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Mac Planet: Logic of Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X.
Logic Pro X.

Longer term users constantly worry (well, I do) that Apple might become so entranced with consumer markets that pro markets could be sidelined. There was Apple's terrible mistake with the introduction of Final Cut Pro X, in which the Inc introduced good, but radically different software as a fait accompli. A couple of key features were missing and this was either glossed over or not taken into due consideration, and the trust of the pro video community was lost, and this was never going to be easy to win back.

Apple did, let it be noted, go on to fix pretty much all of Final Cut Pro X's defects via free updates, and I stand by my (at the time controversial) assessment that it's great software.

By comparison to all that, I reckon the audio pro community has every reason to happily stay loyal to Apple with the brand new Logic Pro X, which I have been busy evaluating for the last ten days. I will post the full, possibly several-part review on my macnz site when it's finished.

I once played in bands (don't worry, you won't have heard of them) many years ago and after that became a Pro Tools user and switched after its repeated failure to keep up with Mac OS X changes.

Pro Tools had been a mission to learn, and I was loathe to switch, but going months with unusable software while waiting for Avid to catch it up, while witnessing its near instant response to Windows' changes had me spit the dummy.

I've always been glad I did. While Logic required another long investment in time, I immediately enjoyed its focus on creativity as its entry point. Some say it's the songwriter's recording software. Anyway, it suits me.

Some have complained there's 'no upgrade price' for existing users of Logic, but the way I see it, this new X is so cheap it's about what an upgrade price used to be. I remember when the full Logic package cost more like $1000. If you've never had Logic, it's an incredibly low entry point (just $259) for such slick software with so many features.

Note that if you just want the amp models, keyboards and other software instruments for live play, but without the ability to record, Mainstage is just NZ$38.99 in the Mac App Store.

Apart from all the instruments, loops and plugins already packed into Logic Pro 9, if you already have that, Logic Pro X adds a diverse collection of professionally recorded snare drums, toms, hi-hats and cymbals you can mix, match and fine tune to get the right drum sound for your song, plus nine new MIDI plug-ins, plus the new Retro Synth which emulates classic synthesiser tones from the '70s and '80s. New Vintage Keyboards are realistic models of electric pianos, B3 organs and clavs, with sophisticated tone-shaping controls. There's the new Bass Amp Designer, which I eagerly look forward to, with guitarists having been spoilt before, plus an entirely new Sound Library with an updated loop collection and over 1500 instrument and effect Patches that make creative use of new features like Track Stacks, Smart Controls, the Arpeggiator and other new plug-ins.

Talk about bang for your buck - it's more like an all-you-can-eat deal. And on that note, the initial install of Logic from the Mac App Store is a couple of gigs but it unpacks when you open it and offers you the additional packages ... and this can total up to around 35GBs of download should you tick them all, so be warned to set aside the time for this and make sure you have the data capability in your bill cycle.

This new version is fully 64-bit, and when you first boot it up it checks that your plug-ins are compatible. Even my current MacBook Pro has 16GBs of RAM so the fact Logic Pro X and it's plugins can address all that if they need it is great, and I'm glad of the check. Most plugin manufacturers have caught up with 64-bit by now, but it might pay that you check. Also check your System Requirements - this is too powerful for some Macs, or you might at least need more RAM.

A 27-inch iMac has about enough screen real estate for all that's going on!

Unlike the first iteration of Final Cut Pro X, which had no backward compatibility, Logic Pro X opens legacy Logic projects all the way back to v5. That's impressive. LPX looks different to 9 but in an engaging and clearly practical way - track data is more explicit, the transport controls have moved from bottom to top (which feels right, as it's natural to look up to see what's going on with your project). There's a nice blend between skueomorphism and the new 'flat' aesthetic we'll see in Mavericks and iOS 7. The interface is flat, the instruments look remarkably like the actual instruments, to the spinning speakers in the Leslie organ. This all helps recognition.

When it first appeared, Final Cut Pro X got branded (unfairly, actually, but people were angry) as 'iMovie Pro'. Any fears Logic would become GarageBand Pro or worse, 'Logic Lite' have turned out to be 100% unfounded. Thank goodness. This new version takes away nothing - but it adds a lot more than just enhanced usability, in an ever expanding universe of more complex features and details once you start drilling down.

I was lucky in that I received an introduction from a music specialist, then spent hours with the software, but I still used my favourite video training courses to drill deeper. MacProVideo has two options - one is you subscribe and watch online, but down here in New Zealand I prefer to buy and download the individual videos I want and watch them at my leisure, able to stop and start them as I need and go over things again when I want to. To do this you also need to download the free 'N'E'D' player. The episodes are typically US$20 or so each.

NB, I do buy these, I'm not promoting them because they give them to me for free. But sometimes MacProVideo has crazy 50% off and/or bundle deals if you sign up to their newsletters. Meanwhile, the MacProVideo people have posted a What's New in Logic Pro X video you can watch for free online.

And there are probably alternatives, plus thousands of freebies on YouTube, of varying provenance.

Besides that, Apple's online help is full-featured.

There is also a new Quick Help feature available right there in the Logic Pro X system, and the full help (from Logic's Help menu) is very informative. Just minimise it with the orange button to get it out of the way, as Apple's help has an annoying way of staying on top of everything.

Logic Pro X looks a lot bolder and more visual, easier to see at a glance what's happening or where you are, and things that you now click on often open up logical windows or features that you'd expect, rather than do nothing as was sometimes the case with Logic 9. For example, I was looking for 'Duplicate track with same settings' and thought wouldn't it be great if I could just Option-drag the track header and ... yep. And little Power icons show up when you mouse over the plugins - click to turn off, with no pop-outs to bother with.

Elements in channel strips reflect their positions in signal paths and they're draggable to change positions, which has an audible result. In a very short time I found myself creating new tracks and projects, going places I didn't expect with intriguing and gratifying results.

Anyway, back to the full review, but so far I'm really impressed. I'm very interested in comments from anyone else who has started using Logic Pro X.

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