RECORDING SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE manufacturers have been courting guitarists for some time, and many have been savvy enough to turn our fickle little heads with uncomplicated features that embrace how guitar players like to work. Today, even technophobes who shudder and wail while negotiating the LCD menu of a Keurig coffee maker can find a DAW that offers butt-simple recording functions, onboard amp and effects models, and perhaps an optional footcontroller that makes tracking all by your lonesome self as easy as stomping down on a Tube Screamer.
Apple’s Logic Pro 9 isn’t as easy as kicking on an overdrive pedal, but it’s not as hard as repairing a duff reflector panel on the Space Shuttle, either. The brilliance of this DAW is that it delivers tons of high-end pro-studio features, but allows anyone who has mastered Apple’s elegantly effortless GarageBand software—meaning your grandmother, your 12-year-old kid sister, and probably even your loveable but skittish Chihuahua/ Schnauzer mutt—to jump into a familiar environment, start rocking, and then explore more powerful applications as your knowledge, ambition, and recording demands increase.
While some guitarists might balk at coughing up $499 for software, they need to keep in mind that the Logic Pro 9 package—marketed as “Logic Studio”— includes five complete programs (Pro 9 for recording, Mainstage 2 for live performance, Soundtrack Pro 3 for audio/video editing, Waveburner 1.6 for mastering, and Compressor 3.5 for content delivery), more than 20,000 loops from Apple’s Jam Packs, 80 effects plug-ins, around 1,700 samples, and 40 virtual instruments. That’s kind of like laying down less than 500 big ones for an amp store, an orchestra, a recording studio, an audio-post facility, a mastering room, and a trunk full of stompboxes and signal processors. It should be painfully apparent by now that Logic Studio can do almost everything for your music but guarantee a smash hit and a life of debauched luxury. Our sister publication, Keyboard, did an excellent review of the entire software suite, and you can find it via the handy “More Online” dashboard. As guitarists like to cut to the chase—unless they’re taking a brutally long solo—I’m going to concentrate on Logic’s 6-string-oriented features.
In addition to the collaborative grooviness of being able to open GarageBand projects, one of Logic Pro 9’s cool new features that should make guitarists smile is Flex Time— a collection of time-control tools that includes a badass Varispeed function. You can choose Speed Only mode, which lets you slow down playback without pitch being affected (if you need a little help laying down a blazing-fast solo, or want to increase/decrease the tempo of an entire track), or Speed and Pitch mode, which acts like an old reel-to-reel Varispeed (if you dig those wacky ’60s, pitch-manipulated performances). Even better, all the Flex Time features are easy to use, and audio quality is excellent with no noticeable artifacts.
AMP DESIGNER & PEDALBOARD
Quite obviously, the hippest Logic components for guitarists are the Amp Designer and Pedalboard plug-ins. Graphically, you’re pretty much in cartoon territory, but the renderings are very cool. While Logic implies certain classic amps with obvious visual clues, all of the controls are the same for each amp. So you won’t get the precise tweakage options of, say, a non-master-volume Marshall, because every amp offers Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble, Reverb Level, Tremolo Depth and Speed, Presence, and Master. This didn’t bother me, because the advantage is that the control knobs remain in the same positions when you switch amps, so you can dial in your desired tone, and then critically audition the tonal variations of each amp model with identical settings. As with many amp modelers, you can mix-and-match heads and cabinets.
You also get three mic types (dynamic, condenser, and ribbon), and the ability to change mic positions. I found the mic models to be basically accurate—meaning that the dynamic offered a nice midrange emphasis, the condenser delivered airy highs, and the ribbon captured a relatively warm and transparent perspective. You can only shift mic positions from the center to the edge of the cone, and from dead-on to a few inches back. Being a mic freak, I missed the ability to get true off-axis placement and more ambient room tones (by moving the mic a few feet back, rather than mere inches). Still, the sonic options between amp controls, cabinets, mics, and mic placement are bountiful, and throughout several sessions over the course of a few months, I was always able to dial in great tones.
The amp models are excellent in that they can deliver roar, sheen, shimmer, kerrang, saturation, jangle, impending death, and whatever other sounds you desire. All models translated performance dynamics precisely. Is the Marshall or Vox or Orange or Fender or Hiwatt absolutely accurate? Well, I’m not going to go there, because I didn’t A/B Logic’s models to the real things, and I wouldn’t care anyway. The quality and texture and vibe of each amp model are certainly close enough to cop whatever mood or texture you wish to convey.
Pedalboard lets you arrange stompboxes in any order, and, here, the control knobs are different, depending on the pedal you select. There’s also a zany “Complete Pedalboards” menu that serves up Logic’s interpretation of pedal paths for Dub Reggae, Grunge, Jazz Fusion, Funkadelia, and so on. I typically like to choose my own effects chain, but I must admit it was giddy fun calling up, say, the Cool Jazz pedalboard, and then seeing whether I could use it to devise some punkrock sounds. There are a lot of options in the 30 available pedals, and every one of them delivered something so cool that I only reached into my own bag of tricks on just two occasions when I wanted a Mick Ronson wah sound and a more realistic tape delay
Absolutely. First, the Amp Designer and Pedalboard sounds are fabulous. They’re ballsy and vibey and devoid of artifacts and other digital-audio gremlins. None of the tones appeared unnatural, antiseptic, or unusable, and I could capture sounds that ruled very quickly. Second, Logic’s basic recording functions are totally novice friendly, and the feature set is so heavy and comprehensive that many guitarists will never outgrow the program. Like, ever. Add in all the other goodies—such as massive samples, tons of plug-ins, notation (with 4,000 chord grids), Mainstage 2 for virtual-instrument gigging, etc.—and you have a gargantuan music-production and tone-generating monster that earns itself an Editors’ Pick Award.
CONTACT Apple, apple.com/logicstudio
LOGIC PRO 9
PRICE $499 retail; $199 upgrade from previous versions of Logic Pro/Studio; $299 upgrade from Logic Express
MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS Mac with Intel Core processor, 1GB RAM, OS 10.5.7, 1280x800 display resolution, QuickTime 7.6, DVD drive (for installation), USB or FireWire audio interface.
TEST MACHINE 17-inch MacBook Pro, 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo processor running OS 10.5.7
AMP DESIGNER MODELS 25 amps, 25 cabinets
PEDAL BOARD MODELS 30
KUDOS Incredible versatility. Superb amp and stompbox models. Basic operations are simple and intuitive.
CONCERNS Completely clean install requires 47GB and can take hours. (Our buddies at Keyboard recommend putting most of the goodies on an external hard drive.)
SUPER SIDEKICK: APOGEE GIO
Logic 9 and GarageBand ’09 are compatible with the guitarist-friendly USB interface/footcontroller called GiO ($395 street). Once installed—an easy task—you can control the recording transport, turn up to five effects on and off, and scroll through effects presets. The unit’s stark surface looks modern and sophisticated, and it’s built tough enough to survive reasonable gig abuse. (I dropped it on a couple of wood stages and saw it crunched between a 4x12 cabinet and a drum riser and it never failed.) The transport buttons and color-coded effects on/off switches are quite studly, and all are easy to depress with boots. However, the rubber triangle preset buttons didn’t always work when stepped on in the heat of performance—you need to hit ’em just right.
Sonically, you get everything you’d expect from Apogee—meaning sterling sound quality and almost imperceptible latency. Whether listening through M-Audio BX5 powered desktop monitors or Monster Turbine Pro earbuds, absolutely nothing got in the way of my guitar playing, or the dynamic feel of my performance gestures. You do have to run sound through the GiO, so if your monitor speakers are hooked to your computer, you’ll need to connect them to GiO (cables are supplied, but you may need adapters for the RCA jacks). And kudos to Apogee for including a 15-foot USB cable that makes it easy to connect the “grounded” GiO to a desk-perched laptop!
It was a joy to work Logic using GiO, as well as to perform onstage with the controller, a Mac- Book Pro, one guitar, and two cables—which all fit into a large gig bag. I simply plugged GiO’s 1/4" output to a direct box, and ran my pre-programmed guitar sounds through the house speakers and stage monitors. Set up and breakdown was fast and easy (I think I was home before the soundperson had line-checked the headliner), and the stage sound was as ferociously ballsy and articulate as when I record virtual guitar parts at home. Although GiO is on the expensive side, it should rapidly become such an essential partner for your recording and live-performance gigs that those dollars will soon seem like pennies. apogeedigital.com