What’s the latest in the digital audio workstation world?
If you’ve waited until now to jump into the music recording software scene, your patience has paid off. There are two outrageously good products out right now, and we’ll give you our thoughts on them. If you’re thinking about upgrading from previous versions of Pro Tools or Logic, we’ll help you make your decision.
Logic Studio 9 is out from Apple, and Avid has returned to its hardware-and-software-combination roots in its Pro Tools HD 9 and M-Powered lines.
It can all be very confusing if you’re not yet a professional-caliber audio engineer, so we thought we’d help clarify things a bit. We’ll lay things out simply for you.
Logic Studio 9 from Apple
Bottom line: This software is powerful enough for an engineer, but designed for musicians.
Specifics: Logic Studio 9 is a high-end recording, mixing, editing, performing, and rendering suite that’s composed of the following components:
- Logic Pro 9. This is the core recording, editing, mixing, and bouncing application. It’s the heart of Logic Studio. We love it for its gorgeous interface, relatively simple usability (to the extent that any high-end digital audio workstation is “simple” – really, all of them take some learning time, but Apple’s seems most intuitive to us).
- MainStage 2. This is an enhanced version of Apple’s live performance app that helps you translate your studio creations to the stage for live gigging. MainStage 2 is not the backbone of complicated professional loop-driven live performances such as the Black Eyed Peas, and other heavily digitally-dependent acts. If that’s your need, you’ll need to look for a more complicated (and much more expensive) live performance app. But if you need to cue software instruments, rapidly switch computer-driven amp and effects settings, or use your user-generated unique instrument settings in a live performance, MainStage 2 is perfect. It’s tough to adjust the tempo on the fly, but you can easily adjust your playing to match your pre-set tempo.
- SoundTrack Pro 3. Satisfy your inner Steven Spielberg. Add high quality sound to your movies. Great stuff, and a fantastic addition to the music-centric Logic family. You’ve seen more than one movie and TV show that has used this core processing in its production.
Logic’s success is based on three pillars.
- It’s extremely functional. This is high-end, professional quality recording software.
- It’s extremely accessible. You don’t need a Master’s Degree in audio engineering to figure out how to use Apple Logic. It takes some time, but among the high-end recording packages, we think Logic is the easiest to master.
- It’s self-contained. You don’t have to buy a bunch of hardware to make Logic work well for you. A faster, more powerful computer is always helpful, but you knew that already. In case you missed the significance of the “no extra hardware required” statement, let me put it this way: you don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands more – on top of the software price – to get your fully-equipped home recording studio up and running.
Our assessment: Logic is the best value for serious audio recording enthusiasts, and for musicians interested in creating professional-grade compositions.
Pro Tools 9 and other Pro Tools 2011 Products
Bottom Line: Pro Tools includes both hardware and software to create professional recording studio results. Because there is additional hardware involved, Pro Tools is significantly more expensive than Apple Logic.
Specifics: The list of professional recording artists whose music has been produced using Pro Tools equipment and software is impressive. We won’t bore you with the details, but if you listen to music at all, you’ve heard Pro Tools productions. But there’s a seriously confusing array of options underneath the Pro Tools umbrella, so it’s helpful to see a quick breakdown.
- M-Powered. This phrase refers to the hardware (largely USB-driven; MBox falls into this family) products that support analog-to-digital conversion, pre-processing, and other recording studio functions. As you might have guessed, there’s a steep functionality curve, with low-end M-powered converters priced at around $200, and higher end stuff in the thousands. The good news is that some of these hardware products come with a mid-level Pro Tools LE software package included, which can save you a bit of cash.
- Pro Tools HD. This is the high-end stuff. Industry-leading functionality, with a price tag that’s a little steep for neophytes, but eminently affordable for serious recording enthusiasts and pros.
- Pro Tools LE. This is the middle-of-the-road model. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not going to be enough for you – it’s absolutely loaded with functionality. There are a few high-end things you can’t do with LE, but if you’re a beginning to intermediate level mixing engineer, you’ll have plenty of headroom.
- Pro Tools SE. This is the introductory version, akin to Apple’s Logic Express 9. Tons of functionality for the beginner’s first few years in audio recording.
The success of the Pro Tools line comes from three main virtues:
- Industry-leading functionality. More professional studios use Pro Tools than any other commercially-available product. You might not become a Platinum recording artist or engineer, but it won’t be because you lacked the production power to do so.
- Flexibility. You can configure your studio however you’d like; there are probably options to suit every fancy. Here again, though, as your wish list gets more ambitious, you’ll notice a steep increase in the price of Pro Tools components.
- Designed around M-powered interfaces. Pro Tools was created in concert with M-powered interface units, which are arguably the most popular interfaces among high-end users. If your style is heavily MIDI and loop dependent, you’ll appreciate this compatibility.
Our assessment: Pro Tools offers premium functionality and flexibility, with a solid range of models to suit most users. The price is higher for the same feature set than Apple’s Logic, but its expansion and compatibility options are also more robust.
Should I buy Apple Logic or Pro Tools?
You can’t go wrong either way. But here’s how we think they stack up:
- Price: Logic is the clear winner, regardless of which level you’re looking at. It’s hands-down the best value for the money.
- Functionality: Pro Tools HD beats Logic Pro 9. Logic Pro 9 beats Pro Tools LE.
- Expansion: The Pro Tools line is the clear winner.
- User Interface: It’s almost impossible to beat Apple at this game. Logic wins.
- Flexibility: Pro Tools offers more audio file formats and features.
- Software Instrument Quality: Both are top-of-the-line.
- Complexity: Pro Tools is more complicated than Logic.