From an electronic music perspective, the most interesting of the new software instruments is the Retro Synth. The default ‘Analog’ view of the plugin suggests it’s a bog-standard Minimoog-inspired virtual analogue affair, but three further panes reveal that the plugin contains four quite different synth modes. Well, three and a half at least; Sync is essentially the same as Analog but with the second oscillator synced to the first rather than running independently. Things get more interesting with Table, which uses wavetable concepts very loosely inspired by the PPG Wave, and FM, which is visually based on the Yamaha DX series but with simplified operator controls and a standard filter.
The usual cliches apply in terms of the best applications for each of Retro Synth’s modes. The two analogue settings are good all-rounders for basslines, leads and pads. Table excels at evolving pads and turns its hand well to slightly more aggressive leads. FM is great for bass, bell sounds and colder pads. The presets are also good, keeping things fairly simple but offering a wide variety of easily usable sounds and starting points for further editing.
Retro Synth is a useful addition to Logic’s already impressive line-up of synths, but it feels like a relatively small addition considering how long we’ve waited for this update. A basic and quite generic synth doesn’t really set the pulse racing. If you’re an existing Logic user you probably already have plugins which do similar things (does anyone really need another virtual analogue synth plugin in 2013?), whereas if you’re a new user the advantages of Retro Synth over the existing ES1, ES2 and EFM1 synths (all of which remain untouched) are marginal at best.
Likewise, new instruments like the Vintage Electric Piano plugin which replaces EVP88 offer minor improvements on their predecessors without quite getting us excited.
You’ll find new presets, channel strip settings and sample content sprinkled throughout Logic X, some of it more credible than others (apparently EDM Bass and EDM Chord both now qualify for their own synth preset categories alongside more standard categories like Bass and Strings…), but the relatively small change to the virtual instrument line-up feels like a missed opportunity to set Logic ahead of its rivals again in terms of built-in instruments and effects. Even the additions to the effects line-up, concentrating on the Pedalboard and a new Bass Amp Designer, feel like a fairly meagre offering. They may come in handy to spice up synths, but again it’s just not the kind of headline-grabbing addition you’d expect from such a major software update.
Elsewhere, Logic staples like EXS24, Sculpture and all the classic utility plugins – compressors, EQs, reverbs and so on – remain untouched and retain their Logic 9 graphics. Surely a little update to the GUIs of these plugins wouldn’t have taken more than a few days’ work? We understand that Apple has to draw the line somewhere, but after we’ve waited the best part of four years for an update we expect everything to be polished. Leaving legacy graphics in place just seems lazy after such a long wait.
A few small upgrades to the basic functionality or appearance of the existing plugins would have made the update feel much more complete. How about vintage sampling modes or alternative filter models in EXS24? How about Logic Remote-friendly interfaces for Sculpture and Ultrabeat? Again, it seems like a missed opportunity to keep ahead of the pack.