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Apple Logic Pro X 10.4 promises a beat breakthrough

The music-making software gets new beat detection tools, new reverbs and even two new AI drummers.

The new Step FX plugin in Logic Pro 10.4.

One of the first major Apple product updates of 2018 is for Logic Pro X, the long-lived music recording and production app. Jumping up to version 10.4, this version adds a generous helping of new features, new instruments and new recording and production capabilities.

Since the 2015 jump to Logic Pro X, this software suite has been an impressive all-in-one music production platform, offering many of the same features as the industry's other big music tool, Avid's ProTools, but also packing in a bunch of software plug-ins (synths, effects and so on) that other platforms make you buy separately.

In Logic 10.4, a new Smart Tempo feature lets you record directly into the app, via a guitar, keyboard or any other instrument, while Logic analyses the input and keeps track of the tempo as you go, following all the human-feeling variations in your playing. Without this, the best way to get your recorded parts to match up with prerecorded loops and samples was to record everything to a click track (an on-the-beat metronome-like guide), which could lead to a stiff, robotic feel.

Also new, a wider variety of loops and outside sound samples can now sync up with the tempo variations in your playing, again adding a more human feel to projects. Some audio loops (such as drumbeats, keyboard and guitar samples) have always done a good job of this, but they needed special beat-detecting metadata to accurately line up. Apple has its own line of such samples, called Apple Loops. I haven't had a chance to try the new beat-detecting yet, but being able to drop in old loops from anywhere and have them line up sounds like a very useful new feature.

Also new in Logic Pro X 10.4 are several plug-ins, a term used to describe either digital instruments or effects (such as compression or EQ) that can be added to recorded audio tracks. New additions include:

  • ChromaVerb: An algorithmic reverb plugin, with 14 different room types and a modernized UI.
  • Vintage EQ: Software versions of several classic hardware EQ boxes. Emulations of vintage gear is a big deal for digital music recording.
  • Phat FX: A plug-in that adds various kinds of analog warmth and depth to recordings.
  • Step FX: A step filter, which is an audio tool that adds rhythmic filters and effects to tracks.  
  • New Drummer profiles: One of the most powerful tools in Logic Pro X is Drummer, an AI drum-playing plug-in that mixes and matches drum kits, beat patterns and distinct dummer personalities to give you a realistic-feeling drum track. New in 10.4 are a pair of drummers who specialize in brush-style roots and jazz playing.

Logic Pro X 10.4 is available to download now. It's a free update for existing users, and the software package is $199 for new users (£149 in the UK and $249 in Australia). Many of the best features for Logic Pro X also eventually filter down to Apple's free GarageBand app, including Drummer and the powerful Alchemy synth. 

For a previous hands-on review, I used Drummer and Alchemy in GarageBand to record this quick demo song: