At a Glance
- Nice virtual instruments
- Great sound effects
- Super easy to use
- Doesn’t support third-party VSTs
This is the best entry-level audio and music recording software available, but it’s pricey.
As a long-time user of Sonar, Cubase, and
Tools, I was surprised to see PreSonus take a stab at the
already saturated high-end digital audio workstation market. I’m
glad they did, as the resulting Studio One goes a long way towards
combining the ease of use and creative flow of Ableton
Live and FL Studio
with the classic track-based approach to composing and recording
offered by the aforementioned big three.
Experienced DAW users will notice Studio One’s features are
rather Cubase-like; the programmers worked on both Steinberg’s
Cubase and Nuendo. However, while the overall look and some
controls are similar, Studio One’s workflow and placement of
functions are superior. Instead of the usual stack of
hard-to-navigate-and-organize child windows there’s a single work
area divided into resizable panes that are either always visible,
appear in context, or may be invoked via hotkeys. Ableton Live and
FL Studio users will recognize the approach. Studio One allows you
to detach the mixer for use on a secondary monitor, and FX and
instruments are free-floating.
Studio One supports the Steinberg XML format, so you can import
Cubase songs, but I opted for recreating one of my Cubase
recordings song using Studio One’s Ableton-like support for drag
and drop. I dragged an exported multi-track MIDI file to the track
window and not only did Studio One recognize it, it allowed me to
place tracks in time where I wished without reselecting them. From
the left-hand browser pane, I simply dragged the VST instruments I
wanted to the corresponding drum, bass, and keyboard tracks,
selected the presets and voilà, all I had to do was drag in
the live audio tracks and I was good to go. Total time, about 10
minutes–without prior experience.
Though it’s extremely quick and easy to use once you’re up to
speed, Studio One’s features beyond the drag and drop are not so
easy to learn. The how-to info is hard to find, the PDF user’s
guide lacks a navigable index, and some of the language and labels
are needlessly terse, especially in the tooltips. I recommend a
night with said user’s guide and the company’s YouTube tutorials
before setting out on this DAW adventure.
Significant differences exist between the $250 Artist and $450
Pro versions of Studio One. Artist processes only at 32 bits, has
no mastering suite, and here’s a tricky one–doesn’t support VST/AU
plugin instruments or FX other than the ones that ship with it. But
there are a host of excellent-sounding FX and processing plug-ins,
plus several virtual instruments. PreSonus offers a comparison
Over time, I’ve run across a few gotchas. The Pro version
supports VST 2.4 and 3, but not the older standards, which forced
me to find a substitute for an old standby FX. The included Impact
virtual drum machine doesn’t allow you to change which notes
trigger the pads. If you have a lot of drum tracks formatted to the
GM standard, bring your own drum machine.
Despite the occasional head-scratcher, I truly enjoy Studio One,
and have been using it regularly for about a year. It sounds
pristine, and so far version 1.5.x hasn’t even hinted at crashing
on me. It’s well worth a look-see, even if you’re pleased with your
current DAW. The integrated mastering suite in the Pro version is
unique in the market and will save you a ton of money if you need
such a thing.
Note: The demo won’t load or save files, and it times out
in 30 days. These links take you to the vendor’s site, where you
can buy the software or register to download the demo.
–Jon L. Jacobi