The Logic Pros-Retro Synth-01In this week’s episode of The Logic Pros, we will take one final look at some of the new additions to Logic Pro X 10.1. We have already gotten a taste of a number of very helpful new features including custom plug-in menus, Track Stacks, the Brush Tool and the powerful new Drummer features, but today Retro Synth is on tap.

While Logic already had a number of classic synth-inspired virtual instruments like ES1, 2 and more, we are talking about instruments that have been around for 10 years+. A serious breath of fresh air for Logic users, Retro Synth (RS) wraps all the major synthesis disciplines of yesteryear – classic subtractive, hard sync, FM and more – into one, neatly packaged virtual instrument. Not only does RS standup to many of the basic analog synth emulations out there, but the LPX 10.1 wavetable updates just put it toe-to-toe with many of the $200+, third-party flagships:

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To avoid a far too long-winded explanation of synthesis at its core, and the typical uses of modulation, this will be a brief overview of what RS is capable of and what’s new in LPX 10.1:

Basically we are looking at a virtual instrument that can be set in 4 different modes, or 4 different types of synthesis, each of which result in a different type of sound. “Analog” is typical, basic waveform synthesis, “Sync” locks the two oscillators together which creates that typical ringing type sound we are used and “FM” is a basic (and quite understandable) take on frequency modulated synthesis.”Table” (or wavetable) is a type of synthesis that replaces the typical waveforms found in Analog mode with small clips of just about any audio waveform you can get your hands on. Wavetable is a technique developed in the late 70’s (made popular by PPG/Waldorf) and has since become a typical option in both modern day virtual instruments like Serum and in newer hardware like DSI’s Prophet 12.

OK, let’s get one thing off the table. You are certainly going to find more bells and whistles, a vastly larger array of modulation possibilities and a much more lively community of patch makers with something like the Native Instruments Massive instrument or Xfer’s Serum. However, RS is a powerful synth in its own right, not to mention you get it and LPX in its entirety for less than the price of either of the aforementioned wavetable synths. And with the 10.1 update, RS’s wavetable got a lot more versatile. We can now create/add our own wavetables to work with, vastly widening the sonic capabilities of the instrument in the process. In fact, we can even “import” the wavetables from other synthesizers and use them in the Oscillator section of RS.

Once we select an audio file from our computer/hard drive, RS will scan the file, breaking it down into waveforms, which will in turn create a new table of waves, or wavetable we can use in the oscillator section. In RS, and just about all wavetable synths, we can choose which point or waveform in a particular wavetable we would like to use. This happens via the Shape controls on RS and can drastically change the tone of your sound, depending on the audio you selected.

Today we are going to take a look at how to create our own wavetables and how to leverage the new voice stacking capabilities of Retro Synth:

1. Open an audio instrument track (option + command + n) and then load up Retro Synth.

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2. Along the top left of RS’s UI you’ll find the 4 synthesis modes: ANALOG, SYNC, TABLE, FM. Choose TABLE to select the wavetable synth engine.

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3. Along with the blue interface, we are presented with RS’s wavetable parameters including a pull-down menu (seen above). We see a number of preset wavetables courtesy of Apple, but if you scroll to the top you’ll see a “Create Wavetable from Audio file…” option.

Note: Or just drop files right on the Shape controls to load up a custom wavetable. Drag and drop audio files directly from the Finder to the left most portion of the Oscillator section when Retro Synth is set to TABLE.

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4. Optional. This step is entirely optional, but some advanced users may want to note the “Audio File Analysis” options found within the disclosure triangle on the bottom left corner of the Retro Synth UI. This will adjust the granularity with which RS analyzes your audio when creating custom wavetables.

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5. Now you can choose any audio file on your computer to create a wavetable out of. Once selected, Retro Synth will automatically analyze the file and break it down into individual segments or waveforms. And your ready to go. The Shapes knobs will now allow you to scroll through the waveforms in the newly created wavetable. From there the audio from the wavetable passes through the filter, LFO, Envelopes and Amp modules to further shape the sound.

Note: Both of the Oscillators (Shape 1 and 2) in the Oscillator section will get the same wavetable loaded up on them when creating a custom wavetable. The fader labeled Mix on the right most portion of the Oscillator section allows us to blend the sound of Oscillator (Shape) 1 and 2 to create more complex patches.

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When selecting audio files to create wavetables, you may get the above message. It is always a good idea to use short and basic clips when just starting out. Retro Synth wants constant pitch clips of audio or small clips separated with silence for the most part, so you may need to experiment a little bit with your audio.

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How did you stack all those voices up? In the latest major Logic update, we received the ability to stack up to 8 voices in Retro Synth. We previously only had a double switch, which would stack up to 2 voices per note, but now we can max out at 16 voices or 8 voices per note.

In the bottom right corner of the Retro Synth UI you’ll see a “Settings” button. From there you’ll find the new Voice Stacking option and the ability to set the Voice (stereo) Spread and Detune, making for some very fat and wide patches that weren’t previously possible. This voice option, in my opinion, opens up the possibilities for Retro Synth significantly. This in conjunction with the new custom wavetables can make for some very complex/evolving synth pads and characteristic lead lines.

Controlling wavetables with your hardware. Retro Synth’s entire interface can be mapped to your MIDI hardware controls, and the Shape knobs are no exception. Mapping the Shape knobs or the Mix fader to controls in the real world can offer up some very interesting and creative performance possibilities. You can find out everything you need to know about controller assignments in The Logic Pros: episode 4.

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Logic 10.1 Honorable Mention goes to… Ok who broke out the Mellotron and gave us some pretty awesome free EXS sample instruments? In your Logic library you’ll find some sweet Vintage Mellotron EXS patches for free. The Mellotron is a polyphonic, sample based synth that actually used a tape head inside to playback string, voice and wind instrument like sounds. It debuted in the early 60’s and can now be found in your copy of LPX. If you don’t see it, hit the Logic menu up top and look in the “Download Additional Content” section for it.

Well that rounds out our look at Logic 10.1’s best new features, but here’s to hoping some of those new Garageband features that just popped up make it to LPX. Be sure to drop us a line in the comments below if there is anything that you have found especially useful/annoying in 10.1:

The Logic Pros is a new regular series exploring all of the most interesting gadgets and software for making music on your Mac/iOS devices. If there is any gear you would like us to take a closer hands-on look at, let us know in the comments section below or shoot us an email.

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About the Author

Justin Kahn

Justin is a senior editor covering all things music for 9to5Mac, including our weekly Logic Pros series exploring music production on Mac and iOS devices. Justin is an audio engineer/producer with over 10 years experience in the music industry.