Shares Our Verdict On its 20th anniversary FL Studio is a powerful and inspirational application – and a welcome addition to the Mac realm! Pros Multiple Arrangements are really inspiring and a great workflow addition. Time signature markers are well implemented.
FL Studio Mobile VST
Shares Our Verdict On its 20th anniversary FL Studio is a powerful and inspirational application – and a welcome addition to the Mac realm!
Pros Multiple Arrangements are really inspiring and a great workflow addition. Time signature markers are well implemented. Cons UI can still feel a little cluttered and imposing.
Few software applications can claim the sort of cultural cachet that FL Studio has. Pleasingly, licenses are shared between both Mac and PC versions. Image-Line already offers lifetime free upgrades to all FL Studio users, meaning that all existing users of the software now automatically own upgrades to version 20 on both platforms.
What about newcomers though? While the application has come on a long way from its early days as a basic loop sequencer – it easily holds its own against rival DAWs on the feature front – it still shows its roots in its layout and work flow. Whereas the bulk of mainstream DAWs see users work across a single timeline or workspace, FL Studio splits creative, mixing and arrangement duties into independent sections, each with its own UI window.
The main arrangement space is known as the Playlist, which is used to sequence patterns of audio, MIDI and automation which are created in the Channel Rack. This latter section is also used for selecting instruments and plugins as well as routing audio to the Mixer. Each instrument in the Rack gets its own simple X0X-style step sequencer, which can be expanded to a pop-out piano roll for more complex sequencing duties.
Version choices FL Studio 20 is available in four different versions: The Fruity edition is the cheapest at 89 euros, and contains the core functionality but lacks audio capabilities and some of the more advanced plugins. Most of the plugin instruments are available for purchase individually too. Audio from the Channel Rack is then routed to the Mixer, where each track gets its own channel strip complete with insert plugin slots for effects processing.
This fragmented creative approach has pros and cons. Fortunately, things are very flexible, so each window element can be hidden as needed. The DAW got a major visual upgrade for version 12, with a switch to vector graphics throughout, and the ability to smoothly resize windows is great.
From a work flow point of view though, it can prove inspirational in certain situations. Its focus on Patterns, acting like building blocks to arrange with, really suits genres with an emphasis on loops, builds and breakdowns. It encourages a work flow focused on grooves and riffs more than long recordings. There are certain elements of the work flow that those used to rival DAWs may find clunky.
The need to load up new windows for many sequencing and editing duties, for example, rather than simply make edits within a timeline. The selection of included effects plugins is excellent, with highlights including the Convolver convolution reverb and a strong selection of delay tools.
New users will find a lot to like in the great sequencing and MIDI creation touches too, such as the inspirational Riff Machine, and the neat Graph Editor – which makes a welcome return for this version, having been dropped from FL Studio These are just a few features from a comprehensive list though. The highlight here is the addition of multiple Arrangements. This gives each project an unlimited number of alternative versions of the Playlist, which users can flip between to use as sketchpads or create variations on their current track.
Stability wise, FL ran solidly on my mid MacBook Pro, though we noticed some playback glitches when changing plugin presets. Setup and registration was easy. There are a few elements of FL Studio yet to be ported across for the Mac version. Rewire support is absent too. Image-Line says the former is currently being worked on.
Several plugins are currently unavailable. This gives users several options for bouncing instruments or samples down to single audio les. There are options to bounce down full Playlist tracks, selections from the Playlist or individual Patterns from the Rack. There are further tweaks to the Playlist too. For one thing, the number of available tracks has increased with this version, from an already fairly generous to a maximum of To help keep those masses of tracks getting too cluttered, you can now hide track groups.
FL Studio also now presents a visual representation of audio when recording into the Playlist. On the recording front, when recording in looped mode, multiple takes are now automatically copied to new tracks and grouped, which is handy for keeping track of multiple variations.
Multiple time signature options for both the Playlist and individual Patterns is another welcome new feature. This allows users to add markers to the Playlist which initiate a shift in time signature. You can also set time signatures for individual Patterns, and even change timings mid Pattern using the Piano Roll.
Patterns can be set to follow time sig changes marked on the Playlist too. There are a good number of other small tweaks and quality of life improvements across the board, from an improved plugin delay compensation system to general bug fixes for a host of FL Plugins and numerous other small changes.
That aside though, while some longtime users may bemoan a lack of major new plugins or tools, the Playlist and Pattern improvements are excellent, and make this a really worthwhile update. As for new users, FL Studio is very much worth your attention.
It makes a great addition to the Mac realm too. The best of MusicRadar in your inbox Don’t miss the latest deals, news, reviews, features and tutorials No spam, we promise. You can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your details without your permission.
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