The new Retro Synth offers four modes: Analog, Sync, Table and FM

The new Retro Synth offers four modes: Analog, Sync, Table and FM

New plugins

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.

No change

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.

Old graphics in plugins like the EXS24 sampler stick out like a sore thumb

Old graphics in plugins like the EXS24 sampler stick out like a sore thumb

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.

22nd July, 2013

Comments

  • You can insert more than 1 midi plugin per channel by the way…. Just click on the green thin line underneath the current midi plugin (mixer view)

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  • So you can. Thanks for the tip!

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  • I bought Logic X the day it came out, much easier on the eye and the midi fx are great and work well with external synths – I now have an arp on my Juno 106 for example.

    You mention in your review drummer can play a different drum plugin – how do you set that up?

    Keep up the good work, always check in every few days to see what’s on the site

    Cheers

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  • @ Mr Bump

    Just load the Drummer track, then change the instrument from Drum Kit Designer to anything you like. This is presumably why Drummer is a distinct track type rather than a software instrument with built-in sequencer – the Drummer interface (i.e. the pattern creation side of things) stays intact even when you change the instrument.

    Aside from the obvious drum and percussion applications, you can create some quite interesting effects by inserting the Transpose MIDI effect and forcing the drummer’s output to trigger notes from a suitable scale.

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  • Ah yes! Nice one thank you, hours of fun ahead..

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  • This was a VERY insightful and objective article. Thank you!

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  • Apple need to address Logic 9 upgrade issue….
    Thousands of ill-informed Logic 9 purchasers, only to see the X launched at same price… Boo to Apple’s new inethical business practice!!

    And yes, this Toy is definitely not for the Pro, so i bet the Pros are being dumped by Apple in favour of new entrants, alternative songsters and dubstep aficionados…
    Again, Booo to Apple for their Logic 9 misconduct and lowly marketing practice!!

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  • I find it hard to understand how people are complaining about not offering upgrade discounts when the cost of the software at £139 is already dirt cheap. The cost of upgrading ableton 8 to 9 is 250 euros, which is considerably more (and only accessible to people who own the existing software). Putting it at £139 for everyone is both massively cheaper than any other competing software and also far cheaper than most other upgrades. Would these folks feel better if they paid £600 for the full software and then got a £250 upgrade, or just pay £250 for the software and then again for upgrade? If it’s the former then I’m amazed some of these people have managed to even get their heads round turning the computer on let alone understanding a piece of software.

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  • @Fuzzy – why is it a toy? Same Logic 9 stuff plus more features.

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  • “Surely a little update to the GUIs of these plugins wouldn’t have taken more than a few days’ work?”

    Hahahaha. That’s a good one. I don’t dispute that they could have used an update, but it’s definitely more than a few days work.

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