Apple Logic Studio vs Protools 8 : Royal rumbbbblllle!!1!

October 21, 2008 | 22 Comments

Photo courtesy of Morula

October 21st, 2008 – I’ve been a Logic user since version 5. This would make me a noob in the world of audio. It wasn’t until version 7, that I actually sat down and learned how to use its features properly. Even now, I don’t use all of its functionality (there’s a lot), but I know enough to get stuff done. This post will be not so much a review, but a brief look into my history at using such software, why I chose Logic, and why I am considering moving away from it.

I wouldn’t say I’m new to the world of music production, but I wouldn’t say I’m an old hat either. Like most wannabe rockers, I was part of a garage band in high school. It was the grunge era, but we were heavily influenced by our parent’s music. The mix was pretty eccelectic; imagine Nirvana, but with a hint of the Doors. Equally odd was our recording gear. We tried using cassette 4-track recorders, and at times we recorded with Fostex tape-reel recorders.

I got away from music for a while, but when I returned a few years later I knew that I wanted to be able to engineer everything myself. Back when I was in the band, recording on computers wasn’t something that was really available to the hobby engineer, but I had gotten to try the Cakewalk series in the early 90′s. Fast-forward to 1999, and the rise of the mp3 opened up music on the computer. Suddenly there were a lot of recording choices, but none as good as Protools, which was unaffordable to me at the time.

One of the programs I liked and could afford was Acid, now owned by Sony. The reason I liked it (aside from the great time and pitch stretching), was that I could create a song easily; there were loops there to get my song ideas going. Sure, some may debate the creativity of loop-based music, including me occasionally, but there’s nothing like hearing the start of something to kick off a completely new song. While loop-based music is cool, it doesn’t necessarily work all the time for rock bands. After researching some of the options out there, Cubase was one of the programs that stood out. After trying it out, however, it was clear that I was in way over my head. Even though I had patched together various gear in an analog setting, I couldn’t figure out how to do it properly in the virtual world.

I decided to go to music school where I learned how to use analog gear, Protools, and Logic. Out of all the options out there at the time, it was Logic that caught my attention. I had tried to use it when it was in iteration five, but like Cubase, I wasn’t able to get into it. But now it was in version six and transitioning to seven. Apple had bought the Logic franchise and seven was the first Logic that it released after the merger. What made Logic stand out at this point was that it included everything. While programs before had included additional plug-ins, it was always an EQ here, or a sampler there. Sometimes stuff that was included wasn’t even the full version, and could expire.

Logic was really the first program to include everything you need to take a song from idea to mastered product. Sure, it doesn’t include the best of any one thing, but the whole package makes up for it. With Logic 7, I could record live instruments along with sampled instruments (a huge library is included in the EXS24 sampler), mix them and route them in any way I saw fit, apply FX, and then master with a suite of included plug-ins. Logic 7 included a huge library of Apple Loops (which beat a lot of the Acid loops I hear out there) that were a carry over from Garageband, and a full library of sounds in the EXS24. As well, you received quite a few extra plug-in instruments like synthesizers, and modelers. One of the things that helped me the most was that everything had presets. You could start with a preset for any plug-in and then tweak it to your taste. Imagine what a help that was to a musician like myself who isn’t necessarily a gear savant?

Compare this to Protools which, at the time, had extremely poor MIDI support (a deal breaker for a songwriter who uses MIDI to trigger samplers), had very few included plug-ins, and an utter lack of included loops or sampled instrument content. One thing that Protools had over Logic, though, was it’s audio editing. Logic was extremely weak in the audio editing department. Creating new audio regions and applying certain processes like reverse on the regions is a pain in Logic. Protools edits audio easily and how you’d expect it to. That’s why my choice in the studio when recording artists was always Protools. At home, when writing a song, Logic had everything I needed. Until recently that is.

Logic Studio (which Logic 8 is a part of) was released last fall. On the surface, the changes appeared to be minor. Aside from newly bundled software and better compatability with newer hardware devices, the UI was updated to better match Apple’s universal software designs, and workflow was supposedly simplified. I say supposedly because, while simplifying the routing for new users to Logic, Apple changed channel routing so that some more complex mixes I had would no longer work. Finding a work around was a challenge that I wasn’t particularly thrilled about.

The biggest gripe I have with Logic Studio, is what they didn’t upgrade. I am surely not alone in wishing that the audio editing be upgraded to spec with the industry standard, Protools. Apple has been positioning Logic as a professional solution, but no one is going to switch to it completely in a studio setting unless editing is more precise, and more intuitive. Yes, Logic is great for writing songs, but I only put up with it’s poor audio handling when I’m recording a rhythm guitar, and not when I’m recording a vocalist. I hate having to use two programs, it takes attention that I should otherwise be putting towards the music. My workflow has been (because of the previous defecencies of both Logic and Protools), write and produce the music for a song in Logic, record the artist and lead instrument parts in Protools.

Enter Protools 8. As I’ve posted before, it is going head to head with Logic with a plethora of included content and (fracking finally) proper MIDI support. One of the features that had me pleasantly surprised was the score editing; Digidesign’s aquisition of Sibelius sure paid off big time. New plug-ins including a decent sampler and an impressive looking (if minimal) sample library, are a pretty big carrot. Supposedly their hardware (which I have never been a big fan of), has been updated as well. I’m still not too crazy about using their proprietary hardware but I could certainly work around it if the software is as promising as it sounds.

These days, I find myself doing more remixes, and being interested in recording other artists again. This new Protools may have everything I need to record more hiphop-centric or singer-songwriter/band-type music. Unlike Logic, which I use to record mostly solo stuff, instrumentals, and sound track work, I will need to run Protools again, and with the upgrades that Protools 8 has, I may just be tempted to use Logic less and less. That’s too bad for Apple, because they have a great product that’s getting left behind.

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Comments

  1. DavidDennis says: October 22, 2008

    This is very interesting, because for a long time I have heard “real” musicians prefer Protools and I haven’t understood it because I’ve recorded with cut-down Logic (SoundTrack Pro) and it works great for me. Protools has always had a rather unpleasantly archaic feel for me and that’s definitely shifted me towards Logic if I personally ever get serious about music composition software.

    That being said, it’s worth noting that I purchased ProTools on behalf of a musical composer friend who needed it for a project we were working on. Buying Protools was the absolute worst customer service experience of my life, an experience I remember even years after the pain should have dissipated. You can read the gory details in my review:

    http://www.epinions.com/content_186947178116

    Now, bear in mind that this was from a few years back, but I have no reason to believe things have changed.

    I wrote this in an email to Sean, the blog’s author, because I could not get my account here to work. He was kind enough to reply and reset my password. I hope he doesn’t mind that I mention that he made an interesting excuse for DigiDesign’s conduct – we simply “aren’t spending enough to get their attention.”

    I doubt that I was spending enough to get Apple’s attention when I bought Final Cut Pro and eventually upgraded to Final Cut Studio, but I never had trouble getting the upgrades to work on my machine, which was the situation when I bought ProTools.

    Apple does seem to have an interesting characteristic: They listen to people talk about problems with their products until those people are blue in the face, and you never hear a peep from them. It’s frustrating, but eventually, a year or so later, they come out with something that shows they have been listening after all.

    Apple had similar problems with Aperture, their software for photographers. Now Aperture 2 is out and it seems to have addressed virtually all the problems and most users now seem happy. But it took a long time for that to happen.

    In the case of Logic, I seem to remember the big complaint about Logic 7 was how complex and difficult to learn many of its components were. It appears to me like they have addressed these issues in Logic 8. So hopefully they will turn their attention to the issues you want to see fixed and Logic 9 will truly give musicians what they need.

    I hope so, since I would really hate to see someone convert to DigiDesign with their somewhat archaic products and class-trailing customer service.

    Hope that was of interest.

    D

  2. Sean says: October 22, 2008

    @DavidDennis : Sometimes customer service problems can be caused by a communication breakdown between the manufacturer’s sales reps and its dealer network. This does not absolve DigiDesign or Guitar Center of fault in the situation you encountered, but this also does not mean that Protools isn’t a good product, far from it. It’s good at what it does which is purely record audio. As a songwriting tool, I find it sorely lacking because good MIDI support is paramount to me. However, with Protools 8 coming up, I’m intrigued at its potential.

    To play the devil’s advocate, I’ve had mixed experiences with Apple as well. I wouldn’t go so far to say I’m a fanboy (I try to evaluate everything, including brands, objectively), but I’m usually willing to cut them a little more slack. When I purchased the Logic Studio upgrade, it had just come out. The version I paid for listed that it was upgradeable from any version of Logic Pro 7. At the time, I was working at a software firm and didn’t have the time to install it. Finally, 3 months later, I attempted to install it and was restricted from doing so.

    After talking to Apple Tech support, I was informed that my educational Pro 7 was not eligible for the upgrade. This was not listed on the materials I found on the Apple site at the time, but I did see it on other websites reselling Logic. I was irritated, but customer support agreed to the return with a 10 percent “re-stocking” fee.

    I find that many companies have, at times, questionable customer support, but I’m willing to give them a try if they genuinely have a good product. I’m interested in giving Protools 8 a try for my songwriting needs…now if only they’d provide me a review package….

  3. GDJared says: November 5, 2008

    Спасибо!

  4. Alex says: December 20, 2008

    Hi KeyOfGrey

    It sounds like a common case of: the grass is greener.

    Good music is NOT made in DAWs, DAWs are tools. Some of the best recorded music was recorded with ONE microphone, onto wax.

    I think that simplicity is the key- if I were you I would push my knowledge of Logic- instead of jumping into ProTools. ProTools is great for a $150,000 mixing console- but their hardware for low end starts to fall off. With a system such as Logic- Cubase- (Garageband) etc you can use ANY audio interface.

    If you want “super” audio quality- then look into Apogee: http://www.apogeedigital.com/

    These guys make the hardware that magazines use to TEST other hardware.

    As for your usage, HipHop, I don’t understand why Logic- or ProTools would be better.

    If you want crazy audio stretching- then put your money down for Melodyne, there is even a Melodyne Plugin for Logic- (VST-AU)

    Currently for Audio Production- you have to work out your budget, which has to look harder at Hardware, such as microphones, etc.

    Logic is a fine and usable tool- you get a great bang for your buck- you get the EXS24 sampler- which you can make your own instruments with- to give you an example- a decent ‘third party’ sampler will put you back as much as Logic Studio- do the math.

    With a ‘crazy’- lets buy everything philosophy- then I would use:

    Apogee
    Logic
    Great Mics
    Nice Recording Studio
    Great Monitors
    Acoustic Treatment, (Control Room- Booths etc)

    And if you are really crazy then just buy ProTools on top- thats what NIN uses- every piece of digital music software/ hardware ever known to man- and just a few that aren’t!

    :D

    Whatever you do- just remember that a great sound can’t be bought- it has to be built, with your own to hands.

    Every piece of the puzzle has to work- and work for YOU.

    Hope that you make some great music man!

    Warm Regards

    Alex

  5. Sean says: December 20, 2008

    @Alex : Thanks for commenting. Just so you know, my main composing DAW is Logic and not Protools. The studio I used to run had everything on your checklist. I still like Logic and it’s my primary composing tool, but my point in this post is that Logic, while it’s able to do everything you could possibly want at a ridiculously low price-point, does not handle audio editing particularly well. If Protools 8 indeed delivers on all it promises, it may just rival Logic on the value front. However at $300 for the M-powered edition of Protools 8 (I have a M-Audio Firewire 410 to use with it), I’d rather continue to use Logic and instead upgrade to the Apogee Duet.

    I’d like to disagree with you on one point though. I do not feel that any Protools hardware, whether it’s the TDM systems or their mixing consoles, sound particularly “high end”, even at the $150,000 level. At almost any high end studio, Protools is only a DAW and all hardware is from other companies: Neve or SSL consoles, Apogee converters, Millenia pre’s, etc. The idea, if you have the money, is to keep as much of the signal chain analog, until you get to the converters.

    I use both Logic and Protools to make music: Logic to compose, Protools to record vocals, and then Logic to mix again. I like to have the best of both worlds :)

  6. Reza Assadpour says: February 1, 2009

    ProTools is The best yet.
    RTAS is a good driver for process on sound
    a good production of music = good sound (such as ProTools)

  7. alexander says: February 1, 2009

    I have both, have to say that pro tools 8 has copied a lot from logic 8…
    but for real… at the price of logic studio, everything it comes with, i mean… it gives you surround, control surface programing…its just a complete package….but pro tools 8, as always, is like a demo of a pro tools HD system.
    Buying a macpro 8 core + apogee + logic studio..thats the perfect system………. am shure it could become the new standard.
    I am using Logic pro 8 with my TASCAM US-2400 and I can do things with my controller on logic that were imposible to do on pro tools.

  8. TK says: March 18, 2009

    Alex

    Actually NIN uses Logic Pro8 MainStage for their live performances as well as int the studio.
    Additionally, for example, Mark Dravs also used Logic for Coldplays Viva La Vida….
    I am sure both platforms has its followers….
    I personally use Logic with a 24:iMac. Never have used ProTools so can’t comment on it.

  9. Sean says: March 18, 2009

    @Alexander: I love the value of Logic, and it’s my mainstay. I use Protools when I go into other studios mainly because that’s the standard. I wish Logic had audio editing similar to Protools though…comping vocals is still annoying in Logic, even in version 8.

    @TK: There’s no doubt that Logic is a versatile tool. However, I am looking at the new Ableton 8 for some live stuff I want to do. Unfortunately, while I reached out to the publishers of Protools, Cubase and Ableton (since all have new versions out), none has yet provided me copies for a comparison review. Word from their representatives have been that they will provide review copies when in stock…but I’ve been waiting 3 months. Guess I’m not high on the review totem pole.

  10. Fikonhjul says: April 4, 2009

    Just a detail: if my memory serves me, Logic 6 was released as an Apple product. Apple bought Emagic in 2002, when Logic was at version 5.

    http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2004/jan/15proaudio.html

  11. Sean says: April 4, 2009

    @fikonhjul : That’s correct. The last version of Logic to be available on the PC platform was Logic 5.

  12. EdGee says: July 11, 2009

    To TK – I am told by colleagues that Coldplay’s Viva La Vida album used both Logic and Protools. I think you may have read this http://www.apple.com/logicstudio/action/markusdravs/ article. Logic was indeed used for some location recording and idea-exchange by both Marcus and Rik Simpson but I am assured the studio-based work was done in Protools HD. Rik is a known evangeliser of the use of Protools. Brian Eno, co-producer of Viva La Vida, is also a well-known user of Logic for creation and sketching, and Protools for the final mix. Eno was actually once quoted as saying Logic was better than Protools because it didn’t require proprietary hardware – and he could therefore use it in his hotel room- but then that was a long time ago, both packages have taken ideas from each other and he doesn’t see that an Apple Mac is absolutely proprietary hardware just as much as anything required to run Protools. To use the argument of the common man, Protools can run on a PC, Logic can’t. In any case could he not afford an MBox 2 micro or some such? He certainly could if he bought a PC laptop instead of a Macbook. It’s not like it takes up much room either…

    As you might have guessed, I run my studio, very successfully, with Protools on PCs. I also use Cubase if necessary, occasionally Sonar if a client has work on there, and my quick-and-dirty creative tool of choice is in fact FL Studio 8 which has absolutely all the features of every other DAW and then some, but is let down in my opinion by overall sound quality and mastering facilities.
    I’d simply never dream of doing my final mix for a commercial release in Logic. Sorry.

  13. Scott says: July 16, 2009

    To those users of both PT8 and Logic Studio:

    I have a question about workflow. First off, I must state that I used ProTools back in the 90′s (v 3.0) quite a bit, but then got out of the game for a few years. I recently have been recording a bit and purchased Logic Studio because of the feature set. Like many, I have found the audio editing capabilities of Logic to be difficult and cumbersome. It just takes longer to edit things with Logics tools and interface, plus my past experience with PT has me wishing for it’s ease of use.

    Question: Some have stated that they use Logic for Song composition, but they track things like vocals and guitars (which likely will have to be edited) in PT and bring the comp tracks into Logic. I would love to know the specific process and any issues that need to be addressed?

    Do you bounce a mix of the rhythm tracks out of Logic, import that into PT, record vocals/guitars with the bounce as a reference, do your edits, then somehow export that into Logic for final mix?

    Please advise,

    Scott

  14. Sean says: July 16, 2009

    @ Scott: Thanks for dropping by! To answer your question, my specific workflow between the two platforms is as follows:
    (1) I write the song using whatever software synths, and samplers I need in Logic.
    (2) I bounce a stereo reference mix out and import that into a new Protools project being sure that both projects have the same tempo settings.
    (3) I record whatever live audio I need in Protools and do whatever fine editing and comping of the tracks is required.
    (4) I make sure that there is at least 2 bars of empty space at the beginning of the song. I then feed the output of each track into the input of another track and record each with a metronome for the first empty bar (toggled live during recording), and then space for the second empty bar. This will provide me with tracks that have a perfect “count in” when I record each track again. The reason for this is that when I perform the syncing in Logic for step 5, I will be able to visually and aurally line up each new recorded Protools track in Logic perfectly. You cannot trust that an audio track will have the exact amount of space at the beginning of the track when bounced, so this ensures an easier time syncing.
    (5) Import the audio tracks into Logic and mix away.

    I might add that you can save time by not re-recording each track with a click to sync if you don’t have many tracks and can just do it by ear. You can also bounce multiple tracks together if you don’t mind not being able to mix them later. If you have a lot of money and can afford nice plugins for Protools, you might just do your mixing in Protools instead of Logic and save yourself the headache. I do not have many plug ins with Protools, so I use the comprehensive mixing tools included in Logic. I hope that helps!

    I’d like to reiterate that you can record your full song in Protools if you have the proper tools there. As is, Protools, even in 8 form, does not include as many tools as Logic does for the money (not including Apple hardware which, as I’ve stated in other posts, you do not need if you’re building a hackintosh). People have workflow and budget constraints that push them to one platform or the other, but if you get it done in one piece of software instead of both, as I do, it’s ideal.

  15. Sean says: July 16, 2009

    @Edgee: If your reason for using Protools over Logic is a function of simple cost, the old arguments no longer apply. As I’ve stated before, you can build a hackintosh to run Apple software without having to buy an actual Apple computer, which eliminates that argument for the equation. Logic is 500 dollars, while the cheapest Protools rig is the Mbox 2 Micro, which comes in at $350. However, Logic is in no way crippled and includes a lot of extra content, while Protools 8 LE is limited in tracks and extras (samplers, synths, mixing plugins, and sample content). There’s no way you can do a professional mix on the LE version (especially due to the restricted number of tracks) which means you at least have to buy the production toolkits which put you over the price of Logic.

    As for “sound quality” differences between the software, digital audio is digital audio, the difference in sound comes from the AD converters, and the digital summing algorithms. No engineer goes directly into Protools hardware, they use their own preamps and their own AD converters and simply run through the Protools hardware with SPDIF, thereby completely bypassing the hardware. The only reason they go through the hardware at all is because it’s a requirement of the software. Same deal on the way out, neither Protools or Logic has great summing algorithms, so professionals use external summing hardware.

    No software can sound better than another, unless you’re talking about plugins which do have different algorithms because they’re affecting the audio, not just playing it back. There is no difference in sound quality between Logic, Protools, Reaper, Cubase, Sonar or any of the popular software titles out there. There is only cost, and workflow to consider. Protools isn’t a great songwriting tool, Logic isn’t a great editing tool. I wish there was one title that did both well, and with the same value benefits. But there isn’t, so I’ll continue to use both until there is.

  16. Scott says: July 17, 2009

    Sean,

    Thanks for your detailed workflow description. That makes a lot of sense, especially the click sync points. I figured it was something like that. I meant to ask earlier but forgot: What is your opinion on sample rate settings? There is much discussion online about using a higher sample rate during recording, such as 96k, even though the end product is CD at 16 Bit 44.1k. I think the ProTools manual suggests recording at 88.2k as an option, to make the down-convert for CD easier. Some suggest that 44.1k is just fine. I always record 24 bit files for the increased dynamic range, and fIle size is not a concern to me…

    Any thoughts?

    Scott

  17. Sean says: July 17, 2009

    @Scott : Recording at a higher sample rate allows you to capture a higher bit depth and sample rate. This means that you can possibly capture sound better. However, if the rest of your gear isn’t up to snuff, it will sound worse.

    If your equipment supports it, I recommend 88.2 kHz. A few years back, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture given by George Massenburg. Keep in mind that this man is a legend and has some of the most refined ears in the business. He suggested multiples of the CD sample rate (ie. 44.1, 88.2, 176.4, etc.) because the algorithms to convert it into 16-bit 44.1 kHz would be cleaner. I’m sure people will argue that bigger is better no matter the math, but is there honestly much difference between 88.2 and 96kHz? Check out my post about sample rates for more info : http://www.keyofgrey.com/?p=2231

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