Logic Express and its more powerful relative Logic Studio share a past typical of many software products that have been around for a while. They started life designed by a different company, on a different computer platform (the Atari ST) with a different name.
Since Apple bought them eight years ago, there’s been much consolidation and the various associated Logic products and modules have been combined, re-tooled and re-designed with varying degrees of success. Logic 9 is the culmination of that work, and Logic Express 9 is the consumer edition, which we’ll be reviewing here.
For anyone who’s got into GarageBand, the free music program that ships with modern Macs, Logic Express 9 is both a next step and a revelation, delivering many improvements like proper mixing, clever audio editing features, more instruments and loops and a selection of amp, speaker and pedal simulations that electric guitar players will love. Just as important, it’ll also open and edit GarageBand songs.
Throw in score writing, the ability to record audio and MIDI tracks, then apply effects and mix the results down to CD and the result is a home recording studio to suit singer-songwriters, bands, dance music enthusiasts and – by adding a Jam Pack of suitable samples – even ‘proper’ composers. Pros, of course, should look to Logic Studio at £399, which adds thousands more loops, many more instruments, studio-quality reverb and delay, surround-sound mixing for movie scores and – courtesy of Mainstage 2 – works well live at gigs.
Express 9 adds a collection of new audio features, the best of which allow you to speed up and slow down an audio track without altering the pitch so you can play difficult passages at a slower speed and then bring the song back up to tempo afterwards. Editing of individual audio ‘notes’ has also been improved so that, for example, you can re-arrange the phrasing of a vocal by dragging individual words left or right along the track with the mouse; it’s a lot less finicky than all that cutting, slicing and pasting.
Then there are all those goodies for guitarists: 25 amplifiers and 25 speakers and three mics (which can be dragged around the front of the speaker cabinet with the mouse until you find the sweet spot) presented in gloriously virtual detail complete with rockers to switch and knobs to twiddle. The results are superbly realistic and range from gentle reverb and tremelo to stack-high screaming heavy metal.
If that’s not enough, there’s also the Pedalboard which includes 30 different guitar effects that can be combined in various ways to produce a wide range of pleasing (and not so pleasing) effects: don’t try the Roswell Ringer with the Monster Fuzz, Double Dragon and wah-wah pedal if you still value your ears.
Although refined in recent years, Logic’s interface is still dense, with buttons, tabs and drop-downs all over the place, and while the Exploring Logic Express manual that’s included goes some of the way towards cracking the code, there’s no doubt that you’ll need to spend time familiarising yourself with the ways things work.
But the rewards are there for anyone who’s up for it: as many audio and MIDI tracks as you need, thousands of loops, dozens of high quality instruments and effects, a proper mixing desk, score writing (which now does chord charts too) as well as all those amp, speaker and pedal effects. It’s open-ended, too, with thousands more loops available in Apple Jam Packs and the ability to run Propellerhead’s Reason as a massive instrument/effects plug-in.
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