FL Studio 12 Review
By Emmanuel Sowemimo
FL Studio 12
For those that may have flirted with various offerings of DAWs around the early 2000s, you might be familiar with the name Fruity Loops, probably one of the most recognizable names of that time. It was a piece of software that some might say helped to open up the world of DAWs and music production to amateurs and hobbyists alike, incorporating a whole host of user-friendly, professional features at an accessible price . It’s creators, Image-Line, helped further boost its popularity with the provision of a functional demo that would have been enough to have you sold with each release, a strategy that has proved rather successful for the likes of Virtual DJ. However, similar to Virtual DJ, it eventually became a misconception that Fruity Loops was an amateur’s tool, an unfounded allegation that makes light of its powerful capabilities .
Back to the Future
So let us move swiftly into 2015 where image-line has released FL Studio 12, progressed leaps and bounds to appease a devoted fan base and provided functionality to rival other DAWs, and then some. FL studio is more than a tool for amateurs, capable of creating magic that a lot of well known producers can attest to, such as:
Used by 128 Pro Artists.
In the last ten years however, not much has changed in terms of the design and layout of its interface. This is not to say there was much wrong with an interface that so many would have become familiar with at some point on their music-making career, but in a society so infatuated with design, it would likely have been described as ‘dull’ and ‘outdated’. If you are not one of those to agree, apologies, but upon taking a glance at FL Studio 12, you might well be adopting those adjectives if you’re ever forced into reverting back. Image-Line has gotten away with performing an uplift that is so subtle, yet effective, that it practically consigns its past releases to the category of ‘nostalgic past-times’.
A New GUI
With the new vector based GUI ditching the old graphics based interface, it adopts a scalable design to fit an array of devices, especially important, as we slowly do away with traditional sized monitors of the past. A much vaunted flat design has been incorporated and combined with the traditional ’50 shades of grey’ color scheme past users are familiar with, bringing about a minimalistic approach to the revamp. Throw in some splashes of neon in the right places, in a move that would surely appease Tron fans, and it certainly brings comfort to weary eyes after 5 hours glued to the same screen.
With all the changes evident in the redesign, the much adored workflow remains the same, limiting the learning curve for previous users and introducing bigger and more prominent icons for newer users. You might find yourself stumbling around to find the correct icon, but this is easily circumvented by the helpful hint bar.
Multi Touch Mixing
In a world increasingly surrounded by multi-touch tech, the guys over at image-line have gone one step ahead of the competition and made FL studio 12 compatible with touch screen displays, also incorporating multi-touch gestures. As an Apple user that has loved making use of simple multi-touch trackpad in Logic X, this is a welcome addition that is able to provide intuitive short cuts for simple tasks such as; scrolling and zooming in or out. It points towards Image Line’s current mission to provide a native version for Mac OS, and as tested with a trackpad on the crossover version, Mac users will not be left out in the cold.
What makes things even better is that as this new edition now caters for those with multiple displays in their workflow, and as all windows are detachable and completely scalable, there is no need to go out and buy a new touch PC to experience the benefits. If you are eager to incorporate Multi-touch into your workflow, you can simply add additional multi-touch display units to your existing set-up, using it to control specific areas, such as the mixer.
While we’re on the subject of the mixer, I have to direct your eyes to the photographs below, before and after images, best fitted to show its revamp. Even though the mixer is in no way recognizable to FL Studio mixers of the past, everything is still where you expect it to be, except now it offers more in terms of customization and slightly more in functionality.
One of the biggest irks in previous versions was the file management capabilities for a DAW that so heavily relied on a user’s personal collection of samples. It could always be a cause of great anguish, not being able to perform simple maneuverers such as; deleting sounds or filtering folders when dealing with large databases. Well, anguish no more, Image-line on the path to answering the critics of its past versions has solved the pit falls of its browser and added features that negate the need to manage my samples in Windows in order to gain sanity. Honestly, the browser previously was akin to having to create a crate using windows explorer, before being able to go into Serato to start mixing.
And the small things
In addition to getting rid of some of the biggest irks in their product, Image-Line have also managed to get rid of the small ones, a feat only possible with the dedication to listening to its users. Here is a short rundown of the changes that put FL Studio on par with the rest of them.
- Improved workflow between the Piano roll and step sequencer
- Improved visibility of channel settings
- Simplified VST plugin discovery and installation
- Updated VST Plugins
Spoilt for choice
Image-Line has always been very generous in the way they sell their product from its inception, giving customers access to free lifetime updates, unlike most DAW manufacturers. However, If you are not one of those customers and you are currently looking for a way in, they offer 4 editions that cater for different sized wallets and production needs:
- Fruity Edition - $99
- Producer Edition - $199
- Signature Edition - $299
- Signature Edition + All Plugins - $737
Some of these improvements might not mean much to those who are not familiar with FL Studio, but they go a long way in making sure that the software works just right for you, and not just simply having to work with the software. I find that FL Studio’s workflow is un-rivalled with the step sequencer at the forefront; a throwback to drum sequencers of the past, so getting started is never no more than a couple of clicks away. That’s not to say that FL studio is not for instrumentalists, its just the fact that it readily offers both options that makes for an attractive DAW.
Image line have proved with this release that you don’t need to pack in a whole host of features, just address the problems of any previous ones, also proving that they are willing to listen to the customers, you might be hard pressed to find reasons not to join the FL studio clan. If you are looking for a solid DAW, with a user-friendly interface, packed with professional features, you should at least take the first step of downloading the demo version, to explore all that is on offer. You can even save your productions for when you do finally decide to take the plunge.
- Reviewed: Image Line’s FL Studio Fruity/Producer/Signature editions
- Price($): 99/199/299
- Where to purchase with a discount: http://affiliate.image-line.com/BIEFCGBD550
- Operating System (software): minimum required system requirements: Windows XP severice pack 2, 2gb ram and 512 mb free space
- Available: Now