Logic Studio 8

My review of Apple’s Logic Studio (including Logic Pro 8) is now live at Macworld.com (it’ll also be in the January 2008 print issue).

Summary:

Pros: Single-window view speeds editing and setup; MainStage program ideal for playing instruments and effects live; powerful, easy-to-access editing and take management tools; bundles Soundtrack Pro but halves the price; no more dongle; can sync with others via .Mac or Bonjour.

Cons: Some MIDI features are still obscure; MainStage doesn’t integrate with Logic or ReWire.

Or, to put it more simply: take away a dongle, slash the price, and make Logic easier to use, and you’ve got a winner.

Logic Studio: All-in-one music creation package is easier to use, more playable

I do hope competitors are taking a notice of what the Logic team at Apple has done with the interface. Logic 8′s ease of use wasn’t about reducing functionality — even the modular Environment is still there, and a lot of people still find it useful. Nor is it an aesthetic-only “reskinning.” Bringing everything into a single edit window and simplifying track creation and preset management really does make existing tools more useful. There have been attempts to that in the other DAWs, but this to me is the most successful, at least among traditional programs in this category. (Ableton Live is different enough that it’s almost an unfair comparison, but it also demonstrates why bringing editing into a single window can boost efficiency.)

It’s a really strong release, but readers of this site may be equally interested in what I felt like were the weak points in Logic 8. MainStage to me is much less useful as a performance tool because of its inability to integrate directly with Logic itself or other programs (Ableton Live, Reason) via ReWire. Maybe you don’t need a complex performance setup, but I suspect even beginning users may still want basic Logic backing tracks. It’ll be interesting to see if this gets addressed in a future version. In the meantime, there’s still a big window of opportunity for creating live performance setups in Ableton Live (further facilitated by Live’s new drum racks and time signature support), or instrument/effects racks in KORE 2, both of which we hope to get our hands on here soon.

And the other shortcoming for me has to be the fact that MIDI editing in Logic 8 still feels like MIDI editing in Logic 5. Basic tasks like quantizing a track or adding an arpeggiator just aren’t as easy in Logic as in some of its competitors. Contrast the rich MIDI editing tools that were further enhanced in SONAR 7. Cakewalk wants to talk about audio mastering and 64-bit, but what we heard from readers here was that good old bread-and-butter MIDI actually got you more excited, because it’s what you use day in and day out. On the other hand, SONAR’s interface looks even more cluttered next to the elegant new single-edit window in Logic, to say nothing of the fact that a lot of people are happy with Ableton Live as a DAW. But that couldn’t make me any happier: the race is on.

The big picture: I think the great days of music creation software are back. Competition is thick, you’ve got real choice in platform (Windows, Mac, and yes, even Linux via Ardour), and software is focusing on how you work creatively as a musician rather than a me-too feature contest.

Now that the review is up, I look forward to hearing what you think of my take. Software this deep really is a subjective thing, and there’s no space to cover the endless technical details. So sound off.

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    I think the update to 8 was a pretty good one. It seems pretty stable, I like the new look and the single window is great. That said, I do have a few issues:

    - Playback and recording are multi-core, yet bouncing isn't. What gives?

    - Some basic (non-custom) shortcuts were changed, which threw me off at first. For example, control dragging in the arrange window brings up a sub-menu instead of MIDI tick dragging.

    - If you're auditioning audio files in the loop browser or file bin, the output 1-2 can switch to surround without notice. This can really be a pain in the ass: If you have a few waves plugins on the stereo out 1-2, they simply disappear. The only way to get them back is to find the track where your previewed audio file was playing and switch it from surround back to stereo.

    - By far the biggest problem I've had is with legacy: I've been told Logic 8 opens files back to Logic 5. I can't even open some Logic 6 files…LP8 tells you to reinstall 7 to open them! That means, re-installing 7, opening hundreds of sequences and saving them as version 7 files just so I can open them in 8. This is unacceptable and inconsistent to me. I hope they update Logic and fix this issue ASAP.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Flip, don't have Logic in front of me, but can't you change that control-drag behavior? I know some of it is locked down…

    I haven't been on Logic that long, so I wasn't able to test the backwards compatibility issue there. That is unfortunate, yeah, especially as I know there are a significant number of PC users still on Logic 5 who might take this version as an opportunity to upgrade (and, good for Apple, switch to the Mac).

    PS, anyone with technical issues, I'm happy to forward anything that's especially significant over to the product team at Apple. This seems to be a very stable "point-oh" release from Apple, especially after the various updates in the 7.x cycle, but I expect we will see fixes to some things where they're able.

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    Hey Peter.

    Yeah, within LP8, you can have a variety of drag behavior types (smart, bar, tick, etc)…which you can select in the arrange window from a drop down menu for "snap" on the upper right hand side. I haven't tried to bypass the control clicking menu yet. I only modified a few basic keyboard shortcuts to regain my editing speed. There's nothing like having a fast ad agency deadline and finding out your shortcuts aren't working!

    Speaking of editing, LP's 2-track editing seems to be the focus of many complaints from most pro users I know. Most wish LP8 had a 2-track editor similar to Bias Peak. I find Peak's editor much more intuitive than LP8.

    Another glitch: Sometimes if you have a track selected in the arrange window, then pull up the "piano roll" to edit MIDI, you can't pull up velocity information. The only way I've gotten around this is to actually deselect the track in the arrange window. Oh, and I liked the name "matrix edit" better than "piano roll". :)

    I am glad 8 is more stable than 7. When I upgraded from 6 to 7 after Apple took the app from Emagic, it was a nightmare. I actually went back to 6 for another 8 months until it was more stable.

    Btw, feel free to send anything I've posted to the Apple Logic dev team.

  • http://www.glacialcommunications.com glacial23

    I think where you mentioned Arduino there, you meant Ardour. Both are cool musical tools, though ;-)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes. While not impossible, let's say it would be extremely difficult to turn Arduino into a useful DAW. ;) Fixed.

    @flip: What specifically about the 2-track editor are people complaining about? The integrated editing to me clearly is *not* Peak (or Sound Forge, or Audition, etc.) But it is an integrated tool. I wonder what people are looking for?

    I like Piano Roll better than Matrix Edit, which is how you know I'm not a long-time Logic user. ;) I haven't seen that bug, though; I'll try to reproduce it.

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    Peter, unfortunately the velocity info glitch is hit or miss. I wish it was easier to peg down…then it would be easy for them to fix.

    As far as the 2-track stuff: Simple things like when you press the space bar in the editor it plays the selected audio, but doesn't pause the playback in the arrange window. Sometimes it seems like the two are fighting to play over each other. It would be much better if when you started playing audio in the editing window it pauses the playback in the arrange window. Or, something as simple as being able to select just one side of a stereo signal. In Peak you can really do some amazing tricks involving reversing or effecting notes on just one channel….like a crash cymbal forward on the left and equally reversed on the right.

    I just just remembered another glitch: If you're using Apple's ducker plugin for a voiceover, once you pause playback it loops about 20-40 milliseconds of the audio where you paused. Sounds like nasty scrubbing! The only way I've gotten around it is to pause where there is no audio or bypass the plugin.

  • http://www.simonsound.co.uk simon

    I just got Logic Pro on Friday and have been blown away by the sound design capabilities of the included soft synths and effects.

    My main problem is actually with Soundtrack pro. I do a lot of post production work for radio and Tv and was looking forward to switching from Pro Tools (fed up with Digidesigns unfair upgrade policy and access to software downloads).

    I assumed that the side chaining from Logic would be the same in Soundtrack pro and that I'd be able to use the ducking plugin to control the levels of music beds underneath voiceovers. Annoyingly this isn't the case. I'm confused as to why software aimed at post production doesn't have side chain functionality.

    I'm hoping sidechaining will be added to soundtrack pro in a future update (please pass on my request Peter!)

    Simon

  • Simon

    I'm that guy that Apple was after in dropping the price: the price cut and more attractive feature set convinced me to switch from Cubase 4 on PC (after about 8 years or so) and to buy a new MBP.

    I've only just started coming up the curve, but I love the tight integration of all the included bits and pieces, particularly the library features. And the built in plugs feel like a big step up from Steinberg's to me.

    Mainstage is interesting, but as a Komplete + Kore user it's not exactly compelling (except as a way to access Logic's built in plugs).

  • Zach

    I got my my Logic Studio over the weekend and am thrilled. This was a huge upgrade from Express 7. I love the new Logic (the interface is a HUGE improvement) and all the goodies included. I've been having an issue with MainStage, though. I find it not usable due to a bug(?) in which the CPU occasionally spikes and the sound cuts out. Not only that but it forgets the MIDI signal, so if I'm holding a note during the spike the program forgets it. I'm using it on a 2.0GHz Core Duo MacBook with 2GB of RAM. An Apple knowledge base article recommended changing the sample rate, but I only have one choice (44.1). Has any one had this issue? Can my computer just not handle MainStage? It handles Logic like a pro, btw.

  • noise

    Logic 8 seems to have Great features and some stunning Plug-Ins, but IMHO it is totally let down by the basics of Audio editing.

    Its 'easy' approach to using apple Loops and MP3's in the arrangement sees brilliant until you realise that the editing available to them is rudimentary at best and that the process to convert them to 'WAV / AIF to make them more editable is so absurdly longwinded and counter productive that any time gains in using its 'Features' is immediately lost in trying to find work around for the things one actually does all day.

    Summing up… the Bells and Whistles are loverly , the basic groundwork is still like a sequencer DAW form 4 years ago.

    What a pity.

  • noise

    Oh and as to its Midi editing…

    OMFG it really IS about 5 years behind its competition.

    PLEASE STEVE… KICK IT INTO 2007

    Again its 'bells and whistles' and Look is very cool, but just behind that surface is a midi seq from 1995

  • Gustavo

    Not to be a Logic "apologist", as there are several things about it I find frustrating, but non-destructive quantization is something that's been in there since version 4 or thereabouts. The per-track quantize controls are non-destructive. Also, adding an arppeggiator to the environment, while far from obvious, is really not rocket science.

    Being an expert user of most sequencers out there (Live, Reason, PT, MOTU, Sonar, Tracktion, and Cubase) I can say the editing in Logic really hasn't changed much since 2000 or so (Logic 5.5 when new automation came into being) because it already has most of the features that competing DAWs and sequencers are now making common.

    But yes – it really is harder than it needs to be. :)

    The great thing about Logic, which I always found inspirational and productive – is how customizable it is. It's like the "unix" of sequencers.

    However, just like in your favorite *nix, if you delve deeper into it, you can achieve a lot.

    Plus, the factory plug ins always have sounded amazing.

    What I'm bummed about is that over the years I sank about $3k into my copy of Logic, TDM bridge, instruments, etc. Now it's $500. Can I get a free upgrade at least? ;)

  • Simon

    I have to agree with noise on the subject of editing apple loops. There are some great loops in the library but obviously we all want to tweak them a little to give them our own stamp. Should be easy right? Wrong. You can't perform simple tasks like reversing without first creating a copy of the file. But so far I haven't been able to work out how to create a copy that keeps the projects tempo. I end up with a file at the original apple loop tempo. My work around has been to record the loop to another audio channel using bus INS and outs. It is a bit long winded to be honest.

    I' m also a bit dissapointed that its not really true one window editing as seen in pro tools. Maybe there is a reason for this??

  • http://13rian.com 13rian

    so riddle me this, batmen & women -

    in version 8 can you open 2 tracks piano roll/matrix editors simultaneously? this is one thing i have hated about logic on a daily basis for the past 4 years as a user. i want to look at them both and edit them both. fingers crossed….

    - 13

  • Klyph

    LP8 is a big boost. Much more intuitive layout and indeed faster in several ways. (I've been using the product since the Notator days and every release gets it closer to useable!) This is the first release that I've unreservedly recommended. MainStage IS a huge plus as I've been using Logic in performance but you've confirmed my fears that there is indeed no way to integrate it with Logic -that it's a shell for the soft synths only. Pity, especially taking into account how most people use these resources. I'll be willing to bet that most people who show up to a gig with a laptop don't just want to play a piano and string sample with maybe some organ thrown in, hence the popularity of Live. I use a wind controller and make use of chord memorizers, arpeggiators and multi split configurations as well as "touch tracks" sequence calling. If only I could get my hands on those through an interface like MainStage…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Non-destructive quantize is there, yes, but it doesn't match up with some of the more interactive, groove-based quantization out there. And there is always room for improvement; SONAR just did a lovely feature that lets you adjust quantization graphically in the editor in a way I hadn't seen before. FL Studio has some rich tools, too, for which it doesn't get nearly enough credit. (Ironic that it's seen as toylike, as it has some more sophisticated tools than many of the "pro" apps.)

    Basic quantize works, but looking at things like the Transform dialog, I think other programs have found ways of adding just as much control in a more efficient way.

    Mind you, these are niggling complaints — I think most of the editing is quite good. And the take stuff is fantastic — and can be used for MIDI too.

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    @13rian:

    In the "main" window, if you have the piano roll active you'll be able to select any MIDI object in the arrange and manipulate it's info. However, it will all be summed into one editing window.

    If you activate the jelly roll (just kidding)…If you select a MIDI object in the arrange window and hit command 6, the cinnamon bun will pop up in a new window. You can eat as many of these as you want.

    Peter…I want "matrix edit" back! hahaha.

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    If there's one thing that would be really cool to develop: The humanizing within transform. Right now, aside from the high and low brick walls, it's pretty random in between. Imagine if it knew to behave like a pianist or a drummer. If I have no MIDI device on a job (like composing on a cross country flight on a MacBook Pro) I have to program note by note and humanize by hand. Like this:

    http://www.johnnyrandom.com/qtp_recentdemos/gator

    None of that was played live, but to make it sound live took longer than programming in the actual notes. Or Jet Blue can start installing MIDI instruments on the back of the seats…one can wish.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Totally. More humanization.

    But like I said, I've actually seen better implementations in FL and SONAR, something I hope to look at. (I have other complaints about those programs, but then that's why this is fun … you get collective evolution and competition!)

  • c64

    Just a note that in Logic Pro 8.0 at this point has a serious bug when using comps. One will crash Logic real hard. If you record your comps in a cycle mode, let's say 4 takes. Stop the recording and click on the left top arrow to unfold the takes. Now if you start recording back into the comp in the unfolded mode Logic will crash after two or more cycles. I reported it a while ago to Apple.

    Another one to look out for is that when you have your takes and comp them using the Quick Swipe method. Flatten them before saving and closing Logic! If you don't the next time you open the song the takes are way off.. sometimes even 9 bars!

    Just FYI ;)

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    @c64:

    I've done that up to 36-40 takes and haven't had that problem. That really sucks though. Have you re-installed, repaired permissions, sbin/fsck -f, zapped pram, reset nv-ram, reset-all, etc.? Was it a clean install? Which operating system?

  • c64

    @flip:

    Clean install on different machines. Tested on MacBook Pro, Mac Mini both 2 gigs of mem running 10.4.10. Also tested recording to a firewire disk. Permission repair did not help.

    This crash is confirmed by many users unfortunatly. It only happens in cycle mode when you can see the takes drawn into an exsisting take. It does not happen when you leave the comp/folder collapsed and record back into it. It ussually happens after 2 cycles. The first take will nicely draw the wave form and when the second one comes in it will stop putting data into the comp and at the end of the cycle it will crash.

    Glad to hear that in your case it is an exception. Weird though because it is an confirmed bug.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

    Cheers..

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    @c64

    Wow, it's a confirmed one? I guess I am lucky. Apple just had a software update yesterday (even for Tiger)…did that help?

  • c64

    @flip

    Updated to 10.4.11 still crashing :/

  • http://www.daveahl.com dave ahl

    has anyone used the "pitch corrector" plugin? does it work well?

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    @dave ahl:

    Ever since I've gotten Melodyne as a AU plug, nothing has come close. I haven't used Logic's pitch correction since Logic 7, but maybe I'll give it a spin again.

  • commentator

    Regarding Mainstage being without direct routing to Logic/rewire..seems like a missing feature. I saw logic studio demo'ed and this issue came up- the rep (who was also responsible for most of the hands on updating of the package) had this response:.."uh, it's for LIVE performance." No shit. He eventually recommended using soundflower.

    sidechaining in ultrabeat and the multitake comp recording thing do kik some ass though.

  • Possible User

    Hi Guys,

    I am looking to get into this big wide world of music creation… Have been checking out the IBM Compats and Apple offers and was pretty impressed with the Logic Studio 8 in the store.

    Curious to know what you guys think is the best all round package out there or is this it?

    Thank for helping out a newbie

  • MonksDream

    @Possible,

    There is no "best all around package". Anyone here will tell you that it depends greatly on what you want your music package to do and how you want to work. The needs of a jazz composer, nightclub DJ, or rock band are different. While there is a lot of overlap in function, different packages meet those various needs in various ways. And some of the ways the some packages meet those needs will suit you better than others.

    As far as Apple vs. PC goes, just asking the question is inviting a flame war but I'll stick my neck out and say that most musicians seem to favor the Mac for stability and the PC for economy. Neither is inherently better, and excellent packages exist for both. I find the Mac more pleasant and it stands in my way less.

    As for packages I suggest you try out a few. If you're just getting into music creation you will likely be buying things like a sound card/interface, an effects box, or a keyboard. A lot of gear comes with trial or "lite" versions of popular software. It's a good way to see if a piece of software fits you. You can also often download trial versions from the company websites.

    There is also a lot of freeware and shareware that may meet your needs A good place to start is http://www.kvraudio.com.

    If you buy a Mac you get Garageband, which is a surprisingly capable music workstation. I used to use Sonar and Ableton Live on the PC for many years. I now use Logic 8 Express and Live on the Mac.

    If you tell us some more about what you want to do we may be able to give you some useful information. Spend some time reading this site. You get the straight dope here. Good luck finding the system that suits you!

  • Thanasis

    Hello guys!

    Being a Sonar user from the pro audio 7 days, the last years I am really fed up with various PC issues and I am looking for a more functional, steady and streamlined workspace and thinking to switch to a Mac pro with Logic 8.

    Since I notice some Sonar/Logic users here I would like to ask your help on the following matters:

    1) I have a huge Acid loops library. Has someone used any reliable Acid to Apple loops batch converter? How is working with loops in Logic?

    2) Do you think the transition from Sonar to Logic will be easy? I've never used any other sequencer before…

    Thanks for your time and help!

  • Guas

    Like Possible, I'm looking to get into the audio engineering world. I have been using Garageband for about 5 years. Logic Studio looked pretty good in the store.

    I will mostly use it for recording rock bands. I dabble in synths and electronica, and some MIDI. A lot of my friends have been getting into Pro Tools and buying up Digidesign hardware…

    What do you think would be the right software for me? Still Logic Studio?

  • MonksDream

    If you're comfortable with Garageband I think Logic would fit well. Plus it will import your Garageband projects. ProTools won't, as far as I know.

    You can start with Logic Express for $199 and see how well it works for you. Then, if you like it and feel you need the extra features and instruments, you can upgrade to Logic Studio for just $300; the difference in cost between it and Express. However, if you're used to recording in Garageband you likely won't feel limited by Logic Express.

    I find the whole PT thing to be stupid expensive to get into and maintain. However the cost may be worth it if you need to share projects and data with other ProTools users.

    Anyone else got any thoughts on this?

  • Guas

    alright that helped a ton. one more question…

    any advice on a good cheap Firewire Audio Interface for Logic?

  • MonksDream

    My audio interface is USB so I'm the wrong person to ask. However you can find good info by looking around on this site,

    and also here: http://reviews.harmony-central.com/reviews/Comput

    and here :http://tweakheadz.com/

    Good luck!

  • Guas

    alright thanks a lot!

  • Humberto

    Logic 8 is a disgrace to the DAW world. Logic has taken out so many professional features, that it has striped the application of much needed features that all previous version of logic had.

    A complete change of peoples work flow, understand some people have been using this app for over 10 years, and logic changed there workflow is now forcing them work in a different way. Not good

    There is no more MIDI CLOCK ( this renders many hardware synths useless with working with logic)

    No more audio configuration window

    No More split stereo files for compatibility with pro tools files.

    Also, L8 is not multithread on PPC ….. only multithread on Intel, of course, apple wants you to buy a new computer.

    Logic 8 really is a downgrade of a once professional application. Apple has destroyed logic, ever since it bought logic, they killed VST support and fragmented audio plugins in favor or THEIR format. We couldn't even have the option to even have it running there.

    Alot of pros are starting to dump logic for pro tools, logic 8 can not even consider to be an industry standard. Its more of a garage band pro then an actual logic update.

    humberto

  • Guas

    Haha a little heated arent we? well… i do have an intel mac so i guess its not going to matter to me. And I never have, probably never will touch protools because you can only use specific hardware. I dont really use synth hardware, just a MIDI controller from M-Audio. Is there any other reason i shouldnt get logic?

  • commentator

    anyone having success with volume automation in soundtrack? I'm finding it's playback to be totally inaccurate- maybe it renders out correctly but so far it's unusable from a listening standpoint- dropouts on fades, slow reactions to fades, etc.

    anyone? perhaps a setting?

  • http://www.patrickwilsonmusic.com/logic8.html Patrick Wilson

    I empathise with Humberto. Logic 8 is very frustrating. Some good steps forward and a lot back too. I could list the problems and bugs (see http://www.patrickwilsonmusic.com/logic8.html) . I bought an Intel mac to run Logic 8 and am probably going back to G5 with Logic 7 and ProTools for serious work. They released it too soon IMHO. Not enough co-operation with pro users and too much advice from young geeky know-it-alls who only write music in 4/4 with no tempo changes or complex arrangements and who don't need to access old songs or recordings.