Logic Pro X Retro Synth: Free Tutorial

Curious to know more about Logic Pro X's new Retro Synth? Gary Hiebner puts this vintage synth capable of analog, sync, table and FM synthesis to the test. (Includes audio examples).  

It’s great to see a new synth in Logic Pro X’s arsenal. Many of the other synths like the ES1 and ES M have been with Logic since its early incarnations. I’ve always been a fan of the vintage emulator synth plug-ins and the new Retro Synth really packs quite a punch in this field. And it’s not simply one synth, but actually 4 in 1. You have a choice of 4 different vintage synth types: Analog, Sync, Table and FM. Let’s take a look at these options and see what they offer up.


Step 1 – Analog and Sync

On the Oscillator section, you can click through the tabs to choose the different synth types. Analog and Sync are vintage analog synth emulators very similar to the classic Moog. You can choose the waveform for each of the two oscillators using the ‘Shape’ dials. Those of you familiar with the ES1 will see that these dials and their respective wave shapes are very similar. You then have a Shape Modulation parameter that allows you to choose between the LFO or Envelope to modulate the oscillators or ‘Shapes’. But more on this a bit later. Vibrato can be added to it, and there is a Mix where you can mix between the two oscillators.

On the Analog, you can detune the synth by semitones or by cents. These parameters work very well by creating a unison effect between the two oscillators. Try this out. Select the Square shape for both Shape 1 and Shape 2. Play a note, and then increase the Cents parameter and hear how it widens the sound by this narrow detuning.

A simple Analog Retro Synth where detuning is applied.

A simple Analog Retro Synth where detuning is applied.



When you jump across to Sync, the parameters are pretty much the same, except that there is a Sync parameter instead of the detuning parameters. Try the same on the Sync synth. For Shape 1 and Shape 2 choose the square waveforms. Then while you hold down a note adjust the Sync parameter. Hear how it creates some interesting formant sounds. This could be quite nice to automate for some interesting synth effects, or maybe some LFO modulation could be applied to this.

You can get some interesting sounds using the Sync engine.

You can get some interesting sounds using the Sync engine.



Try out a mix of the other shapes to hear how this affects the sound. There is definitely a warm analog character that is imparted through these synth types. 

The Retro Synth with the Analog Growl Baby Preset.

The Retro Synth with the Analog Growl Baby Preset.




Step 2 – Table

The Table synth is a replica of the PPG wavetable synth. The Shape cycles through a selection of waveshapes. Take a listen to some of these waveshapes as you rotate the Shape parameters. There is a sharper, more digital sound to this synth. The other parameters are pretty much the same as the Analog synth, but this synth type works really well in creating pad sounds.


The Retro Synth with the Access Codes Preset using Table.

The Retro Synth with the Access Codes Preset using Table.




Step 3 – FM

The FM is reminiscent of the infamous DX7 FM synth. Even though the EFM1 has very basic FM capabilities, it’s nice having an FM synth that can be tweaked further. This one is slightly different to the rest of the synth types in Retro Synth. The FM parameter allows you to dial in the FM modulation. This modulates between the Modulator and Carrier. On the right, you can see a slider where you can switch between either the Modulator or Carrier to hear how they sound. These sources are designed with the Harmonic, Inharmonic, and Shape sliders. Drop the FM parameter all the way down. Flip the end slider to Modulator, so you only hear the Modulator source. Use the Harmonic, Inharmonic and Shape sliders to dial in a sound.

Flip the end slider to Carrier now to hear the sound of this source. And use the FM parameter to morph and modulate between the two sources. The further you push the FM parameter, the more harmonics that are brought into the sound and the more digital and distorted the sound gets. You can also adjust the Modulator/Carrier slider to find a happy medium between the Modulator and Carrier signals.

The Auto Focus Preset that uses FM.

The Auto Focus Preset that uses FM.




There’s also Vibrato and Modulation parameters to further tweak the sound.


Global Filter

Next to the Oscillator is the global filter with a good selection of filter types that can be used to tailor the sound. The Cutoff/Resonance point can be grabbed and edited in the graph, or you can input the values. But I find it much easier to tweak in the graph.

The filter section.

The filter section.


And what’s really neat are the dials under this. Try these out for further effect. The Filter FM is great for introducing frequency modulation, and on top of that there is LFO modulation and Envelope modulation dials that can be applied to the filter. Now let’s see how the modulation works on this synth.


Modulation and Envelope Parameters

You’ve seen how all the synth types have rotary modulation dials that can be set either to the LFO, Envelope or in between. Under the Oscillator section is where these are found. There’s a selection of different LFO waveshapes that can be chosen, and the rate can be synced to the tempo, or set manually. 

The LFO and Filter Envelope.

The LFO and Filter Envelope.


The Filter Env can be drawn in on the graph like the filter, making it much easier to tweak.

Change these LFO and Filter Env graphs. Then go back to the Shape Modulation dials to hear what effect it has on the synth. Try fast LFO rates, and slow attack speeds on the envelope to hear how it alters the sound.

Following this is the Amp Envelope. You can increase the Amp Volume and the Sine Level adds in a Sub Sine level, which is really handy to beef up the low end on your synth sounds.

The Amp Envelope and the Effect sections.

The Amp Envelope and the Effect sections.


Effects

Lastly, on the top right is the Effect tab where you have a choice of either a Flanger or Chorus effect. These are okay for adding more depth to the synth sound, but I found that better Flanger and Chorus results could be achieved by adding Logic’s bundled Chorus and Flanger effects to the channel strip.

Choose between Chorus and Flanger.

Choose between Chorus and Flanger.


Conclusion

That gives you an overview of the synth options available in the Retro Synth and the layout of the different edits and tweaks that can be done to it. This really just touches the surface on what’s available in the Retro Synth. The deeper you get into this synth the more your sound palette can expand in Logic. Take the time and explore the different synth options and bring in some analog flare into your Logic music productions.


For more tips and techniques on Logic X check out video courses here:

http://www.macprovideo.com/logic



Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More

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