Almost 20 years on from version 1.0, FL Studio’s user interface still looks very similar. To veteran users, each update would obviously pose no jarring disconnect, but to me – a new user – it looks dated and cluttered. Relying heavily on skeuomorphism, everything appears to be trying to mimic hardware in appearance. In 2017, user interface design has generally moved away from that in favour of clean and streamlined design and so using the software for the first time is a little overwhelming.
Opening the software you’re presented with a channel rack step sequencer with the default kick, clap, snare and hi-hat, each loaded up within the default sampler instrument. Within 15 seconds of opening, you could program in a beat and be on your way. The default sampler is pretty excellent too, plenty of sound moulding parameters are there as well as a few nifty features like inbuilt delay, chord function and arpeggiator – out-featuring many other DAW’s samplers.
The other packaged plug-in instruments are numerous and extremely well featured. There’s classic subtractive synths, FM synths, drum synths, guitar synths, sample slicers – all sorts of crazy stuff. The latest addition for FL Studio 12.4 is the Transistor Bass, a really nice and accurate Roland TR-303 synth and sequencer emulation with a few worthy additions like distortion, delay and reverb.
Projects from the brilliant FL Studio Mobile app can now be integrated with the full desktop software in a way that’s so simple it’s kind of genius. Image-Line have basically ported the mobile app to an FL Studio plug-in – so you can run the mobile app inside FL Studio and mix in your tracks made on the go with the full capabilities of the desktop software. Integrating mobile apps with software is something we’ve seen other software developers scratching their heads with a bit. To me, this is a perfectly simple solution. At the moment it’s only a native FL Studio plug-in so you can’t bring that over to other DAWs. However, if you own FL Studio and want to use a different DAW, you can run FL Studio as a plug-in within your alternate DAW, then run FL Studio Mobile within that. Plug-in-ception!
FL Studio is also one of the leaders when it comes to touch support for the new generation of touch screen computers. A really neat feature on some of the modules is the ability to quickly switch between multi-touch gesture, ie. pinch to zoom, and multi-touch control, ie. sliding up two faders at once. Touch support rolls over to performance mode too, so you can trigger loops without a controller via a simple tap.
Overall, I can dig this program. FL Studio ran the duration of my review 100% glitch free, lightning fast, and can do everything I need a DAW to do. Plus, there’s plenty more cool stuff I don’t have room to touch on (it comes with a god damn gaming engine for visuals). Maybe it’s user experience design isn’t the sleekest out there, but the value for money is immense, with free updates for life as part of the deal. There is a fully featured trial (bar opening existing FL Studio projects) available for download, so it’s easy enough to find out if this is the DAW for you.