Presonus is an American based audio electronics company based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was founded in 1995 by engineers Jim Odom and Brian Smith. The company made its name building keenly priced audio interfaces, signal processors and mic preamps, but in recent times it’s their StudioLive range of mixers that has probably caught the eye of most and certainly proved a resounding success for the company.
“a welcome alternative to the intimidating, bloated [DAW] offerings currently considered the standards…”
So why develop a DAW in a market that would seem to be quite set with the established brands; the likes of Protools, Logic, Cubase, Reason, Ableton, Sonar and FL Studio are all pretty established in their market shares begging the question ‘what can another DAW do that’s not being done by one of the aforementioned already?’ Well clearly Presonus had other ideas, encouraged specifically by two former Steinberg programmers at a company the two had formed called Kristal Labs. From what may have started out as a strategy to supply an OEM DAW version with their audio interfaces and StudioLive mixers has since turned into a full-blooded product they took to market in 2009.
The Money Shot
They launched with the marketing pitch, “a welcome alternative to the intimidating, bloated [DAW] offerings currently considered the standards with a program that makes audio recording, MIDI sequencing and audio mastering ridiculously simple right out of the box.”
In a nutshell the two ex-Cubase programmers clearly were aware of some of the frustration that users had expressed when they worked on the Steinberg DAW and recognised that simpler means faster work flow. What makes Studio One an appealing alternative too is the fact that it entered the market at such a good price and with Mk11, just released, they have upped their game even more, by throwing in so many extra add-ons the DAW really is all you need to create music with just few extra plugins.
Studio One – the DAW
Before we get into what’s new and impressive about the new Mk11 version let me take you through what Studio One has offered since it was first launched. First of the GUI interface is super sleek and cool. Similarities to Cubase are unavoidable, even down to a similar blueish/grey colour scheme.
What I like about Studio One is the single window design; with everything integrated on one screen it’s a little like the new Reason 6 in functionality but aesthetically will appeal more to those familiar with Cubase. Drag and drop is a great feature with which you can drag virtual instruments and plug-ins (or just their presets) from the Browser to the Arrange view.
Likewise if you drag an audio sample from your folder a new audio channel will create automatically and features such as being able to duplicate sends on the virtual mixer makes setting up multi-tracks super quick. This is the strength of Studio One; the ease with which one can create instrument tracks, audio tracks, routing etc by simple drag and drop techniques without ever leaving your front screen. The time-stretch algorithms really impressed me in Version 1 too. There are three, namely; Drums, Solo and Sound and you can slow entire mixes down by a simple altering of the global tempo.
The audio editing features are also good and compare favourably to Cubase, a DAW that has always been a leader in this area of music production and whilst version 1 did not offer any dedicated multi-track comp editor this has been addressed in MK11. The Control Link feature will learn your MIDI controller keyboard’s knobs, sliders and switches, and then allows you to quickly and simply link them to the on-screen mixer and plug-in controls. Learned parameters stay learned, so that the same hardware mapping automatically kicks in the next time the same plug-in is used. This is similar to Novation’s Automap system as it updates you with changes you are about to make before you fiddle.
Anybody who spends time programming a midi controller for different plugins will recognise the benefit of a system that maintains this info indefinitely. I can wax lyrically all day about the individual features that Studio One brought to the market but in truth purveyors of the other DAWs will equally have answers to the approach Presonus have taken.
Perhaps the biggest and most appealing feature of Studio One that will certainly help the product gain traction in the market place is their uncluttered approach and what they have added in the MK11 version.
What’s new in MK11?
Since the program download only became available three days before print deadline it has been impossible to fully test the new version of Studio One, suffice to say that first impressions are that the GUI is even sleeker and super modern in look. 20 Gigabytes of downloading later makes one realise that they have chucked everything plus the kitchen sink and more into the full-blooded version. I looked briefly at the main features cited online to see if they worked to verify their claims;
Integrated Melodyne Pitch Correction; this third party application is the leading pitch correction tool available and is fully integrated into Studio One now. What this tool does is breaks down an audio recording, say a vocal, into separate notes (frequencies) and one can manually adjust these so if a vocalist misses a note you can actually move this within the audio recording. Naturally for effects purposes you’d be able to create some wacky distortions too, something like the autotune craze that swept popular music recently.
Transient Detection, Editing and Groove Extraction; you can quantize multitrack drums in two steps: group the tracks, then quantize. Studio One does the analysis and phase-coherent quantization for you. Drag-and-drop audio into the Groove panel, then quantize. Groove extraction is as simple as drag-and-drop; extract a groove from any audio and apply it to any other audio in seconds! It works and it’s amazingly quick and simple taking mere seconds to do its job.
Multitrack Comping; this was lacking in version one although there was a relatively easy way around it before. In MK11 it’s a dead simple process with features such as automated crossfading between takes (you can edit the fades) and a simple alt and clicking of a take to audition the audio. Simple and fast is the key here.
Other notable features include quick and easy editing of multiple instrument tracks simultaneously, a track ‘Transform’ feature where an entire audio track can be rendered in place with one click, removing any inserted effects plug-ins and conserving CPU power while still allowing normal editing. One click restores the original audio events and any inserted effects. Kinda like ‘Freezing’ in Cubase but with added flexibility.
What’s in the package?
Studio One Professional ships with 31 64-bit Native Effects™, and both Studio One Producer and Artist ship with all but 5 of these plug-ins (Pipeline, Groove Delay, Multiband Dynamics, OpenAIR, IR Maker). Both Professional and Producer versions also support VST 2.4, VST 3, AU, and ReWire. There is no limit on the number of plug-ins that can be used in a given song.
There are only four Virtual instruments included but with VSTi, AU, and ReWire support you can of course have as many 3rd party instruments as you choose. Third party content bundled with the Professional and Producer versions is impressive too; Native Instruments Komplete Elements, which provides a comprehensive selection of production-ready sounds and effects.
The collection contains over 3 GB of material with over 1,000 sounds. EZdrummer Lite Plus is a stripped down version of the multi-microphone drum sampler EZdrummer. It is designed for musicians and producers who want a compact, affordable, easy-to-handle plug-in without compromising sound quality or control.
This is by now way a comprehensive review of Studio One. It would be remiss of me to imply this after only a few hours of looking at the program. I intend though to start using the application to compose a few tracks so look out for a series of online posts as I detail the pros and cons of this exciting second coming of Studio One.
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SA Distributor: Tuerk Music Technologies | 011 794-8402 | www.tuerkmusic.co.za
Estimated retail price: Studio One Artist V2 – R 995,00 | Studio One Producer V2 -R 1 995,00 |
Studio One Professional V2 – R 3 995,00