Logic for X Ships with Audio Units, REX Support; Why the Audio Unit Fuss?

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Date: Friday, October 11th, 2002, 00:00
Category: Archive


Emagic has released Logic Platinum 5.4 for Mac OS X as a free downloadable upgrade, the first host to support the Audio Units for software instruments and audio plug-ins. The upgrade also offers native REX compatibility for using these loop libraries, which users can design with the original beat and groove Cuisinart, Propellerheads’ ReCycle. MOTU, for their part, just added REX support to Digital Performer 3.1.

Emagic raised some eyebrows when it announced it would not support the popular VST or VSTi formats, saying developers for OS X had a unique opportunity to create a single standard format. The wholly-owned Apple subsidiary reports from Germany that its Audio Units Developers Kit has been in high demand. Emagic reports in a discussion why Audio Units are the way to go. In brief, Emagic touts the benefits of a single interchangeable format instead of the many formats (MAS, Digidesign/TDM, VST, VSTi) on Mac OS 9. This argument makes some sense, too: part of the reason for multiple plug-in formats in OS 9 was that separate hardware drivers and audio environments were needed for professional audio, whereas in OS X, a single hardware driver layer can do all of the work. Emagic also says Audio Units should shorten development time, better handle muliple audio streams from mono to surround, feature slicker GUIs with sizable windows and robust graphics and editor support with individually sizable windows.

Will Audio Units support more applications than VST, though? VST is already in action in Ableton Live and BIAS Peak on OS X, and, quite frankly, it works fine. I think Emagic is already too late: Audio Units will be an additional format; it won’t eliminate VST. But if we imagine Audio Units like USB, and Logic like the iMac, it isn’t hard to believe that Emagic, by supporting only Audio Units, will be the catalyst that convinces developers to widely adopt Audio Units, which may well be the superior format. And that’s an excellent demonstration of how Emagic, even if it’s owned by Apple, can improve the state of the entire Mac music platform, which will benefit its competitors Digidesign, MOTU, and Steinberg.

But will plug-and-play interchangeability be as easy as Emagic and Apple have claimed? Already, users are complaining, for example, that they cannot route MIDI data between Reason and Logic. At this point, it’s probably too early to speculate: if the OS X switch has taught us anything, it’s that developers have their work cut out for them making everything work seamlessly, even if the ultimate goal is worth the wait. The good news now is, applications are rapidly appearing on OS X, which means developers can begin the next phase: making everything work together. Even with Apple’s OS X music technologies cutting development time over the long haul, you can bet that’ll mean lots of bug fixes over the next six months or so. In the meantime, Logic owners can also download 5.3 (without REX support) for OS 9 from the Emagic website.

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