Review: Logic Pro 7 Version 7.0.1

Comprehensive music creation tool... (April 24th, 2005)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Apple Computer, Inc.

Price: MSRP: $999.00 US

The Good

  • Most powerful Audio Development program on the market. It has distributed audio rendering, comprehensive software plug-ins, and is fully Mac OS X and G5 optimized.

The Bad

  • Steep learning curve for new users. Incomplete plug-in delay compensation, distributed rendering not supported on many current CPU's and unable to distribute Audio Units.

Tackling a review of the Apple Computer's Logic Pro 7 is a daunting task because it can be simultaneously viewed as:

  • a ProTools class audio recording application,
  • a MIDI sequencing/notation application,
  • a suite of sound processing tools,
  • a comprehensive library of software synthesizers,.
  • a Professional Quality Disk mastering utility, and
  • a more fully functional front end to Digidesign TDM hardware than ProTools.
This version strikes a successful balance between the underlying fundamental rewrite (to be CoreAudio, more-Cocoa and OS X native) and preserving the overall look and feel for veteran users. When taken as a whole, calling Logic Pro 7 an application almost trivializes it. When all its facilities are considered, it appears like an entire operating system, optimized for sound creation and music generation that just happens to sit on top of Mac OS X.

The large box contains a getting started booklet and two massive manuals, the program reference (700-plus pages) and the software plug-in reference (600 pages). The Logic Pro 7 Setup Assistant, makes installation painless. There is one glitch in the documentation set, no tutorial file is on the install disks; it only exists on Apple's support site. Thanks to the USB copy-protection dongle you can load Logic on any number of Macs, but run only one copy at a time. After you register, you gain access to Apple's Logic forums.

Installation went smoothly but the first time through, (on a bare 12" PowerBook), no sound was generated even though the built-in audio in/outs were recognized by the OSX Audio MIDI Setup application (LSA). The Setup application reran successfully, but still no sound until I went into the Logic preferences, turned a few switches and then things came to life. So, when LSA asks if there is any connected hardware and you want to run in the native I/O, say yes!

Working with Tracks

Like other integrated music creation suites, audio and MIDI content is fully integrated via the on-screen track viewer, the Arrange window. Logic Pro 7 allows the cutting and pasting of track data across any type of track, and deep into tracks, retaining all the automation embedded within the tracks. This is very cool since you can sometimes look at a track from a dozen windowed perspective and copying all those aspects separately is annoying.

Selecting a track brings up the different ways of viewing the track data. Once an audio track is expanded you can edit it down to a single cycle. You click on a MIDI track to bring up either the piano roll Matrix view or a notation view of the event data (as well as other views, like MIDI events, controller data, drum track entry, MIDI hex data). While other applications also do this, Logic Pro 7 has an astonishing array of tools. Its ability to transcribe an audio track into MIDI events is an interesting feature. It was meant to work with monophonic instruments, like voice or a saxophone, but it does some interesting things with guitar chords that would make avant-guarde musicians smile.

Handling MIDI data has always been a Logic forte and this version is no exception. MIDI editing includes many modification options and filtering possibilities. The dreaded Logic Environment is still there for those that require linking to external MIDI devices. The LSA configuration wizard, introduced in v6, allows a simple MIDI system environment to be generated from all the devices recognized in OS X's Audio MIDI Setup configuration application. Logic provides powerful transformation possibilities for MIDI data.

Notation, which is important to many users, has not seen a fundamental revamp since version 5 of Logic. Logic's notation facility is geared toward studio work, giving parts to players, rather than score publishing. While it is fully featured, it was difficult to notate a solo guitar transcription (internal counterpoint, rests and ranges). Still Logic Pro 7 can handle very large notation projects, so orchestrators should feel right at home once the basic approach is learned.

Logic Pro 7 goes out of its way to provide a comprehensive sound processing toolkit and it succeeds very, very well. There are 70 DSP plug-ins, from simple filters and delays, to the stellar Space Designer that is a CPU-hungry convolution reverb complete with many modeled audio environments. Space Designer is a good reason to own Logic, since it can no longer be used or purchased outside of this application. There are a slew of new, great plug-ins, such as Guitar Amp Pro, Linear Phase EQ, Pitch Correction, Multimeter, Ringshifter, and Vocal Transformer. The Match EQ allows the sound of one track to be analyzed and superimposed over another.

While there are many high-quality sound modifiers, there are a few rough spots. Although the retro looking Guitar Amp Pro promises to be a good amp simulator, it will not make you get rid of Native Instruments, Guitar Rig, or AmpliTube. It just doesn't replace the good old guitar, amp, and mike trio. No matter how good an amp emulationis, there's something about that real sound.

Then there's the incomplete plug-in delay compensation implementation (in version 7.0.1), a feature already available in the competing Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer 4.5 and Steinberg's Cubase SX3 products. Logic Pro 7 doesn't have this important feature, but it is promised for a future upgrade. I wish there were more extensive sonic cleanup tools provided like click eliminators which would tie in nicely to the included WaveBurner Pro full-featured disk mastering program.

The Logic Pro 7 package also includes a complete set of synthesizers and keyboard emulators, ranging from new simple FM synths to the awe-inspiring Sculpture plug-in which takes the modeling approach to sound generation. The new drum machine, Ultrabeat, is a complex, powerful and massive drum sequencer that has all the right bells and whistles needed for hiphop, tekno or whatever rhythm you desire. An entry-level EFM1 is a basic FM synthesis plug-in also made its debut in Logic Pro 7.

Audio Units

Audio Units (AU's) are Apple's plug-in technology for sound modification and generation. Version 7.0.1 is more compatible with third party plug-ins, so most name brand AU's work. Most early problems with other plug-ins have already been resolved and Logic Pro 7 goes out of its way to accommodate: from validations to good-faith acceptance. I only wish that Apple would provide that VST support that was promised in OSX. After all Live and Metro 6 can do both formats well, so why not Logic? There is also built-in full ReWire support for the Reason-able set or other programs that use Propellerheads' virtual audio wire technology.

One of the most forward thinking features in Logic Pro 7 is the distributed audio rendering which is free and easy to use. Using this feature, a Logic 7 workstation can use a Gigabit Ethernet attached G5 tower to process sound or generate software synthesizer output.

More on Installation

Installing Logic Pro 7 on a 15" PowerBook worked as advertised, it added the node software to the G5 tower and transferred the dongle to the PowerBook. The downside is that only professional Mac models with Gigabit networking can be linked this way, officially. Another issue is that only the Logic Pro built-in plug-ins will distribute, even fully validated AU's will not, so there's no way to grid third-party audio tools.

Logic Pro 7 also added a handy on-screen musical caps-lock keyboard feature that allows the you to use the QWERTY keyboard as a musical entry device with polyphony (up to six notes). The step-entry on screen musical keyboard remains available.

GarageBand and Logic Pro 7

Logic Pro 7 now bridges the gap between GarageBand and pro audio production. It provides a smooth file-opening function, plus also supports AppleLoops and Soundforge Acid loops. The applicaiobs don't work exactly the same way, but at least there's a thirty page migration guide to go from GarageBand to Logic Pro 7 which is welcome. In fact, double-clicking a GarageBand 2 project file launches Logic if it's installed. Most importantly, both programs share instruments, samples and AppleLoops. With support for XML, AAF, AAC, and MP3, Logic seems very amenable to external standards.

Addendum: Apple just announced a Logic Pro 7.1 upgrade which provides expanded Apple Loops integration, new Bass Amp and hybrid synthesizer plug-ins, full native plug-in delay compensation, easy re-ordering of plug-ins and more. Stay tuned for more information and a related review of Logic 7 Express.

by Peter Mengaziol


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