Logic Studio is Apple's most powerful and complete music software package to date. It comprises a suite of tools: Logic Pro 8, a professional sequencer; Soundtrack Pro 2, a post-production program; MainStage, a live performance application; and a selection of superb utilities, instruments, effects and loops.

At the heart of Logic Studio is Logic Pro 8, a considerably updated version of Apple's top-flight sequencer. Users of older versions will immediately notice a number of changes in the interface. The old Arrange window has been replaced with a new one that offers instant access to a number of the software's other functions.

It takes a little getting used to, but play around with the buttons, tabs and parameters and you'll soon find your way around. The new interface is definitely more intuitive to use and helps speed up a variety of common tasks - in fact, beginners will find the new version more approachable than earlier versions of Logic.

Instruments and effects

Logic Pro 8 comes with an arsenal of instrument and effect plug-ins. At the heart of this selection is the EXS24 Sampler, which has sampled versions of just about any instrument you can think of; pianos, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, electric and acoustic basses, synthesisers, drums and percussion - there are 1,300 in total.

The latest version of EXS24 has an enhanced, more intuitive interface, and you can also use Logic's EXS Editor to create additional sounds, if you've got the time to sample your own instruments!

Logic Pro 8 boasts an impressive range of virtual synthesizers, including an enhanced version of the ES2, a software synth capable of creating analog-style sounds, timbres associated with modern dance music, and all sorts of other synth tones, ranging from atmospheric pads to weird effects.

And if you're up for serious sound creation, there's also a new version of Sculpture, an advanced physical modelling synthesizer that can create all sorts of unusual sounds.

Logic Studio 8 effects include a brand new Delay Designer that offers up to 26 individual delay taps and fine control over each delay time. Logic's state-of-the-art reverb unit, Space Designer, has also been enhanced for multichannel audio processing.

All of the other regular Logic effects plug-ins are still available, alongside a new range of 'surround' effects. And, of course, Logic Pro 8 still has Audio Unit capabilities, so you can load up all of your favourite third-party plug-ins.

There's also a massive sound library available boasting 18,000 royalty-free Apple Loops and 5,000 sound effects, which can be integrated within your music.

The loops, which automatically match the sequencer's tempo settings, cover a wide range of styles played by drummers, percussionists, guitarists, keyboard players, orchestral musicians, horn players, world musicians and singers.

A lot of the pitched loops - guitar and keyboard riffs, for example - might not appeal to everyone, but they're still useful to have, especially during those 'lack of inspiration' moments.

Takes and Quick Swipe

There are two other new Logic Pro 8 features worth mentioning: Takes, where you can set the sequencer to record in Cycle mode and automatically record alternative MIDI or audio takes; and Quick Swipe Comping, which enables you to click-drag across a desired part of a particular audio take to automatically use it in your final version. These features can dramatically streamline the often tedious business of overdubbing.

Additionally, Logic Pro 8 has merged the features of the former Track and Environment mixers into one mixer window that has three view settings: Single, where the display is limited to the selected track; Arrange, where all active channels are displayed; and All, where every single channel that exists in your project is displayed. In this way you can focus on a specific track or have a look at them all.

Unsurprisingly, Logic Pro 8 is a joy to use and you can produce stunning sounds, particularly with the ES2 and Sculpture instruments. Better still, it no longer comes with a dongle, the device that once protected it from piracy. In many ways, though, that's a good thing, as dongles were a pain for users anyway!

Bundled software

Of course, Logic Pro 8 is just one of several superb programs that make up Logic Studio.

Soundtrack Pro 2 is a program for working with audio and video tracks. You use it to synchronise music created in Logic Pro 8 to video, as well as edit dialogue and create sound effects.

Its main interface features a timeline where you can see your audio tracks being played alongside the selected video. Once you're happy with a particular blend of music and sound, you can save your audio project so that it's ready to be imported into a video.

Soundtrack Pro 2 enables you to create soundtracks in 5.1 surround, as well as simple mono or stereo. You can also use it to analyse and fix problems such as clicks and hum in your audio files.

MainStage is a virtual live performance rig aimed at rehearsals and live gigs. It enables you to use Logic's instruments and effects in live performances. Keyboard players can use a MIDI keyboard to play any of the software instruments, while guitarists and other musicians can put their instruments or voices through any of the effects. The simple interface helps you to organise and access your sounds quickly.

Logic Studio's production utilities include an Impulse Response utility for capturing the acoustics of rooms, a Wave Burner app for professional CD mastering with a SuperDrive or CD burner, and an Apple Loops Utility that helps you to view and manage the tags used in Logic Studio's Apple Loops.

Great value

It's hard not to be blown away by the sheer power and scope of Logic Studio, but the most extraordinary thing about this package has to be its price.

When you consider that Logic Pro 7, the earlier iteration of Apple's flagship sequencer, used to cost £699 by itself, that its nearest rival, Steinberg's Cubase 4, still costs £649, and that the new, improved version comes shipped with a suite of other superb music production tools, all for less than half the price, you can't fail to see what a bargain Logic Studio is.

Rebranding the software sequencer as a complete studio suite is a stroke of genius by Apple - the current package's blend of power, range, versatility and price completely blows all the other professional music software competitors out of the water.

The asking fee of £319 should make professional multitrack recording available to many more musicians and it's even likely to tempt consumers who fancy playing around with a serious piece of music kit.