Some things should just work, amirite?
Let’s say you’re about to record some vocals. You’ve got the headphones on. The mic’s powered up, and you’re ready to roll.
You hit record, and the track starts to play. The first chord of the verse starts up, you take a breath and…
Nothing. Not a single word you sing comes through the headphones.
What the heck? You play back the track. Clearly you recorded something. You can hear it!
But why can’t you hear it while you’re singing?
So you take a trip down the Google Hole. 2 hours later, you have the dang mic coming through the headphones.
But now there’s a new problem.
Instead of hearing your singing while you’re singing, it’s delayed in your headphones. Or even worse, you’re hearing double.
At this point you’re convinced that either:
- Your interface is busted, or
- Logic is a crap DAW.
Either way, your urge to kill is rising:
Recording Without the Hassle
First of all – you’re right. Things should just work the way you expect them to. Especially when it comes to recording.
The good news is that everything you need is literally a click away.
Logic has several Modes for a stress-free recording session. And they’re sooo close by, it’s easy to miss them:
Those buttons aren’t there just to look good. They’re huge to your recording life. Get to know these babies, cause they can save you a lot of headaches.
Software Monitoring: The Ghost in the Machine
Hearing you mic or instrument in Logic can feel surprisingly complicated.
But it’s really not a big deal. The hard part is knowing what the heck it is you’re looking for.
This obvious but “tough” thing you’re trying to do is called Software Monitoring. You’re trying to monitor your instrument through the software.
Or to put another way:
You’re trying to listen to your instrument through Logic.
Once you know what you’re after, it’s easy to get things working.
All the Logic Modes hang out in the upper right hand corner of the Arrange Window. And Software Monitoring looks like a speaker:
If you don’t see the Software Monitoring button, you’ll need to dig it up.
Do this by Control-Clicking or Right-Clicking in the top part of the Arrange page, and select Customize Control Bar and Display…:
A window will now open, and all the way to the right is the Modes and Functions:
When you select Software Monitoring, the button will appear in the Control Bar.
Click on Software Monitoring to turn it on.
Even though you have Software Monitoring enabled, you’re not done yet. Now you’ll need to enable Input Monitoring for each track you want to hear.
Think of it like the electricity in your house.
Input Monitoring is like a light switch you use to turn on the lights. Then imagine Software Monitoring is like the fuse box in the basement. That fuse box controls the power for the whole house.
This is an important distinction. Input Monitoring turns monitoring on for specific tracks. And Software Monitoring controls the monitoring power for everything.
You can find Input Monitoring in the Track Header as an orange button with the letter “I”:
If you can’t find it, you’ll need to Configure the Track Header. To do that, use Key Command Option-T to open the Track Header menu:
At the bottom of the Buttons list is Input Monitoring. Click the box next to it and you should now have a shiny new orange button in the Track Header!
Pretty easy, right?
- Flip Software Monitoring on for the whole project, and
- Turn Input Monitoring on for the tracks you want to hear.
Cause depending on your recording interface and Mac, there’s a tango you’ll have to dance.
Monitoring through Logic introduces a phenomenon called Latency. Latency is an audible delay of your mic signal.
For example: You try singing into the mic, and your voice comes through the headphones milliseconds after.
It’s pretty hard to get into the groove if your vocals sound off the whole time!
So how do you deal with latency?
Well. It depends.
The best approach always starts with adjusting Logic’s Buffer Size.
I’ve gone over the Buffer many times on the site, so I won’t belabor the point. But if you’re not familiar with the Buffer, I suggest reading this post.
Head up to the main menu bar at the top and dig into:
Logic Pro X > Preferences > Audio
Within the Audio Preferences menu is a field labeled the I/O Buffer Size. And within that menu are 6 values measured in samples:
- 32 samples
- 64 samples
- 128 samples
- 256 samples
- 512 samples
- 1024 samples
The rule here is the smaller the number, the less Latency you’ll have to deal with. But the smaller the number, the more you risk the chance of crippling your Mac with System Overloads.
So you’ll have to perform a balancing act:
- How small a buffer is small enough to eliminate the latency problem? And,
- How small is too small for your Mac to handle?
For my system, I record at 128 samples without any noticeable latency.
Which is awesome, cause then you can record with plugins 🙂
Recording With Plugins & Low Latency Mode
What’s so cool about Software Monitoring is you can take advantage of the awesome plugins and routing in Logic.
If you need some reverb or delay to feel comfortable performing – throw it on your track! Let that reverb wash your self-doubt away.
Having a hard time hearing yourself in the mix? Throw on the Compressor to level out and bring out your performance.
Get as Plugin or Bus crazy as you like!
So you go to town. You’re throwing in plugins left and right. Once you’ve nailed the sound you’re after, you get ready and hit the record button –
But plot twist! There’s that Latency again!
It turns out Plugins and Busses can add latency too. And since you’ve gone buck wild on your recording session, it can be a real pain to track down what’s screwing things up.
To save you precious minutes of your life, Logic has a Low Latency Mode:
With the single click of a button, Low Latency Mode turns off all Latency-inducing plugins and routing:
Any Plugins or Busses that were messing up your session are muted and turn orange. All is well, and you’re back to your Latency-free life.
When you’re done tracking, just turn off Low Latency Mode. And now all your Plugins are back in action.
Enter: Your Recording Interface
The other factor in the latency equation is your recording interface.
If you’ve followed everything above and you don’t hear any noticeable delay – sweet! Your job is done and life is beautiful.
But if you’ve followed everything above and you’re still having problems, then you’ve got a bit more to go.
For some of us no matter what we do with the Buffer, Low Latency Mode, or anything else – Latency is just a fact.
The reason often is the combination of your interface and Mac. A slower connection like USB 1.0 or an older Mac just isn’t as fast as something newer like Thunderbolt.
Whatever the case, interface manufacturers needed a way to get around the latency problem.
The solution was to provide you with a separate Mix Software for Direct Monitoring.
Direct Monitoring is the opposite of Logic’s Software Monitoring. Instead of listening to your track through Logic, you hear it directly from your interface.
For example, here’s MOTU’s CueMix Software:
With CueMix you can dial in the direct signal from your interface and skip Logic entirely.
Direct Monitoring has its advantages. Namely – you don’t have to deal with Latency!
The bummer, of course, is that you don’t get to take advantage of recording with Logic’s plugins.
So if your vocalist wants to sing with reverb or compression, you’re out of luck.
But it’s always better to have something instead of nothing. So if you haven’t downloaded your interface’s mix software – do it!
Just make sure to turn off Software Monitoring if you do use Direct Monitoring. Or you’ll hear both the Direct Monitoring signal and the Software Monitoring signal.
The result will sound like you’re vocals are going through a phaser pedal.
Trippy, but not helpful.
Monitoring may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Between Software and Input Monitoring, it’s really quite easy.
Things get a little more complicated when you have to think about Latency. but thankfully Logic gives you several ways to manage Latency:
- I/O Buffer Size
- Low Latency mode
Based on your Mac and interface, you may need to find a different way to manage your monitoring latency.
That’s why you should always download your interface’s mix software!