you can. We cranked drive on these to nail that "Keith Emerson's Wall of Leslies" tone. Drag and drop from the collection of groovy stompboxes on the right to build your virtual pedalboard on the left. Click the arrow in the lower left corner to open Macro Assignments, which let you control your virtual pedals with physical ones.
Pedalboard is more fun when you use
real pedals to control its virtual effects. You
can assign Macros to control pedal parameters.
Open up the Macro window by clicking
on the triangle in the lower left of the window,
and select which effect parameter you want
to control. You can also assign a physical
controller using Learn Mode; command-click
on a screen parameter, and the Controller
Assignments dialog appears. Wiggle your
control, and it automatically makes the connection.
We had some challenges setting up
an expression pedal to control a wah effect
using Learn Mode; when it didn’t work right
off the bat, we were flummoxed by parameters
in the Controller Assignments such as
Format, for which the choices are “unsigned,”
“2’s complement,” and “sign magnitude,” as
well as a Mode choice that offered “scaled,”
“direct,” “X-OR,” and other such engineerspeak.
Fortunately, using the Macro window
avoids all this, making things much easier.
So, how do the models sound? Dominic
loved Spin Box, a cool Leslie simulator that
you can instantiate multiple times. As he puts
it, “In the real world, there’s something magical
about running a Hammond through a
guitar amp plus a Leslie or two. EVB3
[Logic’s organ] gets nice and growly through
a couple of Spin Boxes and the Small Tweed
amp with a Vintage Brit 4 x 12 cabinet. I just
wish a single switch could toggle rotor
speeds on multiple Spin Boxes.”
“Running the EVP88 [Logic’s electric
piano] through a Blackface amp with the
spring reverb setting is amazing,” says Ernie.
“It really has a convincing spring sound and
amp warmth; it reminded me of my Rhodes
through my old Fender Twin.” Bottom line:
The Amp Designer amp and cabinet models
are super-convincing. They respond very
musically and naturally to guitar, keyboard,
and soft synth audio. Overall, they’re the
equal of any other amp models available.
In Logic 9, new features take the tedium
out of mundane tasks and make life easier.
Selective Track Import, for example, imports
portions of projects from the Media
Browser. Say you’ve got a favorite drum
setup and want to use its channel strip
configuration in new project. In the
Browser, opening the project that includes
your drum setup gives you options for
importing individual channel strips; the
entire kit’s channel strips; one, some, or all
track contents; plug-ins, sends, and I/O
setups; and automation data. This is also
handy for moving audio tracks between
sessions recorded at different times, say,
when you prefer the groove the rhythm section
recorded yesterday. When you import
this way, track content naturally retains its
position relative to the first beat of the first
bar. We do wish there was an “import at
play head” option, as this would save you
time jockeying tracks around to assemble
tunes one section at a time.
Drum Replacer, located in the Track
menu of the Arrange window, is another new
feature, and an alternative to the dedicated
replacers rounded up on page 50. It lets you
replace or double recorded drum parts with
sounds from an extensive sample library that
opens up in the Media Browser. Because
the trigger threshold is variable, you can, for
example, double only the primary strikes,
leaving buzz rolls and other fills unaltered.
Settings optimized for typical snare or tomtom
playing are provided. You can use Drum
Replacer on other sources — for example, to
lock a kick drum to a pulsing bass line. Copy
and paste the bass track onto a new track,
select that track, then apply Drum Replacer,
set the threshold to taste, and you’ve got a
new kick drum part.
You’ll find other handy additions hidden
around the interface. Bounce in Place is
new to the Region edit menu, and it
provides a simple way to bounce a virtual
track to a new audio track, without having to
resort to the File menu. Convert to Sampler
is found in the Audio menu in the Arrange
window, and it’s really a gas: Select a region
of an audio track, and it creates a program in
EXS24 [Logic’s soft sampler] for you,
instantiated in a track, with each transient,
note, or word sliced and associated with a
MIDI track. This is a blast, as it lets you edit
any audio material within EXS itself, using all
the EXS parameters and keymapping edit
view. Among other things, this is good for
some quick, REX-like slicing fun.
[Click above for larger, annotated image.]
1. In MainStage 2’s edit window, you can tell the new
External Instrument channel strips by their huge
MIDI plug icons.
2. Mainstage can now be a ReWire host. ReWire is
the selected input on this channel.
3. Switch patches, and MS2 sends out program
change, bank select, and all data to configure
your whole rig; set this up in the MIDI output tab
of the Inspector.
4. In the Patch List, cursoring up or down syncs up
all program changes you’ve set for soft synths and
external MIDI gear alike.
5. In the Workspace, the Loopback window is visible;
working with Loopback’s plug-in interface
(see Figure 3 below) is more fun.
In its first version, MainStage was a nice
way to organize and map virtual instruments
and effects so you could use your Mac as
your sound source for live gigs. It could
host Logic instrument or effect plug-ins as
well as third-party AU plug-ins, but lacked
MIDI output for controlling external gear.
Mainstage 2 (MS2) now has MIDI output,
and can control a large, complex MIDI
rig. We loaded up a MacBook Pro with a
couple of MIDI interfaces, an audio interface
with MIDI, and some MIDI controllers,
and hooked up so many keyboards and
sound modules to the various ports that it
was starting to look like a Rick Wakeman
gig. Using MS2, we sent program changes
with MSB and LSB bank messages to all
this gear. We set up ridiculous keyboard
layers and splits that combined virtual and
hardware synths. We created screen controls
that sent different controllers to different
modules at once. Every time we
changed patches in MS2, it configured the
whole system. It works, and kicks much ass.
All this is due to a new entity exclusive
to MS2: the External Instrument Channel
Strip. It works just like setting up a zone on
a powerful MIDI controller keyboard: Set
the output port, MIDI channel, program
and bank changes, and key range, and
bam — you’re controlling an external instrument.
If you have spare inputs on your
audio interface, you can even route the
thing’s audio through the same channel
strip to make it part of your MS2 mix.
There’s no limit to layers, zones, or strips in
a patch, other than CPU power. In practice,
we made ten non-EXS soft synths
work alongside the external gear without
any noticeable screwiness.
MS2 lets you control your Concerts (the
main project files MainStage saves), sets,
and patches with multiple physical controllers
— with judicious assigning, we found this to
work well, with one exception. We used an
Akai EWI-4000 wind controller to control a
Yamaha VL-1m synth we’d layered with some
virtual instruments, but pitchbend from
the EWI (which is always there, as the
mouthpiece and pitch plates transmit it)
sounded like garbage. We alerted Apple, and
found out they’re aware of the pitchbend
issue and already working on a fix for the very
next update. For the time being, we used
MS2’s handy MIDI filters feature to screen
out pitchbend info, and it sounded fine. We
still wanted the bend, so we hooked the EWI
directly to the VL-1m, but still had MS2 send
program changes — a logical solution. However,
it turns out that when you set a channel
strip to receive no MIDI input (since we controlled
the VL-1m directly), MS2 no longer
sends anything via its corresponding MIDI
out. The workaround was to create an
unused MIDI object in the layout, and assign
it to be the MIDI input for the channel.
Mixing and matching your real and virtual
instruments and effects with this kind of control
is fantastic. But MS2 has even more fun
things: Playback and Loopback (see Figure
3 below). Playback lets you load an audio
file, which plays back in sync with your Concert
tempo. We set one up at the Concert
level, then changed patches to play completely
different rig configurations over different
sections of the song. Very cool. We also
set up four Playbacks in one patch and
loaded backing horn tracks from a multitrack
Logic session — looped and controlled from
the keyboard, they rocked. In another patch,
we loaded in full-song rhythm section parts
from the same session — wow!
Loopback is an audio looper that allows
multiple loops in the same patch. It can
sync to the Concert tempo, or not. You can
specify the loop length in advance, or let
your foot- or button-taps determine the
length. It has reverse, undo, and fade-out
functions that make it work very much like
an Echoplex. You can import audio, and you
can export your loop creations. In one
patch, we ran the Ultrabeat drum plug-in,
some virtual keyboards, live guitar, and a
live vocal into one Loopback: instant songwriting
fun or one-man-band. (Tip: If you get
noise when you add a mic or guitar channel
in MS2, insert a Noise Gate or De-Noiser
plug-in, and the hum and buzz are gone!)
We then set up multiple loops in the same
patch, looping synth rhythms in one and
vocal overdubs in another. Yeah!
Playback and Loopback add a huge new
dimension to MS2, but they’re not without
issues. Playback won’t import anything from
iTunes, and some audio tracks import full of
digital garbage even when iTunes and other
apps play them fine. It does import and add
markers, but we couldn’t navigate
backwards through markers to play back
section 3, then 2, then 1, for example, using
the marker function in Playback’s window.
The workaround is to set up screen buttons
in Layout mode and assign them to choose
Playback’s marker locations — buttons to
jump forward and backward one marker, for
example. Loopback’s onscreen controls
seem straightforward, but sometimes it
seems to make no difference what their settings
are — the loop might be at the wrong
tempo or not synced with the Concert
tempo. If this happens, the solution is to
clear the previous loop info. Setting loop
length with your own tapping is tricky: Loopback
doesn’t adjust your loop points to
match the tempo, and if you’re off by a tick
or two, your loops will drift out of sync.
ReWire hosting is another huge addition
to MS2, though there’s still no client
behavior. We set up patches that mixed
Logic and Reason soft synths right next to
each other — awesome! We got Live tracks
to flow into MS2, and though it took some
doing, even mixed Ableton Live’s Looper
instrument with Loopback. (Though Loopback
is very good, we find Looper in Live to
be the virtual loop recorder pedal to beat.
It’s more powerful and super-fun to use.)
A good controller really improves the
ReWire/MS2 experience; we used the
M-Audio Axiom Pro 49, which constantly
kept us informed with Looper function keys,
MS2 synth parameters, and Reason synth
parameters, all displayed on its LCD while
MS2 was in ReWire mode.
Fig. 3. PLayback and Loopback look and work similarly, but the former is a virtual instrument and the latter is a delay effect. Playback (top) imports audio tracks, with markers, and lets you add markers and rearrange the track on the fly. Loopback (bottom) is an Echoplex-style looping delay, and a bit tricky to master, but powerful once you do.
SOUNDTRACK PRO 3
Soundtrack Pro (STP) is Apple’s sound-formoving-
pictures complement to Logic and
its popular Final Cut Pro (FCP) nonlinear
video editing software. STP3 has significant
workflow enhancements, among them additional
ways to scroll the play head and
QWERTY shortcuts for selected tracks’
Record Arm, Mute, and Solo buttons. iXML
metadata support enhances pros’ ability to
search for footage based on attributes such
as location, shoot date, and so forth. As
before, you can roundtrip FCP video
sequences, complete with scoring reference
markers, open them in STP, save them as
flattened files, and send them back to FCP.
The Lift and Stamp functions added in
STP2 let you copy and paste EQ attributes
from one clip to others, which streamlined
matching audio quality between video clips.
In STP3, Lift and Stamp gain the ability to
sample volume levels. The concept is a lot
like Adobe Soundbooth CS4’s Voice Level
Match feature, except that STP3’s Volume
Match can’t match dialogue within clips. This
could be a major limitation if your source
material is an interview, and the dialogue lives
on a single mono audio track or the people
speaking aren’t isolated on separate channels.
If the people don’t talk over each other,
it’s simple enough to razor-tool a single audio
clip into multiple clips, but it’s a step Soundbooth
CS4 users don’t have to worry about.
In our tests, STP3 overcompensated for
quieter voices, raising background noise
along with speech. Saving each dialogue
track as a separate audio file before matching
levels produced better results. We found
that if there’s even the slightest difference in
room tone or background noise, it will be
accentuated when level match is applied.
STP3’s noise reduction helped, but didn’t
completely mitigate the problem. Also, if
you’re compensating for certain natural level
mismatches, say, someone whispering versus
a natural speaking voice, you may be
better served using other tools such as mixer
automation. Beware the Clipped Signal
Analysis tool — in our test (see Figure 4 below), it introduced clipping instead of
eliminating it. Thankfully, the effects in STP3
are nondestructive, so undoing the damage
was simple and painless.
Fig. 4. Soundtrack Pro's new clipped signal repair tool yields contrary results: before (on the left, note only two clipped signals) and after (on the right, clipping was added by the effect.
The noise reduction algorithms have
also been tweaked to let you automatically
eliminate common audio glitches such as
pops, clicks, and hum. We thought we’d
throw something a little more challenging
at it: a skydiving video whose audio was
recorded with no windscreen on the mic!
The wind noise drowned out dialogue
from people standing about a foot away
from the mic. Three passes through the
NR removed about 99 percent of the
noise. Some barely audible, R2D2-like
high-frequency artifacts remained, but this
torture test proves that for more typical
noise removal needs, STP3 is more than
up to the task.
You may recall from our Jan. ’08 review
that sending XML files between Logic and
STP2 didn’t work. So we tried exporting a
stereo mix of a 16-track audio project that
included a QuickTime video from Logic to
FCP. The XML opened in FCP without a
hitch. However, when we sent the project
to STP3 using the roundtrip feature in
FCP, only the video, without sound,
showed up in STP3. Looks like the triedand-
true OMF and AAF formats are still
the best ways to swap projects between
Logic and STP.
While Logic Pro 9 happily played audio
out a Digidesign Mbox 1, STP3 didn’t get
along with the Mbox. Our tests revealed it’s
an Mbox 1-specific issue, because STP3
worked fine through Apogee One, Mbox 2,
Line 6 Toneport KB37, and MOTU
interfaces. Apple also tried to duplicate the
problem with an Mbox 1, but couldn’t.
The new Logic Studio is an incredibly powerful
suite of tools for composing, audio and
MIDI recording, post-production, live performance,
and scoring moving pictures. It’s
deep, intuitive at times and daunting at others,
and priced to sell a lot of Macs. Of the
over 200 new features, Amp Designer, Pedalboard,
MainStage 2’s MIDI out, and Flex
Time make the $199 upgrade a no-brainer. If
you’re a GarageBand musician ready to
learn a full pro system, Logic Studio is an
amazing value, and will even open your GB
songs with all tracks in the right places. Is it
easy otherwise? Getting off the ground with
Logic 9 and MainStage 2 is no more difficult
than with any other program. Getting deeper
requires more study and practice than with
some other software, in our opinion — but
this doesn’t diminish its power or usefulness.
If you’re on the fence, just remember the
times you’ve said to yourself, “If only I had
Program X, I could Y.” Logic Studio is one of
the few that always seems to fill in both
those variables easily. For doing that at this
price, it’s clearly a Key Buy.