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Apple & Emagic: first steps together
Logic Platinum and surroundings analised, by X-loan

09-30th-2.002 (Original article 08-09th-2.002)

The Mac audio community has had much to suffer up to now, and a lot of grief seeing how the developers had almost no interest, or any hurry, in porting their applications to OS X (the most advanced OS for personal computers in the world!) save some honorable exceptions, namely Live and Reason).

Since Mac OS X 10.1came out the outlook began to change, audio and MIDI drivers appeared, first were M-Audio and lately MOTU for their FireWire audio interfaces. Apple was mentioning non-stop the huge advantages that the new OS constructions for audio and MIDI offered under OS X (CoreMIDI, CoreAudio and Audio Units), but there was all over the suspicion that it was still a work in progress.

And now, when we are at barely weeks from the official appearance of Jaguar and surprising everybody, now we can yell: Logic Audio Platinum for Mac OS X is out! (Wow!)

Logic Platinum

However, this is not the only good news. It gives support to all the USB audio and MIDI interfaces from Emagic which are: Unitor8 MkII, MT4, AMT8 and EMI 2|6, also for Logic Control and Logic Control XT.

In Mac OS 9, the sensation of chaos was the everyday routine for the normal musician or producer. Too many formats for MIDI, for audio drivers, for plug-ins: OMS, FreeMIDI, ASIO, EASI, MAS... and let's not forget all the Digidesign jargon: Direct I/O, TDM, RTAS. An endless list of protocols and proprietary formats that helped nobody. There is a non-negligible number of musicians affected by the "Pokemon syndrome": Get them all! :-) .

New OS, a new life

Since Mac OS X was out Apple has been developing its own engines to carry all the audio tasks. Once OPCODE (the firm that developed OMS and now owned by Gibson) was MIA, Apple engineers had no other choice than to develop a whorty successor: CoreMIDI, the engine in charge of all the communication between MIDI devices.

SoundManager was also in its last days and could be stretched no more. In a time where multichannel equipment is already in our lives and the audio recording standards are presently at 24bit/96 KHz (the Digidesign hardware is able of reaching 192KHz, but that is a whole different story), a system only able to handle two CD-quality channels is mediocre at least. Even worse having in mind all the nice technologies the Mac OS X carries (Quartz, OpenGL, ...).CoreAudio, the OS X audio engine, comes out from that need. But, what offers? multichannel audio support and resolutions of 24bit/96KHz. There is more however, another of the main problemas that today's musician/producer faces when working with native software (meaning that it needs not extra hardware) is the latency, that dreadful delay that spans between the moment we touch/record a note and it comes out of the loudspeakers. CoreAudio is able to offer latencies less than 2 ms. Not only musicians will take advantage of these new technologies, they are also going to be welcomed by hardcore gamers.

To finalise this short review of the technologies included with Mac OS X it rests to mention Audio Units, the new format for native plug-ins developed by Apple/Emagic.

A radical change

How can you convince the developers to bet for this new format? Easy: just don't offer support to the rest of formats (pretty convincing, huh? :-) )

Logic Platinum 5.3 X supports all the plug-in formats as long as they are Audio Units. This has not been a decision taken lightly. According to Emagic, most of the developers have shown interest in this new standard and to those that are a bit reluctant or were having already their VST plug-ins carbonized (although Logic has no support for them, there are some VST plug-ins already working in Mac OS X right now), Emagic offer for free a series of libraries and developer tools that allow for a fast and easy porting into Audio Units.


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My Jaguar roars like a lion

As I mentioned at the beginning, although all those technologies were already available in previous versions of Mac OS X, it has been with the arrival of Jaguar that everything has begun to take shape, specifically with the advent of a new utility for Audio & MIDI. From this application we are able to manage all the MIDI devices and all the options for all our audio interfaces (although M-Audio persist in installing their own control panels).

When the app is launched it scans our set-up showing all the hardware connected allowing its configuration. The audio part is quite complete ( save a better multichannel audio support ) but in its MIDI section we miss the detection of more MIDI devices, in a similar way to what happened with the old OMS, for instance, if you own an AKAI S3000 and a Roland JV1080, it would be highly desirable that they are recognised and with its own icon; the drivers we have now are too generic! Moreover, the way of virtually cabling the different componets of your studio is a bit weird, it scapes the MIDI I/O logic. All these details should be polished in next Mac OS X revisions.


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The carbon logic

Once reached up to this point we do have to talk about the newly arrived star: Logic Audio Platinum for Mac OS X.

Never a first impression has been so positive. Sincerely it is one of the best carbonizations seen in a long time. The movement of windows, sliders, faders and knobs is completely fluid unless the CPU is overloaded. And I am testing it in a system that does not support Quartz Xtreme. When I had the chance to try it in a system with a graphics card that supports QE the result has been simply awesome and only short of heavenly.

It is a nice touch that in dual CPU systems the load of each CPU is shown separately, also the disk activity monitor is really useful. It is also very convinient the possibility to minimise in the Dock the various windows we have open (Arrange, Audio mixer, editor Matrix). We have found no problems opening files from its Mac OS 9 version or any project created in previous versions (Logic 4.X). CoreAudio behaves like a throughbred champion showing that the low latencies promised by Apple are a reality. The menus have been changed to follow Apple criteria for the graphic interface.


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There are also some missing features: right now ReWire is not supported although it is no surprise, Logic is widely known by its poor support to this proprietary technology from PropellerHeads. It does not import/export in OMF format and people with an AudioWerk or Direct I/O hardware from Digidesing will have to wait until they can use their hardware with the new Logic Audio. However this is the fist OS X version and Emagic has promised support for them in the following updates.

With Logic Audio Platinum 5.3 X it makes its debut a new audio instrument to be added to the large collection of Emagic's software synths: the EVB3, a retort of the mythical Hammond B3 organ.


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A new era

The release of Logic Audio for Mac OS X is just the starting point, the first product after Apple acquired Emagic, the gunshot that marks the beginning of a new era where developers and users have the desire to correct all the mess of previous times. I am convinced that in the coming months we are to see many surprises and novelties in this field.




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08-09-2.002 Guia Práctica de iChat - Paso a paso por la característica más divertida de Jaguar
08-09-2.002 Mac OS X, Guía Práctica para Usuarios - Reseña del primer libro de Macuarium por su público objetivo, por Javier F. Alvarez
08-09-2.002 PowerMac G4 Dual 1Ghz - Impresiones personales sobre un ordenador superlativo, por Roberto Tolín

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