Alright ladies and gentlemen I’m going to be keeping this review brief and to the point. About 4 months ago I started looking into leaving the Mac world and building a Pc. As a result I had to figure out what DAW I was going to switch to since at that point Logic Pro 9 had been my weapon of choice. I thought about the usual suspects first ( Cubase, Pro Tools, Reaper, etc.) but I kept hearing from a few different local guys about how much they loved Studio One. I started digging and after watching a few videos I decided to give it a go.
My first impressions were that this is a very intuitive piece of software. I literally stopped using Logic after spending maybe 2 hours with Studio One. Granted, I was excited about learning something new but the switch was surprisingly painless. Fast forward a few months and I’m faster with Studio One than I ever was with Logic. The main reason is that simple tasks I perform numerous times in every mix are streamlined a little. Here are a few examples :
So for me the workflow is damn good. When you add on the fact that it operates without a dongle and that the install was as painless and simple as you can get, my initial impressions were fantastic.
Thinking About The Little Guy
One of the main reasons I’m feeling at home with Studio One is that they seem hungry for my approval. This is a big damn deal because it means that they will listen to the customers and improve on the software. If you visit the Presonus YouTube page and look at the comments on any of their videos you will notice that someone from Presonus is responding to the questions and comments, and they are ON IT! In a world where Avid charges customers to call their tech support, it’s nice to see that even people who AREN’T customers are getting their questions answered in the Presonus camp. Needless to say I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the way they deal with their customers since I’ve been paying attention to what they’re up to.
Another big bonus for me is that a lot of the updates are free to existing users. I started using Studio One on version 2.5 which added a ton of great features at no cost to users.
Since then I’ve experienced one update which also added some cool new toys like a native version of the “Fat Channel” which can be found inside the Studio Live digital mixers. These are just 2 examples of how Presonus take care of their users with great updates.
If you compare pretty much all DAW platforms to what they were just a short time ago, it’s pretty freaking crazy how powerful they are. All the major DAW’s out there at this point have staggering amounts of features and you might need 10% of them. For my needs Studio One has everything I need to do my job and more. It has everything from advanced time stretching capabilities to having Melodyne baked right into the software. If you buy the Pro version you will also get around 10Gb of additional downloadable content containing a TON of loops, samples, and some pretty good 3rd party stuff as well!
I have mixed opinions about the stock plugins. Some of them are great and some of them have ZERO character. For instance the Red Light Distortion Plugin is fantastic but the stock compressors are BORING. They get the job done but I can’t help but want a few more plugins with balls. The lack of a transient designer is also slightly disappointing. I do like that a good portion of the plugins have built in mix knobs.
Editing in Studio One is a breeze for most tasks. The comping system they’ve developed is fast and pretty much idiot proof. You simply swipe the section of the track that you want to use and it automatically creates the crossfades and you’re ready to go. There’s no need to manually slice regions and select them or create the crossfades afterwards. My only complaint about the comping is that I wish there was a button on the track similar to Cubase that opened up all of the takes. I found a workaround for this by using the Track List but it’s a little less than ideal. If Presonus added this then the comping would be as good as it gets. Aside from the comping I’ve been having a good time using the Split At Grid function which will slice the selected region into whatever subdivision you have selected in the quantize panel. This is a great way to create fast stutter and glitch effects.
I’m a big fan of the way Presonus implemented automation in Studio One. Before I started using Studio One the standard method for creating automation would be to search through a drop down list to find the parameter I wanted to automate ( often times the list is a mile long ) or to start the automation in write mode and then doctor it up later. In Studio One there’s no need to do either, I can simply click on the parameter I want to automate and then hit “A” in the upper left hand corner of the screen, or drag the parameter onto the track. Watch the video below to see what I’m talking about.
There are also some fun tools that allow you to draw different curves and shapes into your automation tracks. After you’ve drawn some weird stuff you can manipulate it further by using the Transform Tool which allows you to stretch and bend your automation. Pretty bad ass stuff!
Like with most DAW’s it can’t all be sunshine and roses. In the case of Studio One MIDI seems to be its biggest shortcoming. Lets take the humanization functions for example. In most DAW’s when you want to humanize something you get a nice window with a large number of parameters that enable you to choose the level of humanization. In Studio One you get a button that randomly moves the MIDI data around. The only control you have over it is an option to humanize less. This is VERY disappointing! You can always go into the quantize panel and adjust things like swing but I’d love to see more options for randomization. To add salt to the wound there are ZERO MIDI INSERTS. I’m really really hoping that Presonus will address this and add some MIDI toys into the fray in a future update because at this point it is lacking. To some this won’t matter much, but if you’re an EDM guy or gal this is a HUGE deal.
Not much to say in this department other than that I haven’t had a single crash and that it’s been solid as a rock for me.
It seems that Presonus made the manual for people who are easily frightened of in depth features. There REALLY needs to be more screen shots, links to sections that the current one is referring to, etc. The manual for Cubase looks like some sort of technological scroll that leaves no questions remaining. It’s easily twice as long because there are screenshots for damn near everything. I would love to see the same thing in Studio One.
The Little Things
There are a ton of awesome little features in Studio One that make my life easier. I really like having the browser with all of my plugins right there ready to go. The drag and drop feature seems kind of like a gimmick at first but if you use a lot of the same plugins and have the browser open, it really does save time. If you buy the Pro version it comes with a full mastering suite that allows you independent and global control over all of your final mixdowns and also allows you to embed all of the data for the particular artist you’re working with. Being able to upload your content directly to Sound Cloud is a big time saver for me and it works flawlessly. I love having the home screen that has a news feed with various information on promotions and the like. I could go on and on about the little things, there are a TON of them!
Presonus has created a great piece of software in Studio One. I used Logic Pro for years and was a big believer in what they were up to. After using Studio One for a few months I don’t see myself going back. It’s not perfect and there are areas that really need some attention, but after observing the way they take care of their customers I’m convinced that this software will continue to grow and get better with updates. If you’re thinking about switching DAW’s or you’re new at this gig I highly recommend checking out Studio One.