In 2013, Apple unveiled the latest iteration of its professional recording software, Logic Pro X. The X (pronounced ‘ten’ as with all things Apple!) implies a total revamp of the product or software.
But what are the main differences between Logic Pro X and its predecessor Logic Pro 9? Who is it for? What are the best ways to use it? And what are the pros and cons?
When it comes to recording software or DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations), there are a few big players: Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Cubase, to name a few.
Although all DAWs share some common principles, (i.e. how tracks and audio are displayed) each software also has its own unique characteristics.
Pro Tools is arguably the most commonly used DAW in professional recording studios. Ableton occupies the live performance market (with some significant challenge recently from Apple’s own MainStage). Cubase, on the other hand, is more geared towards PC music production and is predominantly used in schools and home studios.
As Logic Pro X becomes far more widely adopted in the amateur/semi-professional space, it’s clear that Apple’s mission to empower its users is working!
X’s modern interface is designed to help creatives work quickly and also deliver professional sounding results. Notable pro users include Brian Eno and The Pet Shop Boys. This should is evidence enough to show that the software has scope to produce truly professional, creative results quickly!
Broadly speaking, Apple’s creative software traditionally falls into 2 main brackets – beginner and professional. The beginner software typically comes installed as standard in all Macs and includes GarageBand.
“GarageBand is a great little DAW that is perfect for learning basic recording principles and doing your first recordings. It has loads of loops built in – in fact Usher’s ‘Love in the Club’ and Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ both contain elements made in GarageBand so if you’re just starting out, I would advise starting here.”
Is Logic Pro X for dummies? Not particularly… If you’re a beginner or aren’t technically minded, I’d recommend sticking with Garageband for now. Having said this, users have the option of getting the pro software if they want it!
Downloadable via the App Store, anyone from more advanced beginners looking to move beyond GarageBand, to professional studio producers can make use of Logic Pro X. Once familiarised with GarageBand, the transition to Logic Pro X feels fairly seamless. Logic Pro X includes a massive collection of stock plug-ins and plenty of tools for professional songwriting!
Unfortunately, for Windows users, Logic Pro X is not an option. If you search long enough, you can probably find a way around this issue. Yet in all honesty, the main reason for using Apple Mac OS is the seamless integration with the hardware.
When one company is in charge of making both the machine and the software, the result is a smooth and efficient process (something of a prerequisite when you are trying to be creative!) For Logic Pro X Windows alternatives, I’d suggest that you take a look at Cubase, Pro Tools, and FL Studio.
Now we’ve established that a Mac is required to run Logic Pro X, what would be the best set up? Like all things computers, this largely depends on your use-case.
There are three main things to consider when it comes to a computer – Hard Drive (sometimes called Storage), RAM (also called Memory) and Processor. The kitchen is a good metaphor for understanding how these fit together…
– Your Hard Drive is like your kitchen cupboards. This is where stuff on your computer (software, files, everything) lives permanently.
– The RAM is like your countertop. I.e. how much stuff you can take from the cupboard and put on the countertop at any one time. Audio files are quite big so high RAM capacity is essential if you plan on working on audio projects with lots of large files.
– Your processor is like your knife and how sharp it is. The sharper the knife (the better the processor) the quicker it can chop the ingredients.
So, for audio work and to deliver more power, a good amount of RAM is helpful as it allows you to work with more files (8GB is good, 16GB is better, but the more RAM you have the bigger you can go with your projects).
The better your processor, the more flexibility you have on the software and plug-Ins you may want to use, especially if you are layering multiple effects.
If you want to store projects on your hard drive, a large capacity will be useful but you can always archive these onto external hard drives. So this is perhaps a little less important overall.
If you want to make simple recordings one track at a time, Logic will run perfectly well on a Mac Mini or a MacBook Air with a MIDI Keyboard and a USB Microphone or a 1 channel interface (e.g. something like a Focusrite Scarlett Solo).
For really large-scale, high-performance projects, a Mac Pro with a high-quality Thunderbolt Interface would be best.
Thunderbolt allows for a much faster data transfer than USB 3, meaning you can edit imported audio with ease, and use lots of plugins without overloading your CPU.
Personally, my recording process tends to be relatively simple. Typically I’ll use a few mics at any one time in the studio, with the odd trip out to record something on location.
I have a high spec iMac with a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 interface running audio and midi. I also have a Touch Bar 13” MacBook Pro which I typically use with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (for one or two mics).
Alternatively, if I need more channels on-location I’ll take the 18i20. The MacBook Pro is certainly capable of producing professional music. It is substantially equipped for recording, songwriting, editing and mixing, and mastering processes!
However, I personally prefer to use the iMac as my main workhorse, due to its larger screen.
Back in the days of Logic Pro 9 and it’s predecessors, the software was usually delivered on CD in a physical box.
This worked well with the technology of the day, as most Macs (apart from the MacBook Air) had a CD drive built in. However, nowadays Logic Pro X is purchased via Apple’s App Store (Logic Pro X 10.4 Download).
This is a hugely significant change, not only because the old CDs had to be ordered or purchased from an Apple Store and manually installed (a much slower procedure), but because the App Store allows customers to easily and remotely update apps across multiple devices.
Logic Pro X updates frequently include new loops, plug-ins, features and performance improvements.
These are delivered to your computer via the internet – you can even go to Apple’s website and provide feedback and suggestions on the software, to be considered for future developments!
And the cost of these updates is… nothing. Zilch, zip, diddly squat!
The slick modern aesthetic of Logic Pro X is a far cry from its predecessors. Featuring a single customizable window view (if you have multiple screens, you can also have separate windows for the Mixer, Audio Editor, etc. if you so choose). Navigation is efficient and satisfying, and fairly reminiscent of Final Cut Pro.
“One of the great things about learning Apple software is that the smart controls and rules tend to apply across all software so you’ll find that you can more easily learn other Apple programmes once you’ve mastered one.”
Included in the new software was also a completely rebuilt sound and loop library for creators to flesh out their recordings with breakbeats, samples, riffs and more.
The Drummer tool is really interesting. It is essentially a modern automatic drum machine, which allows you to select the style, number of fills, the amount of swing and beat complexity to create what feels like a real drummer.
The Smart Tempo feature enables the drummer track to automatically pick up the tempo of another track and play along (in time!), even if the tempo shifts. Songwriters can use this tool to flesh out their demos.
This is useful as a temporary solution before the real drums are added.
In terms of the MIDI sound library, Logic Pro X has an enormous array of keyboards and synths (and more patches than you could use in a lifetime!)
You can also use the GarageBand MIDI sounds in Logic if you’ve got a tone you love in the beginner software and of course, you can add 3rd Party sounds as well.
I have the Novation Bass Station, the XLN Addictive Keys Piano Sounds and the AIR Hybrid 64 Synth, all of which I have found work pretty well.
I think the most exciting feature is the Logic Remote app, free for iPad and iPhone. The app connects your iOS device to your computer and allows you to control the software.
You can pause, stop and record, obviously. But you can also edit effects and panning, so this is an amazing tool if you like a fader-style mixing approach (without actually having the faders, of course).
This can also save you a lot of time if you are recording a live instrument, but are too far from your Mac to control it! The app can also be used to manually tap the project tempo, or play in keyboard and drum instruments.
A MIDI keyboard definitely works better but this is a good alternative if you don’t have one.
A key concept to understand with Logic Pro X and how it compares to Pro Tools is the approach to plugins.
Pro Tools is arguably the most used DAW in the world. It is a very good piece of software and comes with a number of great plugins.
Despite this, in my experience of recording in other studios, a real part of working with Pro Tools is choosing specific 3rd party plugins to really define the kinds of sounds that come out of your studio.
And because Pro Tools is the number one DAW in the world, most 3rd party plugins are designed primarily to work with it.
Apple appears to have taken a more ‘right-first-time’ approach. The Plug-ins are pretty comprehensive and following the Logic Pro X 10.4 update download, all of them are now 64-Bit.
This means they are very detailed, powerful and sound incredible. And of course, in classic Apple style, they look great and are super easy to use!
In particular, the ChromaVerb reverb allows you to choose your room, set your parameters on decay and even choose how your reverb responds over the frequency spectrum, but also has tons of presets if you need a framework to get you started.
You also have an array of EQ’s, Compressors, Distortions, Pitch Correction, Amp Modellers, Delays and Echoes, plus loads more I haven’t mentioned.
That’s not to say Logic Pro X doesn’t support 3rd Party plugins. The quality of plug-ins, however, can vary quite a lot. I often use the Vox JamVox amp modeler/pedal effects and the Waves H-Comp Compression plug-ins.
Both of these sound great and are hugely versatile but I have found the Waves plug-ins to be a little less stable than the Vox.
Additionally, the visual representation on the Waves is a little less pretty; it feels very much as though perhaps writing the software for Logic Pro X was an afterthought to coding for Pro-Tools.
So my advice would be to get suggestions from other producers (or read up on the reviews) if you are looking to delve outside of the stock Logic Pro X plugins.
Sometimes, a musician in the studio may want to have a few runs at different elements of a song to get the perfect take for each section. In a lot of DAWs, this means recording multiple takes over multiple tracks.
With Logic Pro X, however, you can create multiple versions within one track and choose the best bits. From here you can crossfade together the perfect take all on one track with one set of plugins and one clean track, which makes mixing significantly easier!
As with most recording software, you often rely on using buses to process effects to minimize CPU drain on the machine, to ensure everything runs quickly and smoothly.
Applying the same reverb effect to every single guitar, bass and drum track on a song is tedious! So try experimenting with sending individual tracks to a single ‘bus’, and applying a single reverb to it!
A nice touch in Logic Pro X is that when you choose to send a track to a Bus, the Auxiliary channel is automatically created in the Mix window. This allows you to add any effects you want to it, and name it without having to first create the Bus channel.
Then you can assign it and add the effects. I tend to add some effects to the individual tracks – usually EQ and often compression and other specific effects.
From here I’ll send instrument groups to a bus (i.e. a vocals bus, a guitars bus, a percussion bus, etc.) for reverb and overall EQ for each group to get my final mix.
If you are using MIDI instruments, I would recommend going into the details if you want it to sound as real as possible. Take some time to adjust the velocity and playing style of each note.
There is a very cool tool called ‘Humanize’ (accessible via the editor window of a MIDI track). This nifty feature allows you to change note velocity and slightly shift the timing.
This can make all of the difference with a drum beat or melodic pattern, making it sound less robotic.
If you have a passion for unique and vintage instruments like me, this often crosses over and becomes an obsession!
This can involve spending a bit of time traveling around to record specific instruments (I recently had the opportunity to record a 1960s T-200 Hammond organ that my dad had stowed away in his garage).
Logic provides an amazing solution for situations like this. I was able to simply share the Logic Pro X Project file to my laptop (via AirDrop) and record the instrument on location!
One piece of advice I would offer here would be to share the whole project back to your main working Mac, once you have your new piece of audio in your project.
Bear in mind, this can sometimes lead to the machine getting confused and unable to locate it. The best thing to do is solo the track and bounce the raw file of the recorded audio. You can then drop that into the existing project on your main computer.
Generally, most producers record all the audio necessary for a project before they begin adding huge amounts of audio processing.
As an artist that self-produces, I often fall into the trap of building up the sonics of a track during the recording process. If there’s a lot of audio and processing, it’s likely you’ll experience some latency when recording.
Fortunately, the creators of Logic Pro X have got this covered! There’s a Low Latency Recording setting that can be enabled. This effectively by-passes the plugins during recording to stop latency without you having to manually turn each plugin off.
You can download the latest version of Logic Pro X from the Mac App Store for a one-off cost of £199.99.
This puts it at a very competitive pricing point, especially when you consider that Pro-Tools comes in at £499 as a one-off payment (or £25 per month/£249 per year on the subscription model)!
Logic can also be installed on all the machines you own, and the Logic Remote is free. Sold!
If you are thinking of getting Logic and using it for an upcoming session, here’s a tip. Make sure to leave the software open well in advance of the session! The reason for this is as follows.
When you first open Logic Pro X after purchasing it, you must first download all the necessary sound assets.
This will take up a big chunk of your storage! My tip would be to never head straight into a session after downloading Logic Pro X to a new machine. Make sure you update the software first.
A friend of mine once told me that it’s best to know one DAW inside and out and master that first. Incidentally, the first DAW I learned was Cubase (at school).
I was then introduced to Pro-Tools and Ableton at University. All three were (and are) great software. Initially, as a musician, being on the instrument side felt a lot more natural than sitting at the mixing desk!
As a beginner, I would suggest you first explore Logic Pro X tutorials available for free on YouTube. Or alternatively, sites such as skillshare offer online classes taught by major figures in their respective fields.
There are also a number of Logic Pro X masterclasses I would highly recommend, accessible via the Apple website.
Logic Pro X has allowed me to express my creativity without getting bogged down with the technicalities. Overall, it’s a wonderful and reliable tool! Being able to self-produce (DIY) has definitely been central to finding my own signature sound.
I hope you enjoyed this review of Logic Pro X! Hopefully, now you feel better informed on how it compares to counterpart DAWs as a result…
Based on its capabilities, ease of use and cost, I would rate the software a solid 9/10.
So, in short, is Logic Pro X worth it? Absolutely!
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