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By Jason Snell

Logic updated with Touch Bar support; GarageBand also gets an update

Today Apple is releasing updates for Logic Pro X on the Mac and GarageBand on iOS. Logic’s most notable new feature is support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro, but it also features numerous feature additions focused on high-end audio production. GarageBand for iOS, which is built on the same architecture as Logic, is gaining more power and flexibility, also with a focus on features professional musicians and producers crave.

The Logic Pro X update, version 10.3, features an interface that’s a bit “flatter” in style than the previous one introduced with version 10.0, and more in line with macOS Sierra. Unlike Final Cut Pro, which went darker with its most recent version update, the tweaked Logic Pro X is a bit brighter and more vibrant. According to Apple, that’s because while video editors wanted the Final Cut interface to fade into the background as they edit video in a darkened room, audio editors wanted an interface that was lighter and more easily used in brighter studio environments.

Touch Bar support in Logic Pro X takes a few forms. As with Final Cut Pro, there’s a timeline overview that lets users navigate through a project. But there’s also a set of customizable keyboard shortcuts, which can be organized into different “banks” based on the modifier keys you’re holding down. You can also play virtual instruments via the Touch Bar, which can display a piano keyboard or a virtual drum pad.

Another new feature of Logic Pro X is Track Alternatives, which lets editors save different versions of a project at a track level. (Previously you could create alternatives at the project level only.) Logic also gains a 64-bit summing engine, support for a larger number of buses, and a new panning ring for stereo effects. Finally, a new feature lets you apply multiple plug-ins to selected audio regions.

GarageBand runs on iPad and iPhone alike.

There’s no version of Logic for iOS, so GarageBand is Apple’s most advanced audio editor on that platform. With the GarageBand for iOS 2.2, Apple says that it’s found surprising demand for professional features, because professionals are using their iOS devices to capture and edit audio on the go. The new version adds support for 12 new mixing effects, including a visual EQ and a professional compressor. There’s a new track inspector similar to Logic’s Channel Strip, and four addition slots for adding effects—whether built-in GarageBand effects or Audio Units plug-ins. (Perhaps this will encourage the availability of more Audio Units plug-ins on iOS; right now the selection is pretty skimpy.)

The Alchemy Synth synthesizer that was already part of Logic Pro X has also now been added to GarageBand for iOS. The app also now supports multi-take recording and the ability to slice up regions in order to previous different portions of a take.

Most intriguing for people who switch between Logic and iPad is the ability to export a mixed-down version of a Logic project and sync it to iCloud as a GarageBand project. That project can be opened in GarageBand for iOS—and tracks added to the project on iOS will be synced back to the Logic Pro X project via iCloud.

Apple said it’s also releasing a compatibility update for GarageBand for the Mac, and a new version of Logic Remote for iOS.

As someone who uses Logic Pro X on the Mac, I’m intrigued by the Touch Bar changes—but also I accept that this is a music-editing tool and most of its features—including most of the new ones added today—aren’t really designed for me. The only thing that continues to surprise me is that Apple hasn’t made more of an effort to build de-noising tools into Logic; Adobe Audition has a strong suite of tools to eliminate background noise from vocals, but Logic offers almost nothing in that regard.

On the iOS side, GarageBand really is a powerful music creation and audio editing tool. The more support for Audio Units plug-ins the better; I wish Apple would make some of the built-in effects of GarageBand available to other iOS audio tools via the plug-in format.

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