TopTenREVIEWS - Gold Award - Awarded for excellence in design, usability and feature set

FL Studio Producer Edition from Image-Line is digital audio workstation software with full midi, audio recording and post-production capabilities. The FL in the name is a vestigial artifact from the software's original version – Fruity Loops 1.0. When it was released in 1997, Fruity Loops was a midi-only drum sequencer. It has since evolved into a full-fledged virtual studio.

Although its price is comparable to its competitors' entry-level versions of their audio production software, FL Studio Producer is a complete digital audio workstation of such high quality that it is endorsed by the likes of Mike Oldfield and Deadmau5. If you examine it as closely as we have in the areas of production capabilities, mixer features, effects, and help and support, you will understand why it wins our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award for the best music production software.

Production
Compare
10/10
FL Studio Producer Edition
Apple Logic Pro
Ableton Live Intro
Reason Essentials
n-Track Studio EX
Sony ACID Music Studio
10
10
10
9.5
7.5
7.3

FL Studio Producer Edition includes a complete set of production features, which we have segmented into the general features categories: arrangement, piano roll and instruments.

In terms of general production features, FL Studio provides an event editor and a step sequencer. It provides external midi control because it supports ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output). ASIO is the now-ubiquitous interface between audio recording software and a computer's soundcard that was developed by Image-Line's competitor Steinberg.

FL Studio allows direct-to-disk recording, offline track rendering, and includes synthesizers and drum sequencers. There is a piano typing keyboard and a piano roll that shows chords and slides that you can use to input midi information. Furthermore, FL Studio supports interpolation and arpeggiation. Interpolation allows you to add new material into a performance or recording. Arpeggiaton is the technique of playing chords as a sequence of the individual component notes. ("Arpa" is German for "harp," and arpeggio is so named because arpeggiated chords sound as though were played on a harp.)

The software also has a step sequencer that lets you visually map out where, exactly, you want to enter notes within the beats inside of a bar. The piano typing keyboard lets your computer keyboard act as a midi keyboard.

FL Studio's piano roll is perhaps the most powerful in the digital audio workstation industry. The piano roll is a high-tech software version of the perforated piano rolls that drive mechanical pianos. The FL Studio piano roll lets you zoom in or out to achieve the right resolution for the complexity that you are working with. You can enter note data manually or record a midi performance and then edit every aspect of the note information. Any automation that you introduce winds up in an event editor. Automation data also appears in the piano roll and the playlist.

A couple more general production features to mention are the synthesizers and drum sequencers. SimSynth Live is an FL Studio plugin modeled on the standalone SimSynth created by David Billen. It emulates analog synthesizers from the 1980s to emulate many instruments and produce a host of effects. SimSynth gives you a wide range of controls over its oscillators and filters, including low-frequency oscillators and amplitude envelope. It also has a chorus switch. FL Studio's drum sequencer is beloved by its users because they feel it is the easiest sequencer to use. From one window, you can expand the grid, move notes left and right and change their velocity and panning.

Arrangement features are another aspect of production. FL Studio has the ability to record and edit audio files, from which you can arrange songs. Using the editing features, you can stretch a note to match a beat without changing the note's pitch. This is useful for correcting timing flaws in otherwise acceptable performances, such as a great drum take with a couple of misplaced snare hits.

Mixer
Compare
10/10
FL Studio Producer Edition
Apple Logic Pro
Ableton Live Intro
Reason Essentials
n-Track Studio EX
Sony ACID Music Studio
10
10
10
8.8
7.5
7.5

The FL Studio mixer contains 64 insert tracks, four send tracks and a master track. The insert tracks take the audio output from the instrument tracks and allow you to process those signals through a variety of effects before sending the signals to the master mixer track. Volume and panning is available for each insert track. The send tracks do not receive a direct audio input from the instruments but can receive data from the insert tracks. Send tracks let you set up a single effect track.

The mixer features a three-band parametric equalizer that is similar to the standalone parametric EQ plugin that comes with the product. Line one of the equalizer is a low-shelf filter, line two is a bell curve filter and line three is a high-shelf filter. The mixer also has a stereo separation filter that lets you increase or decrease the separation between the left and right stereo channels of a mix. If you turn the stereo separation filter knob all the way to the left, it decreases the separation to a mono signal. Stereo separation increases as you turn the knob to the right. The mixer also provides some of the tools necessary for direct-to-disk recording.

Effects
Compare
10/10
FL Studio Producer Edition
Apple Logic Pro
Ableton Live Intro
Reason Essentials
n-Track Studio EX
Sony ACID Music Studio
10
10
7.5
6.3
6.3
6.3

FL Studio has extensive high quality effects. Each mixer track can accept up to eight plugins, and if you need apply more effects, you can just route one insert track to another. The universe of effects takes a long time to learn, but three of the most basic and commonly used effects are EQ, reverb and compression, which of course are included in FL Studio.

EQ, the equalizer, lets you control the loudness of specific frequencies, with preset parameters such as low and high pass, low shelf and high shelf, peaking, band pass and notch filters. Reverb lets you simulate the way that audio signals would sound if it were played in spaces of different sizes and shapes. In other words, reverb simulates the way in which the sound waves would reverberate as they bounce off of the hard surfaces within a given space. Compression gives you control over the dynamic range of an audio signal by amplifying quieter sounds and lowering the volume of louder sounds within minimum and maximum parameters.

FL Studio's audio production software has no shortage of other effects, including filters and modulation modes, as well as delay effects.

Help & Support
Compare
10/10
FL Studio Producer Edition
Apple Logic Pro
Ableton Live Intro
Reason Essentials
n-Track Studio EX
Sony ACID Music Studio
10
10
10
10
10
10

The online forums are organized in useful ways and moderated by responsive experts. Because Image-Line allocates alert moderators to the forum, users are active in maintaining an informative dialogue with category experts. Another way in which the publisher provides excellent help and support is by uploading training videos to the Image-Line channel on YouTube. Likewise, the online reference manual is maintained at a high level of quality and includes a carefully conceived index at the level of detail appropriate for the universe of features in FL Studio. A knowledgebase contains the questions and answers of interest to a broad swath of users.

Once you purchase FL Studio audio production software, you have access to lifetime free updates, which is a level of customer advocacy rarely provided in the software industry.

FL Studio Producer Edition Summary:
10/10

FL Studio is affordable digital audio workstation software that equips you to compose, arrange, edit, mix and master professional-quality music. The software is in wide use by many influential artists who have remained loyal to it since the product's Fruity Loops origins. With it, you can record multiple tracks, edit and manipulate sounds, mix and remix tracks with many audio effects, and sequence and arrange them. The software hosts many types of plugins for synthesizers and effects. When you buy FL Studio, all future program updates are free for life. Once you work with it long enough to grasp the power of its features and the logic of its workflow, you are hooked for life.

 
Software » Multimedia » Audio Production Software Review » FL Studio Producer Edition
 
 

FL Studio Producer Edition

Pros
FL Studio is a complete digital audio workstation. Software updates are free for life.

Cons
Technical support via telephone is not an option.

The Verdict
: 10/10

FL Studio is one of the world's most popular audio production software systems. It has everything that you need to make, mix and master music.