Is Logic Pro for iPad Worth the Subscription?
Users of Logic Pro have long been hoping for an iPad version of the incredibly popular DAW. In mid-2023, a neat 30 years after it was first released, that wish was granted.
However, there’s a catch. To get access, you will have to pay a subscription fee. If you already use logic, you might be wondering whether it’s worth the extra money, especially when the desktop version offers you everything you need, and crucially, comes with free lifetime updates.
On the fence about whether it’s worth the cost? Here’s what you need to know.
Logic Pro for iPad
Originally named Notator Logic, Apple bought the software from the German developer Emagic in 2002. Ever since, it’s been a pillar of the creative ecosystem of Apple apps, representing one of the best music production software out there.
The cost of the iPad version is $4.99 (US) per month or $49 (US) per year, which, at first, doesn’t seem like an unreasonable amount to pay for a fully featured iPad DAW. However, considering that Logic has been one of the few DAWs on the market to remain a one-time purchase, introducing a subscription fee is disappointing to a lot of people.
Price aside, it’s undeniable that the iPad version of Logic opens up a whole new way of producing music in a DAW. It also comes with several new features including Sample Alchemy, Beat Breaker, and a new sound browser.
Both free and paid DAWs have benefits and drawbacks. Let’s unpack Logic for iPad to see if paying is worth it for you.
The Fun of Touch Controls
Among the most exciting features of the iPad version of Logic is of course the ability to use the touch screen to interact with the DAW. It makes turning knobs and sliding faders much more intuitive and a whole lot more fun.
You’re not likely going to tackle precision editing using this method, though that is possible by connecting a keyboard and mouse. For things like playing a virtual piano, working out a drum beat, or rearranging samples using Live Loops, however, it’s hands down better than trying to be musical with a computer mouse.
On that note, Quick Sampler and Step Sequencer, features that were introduced previously to the desktop app, find a proper home in the iPad version. The look and user interface of these features is perfectly suited to the dimensions and interactivity of the iPad. An indication that Apple has been preparing Logic for the iPad for many years.
Another area where the functionality of the iPad shines is automation. An Apple Pencil makes the task of drawing automation lines a lot more natural and far less painstaking, improving both the workflow and results you can get.
Alternatively, you can record automation live by “riding” the faders and tweaking effects, close to if you had a MIDI controller or mixing desk in front of you. For those of you who don’t have any hardware controllers, the iPad could prove to be a handy alternative if you have one lying around.
It’s worth pointing out that if you simply want to use the iPad as an external controller, you don’t need to buy a subscription to the iPad app. You can do that using an app called Logic Remote (free) which turns your iPhone or iPad into a controller for Logic.
The iPad certainly extends the portability of Logic a little bit further, but not by a lot.
Considering how common it is for people to use Logic on a laptop these days, portability might not be the biggest selling point if you already use the desktop version. With the shift to much more powerful silicon chips, MacBook laptops can comfortably run Logic from any location.
There are some situations where busting out your iPad could be a fun way to sample a sound, like the demo video above shows. Though it’s not the most persuasive argument for the majority of people who use Logic to record instruments and vocals—you really want to save that for the studio.
The portable iPad version of Logic is perhaps most useful for sketching song ideas and recording demos. Paired with the multitouch feature, it becomes a quick tool for capturing creative ideas.
This brings us to one interesting use case. Logic for iPad is a strong contender if you want to get into iOS music production; that is, for the people out there who largely produce music using a mobile device.
In that case, comparing it to the desktop version doesn’t matter. Logic for iPad takes the best features from the famous DAW and combines them with the community of developers already creating audio plugins and software for the iPad.
Logic for iPad is integrated across devices, meaning you can move a project between the iPad version and the desktop version and back again. Aptly named “round-trip”, this feature allows you to work on whichever device you have on hand.
However, there is one notable pitfall: plugins need to be compatible across devices too.
Apple’s own AU plugin architecture has been around for a while now, and over time Apple has developed ways for AU plugins to work on iOS for iPhone and iPad. Because of this, you can expect native Logic plugins to also work on the iPad version.
The same might not be true for third-party plugins you own though. It might mean that your favorite plugin won’t work on the iPad version until its developers work on an AUv3 version for iOS (also called Audio Unit Extension). This puts you outside a host of free VST plugins you could otherwise make use of.
This poses a serious kink in the cross-device workflow and could possibly create more obstacles than solutions for you. As with similar pro music software, you might want to wait to see if compatibility issues are ironed out before committing to a subscription.
The Apple Hardware Tax
On its own, the subscription fee isn’t an unreasonable amount of money to pay, but that’s assuming you don’t have to pay the “Apple Hardware Tax”. We’re talking about the extra cables, accessories, or devices you might need to purchase just to use the software to its full potential.
The most obvious piece of gear you need is an iPad, and when it comes to working with audio, you will need a model that has a large storage capacity and sufficient computing power.
The iPad Pro is a fantastic choice, but if you don’t already own one, you are looking at $1099 to purchase one new. For that price, you will get a conservative 11-inch display and a comfortable 512GB of storage.
As we mentioned, an Apple Pencil would make drawing in automation a breeze, so add in another $129 to grab that accessory. Those interested in maxing out their setup with Apple’s Magic Keyboard are looking at paying another $299.
What is perhaps most ironic, however, is that the iPad is missing something crucial to making music on a computer altogether: it has no headphone jack. You will need a Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter if you want to use your nice headphones to listen to your mix. No current model of iPad has one.
Using Bluetooth headphones to mix a session in Logic simply isn’t good enough. You will face problems with latency and connectivity, not to mention audio quality. Lacking a digital audio converter, playing hi-res audio on an iPad is a lot more complicated.
Are You the Target Audience?
For existing Logic users, the iPad version might not offer you anything more than you already have with the macOS version. With fewer options for plugins, and alternative options available if you want to use the iPad as a control surface, it can seem like a stripped-down version undeserving of the subscription fee.
There is, however, another group of people that might gain a lot from this app. For those dedicated to mobile music production on iOS, who already produce music using apps, it can offer a single base of operations.
There’s no doubt that bringing Logic to iPad is exciting news, but its status as game-changing depends on who the target audience is.