Logic Pro X First Play
Well, today ended up being quite a bit different from what I had originally planned! Woke up and during the usual coffee, email, and web-browsing routine, realized that Apple’s Logic Pro X was released overnight. Ok then, guess that answers a lot of questions about Logic’s future!
At first look there were some nice changes, but nothing that made me go WOW, that’s awesome. I think that I was one of those in the camp that was hoping that Logic version 10 would be a major rewrite, something new from the ground up. Logic Pro X (LPX) is definitely a refinement of what was there before however, even if it does have a much needed visual overhaul.
I’ve always had a weird relationship with Logic, I’ve gone through a lot of periods where I was using it every day for months, and some where I didn’t open it for what felt like years. Recently I’ve been using Presonus Studio One v2 for everything as far as mixdowns go, so I really haven’t been missing Logic all that much. There was nothing wrong with Logic, it was just getting a little long in the tooth and Studio One fit the bill better for me.
I also have my first festival gig of the summer this coming weekend, and I’m busy as can be trying to wrap up work related projects for my clients and get all the last minute bugs worked out of the system for the live set. So I really had no intention of even really looking at Logic Pro X until I got back.
Well, as you might have guess, that didn’t work as planned. 🙂
One of my regular mixdown clients hopped on the LPX bandwagon, imported a Logic 9 Project she had been about to send me for a mixdown, and asked me to do the mix in LPX instead. So, I ended up installing and using the app most of the day while working on that for her.
This is my first install of Logic from the Apple store, I was still using the DVD installers of Logic 9 for each fresh install. I love not having to save those anymore, and the fact that you can still pick and choose which of the additional content packs you want to download and install. Lots of the loops and such have no interest for me, so I’m glad to retain the HD space.
The basic app is about 700MB, and the core content you need to install when you first run it is about 2GB. Took me roughly 12 minutes to have it all downloaded and installed, and it sure beat swapping in DVDs every 20 minutes. You can download up to 35GB of additional content right away, or wait until later, it’s up to you. It’ll also open with your default template from Logic 9 if you have one and so choose.
When I first saw the new version, “Clean” is what came to mind. Retina graphics looked great on my 15″ rMBP, and I really liked the new dark look they are using. Much easier on the eyes, and definitely looks more up to date. Except for the fake leather in the blank portions of the mixer. That has to go. Now.
If you’ve used Logic 9, finding your way around will be easy, as much is still exactly the same. The time display and transport controls are at the top of the app now, which does seem to feel better. What’s more, you can drag the lower edge of the transport panel down to reveal (and assign) your frequent edit comments, or drag it up to hide the transport panel completely. I love this!
Some of the menus are reorganized, and honestly they make a lot more sense now. Logic has always had a lot of menus to dive into depending on what you were doing, so it’s a welcome improvement. The Library has also had an overhaul, with all new sounds and loops in LPX, and is organized much cleaner. It’s also now on the left, which is a little weird at first, but not a huge deal.
I personally wasn’t blown away by the new sounds, most sound like… well the old sounds to be honest. I first got into Logic around version 7 or so, and at the time, the included presets were amazing sounding. A lot has changed since then, and with the exception of the new bass synth presets, I just felt that Logic’s presets were only so so now. Then again, I’ve never really been blown away by DAW presets since then either.
I don’t have much use for the additional Apple Loops, so for now I have not installed them. Given how many commercial productions used the previous loops though, I’m we’re all glad to finally have some new ones to listen to on the radio.
The Mixer is where I spend a lot of my time, so it was interesting to see such a change there as well. Skinny meters, bigger fader, and overall more blank space give it a whole new feel. The plug in slots work differently now, no more click and hold to bring up the menus. You can reorder, mute, and browse your plug ins with one mouse click. I thought the previous way Logic handled this all was obtuse at first, so while this will take some getting used to, it’s much easier as well.
Another new feature is Flex Pitch, which lets you handle pitch mistakes ala Melodyne or Autotune. In my brief play with it I thought it was very simple to use and I liked how easy it was to access functionality this deep. The results were so so on solo’d material except for small changes, but in a mix most of that was hidden and it worked just fine.
Finally, another change I’ve long been begging for, improvements to audio editing. Well, sort of. When you double click and audio region now, you open an editor where you can destructively edit the audio file, just like the Sample Editor of previous versions. Or, you can choose the Track Editor option, and now you get a nice zoomed up view of the audio regions including their real time song position in bars and beats.
The reasoning behind this is that it’s easier to make audio edits when you don’t have to constantly zoom the main arrange view, so now you can do it track by track in a dedicated editor. (Which is nice, because is it just me or are there no longer any Global Zoom Out Full key commands?) On paper, this sounds great, and for simple joining and crossfading purposes it more or less works as you’d expect. The issue, is that a lot of time you are editing audio based on information in other audio tracks, and with the new dedicated audio editor, you can easily see those other visual references.
Overall it’s useful in some very specific circumstances, but I find it just adds one more layer to the audio editing complexity in Logic. Personally, I was hoping to see things simplified, to allow more details and destructive editing right on the Arrange Window. Oh well.
The last new feature (there’s plenty more) that I want to talk about is the new iPad companion app. On first glance it looks like a simple controller app, not too much different from some of the TouchOSC templates I’ve seen over the years. At first I almost dismissed it, there’s only 5 or 6 different screens, and it doesn’t really look like much.
But as I played with it during my first mixdown, I realized how much more often I was using the iPad for certain tasks than my usual key commands. In many ways it reminds me of what Ableton is trying to do with Push, though without the nice tactile feel of Push of course. For many basic ideas and just sketching out a song, you can do quite a lot from just the iPad. It even has a built in keyboard, drum, and guitar interfaces like the iPad version of GarageBand.
I’m still not sold on the idea, but it’s definitely getting more use here than most DAW controller apps do.
Like a lot of people I’ve been curious for awhile about what Apple was going to do with Logic, or if they were going to do anything at all. The new version is admittedly not what I was excpecting, which was a major new forward thinking version of something that has been lagging behind the competition for awhile now. In many ways though, what we got instead was an even better compromise. It’s not so new that you don’t know your way around, but it feels new enough that the wait feels worth it. I really had hoped to be this excited with Live 9, and I wasn’t, it looked and felt just like the last version.
But, a modern look is not always done well either. In general, I really like the new look of Logic’s interface, dark and sharp, it’s much easier on the eyes and feels fresh. However, all of the old included plug ins are still not retina versions, and look noticeably jagged. (this has me seriously going WTF?) Also, the reliance of generic instrument pictures in the Library, and the fake leather of the mixer feel the exact opposite to what Apple said is the future of interfaces in terms of iOS7. A lot of Logic X seems to be modeled after Garageband, you can even show and hide different editing options in the preferences to “dumb things down” if you want.
I don’t get the need to make a pro app as simple as the app they make that comes free with every Apple computer.
For the most part though, everything feels better organized, and done to save you time. Things are laid out better, the organization of menus is improved, and it just seems like it’s a lot easier to get rough ideas done now. Detailed editing for MIDI has been greatly expanded, and while there’s more options for audio editing, I still think apps like Pro Tools and Studio One win here.
Overall stability for me was so so. I had a few times where the iPad app lost contact with my laptop and I had to restart it to re-establish connection. Once LPX crashed when playing with Drummer (neat, but more for rock bands), and once my mixer randomly would show and disappear across the screen requiring a restart.
Not exactly confidence inspiring for one day.
I’m excited. A little. This is the first time in awhile I’ve wanted to use Logic, and not just because it’s new, but because there’s some genuinely nice workflow changes. They’ve given us more detailed editing options, but also made the initial song creation steps simpler and faster as well. Seems to be a common theme among DAW manufacturers, glad to see Apple has caught on too.
At this point I don’t see myself using Logic over Studio One for my daily studio work unless I’m requested to like today. But I think for my own music making, I’m interested and impressed enough that I can see myself spending some time working on new material using LPX.
I’ll certainly post my long term thoughts after a few more weeks of using it, but I wanted to get some of my first thoughts out there while everyone was still curious about it. Let me know if you have any questions, happy to answer if I can!