Logic Express 8 is the latest version of Apple’s middle-of-the-range music production sequencer. While it boasts more features than GarageBand, it’s essentially a cut-down version of Apple’s flagship music studio, Logic Pro 8.

Like its bigger brother, Logic Express 8 offers MIDI and audio recording capabilities with 24-bit/192kHz resolution, a plethora of onboard instruments and effects, plus compatibility with the Audio Units plug-in format. And, like Logic Pro 8, the new Express comes with a redesigned interface that combines all of its windows into a single, more intuitive workspace.

Instruments and synths

Logic Express has 36 onboard virtual instruments from the Logic Pro collection. First up is the EXS24 sampler, which comes with a large library of sounds, ranging from pianos, guitars, basses, orchestral instruments, choirs, synthesisers, percussion and world instruments to a number of specialist sounds. In fact, you can create a whole multitrack arrangement entirely with the sequencer and the EXS24 alone, without any other instruments whatsoever. An integrated EXS editor also lets you build your own sampled instruments.

Additionally, you’ll find a number of onboard virtual synthesizers, including the highly regarded ES1 and ES2 – good news for dance musicians! Other useful instruments include Ultrabeat, a rhythm synthesiser with an integrated step sequencer (or a ‘drum machine’ in plain English!), and EVOC20, a vocoder-synthesiser (for creating synthetic vocal sounds).

However, a number of Logic Pro’s finest instruments are missing: notably, EVP88 (an electric piano simulation), EVB3 (an organ simulation), EVD6 (a clavinet simulation), and Sculpture, an extraordinary physical modelling synthesiser. EVB3 should probably have been included as the Logic Express EXS24 library has a shortage of organ sounds.

Most of Logic Pro’s effects are also available in Express, although notably absent is the high-quality convolution reverb, Space Designer. However, all of Logic’s more basic reverbs are present and they are suitable for most styles of music. Also worth a mention is Guitar Amp Pro, a virtual amplifier that can emulate the sounds and tones of well-known guitar amps.

It comes with 11 amp models, 15 speaker cabinets, tweakable microphone controls, and an effects section. You can process your guitar’s signal or audio recordings directly through it to get a reasonably authentic rock, pop, blues or jazz sound. Other new Logic Express effects include a pitch corrector, an echo unit, a ringshifter (great for creating Dalek vocal effects) and an equaliser for sound shaping.

Logic Express also boasts two useful, timesaving features: Multitake Management, where you can set the sequencer to record in Cycle mode and automatically record alternative takes; and Quick Swipe Comping, which lets you click-drag across a desired part of a particular audio take to automatically use it in your final version. Other advanced new features include Snap-To-Transient, Graphical Time Stretching, and Sample-Accurate Editing, which all enable you to work more efficiently.

Stepping up

So which music software studio should you buy? Should you move one step up from GarageBand to Logic Express 8? Or plunge in headfirst with Logic Studio? It’s a difficult decision, as both packages are now very appealing. Logic Pro used to be expensive (£699) and its high price helped to limit its appeal to professional musicians. But now that the improved Studio version is available for less than half that price (£319), it’s an attractive proposition for those who’d like to own the Rolls-Royce of software studios. But Logic Express 8, at £129, is still great value – and a comprehensive music studio package to boot.

If you want to create electronic dance music or straightforward pop, Logic Express will do nicely, but if you’re after something with more bells and whistles, check out its big brother. Either way, there’s never been a better time to make music on a Mac.