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Pretzel Logic with a MacBook Pro...

by

Episode 56
March 17th, 2006

It all began with a phone call from an Apple public relations person…

Apple PR: Hi Bob. How would you like to be the first on your block to play with our new MacBook Pro?
Me: When can I have it and how long can I keep it?
Apple PR: We can have it on your desk tomorrow and you can keep it for at least a month.
Me: Sounds good to me. Send it on down and I'll give it a try.
Apple PR: There is one last thing… Would you like a copy of Logic Pro 7.2, our first Pro application to go Universal?
Me: I don't know… I'm not sure I'm qualified to review a thousand dollar professional audio production package…
Apple PR: Then don't review it. Just check it out on the MacBook Pro. We think you'll be impressed.
Me: O.K., if you insist...

And sure enough, the next morning a MacBook Pro and Logic 7.2 were delivered to my door.

I want to tell you a little about Logic Pro because it's so freakin' cool, but first let me give you my impressions of the MacBook Pro after putting it through its paces for a couple of weeks.

The MacBook Pro they sent me was a tricked out tip-top of the line system with a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor ($300 option), 2GB of RAM ($300 option), and the 100GB 7,200 RPM hard drive ($100 option), bringing the total for my loan unit to a whopping $3,199 before tax or AppleCare. So as you read my remarks below, remember that I am talking about the very fastest MacBook Pro money can buy today.

That said, the MacBook Pro felt roughly as fast as my Power Mac G5 dual 1.8GHz when running Universal programs such as iPhoto, GarageBand, or Logic Pro. And non-Universal apps being translated by Rosetta-including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Quicken 2006-ran as well as or better than they do on my dual processor G5. In fact Photoshop CS2 was the only application I tested that felt slower on the MacBook Pro. Even so, I could live with it. I don't use Photoshop that much and when I do it's usually to clean up a screen shot or do minor editing on a modest-sized digital photo.

Bottom line: If you didn't tell me the MacBook Pro had an Intel processor inside, I would have thought it was a wicked fast Power PC-based PowerBook. That's the highest praise I can give it-it looks and feels like any other Mac notebook, only a whole lot faster.

Now let me tell you a bit about Logic Pro… First of all, Logic Pro is perhaps the finest music creation and audio production application available today. It's a comprehensive set of tools that let you record, mix, master, edit, automate, and score audio compositions. It also includes hundreds of awesome sounding software instruments and the tools to modify them to your liking or create entirely new instruments. In a nutshell Logic Pro is GarageBand on a mega-dose of steroids.

Let me talk for a moment about performance. Here's the deal… the program ships with a bunch of sample songs, some of which are labeled "for G5 only." These "G5 only" songs bring my PowerBook G4 1.25GHz to its knees; its poor processor just can't keep up. And while the "G5 only" songs play properly on my Power Mac G5 (with two processors), they use every resource available and still hiccup occasionally as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: This is the alert you see when your Mac is too slow for Logic Pro.

On the MacBook Pro, however, a "G5 only" song not only played smoothly, but it didn't even come close to swamping both processor cores as shown by MenuMeters (highlighted) in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Logic Pro has no trouble playing a "G5 only" song.

Moving right along, here are just a few of the cool things included with Logic Pro:

Guitar Amp Pro (shown in Figure 3) is a guitar amp modeler that makes your guitar (or other instrument) sound like it's plugged into any one of dozens of different American and British guitar amplifiers, with one or two 12-inch speakers and an open or closed back, as would be heard through a dynamic or condenser microphone either centered on the speaker or placed off-axis. It can also make your guitar sound like it's being played through a variety of outboard effects boxes. With Guitar Amp Pro, there is almost no limit to the different sounds you can get from a single guitar.


Figure 3: Guitar Amp Pro displaying a few of its included presets.

Then there's a plug-in called Sculpture (see Figure 4) that is a "component-modeling synthesizer." I'm not sure what that means but according to Apple Sculpture can "simulate any sound with breathtakingly natural timbre." I played with this module for hours and hours and while I am not skilled enough to simulate any sound, I did manage to simulate a lot of interesting sounds.


Figure 4: Sculpture displaying a handful of its included presets.

Then there's a plug-in called Ultrabeat, which simulates drums and percussion instruments as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Ultrabeat displaying a handful of its included drum sounds.

Another cool tool is the ES1 virtual analog synthesizer shown in Figure 6, which mimics the analog synthesizer sounds of my youth.


Figure 6: ES1 displaying a handful of its included synth sounds.

Another killer plug-in is the EVP88 (see Figure 7), which creates amazingly realistic piano sounds.


Figure 7: The EVP88 piano synthesizer displaying its presets.

Another neat feature is that Logic Pro opens GarageBand files flawlessly. So work you've done in GarageBand can be "finished" or remixed in Logic Pro quickly and easily. And, on top of all of its own high-quality virtual instruments, Logic Pro can also use GarageBand's virtual instruments and loops including all four Jam Packs. Figure 8 shows Logic Pro's loop browser, which is very similar to the loop browser in GarageBand.


Figure 8: Logic Pro's loop browser looks a lot like GarageBand's loop browser.

If that's not enough cool stuff, there are also dozens of effects processors including reverb (see Figure 9), an equalizer (see Figure 10), and a limiter (see Figure 11).


Figure 9: Logic Pro's Space Designer reverb plug-in.


Figure 10: Logic Pro's channel equalizer plug-in.


Figure 11: Logic Pro's limiter plug-in.

I've spent a bit of time in multi-track recording studios and I can't think of a single thing you can do in a multi-million dollar control room that you can't do reasonably well with Logic Pro. When you look at it that way, $999 doesn't seem all that outrageous anymore.

I wish I could afford to play with it some more but I've gotta get some real work done already...

MacBook Pro prices start at $1,999.
Logic Pro 7.2 costs $999.
And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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