By Peter Kirn Macworld.com | on August 27, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 345 . 139
Pros: Flex Time and editing improvements make manipulating recorded audio more satisfying; MainStage 2 is a more complete live performance solution; lots of amp and effects goodies; many subtle usability tweaks.
Cons: MainStage's looper can't set a tempo from a first loop; Some tasks require switching between Flex Time Markers and Transient Markers; MIDI editing and some add-ons due for a refresh.
Logic Pro and MainStage have gotten the bulk of the updates, but they're not alone. Soundtrack Pro 3 has two new killer features. For podcasters and vocal work, it can automatically match vocal levels of one clip to another clip, a huge production time saver. Apple also now lets you do editing in the Frequency view, making it easier to edit audio by frequency and not just time. Apple's bundled Compressor is still fairly video-centric, and it'd be nice to see more audio profiles than exist currently, but if you are working with video or are doing batch processing, Compressor output workflow access in Soundtrack Pro is also useful.
Also, Apple should be commended for not taking anything out. If there's an arcane effect you love, if you've been programming the interactive Environment for years, if you tweak MIDI in the HyperEditor, or if you use WaveBurner for making CDs, everything is still there. These features aren't the focus of this upgrade, but they aren't ignored, either. The Score Editor in this version adds a library of guitar frames. Keyboard shortcuts have been improved and expanded, and a visual highlight shows which pane is focused for keyboard input. Menus have been reorganized in logical ways, without disrupting the design for existing users. You can import settings between sessions more easily, and import tracks intelligently, selecting parameters.
MIDI and the non-guitar Logic instruments and effects definitely get less attention this round. Some of Logic's add-ons haven't seen an update since Logic was an Emagic product, and it'd be nice to see more in this category. Long-time users who spend more time with MIDI and virtual instruments may be hungry for the kind of refresh that audio editing has gotten in Logic 9, to better align these areas of the tool with Logic's evolving design approach. That doesn't diminish the ongoing value of Logic Studio's breadth, however, and there's more than enough new in the version to keep you busy. Apple's approach appears to be focusing intently on specific areas of the tool with each release, which with such an expansive suite is a laudable approach.
The new version of Logic Studio is a great value, but paradoxically Apple puts so much in the bundle that it's almost impossible for every piece to fit everyone--especially when considering picky musicians and audio producers. What will likely convince users that it's a good choice isn't its breadth, but its depth, and that's where Logic 9 is a marked improvement.
For existing users, the choice is easy: Logic Pro 9 should not be missed. If you work with audio at all, you'll value not only Flex Time but more flexible audio editing all around. For prospective users, two features stand out. One is its new set of audio editing tools, which make managing takes and manipulating the innards of audio recordings exceptionally easy. The other is the steadily improving live performance features of MainStage 2.
Logic remains a deep tool, and while it's still fully compatible with GarageBand '09 files, some entry-level users may find it overkill. But if you're willing to invest the time to take advantage of its heavily configurable tools, you can benefit from one of the most mature, production-friendly digital tools around.