Logic Pro has a new flagship synth instrument. And that synth is no basic pack-in – it’s one of the deepest software instruments on the market.
It’s also no stranger. As expected following Cupertino’s acquisition, Alchemy, a deep “sample manipulation” synth, has made its way into Apple’s product line. It’s now everywhere on the Mac desktop. Even in GarageBand, you can access Alchemy-based presets. In Logic Pro X, and even MainStage, you can access the full instrument. (That means the $29.99 MainStage is now also a heck of a steal if you just want the synth.)
(I do say desktop – there’s no sign of Alchemy on iOS at this time. On the other hand, if those “iPad Pro” rumors are true… well, I’ll let you fantasize about that; Apple of course won’t tell me anything.)
Now, we more or less knew back when Camel Audio was acquired by Apple that this would also mean no more availability of Alchemy as a plug-in for other DAWs (or other platforms). What we didn’t know is what form the re-released version would take. And that’s where there’s good news: Alchemy has been vastly updated.
If you’re just looking for a sound quickly, you can mess about with transform controls and pull up a wide range of presets. If you want to go deeper, you have an instrument that does additive, spectral, formant, granular, sampling, and virtual analog synthesis. In fact, I can’t think of another single instrument that does quite as much all via one interface.
Logic Pro X 10.2, available as a free App Store upgrade or for instant purchase, includes a raft of other improvements. And Alchemy itself hasn’t just been shoved into Logic’s interface – there are some significant additions there, as well. Let’s have a look:
A new Alchemy
It’s not just Alchemy inside Logic Pro X 10.2. This is officially Alchemy 2.0, a major update. For those of you familiar with the instrument, here’s some of what’s new:
Better morphing. Advanced cross-synthesis now improves audio morphing, incorporating all the details of the sound (additive, spectral, formant, pitch, envelope). You also get more options in the interface.
More precise additive resynthesis, spectral resynthesis. These are really a big part of what sets Alchemy apart, and they’re vastly expanded. There are more additive effects (Pulse/Saw, Harmonic, Beating, Stretch, Shift, Magnet, Spread, Auto Pan). And you get more precise control of both additive and spectral resynthesis – the algorithms themselves have been sonically improved, we’re told. And there’s a new partial tracker, you have more editing options, and you can see everything you’re doing via real-time spectrogram. Spectral resynthesis also works in stereo now, as well, and supports masking.
Powerful formant and granular modes. Loads of depth here, too, including elaborate controls for formant resynthesis (with multiple filter shapes), and multi-tap granular controls you can space out across a stereo field.
Added pitch correction. Correct pitch to unison, octave, fifth, a combination of fifth/octave, or chromatically, with adjustments for amount and speed.
Use the sampler with EXS24. You can now import Logic’s EXS24 sampler instruments directly into the Alchemy sampler, meaning access to Logic’s own library and lots of third-party content. The Sampler module itself is also more powerful, with a reverse mode, automatic keymapping, and new keymap editor and group editor.
Bring the noise. The virtual analog side of things is expanded, too – sync, anti-aliased PWM, waveform shape display, and a noise section with 13 noise types (not just white and pink).
New filters. These are all-new, with both enhanced comb filters, and redesigned analog filter emulations, plus added “Bee,” FM, Compressor, LP10 and HP10 modes.
Modulation and arpeggiators that are kind of insane. Alchemy adds per-source arpeggiators and reorganized editors for source controls and the arpeggiator. And you can modulate all kinds of things. You can switch patterns with modulation (yipes, one-note presets, anyone?), modulate the rate knob, modulate keyswitches, and see visual feedback in real-time.
Envelopes with more power. You get graphical AHDSR with tempo sync. And there are envelope followers at eight points in the signal chain.
More samples and easier browsing. Alchemy now has 3100 presets plus 300 Logic patches, and a 14 GB sample library. (Fortunately, that sample library is an optional download from the store, just like other extended Logic content.) To navigate all of the included content or manage your own sounds, there’s a redesigned browser with expanded drag-and-drop support.
Dial-in controls if you want to improvise / don’t want to get too deep. Alchemy’s X/Y pads and transforms already resembled Apple’s own work on making Smart Controls. The idea: give people a few knobs to dial up variations on much deeper sound engines. So, little surprise here: Alchemy will be fully integrated in the Logic interface, which means access from those Smart Controls and the accompanying iPad app remote.
But it’s more efficient. Apple says they’ve reduced CPU usage.
– and you shouldn’t lose your old presets. Existing presets are available in the install, and third-party presets should (mostly) compatible. The 1.5 file format can be imported into Alchemy, and while some internal engine changes may mean some things don’t work identically, you should be able to load your existing collections.
All in all, this is pretty huge – the biggest synth news to come to Logic in years. And while Apple could have just dropped Alchemy in Logic and called it a day, it’s nice to see a vastly expanded release.
And yes, this means one more big update from Apple that can cater to the explosive market for young EDM producers, particularly in the USA but worldwide, as well.
Nice how a musical genre suddenly created a demand for massively-complex synthesizer modulation.
A more connected Logic
The other news is, Logic Pro X does more than before when connected to the internet.
From Apple, there’s expected Apple Music Connect support, which lets you publish directly to Apple Music from inside the app. (Previously, this was available only in GarageBand.)
But more interestingly, there’s also built-in support for Gobbler. Once you sign up for a free subscription with Gobbler, you can back up, share, and collaborate directly from within Logic. That’s a big deal for both Apple and Gobbler – there’s never been cloud integration like this in a major DAW.
Our friends at Gobbler have a video of that, above.
And lots of other pro improvements…
10.2, as is typical of Apple’s recent pro music update cycle, adds a lot of functionality and fixes, too.
There’s Force Touch trackpad support for the latest Apple laptops – a reminder that Apple is the one DAW maker that’s also in the computer business.
There’s expanded MIDI functionality, including expanded clock options.
You can non-destructively reverse audio regions. (Ah, I love this, as a reverse-addicted person.)
You can globally nudge by key command to note values. (I like that, too.)
And there are lots of editing improvements, including finally showing fades correctly on regions that have been ‘flexed,’ better editing options for different Cycle settings, and some nice features for locators and markers.
There are many more tiny details, fixing minuscule quality issues and making editing easier. This is the sort of attention to detail that we desperately need in our aging stable of big DAWs, and we don’t always get it. So I’m eager to try it out and see how it’s feeling in practice.
I’ll say this: Logic may not be your favorite DAW. Heck, you might even actively dislike it. But what I can’t get from using it is any sense that the pro music team at Apple is uninterested in serious users. If you transported someone from fifteen years ago and sat them in front of what you told them was Emagic Logic Pro X alongside some of its competition, they’d be none the wiser. (They might wonder where their Windows version was, but apart from that.)
Of course, as always, many of these enhancements also carry over to GarageBand and MainStage.