PROS / This software has a vast loop and sound library.
CONS / Recording live instrumentation requires a bit of a learning curve.
VERDICT / FL Studio's strengths are in a large loop library and many virtual instruments to create music.
Image-Line FL Studio has been around for almost two decades. This audio production software is centered around creating electronic music with a sequencer. FL has always been considered beat-building software as opposed to a full digital audio workstation. Previous versions of FL Studio were unable to record live instrumentation like a typical DAW. Today, FL Producer Edition 11 features all of the electronic beat-building tools that you’d expect from this studio software and also the ability to record live instrumentation.
FL Studio Producer Edition 11 has come a long way from previous versions. The first version, called Fruity Loops 1.0, was simply a MIDI drum sequencer with limited production capabilities. Today, this music production software can be used in the studio, for live performances or in conjunction with other DAWs.
FL Studio's interface is nothing to write home about. It is a bleak, bluish-gray color, and unattractive. The transport sits atop your workstation and seems clustered with buttons and controls. Fortunately, when you hover over an icon, a description of the button displays in the top left-hand corner of your screen. Without that, a beginning user would certainly be lost.
Recording live instrumentation into FL Studio is different when compared to other DAWs. To record audio, you have to load an insert effect called Edison into the channel strip that you wish to use for your recordings. Edison is mainly used for recording one or two sources of audio. To record multiple audio sources simultaneously (multi-track), you have to arm the disk recording button on the mixer for each channel strip you want to record with. Having two separate ways to record audio is confusing.
The strong suit of FL Studio lies within its tools and its ability to create electronic music. This music recording studio software started as software to create electronic beats, and Image Line never forgot that. To this day, FL’s piano roll is perhaps the most powerful in the digital audio workstation industry. This MIDI recording method uses step sequencers to help you compose and arrange your audio. To create music using the step sequencer, you can drag and drop sounds and loops to add them to the sequencer. Then you can activate a step (a note or loop) by left-clicking on it and remove the step by right-clicking.
FL studio boasts a large sound library. There are many virtual instruments, as well as effects that you can apply to them. There are also many sound loops and clips that you can use in your musical compositions. The depth of the sound library is impressive and attests to the production aspect of this software.
The relationship between the step sequencer and the arrangement window is confusing at the beginning. The arrangement window is where you piece all of your patterns and compositions together. The step sequencer is where you create patterns (loops) to add to the arrangement window. To listen to only your step sequencer, make sure the PAT light is on under the track time keeper on the transport. To listen to the entire arrangement of loops, highlight the song button below the timekeeper on the transport.
As software based on MIDI production, it is no surprise that FL Studio has a large number of plugins to apply to your audio recordings. This software offers over 30 synthesizers, drum machines, sample pads and other effects. The studio edition of this software features more plugins than the producer edition we reviewed, and upgrading is as simple as going to the website and downloading the studio version.
If you own a different DAW but prefer the MIDI recording capabilities of FL Studio, you can actually use FL almost as a plugin for another software. This is called rewire. The entire FL Studio program can be used as a complement to another DAW, which makes this software even more versatile.
FL Studio is powerful audio production software, especially since the inclusion of live instrumentation recording. Electronic beat sampling and virtual instruments are where this software excels. Recording live instruments is a bit confusing at first. A creative musician armed with a MIDI controller will appreciate the vast sound library available within this audio production software.