Let me ask you – what the hell is Destructive Audio Editing? What is Non-Destructive Editing? And why do both sound equally as terrifying?
If you’re like me, anything that uses the word “Destructive” is something I don’t want to get involved with.
I’m working hard to not destroy my tracks. So why the aggressive language?
Usually Logic provides ways to fix major screw ups:
- Bounced a Flexed track prematurely? Command Z
- Chopped off the first word of the vocals? Grab the left edge of the region and drag it back
- Messed with the wrong plugin parameter? Hit Compare in the plugin window (or use 10.4’s fancy Plugin Undo function)
But there’s one area of Logic where everything you know and love about editing gets flipped upside-down.
You’ve got to be on your game in this area. Because if you slip up, you could end up regretting the day you ever decided to edit Audio.
What is Destructive Audio Editing?
It’s a fair question. What is it, and why would anyone ever call it that?
Plainly put, it’s exactly as it sounds:
- Destructive Editing means any edits you make will permanently change your audio files,
- Non-Destructive Editing means any edits you make won’t permanently change your audio files
That’s it! Case closed 🙂
But of course this begs the question: “why would I ever need to use Destructive Editing?”
The audio regions in your sessions aren’t actually Audio Files. Instead, they refer to the Audio Files in your project.
Audio Regions are like photocopies. You can cut a photocopy, fold it, or burn it if you’d like. But the original document remains unchanged.
That’s the beauty of Audio Regions. You can trim the ends, add fades, or bump up the Gain. But the original Audio File itself isn’t affected.
If you decide to reuse the Audio File in a different session, you start from a clean slate.
That’s why we call 99% of editing in Logic Non-Destructive. Because the edits you make won’t change the original file.
So what’s the big deal?
Well for that, we’ll need to visit the Audio File Editor.
Making Permanent Changes
If you asked me, I’d tell you to stay away from the Audio File Editor. In the 10+ years I’ve been using Logic, I’ve never had a reason to use it.
But I’m sure if you asked another engineer, they would think I’m crazy.
The Audio File Editor does exactly that – it edits the Audio File itself.
And you can access the Editor by double-clicking an Audio Region, or by using Key Command W. What you’ll see is the actual Audio File, not a reference to the File.
You can also view your Audio Files in the Apple Finder when you navigate to your Logic project. Conveniently, there’s a folder labeled Audio Files:
This is what we’re talking about.
The Audio File Editor shows us the Original Gangster File. And the functions in the Audio File Editor’s menus can permanently change it.
So why would you ever need Destructive Editing?
My suggestion is to ask yourself the following question:
“Are these edits that I need to make sooo annoying, that I don’t ever want to do this again?”
That’s it. Got edits that are gonna be miserable and time-consuming?
Use Destructive Editing.
But again, you can make those edits in the Arrange Page, Bounce a new region, and have your cake and eat it too.
Unedited and edited living side-by-side. Without doing undue damage.
Digging In: the Audio File Editor’s Functions
Maybe I’m being a bit over-dramatic. I mean, if you dig into the Audio File menu in the Editor, we do have some safeguards against screw ups:
It’s not like you can’t Create a Backup or Save a Copy to cover yourself.
But think about it. If you need to Create a Backup or Copy, that means this is serious business. You run the risk of doing some irreversible damage if you’re not careful.
I mean, dig into Logic’s Preferences menu:
And click on the Audio File Editor tab in the Audio Preferences:
Well look at that! The Audio File Editor’s default for Undo Steps is only 5 steps.
Sure, you can add more Undo steps. But your Mac needs more processing power to keep those steps in its memory. And what if you Quit before you get a chance to Undo…?
You’re stuck with that edit forever.
I can’t harp on this enough. Just like diamonds, these edits are forever.
Okay! Now that I’ve put the fear in you, let’s dig into the Editor’s Functions:
To Normalize is to set an Audio File’s volume to max out at 0 dB.
Logic finds the loudest point in your Audio File, and adjusts the whole File so that loud peak hits 0 dB on your meters.
There’s never any real reason to Normalize audio. It makes your file louder. Yippee! It also leaves no room for mix processing.
Changing Gain is much like Normalizing, except you get to pick how loud or quiet you want the File to be.
So say you have some Vocals with some loud breaths between phrases. They’re super distracting. But you don’t want them completely gone. That would cause the vocals to sound unnatural.
With Change Gain you can highlight the breath, and reduce it in volume. That way the breath keeps your vocals natural, but doesn’t sound like a vacuum cleaner going off.
Fade in / Fade Out
Instead of adding Fades to your Region with the Fade Tool, you could print Fades to the Audio File.
…Or you could add Fades with the Fade Tool.
An easy way to completely remove any undesirable noise or sound permanently.
This can be really handy for inverting the polarity of an Audio File.
Don’t feel like flipping polarity for your drum tracks more than once? Use Invert to set them straight forever.
Want your Audio File to play back in reverse? If you’re in Logic 10.2 or higher, just click Reverse in the Region Inspector:
If you’re not in 10.2, then use this Function.
Trim will completely cut out any selected part from your Audio File.
Remove DC Offset
This function is actually pretty handy.
DC offset is a weird phenomenon. You know how your Audio Regions always seem to revolve around this line in the center?:
That’s the Zero Crossing Line. Somehow, something in your signal chain can cause your Audio to not center around this line. Instead, it can be offset either positively or negatively.
When DC Offset occurs, your Audio is kinda, sorta hanging around zero – but not really. So your speakers don’t know how to interpret the situation.
They literally don’t know which direction to go in!
This can result in pops, clicks or even distortion.
So when you Remove DC Offset, Logic adjusts your Audio to center around the Zero Line.
Audicity, another DAW, has a really great explanation of DC Offset on their Wiki.
Time and Pitch Machine
Time and Pitch Machine was the old school way of changing an Audio File’s pitch or tempo. This came way, way before Flex Time or Flex Pitch.
Looks fun, huh?
I prefer the far more intuitive Flex Modes for my pitch and time edits.
Is this an exhaustive exposé of the Audio File Editor?
This post’s only goal is to help you understand what Destructive Audio Editing means. And that means:
If you’ve got that, you’re golden. And what’s even better, is that Logic Pro X gives you everything you need to edit – without risking your Audio Files!
If you decide your edits are worth never doing again – Bounce in Place. You can enjoy a fully edited File and the unedited file as a Backup.
I love your stuff! You really are the best at Logic. I won’t be using this Audio Edit Window. But what I can’t find out is HOW TO F’ing close it if I open it by mistake. If you could let me know that’d be great. Thanks again for your site.
Hey George, thanks so much! You can use key command “E” to open/close the Editor windows, or go to View > Hide Editor.
Pierre Vaillancourt says
I’m revisiting your 2018 publications. As a french reader, is my understanding correct : destructive editing can be done either by bouncing an audio file in place if I replace the original file or by using any of the Functions in the Audio file Editor.
On the other hand, editing in the audio file inspector window is non-destructive. Is this correct ?
Thanks so much for what you do !
Brian G says
Just came across this post, wish I read it before jumping into a project with my school kids. Have you ever come across the function options being greyed out when the audio file is selected? I changed the gain and maybe silenced some weird noises in one audio section, then all of a sudden I couldn’t do anything else, all of the functions were not available anymore. It was a vocal recording of a group, so it’s not a loop or anything thats copy protected.
OK, this post does not answer my question, but I’m hoping you can.
If I make a version of a bounce, and then later want to make a new version of the same bounce with fixes, but want to keep the same name and filepath, what I used to be able to do it is just save it to the same folder, and then Logic would ask me if I want to overwrite the file or save a new file.
However, something has changed and now it says “can’t replace audio file it is used in an open project”.
How can I get my old way back?
Hey Lindsay, thanks for your question! Based on what Logic Pro is saying, the bounce appears to be in use inside the Project. Meaning Logic Pro is referring to that file. Either from the Tracks Area or the Project Browser.
You’ll need to remove that Bounce from the Project before you can overwrite it. So if you have the Bounce is in the tracks area, I would delete it. And then go to the Project Browser (press key command F) and find the Bounce in there as well. Select the Bounce, and then go to Edit > Delete (inside the Project Browser).
Then Save the Project. That should do it 👍