Audio / Hands-on Review

Logic and the Touch Bar: Time to Upgrade?

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After sighing a deep sigh and promising myself I would not work in any puns about Apple incorporating the Touch Bar into their flagship DAW being “Logical,” I opened the Late 2016 MacBook Pro and downloaded Apple’s Logic Pro (version 10.3 is required). The two main DAWs I use are Pro Tools and Logic (where I prefer to do my programming and MIDI work), so having a familiarity with the software meant I could really dive right in and see what, if anything, the Touch Bar adds to my admittedly established process of working within the software. Could it replace muscle-memory key commands and mouse clicks?

Upon launching a new session, as usual, Logic prompts you to create tracks. I opted to create an audio track first, which brought up a somewhat Spartan display on the Touch Bar: a button with a rotary pot icon, and a Level button. Touching the rotary pot icon brings up a selection of controls that are essentially universal, plus one that is track-specific.

From here, you can select a visual scroll-through of your entire session, very handy transport control, and in the case of audio tracks, input gain and level control, along with an input monitor button. Admittedly, the Touch Bar is a little sparse for audio tracks, but it does allow you to write volume automation, a great feature to get your hands off the trackpad or mouse. Pressing Shift, Control, or Command while the transport is up brings up a variety of different options, ranging from changing your mouse tool type to gluing, cutting, or repeating regions. I’m very used to my key commands, so I’m unsure if this will be faster for a seasoned Logic vet, but those just starting out might find themselves not having to learn key commands for common functions.

I found myself wishing it offered level controls for sends, or even some basic control of Logic’s excellent channel EQ plug-in. However, based on how Apple has been pushing new features for Logic, I’m confident we’ll see these things in future updates.

Switching to a software instrument track changes the game completely. Playing with the Touch Bar on audio tracks left me thinking, “Oh, that’s neat,” but seeing what it does for software instrument tracks made me think, “Now I get it.” Logic defaults to opening its Classic Electric Piano, and across the Touch Bar pops up the parameters from its “Smart Controls,” a feature I always thought would be more useful if it were a little less buried. Now, I had immediate access to Bell Volume, Drive, EQ, and more.

Pulling up an instance of the program’s excellent soft synth, Alchemy, you once again get access to the rotary pot to access those universal controls, a Level control, but most importantly, all the parameters of the performance XY matrix of presets, between which you can morph by sliding your finger back and forth. Tap on the rotary pot again, and you can pull up a teeny, tiny little keyboard. They keyboard is a novel idea, but for those of us like me, with “full-bodied” fingers, the risk of accidently hitting a number key and changing your window view is high.

Overall, my takeaway from using the Touch Bar was standard for my dealings with a lot of Apple tech (in which I’m deeply entrenched, from my phone to my iPad to my computers): a cool idea that will likely have more and more functionality with future firmware updates. There are some functions I doubt I’ll use over my very ingrained use of key commands, but I have no doubt that individuals just starting out with Logic will take to being just as fast with the Touch Bar.

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