Posted December 31, 2010 by Stephan Earl in Home Studio Setup

Bitten by the Apple

Home Music Production Workstation 3.0Happy New Year!  It’s good to be back with my first post after taking a couple months off from music.   My wife and I spent some weekends traveling and enjoying the warm outdoors here in South Florida. We also took a trip to Hawaii for my birthday and shot lots of photos and video on our iPhone 4’s.  The quality of the photo and video images on those devices are fantastic.

Which leads me to my topic.  My PC was on the blink with frequent bouts of the inauspicious blue screen of death, so my wife decided to get me an iMac 27-inch as a combined birthday and Christmas gift (sorry guys, she’s taken).  I guess it made sense since we both have iPads and iPhones to go ahead and fully jump to the dark side.  I’ve noted the specs of this iMac on my Kit List for your reference.

So while I’m no Mac expert (I’m learning quickly though), there are some things I’ve noticed  over the last few weeks of recording music and importing my plug-ins and projects over to the Mac.  I don’t want this to be a Mac versus PC post, but I’m just reporting some observations here.

DAW Synergy

Rather than install my trusty Cubase, I decided to give Logic Express 9 a try.  I’ve been using Cubase since version 4 and as I’ve noted in other posts, I’ve also dabbled with Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Cakewalk.  Although Cubase is compatible with the Mac, many posts on Cubase forums I frequent, spoke of compatibility issues with Cubase and Apple OS X.  So I started with Logic Express 9 at an entry level to check out the software and see what gains there were if any by using a DAW made by the same company that makes the OS and the hardware.  One advantage of Logic Express 9 is that it has all the same functionality as Logic Pro 9 (part of Logic Studio) short of a few plug-ins and media content.  Differences between Logic Express 9 and Logic Studio 9 can be found here.

Logic Express 9 Screenshot

Learning Logic took very little time as it’s equally as intuitive for musicians as Cubase is.  However, I also got a healthy dose of Logic 9 tutorials from macProVideo.com.   With the large iMac 27-inch screen and 2560 x 1440 resolution, there’s plenty of screen real estate to  fit all pertinent windows right in front of you eliminating much of the need for multiple displays.  You can also save various screen sets and assign them to key commands for quick recall of the score window, piano roll editor, mixer, etc.

Getting to the synergy part, it all just works… and works well.  Sorry to sound cliché here, but I’ve been working this system with multiple instances of some of my heavy-hitter plug-ins including Ivory, Omnisphere, Trilian, Kontakt 4 and Addictive Drums and they load quicker and with rock solid consistency.  All of my instrument plug-ins installed onto the Mac OS X Snow Leopard platform, and I’m running Logic in 64-bit mode to maximize RAM.  Switching Logic from 32-bit to 64-bit is as simple as turning off a switch in the application properties.  Cubase requires a separate installation to switch from one platform to the other.  So far I’ve encountered no issues with Logic’s internal 32-bit bridge, and non-native 64-bit instruments are working great.

Logic’s interface isn’t as flashy or customizable as Cubase, but it’s clean and efficient.  One item that I immediately noticed missing from Logic 9 is the lack of drum mapping in the piano roll editor which Cubase does very well.  You can create drum maps in Logic using the hyper editor, but it’s not quite the same.  What’s really quick and easy about logic is the ease and speed of which I can create track presets (called channel setting presets in Logic) and how the library window always reflects presets I’ve created for whichever plug-in or channel is currently active.  As I learn more of Logic, I’m finding many useful features that are making my work flow quick and easy.

OS X  – The Engine That Does

One other item I noticed was how easily Logic and OS X can hot switch between sound cards, firewire devices and USB devices.  Normally when referring to a PC, I would precede what I’m about to say with a warning, “Do Not Try This At Home”.  One morning I forgot to turn on the Project Mix I/O before booting Logic.   Logic proceeded to open and switched me to the Mac internal audio driver.  I was amazed that without my professional sound card, I was able to play Ivory, Trilian,  Addictive Drums and Logic with no difference in latency.   Sound came out the iMac’s built in speakers and the system played great.  Then I turned on the Project Mix without shutting down Logic or booting down the system first and it quickly recognized the Project Mix and switched the output and input to this device.  What?  So I took it a step further and turned off the Project Mix, again leaving Logic and plug-ins on.  Logic switched back to the internal speakers with only a notification telling me the Project Mix was no longer present.  What?  In the past this easily brought my Windows based PC system to its knees with the unwelcome blue screen of death.

I then tried this with my USB Axiom 49 and Korg M50.  Both were off when I booted Logic and both were quickly recognized and playable after turning the devices on.  Again, my PC would never recognize USB controllers without me shutting down the DAW first.

Home Recording Studio 3

OK no more PC  versus Mac comparisons unless I’m asked, but I did want to point out some of my first observations.  Since this site is about Home Music Production, future posts will stay away from the PC / Mac debate and stick to the tools inside the box that help us produce music more easily.  However, I have to officially announce that beginning January 2011 all future posts will have a Mac and Logic centric focus although topics will be mostly universal.

Leave a comment if you’d like for me to describe how the current system is all connected.  I’ll probably update My Home Music Production Workstation 2.0 post very soon.

Happy Music Creating!

Stephan Earl

Composing, recording and producing music in the home studio environment for over 25 years, musician and author Stephan Earl now enjoys sharing his home studio setup experience with other home studio recording musicians via HomeMusicProduction.com.