Apple Logic Pro Review | PCMag

It’s a big moment for Apple’s Logic Pro, as it turns over a full version number for the first time in over a decade. The history of this terrific digital audio workstation spans some 35 years. It first emerged from the combination of C-Lab Creator and Notator on the Atari ST in the late 1980s. Apple purchased the developer (then renamed Emagic) in 2002 and has overhauled the DAW multiple times since then, most notably in 2013 to a single-window design. Today, Logic Pro 11 offers pro-level audio editing at a bargain price for multitrack recording, film scoring, sound design, and postproduction. New AI-powered session players and a couple of shrewd additions to the plug-in bundle make the latest version more compelling than ever, earning it our Editors’ Choice award for Mac DAWs alongside the industry-standard Avid Pro Tools (for larger professional studios and postproduction) and Steinberg’s Cubase Pro (for Windows PCs).

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How Much Apple Does Logic Pro Cost?Apple Logic Pro 11 is free if you’re upgrading, as it has been for many years. If you’re a new customer, it costs a reasonable $199.99, which undercuts almost all of its direct competitors. You need a recent Mac running macOS Ventura 13.5 or later and 6GB of free space for the base program. It’s pretty safe to say there will never be a PC version again, whereas all its major competitors work on PCs and Macs. To install everything, including all the packaged synths, instruments, loops, and effects, you need to set aside 75GB. As always, Logic Pro doesn’t require hardware or software copy protection. Log into the Apple Store on any Mac, and you can download, install, and run it seamlessly.

(Credit: Apple/PCMag)

For this review, I tested Logic Pro 11 on a MacBook Pro 16-inch (Late 2021, M1 Pro) running macOS Sonoma 14.2.1, a second-generation Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, a set of PreSonus Eris E8 XT studio monitors, and an M-Audio Oxygen 25 MIDI keyboard controller. Logic Pro is optimized for Apple silicon, and if you have an older setup, the program can be set to “only load plug-ins needed for project playback” to conserve CPU power in larger projects. A single project supports 1,000 stereo audio tracks, 1,000 instrument tracks, and 1,000 auxiliary tracks, with up to 12 sends per channel strip. You can record at up to 32 bits, giving you added flexibility in managing unwanted digital clipping when recording without bringing up the noise floor. Apple has been busy refining the interface over the years. Recent improvements include new Slip and Rotate tools that help you move around content inside regions (audio, sample, or instrument) without affecting the region boundaries. Accessibility enhancements include letting the program announce the playhead position when recording, playing back, and scrubbing audio. Unfortunately, you still can’t do much with the color scheme.
New Features: This One Goes to 11Logic Pro for Mac 11 contains a number of headlining new features. The scene stealers are the new AI-powered keyboard and bass Session Players and the Drummer plug-in, which itself has been revamped with many new styles and drum mixes and no more player personalities. All three Session Players can serve as a backing band, and you can add multiple players of each kind to a single session. Each can be tweaked in many ways, and the keyboard and bass AI players do their work with new Studio Piano and Studio Bass instruments that are big improvements over what Logic Pro had before.The same goes for ChromaGlow, Apple’s excellent new vintage dynamics processor, and Stem Separator, which splits any finished recording or old demo into stereo tracks for vocals, drums, bass, and all other instruments (guitars, keyboards, and so on). A new Global Chord Track lets you set chord progressions for your entire project so the AI players can follow along correctly.

(Credit: Apple/PCMag)

For more on these, check out my Logic Pro for iPad review, where I test each one in depth. Without repeating myself, all of them work and sound the same way on the desktop, and you can roundtrip successfully between the two platforms without issue, for the most part. I roundtripped a couple of projects back and forth during testing and discovered some bugs with the AI session players that should be stamped out by the time you read this. It’s great for someone like me who takes to the new iPad version but also has three decades of experience using desktop DAWs and wants to just drag an audio file from an email into a project without contortions. Logic Pro for Mac does contain a few extra features on the desktop in version 11 that the new iPad app lacks, which I’ll get to later in this review. You’ll also get some benefits when using the new tools on the desktop. For example, it’s much easier to populate the new Global Chord Track for your project by using an external MIDI keyboard than it is by manually inputting each chord with the keyboard or touch screen.Apple remixed all drum kits to sound bigger, better—and, to my ears—more varied in their presentation than the existing Drummer preset instruments. You can also take any kit piece and use it to customize any kit in the single-track or multichannel kit patches. Finally, Apple added new key commands for moving, extending, and resizing selections with the Marquee tool.Master of Your DomainThe Mastering Assistant, introduced in 2023, brings up a real-time EQ visualizer and some controls and metering. It then immediately analyzes your track and configures its internal “plug-in chain” for the right processing. On the top left, you can choose from four sonic presets: Clean, Transparent, Valve, and Punch, though older Intel Macs only offer the Clean preset. The left Auto EQ slider lets you blend in just some of the suggested curve instead of 100% of it, with a Custom EQ button on the bottom left. To the right, the all-important Dynamics section lets you dial in “loudness,” complete with proper LUFS metering (Logic had this before, but it was in separate plug-ins). An Excite button lets you add some high-end energy to the mix. The Spread section enables you to widen the stereo image to your taste. A button for checking mono compatibility would have been helpful here. However, you get a Bypass that lets you compare the changes with the unmastered mix with loudness compensation to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples (so to speak).

Mastering Assistant (Credit: Apple/PCMag)

I’ve mastered using Logic Pro for clients, even though I have access to higher-end tools like Magix Sequoia, with its four-point audio editing, and dedicated packages like Izotope Ozone. What makes Mastering Assistant worthwhile, aside from its one-stop-shop design, is that it’s doing the work for you. It’s not just analyzing the average EQ curve but tweaking your existing mix to match it, at least as summed on the stereo bus (it’s not going in and adjusting your track faders or anything, nor should it). Having this kind of power in the bundled plug-ins is a big leap.I tested Mastering Assistant on an electro track and numerous singer-songwriter tracks, with and without backing bands. In all cases, Mastering Assistant tightened up the mixes and tweaked the EQ for a more polished sound, matching, in some instances, what I had done on my own. In one case, it further improved the drum and vocal sounds when I switched it to the Valve preset, taming some excess upper-midrange presence I was happy to hear smoothed out. In another case, I preferred my work, although it got close and offered some interesting sonic options with its four presets that would have quickly passed muster.As is always the case in mastering, it’s crucial to start with a good mix. Mastering Assistant really shouldn’t change your track all that much. If it does, the mix may need more work; a particular instrument may be contributing to a nasty frequency bump, the arrangement could be too thick, or the kick drum may not mesh well enough with the bass guitar. Ultimately, hiring an experienced mastering engineer is always the best way to go because it’s a fresh pair of ears that hasn’t already heard your track 300 times in various states of completion, regardless of tools or techniques. Absent that, Mastering Assistant will get you most of the way there—making it a valuable addition.Sample Alchemy and Beat BreakerOther newish features also come from the iPad version. Sample Alchemy takes a single sample as input and turns it into an instrument using your choice of granular, additive, or spectral synthesis, up to four individual sound sources, and five playback options (Classic, Loop, Bow, Scrub, and Arp). Sample Alchemy doesn’t support multisampling, but Logic already has Sampler. What it does offer is surprisingly deep and offers plenty of options for transforming and warping sounds. It comes with a smattering of pads, soundscapes, leads, and basses to give you an idea of what it can accomplish, many of which sounded good in testing.

Beat Breaker (Credit: Apple/PCMag)

The macOS version of Logic also gets Beat Breaker (above), a terrific effects plug-in that slices up audio and rearranges it in real-time. It features plenty of options for varying the speed, direction, and repetition, and it does an excellent job of producing vinyl scratch sounds and starting and stopping the audio as if it’s been pressed to a record first. I immediately skipped the obvious drum-part stutter edits and tried applying it to a simple chord progression of some warm retro analog pads. I got all kinds of ideas and some terrible results that were easy to discard. And, of course, it’s all nondestructive.Instruments GaloreAs mentioned above, Logic Pro 11 brings new Studio Piano and Studio Bass plug-ins, both of which sound excellent. Otherwise, Apple’s instrument bundle is second to none among competing DAWs. Logic Pro stalwarts like the versatile Alchemy, Retro Synth, and Sampler instruments remain ready to help you produce just about any kind of music. Its Live Loops mode lets you compose non-linearly using columns of cells for arranging music in real-time into Scenes, in a nod to Ableton Live, complete with powerful remix tools for manipulating audio organically. Numerous Producer Packs include royalty-free sounds from famous producers such as Take a Daytrip, Mark Ronson, and Oak Felder, plus slap house and modern ambient sound packs.

Sampler (Credit: Apple/PCMag)

Logic Pro comes with nearly 6,000 presets across 28 bundled instrument plug-ins and over 13,500 royalty-free loops. Few of the bundled built-in acoustic instrument sounds rival high-end third-party sample libraries from Spitfire Audio or East West, and buying a big package of plug-ins like Native Instruments Komplete will take your sound quality to another level. But Logic Pro gives you a vast collection, and just about any analog or digital synth sounds you can think of are in reach using the bundled instruments.Some fiddly bits in the day-to-day composition workflow remain, though. Using a lot of Logic’s excellent instrument patches results in a cluttered project full of extraneous aux buses. The program combines reverb buses when possible, but you still end up with 10 or more in every new project pretty quickly. Clicking on Enable Patch Merging and disabling Sends stops this behavior, but you must do that for every project. Audio Editing and Film ScoringLogic Pro’s audio editing tools remain comprehensive if best-in-class. To call out just a few favorites: Flex Pitch and Flex Time can quickly tune vocals and fix mistakes in recorded audio tracks. Flex Pitch, in particular, remains a great freebie if you’re used to working with an entirely separate app, such as Melodyne. I’ve used it extensively at this point. Some engineers prefer the sound of Melodyne, but with careful edits, you can get transparent results here, and I love not having to export and re-import tuned vocals each time. Region Gain is somewhat similar to Clip Gain, one of my favorite features in Pro Tools. It makes it simple to adjust a region without resorting to automation or a destructive edit. However, it requires a few more clicks than Pro Tools does.You can write automation to regions, which makes it much simpler to move around and arrange your project without losing recorded fader and knob movements. Fades are generated in real time rather than stored as separate audio files. And you can apply fades to multiple regions simultaneously, aiding in sound design and other post-production tasks. Logic supports scoring for video, of course, and it works quite well for that purpose. It features comprehensive support for many video formats, plenty of video-specific tools, and the aforementioned massive bundled instrument and sample library. If you work in in episodic television or film, a couple of frustrating limitations remain: You can load only one video cue into each session, and you can’t lock tempo events to SMPTE timecode. (SMPTE refers to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and SMPTE timecode is a widely used standard for labeling individual film or video frames on a timeline.)Sometimes, one cue requires multiple tempos, so using separate Logic sessions for each cue doesn’t always work. And if you’re using Beat Mapping and need to adjust one section’s tempo to accommodate a director’s change, and that section comes before an event fixed to a frame, it throws the entire cue off. You can SMPTE-lock music regions to a frame, but the cue will no longer relate to the metronome, and other sections you’re not working on will lose their initial positions. Digital Performer—with its support for multiple videos per project, ability to separate cues into Chunks, and comprehensive cue and revision management—is more suited for the task.Mixing and EffectsThe main mix console offers faders, panning, 256 busses, and as many inserts and sends as you need. A true stereo panning option lets you adjust the individual left and right levels instead of just attenuating either the left or right signal. The mixer’s 64-bit summing engine sounds excellent, and analog-style VCA faders are also available. More flexible channel-strip sizing and placement would also be welcome. Another quirk: To rearrange auxiliary buses, you have to enable automation to create lanes for them in the Track view and then move them around there, which is clumsy and clutters up the UI.Logic’s plug-in package includes two excellent reverbs—the algorithmic ChromaVerb and the convolution Space Designer—plus a stereo Compressor with terrific VCA (transparent solid-state), FET, and Opto (tube-like) modes that behave differently and provide precisely the kind of warmth and crunch you’d expect from actual vintage hardware. As mentioned in the Logic Pro for iPad review, the new ChromaGlow sounds terrific and is flexible and easy to use. Numerous EQ plug-ins are on board, including parametric, tube, and linear phase for mastering. DeEsser 2 helps minimize sibilance on vocal tracks more transparently than the original DeEsser. Logic’s Spatial Audio support and Dolby Atmos integration let you output finished tracks that play natively in Apple Music. Using the 3D Object Panner, you can create mixes with elevation control, moving objects around and above you in the soundscape. For version 11, Apple has added new Downmix and trim controls to give you more control over non-Atmos channel configurations. This extends to exported ADM BWF files, with settings for stereo and older multichannel formats, and you can now monitor 5.1.2 mixes with an external surround receiver.

3D Object Panner (Credit: Apple/PCMag)

The Mastering Assistant is excellent, but I’d like an improved Multipressor (Apple’s name for their multi-band compressor) for track use. Logic’s venerable Multipressor still sounds like it did 15 years ago to my ear. It could use more punch in the low end and definition in the highs. The console’s meters and channel strips are smaller than what you get in Pro Tools, Cubase, and other DAWs. Logic Remote for iOS has larger ones, but you can only see eight at once. And inexplicably, you still can’t change the default folders for your projects and bounces, which is problematic on Macs with small internal SSDs.New for Logic Pro 11 is Real-Time Bounce in Place, which lets you record any external hardware compressors, EQs, and synthesizers to transfer a project to the iPad.Verdict: The Logical ChoiceThere are plenty of quality DAWs on the market these days, but Logic Pro is a top option for Mac users—thanks in large part to its terrific updates over the years. Simply put, Logic Pro is a stellar composition, recording, and mixing environment at a jaw-dropping price, earning it our Editors’ Choice award. It also makes the ideal upgrade from GarageBand. PC users should look at Steinberg Cubase Pro, our Editors’ Choice on PCs, while those working in larger professional studios should consider the latest version of Avid Pro Tools.


Powerful, customizable AI session players

Large array of bundled instruments and effects

No copy protection, unlike many competitors

Terrific value


The Bottom Line
Apple Logic Pro gains AI-powered studio assistants while retaining its core excellence, for a stellar update to a best-in-class digital audio workstation.

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