Logic Pro X Tiptoes Out of Cupertino for a Quiet Launch

You'd expect more pageantry when one of the most sophisticated digital audio workstations on the planet emerges from hiding completely remade.

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You’d expect more pageantry when one of the most sophisticated digital audio workstations on the planet emerges from hiding completely remade. You know, Tim Cook, a public media event, some sort of pre-announcement, balloons, a clown car, a petting zoo, maybe something involving giant tents.

But instead of ballyhoo, Logic Pro X seems to have climbed out Apple’s bedroom window on the sly, like Harry Potter sneaking out of 4 Privet Drive and turning up somewhere no one expected. I first learned about the bolt-from-the-blue overhaul by SMS.

“Did you see that Logic X came out? …Looks pretty neat,” a local musician friend wrote in a text, having already pulled it down and started delving into its newfangled intricacies. I was elbows-deep in a post about the Nintendo Famicom’s 30th anniversary and juggling a sick (almost) one-year-old. I’d somehow missed the event I’d been waiting years for.

But here it is, Logic Pro X (“X” as in “ten” as in “the number of years many thought it’d be before Apple updated Logic Pro 9”). You’d also think the lack of publicity might mean Apple’s worried there’s not enough to hype here, but by all accounts, the opposite’s true.

“This is the same professional digital audio workstation software that we’ve used for years, only better,” says The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple (a guitarist, among other things), noting that while the interface has been streamlined, Apple’s done nothing to dumb the software down. “Logic Pro X still has all of the same professional-level features as its predecessor, but also adds some new high-end abilities.”

Macworld‘s Christopher Breen concurs, loving the new version enough to nearly give it full marks and reaffirming that Apple isn’t abandoning professional audio wonks: “While Logic Pro has indeed adopted some of the look of Final Cut Pro X — with its dark visage and panes that can be invoked or dismissed as the mood strikes — Apple’s digital audio workstation (DAW) has lost none of its power and gained valuable features on just about every front.”

I’ve just started fiddling with it, so it’ll be a bit before I’m ready to dive deep and talk about it, but fire it up on a Retina MacBook Pro and, well, gobsmacked wouldn’t be overreaching. It’s that dramatic a shift from Logic Pro 9 (even with 9’s Retina update): a gorgeous gunmetal-gray assemblage of elegant panels and smartly repositioned control bars. Apple’s added new tools, new instruments and effects as you’d expect (don’t worry, the old ones are still available as “legacy” downloads), but the three features Apple’s touting loudest are the new Drummer (a virtual session player you can live-tweak to create idiosyncratic, natural-sounding performances without having to fiddle every micro-complexity manually), Flex Pitch (lets you edit the pitch of recorded audio) and Logic remote (a way to control Logic Pro X from your iPad as long as you’re on the same network — think sitting in the middle of the room dynamically mixing without shifting to and from your workspace).

Other fiddly bits: Track Stacks, a way to combine and manipulate multiple tracks at once; a new Retro Synth that lets you “recreate the sound of classic vintage synthesizers”; a Bass Amp Designer that adds vintage and modern bass amps “with cabinets and microphones that can be configured to build a custom bass rig” and Smart Controls which conjure a kind of “most commonly used” sound design parameters for quicker tweaking. There’s a lot more I’m skipping for space’s sake, and you can get the full rundown from Apple here.

Gone is 32-bit plugin support, which falls in the “mileage may vary” column depending on what you use and vendor forward-looking. That said, vendors have had years to ready 64-bit plugins for Logic Pro 9, which made the leap years ago.

The total cost is $200 from the Mac App Store (download only), which sounds like a steal if, like me, you’ve been living with Logic since it cost $1,000. Apple’s also rolled out MainStage 3 (its live performance tool), separate from Logic, for $30 (it used to come bundled, along with other tools Apple’s since folded into the core package). Also, while the initial Logic download shows as just 650MB, be aware that all the instruments/samples/plugins/loops come down after the fact — you pick which ones, divided by instrument/style and tallying upwards of 36GB.