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Apple revamps Logic Studio audio suite

Company's new suite of professional audio apps comes with major reworks of Logic Pro, MainStage, and Soundtrack Pro.

Apple released on Thursday the next major version of Logic Studio, the company's suite of professional audio applications.

I was given early access to the new version and have been using it for some time now. I can say the new features will not only improve your workflow, but will also improve the sound of your music.

Logic Studio consists of three main applications: Logic Pro 9, MainStage 2, and Soundtrack Pro 3. As part of the bundle you also get 80 Studio Effects plug-ins, 40 software instrument plug-ins, more than 1,700 sampled instruments, and over 20,000 Apple Loops.

I've been a guitar player for the better part of 20 years and a Logic Pro user for the last five. While I've enjoyed using Logic Pro, there are some features that have been on my wish list for some time. They're here now.

Amp Designer, Pedalboard
Logic Pro included its own guitar amp modeling software for some time. Guitar Amp Pro was an adequate piece of software, but it lacked a lot of the tone that I typically look for in my tracks.

Guitar tone is a very subjective thing. What sounds great to one person may sound weak to another. It's critically important to have the ability to adjust the guitar tone and make tiny changes to the amp parameters until you're satisfied.

Amp Designer, Apple's new amp modeling software, fulfills these requirements. Apple obviously spent a lot of time on the design of Amp Designer. While that doesn't help with the sound, it certainly does help with the familiarity with the software. If the software looks and acts like an amp, you're more apt to approach it like you would a real amp.

I'm not saying that design makes for great sound, but it does affect the way you approach using the software.

When it comes to sound, the new amp models are very impressive. Apple doesn't use the actual names of the amps, but you can easily guess at what the amps are by looking at them.

Amp Designer comes with 25 amps, 25 cabinets, and three mics. The mics, amps, and cabs can be mixed and matched to achieve virtually any kind of sound you want.

Pedalboard is a virtual stompbox that goes hand-in-hand with Amp Designer, giving you more options and ways to shape the sound of your guitar tone. Again, Apple spent a lot of time on the design of Pedalboard, but it's the sound that makes the software standout.

Pedalboard includes 30 stompboxes in all and includes Overdrive, Distortion, Fuzz, Delay, Chorus, Flange, Phaser, Tremolo, Treble Boost, Wah, and even a mixer, so that you can put effects on channel A or channel B.

Flex Time and manipulating audio
Flex Time is one of the best overall features of Logic. It does basically what the name says--it allows you to manipulate the timing and tempo of recorded audio or flex time. Users of Pro Tools' Elastic Audio will already be familiar with concept behind Flex Time, as the features have the same aim.

This is an incredibly easy feature to use and truly a handy one to have at your fingertips. Have you ever recorded a piece of audio and found you were off, even just a little bit? It's one of those things that drives you crazy when you listen to the music.

Flex Time allows you to adjust just those pieces of audio without affecting the rest of the performance.

Here's an example of what I did to test Flex Time. I put down a Beta Monkey drum loop, recorded a short blues rhythm guitar track and then recorded a second track of solo guitar. I purposely recorded the solo track way out of time, just to see what I could do with it.

I enabled Flex Time on the solo track, and Logic analyzed the waveform, which took a few seconds. You can then click on the markers and move the audio in-place to line it up to a spot that you think sounds better.

Flex Time gives you a warning by turning orange and then red if you've stretch the audio too far. You can also adjust the audio automatically by quantizing it, but that sounds a little too mechanical for my tastes.

Over 200 new features
Guitar amps and manipulating time are not the only new features in Logic Studio. In fact, Apple says that it has included more than 200 new features and enhancements in the suite of apps.

Logic Pro 9 gives you the ability to access more tools using mouse click zones; scoring has been improved; and more shortcut menus have been added to more areas of the application.

MainStage 2 received a lot of attention from Apple, not only with Amp Designer and Pedalboard, but with other new features as well. A Loopback plug-in gives you the ability to play and record multiple loops; new templates with a cover flow interface are included; and a Playback plug-in lets you playback audio with the push of a button.

Bottom line
Logic Studio is a clear winner for Apple. Whether you are a guitar player looking for improved amp sounds or an engineer that wants to improve your workflow, Logic Studio has something new for you.

Logic Studio costs $499. Current owners of Logic Studio or Logic Pro can purchase an upgrade for $199. Logic Express users can upgrade for $299.