Review: Studio One (and only) 2.5 by Presonus
Alex Arsov has a new love in his life. But fortunately his wife of twenty-three years has nothing to worry about. Steinberg, however …
by A. Arsov, July 2013
I’m a Cancer in the zodiac … faithful unto death. I’m almost fifty, having been with my wife for twenty three of those years. In the past few years I’ve reviewed almost all big sequencers that are available today, staying faithful to my trusted old Cubase. The reasons for all that are pretty simple. My wife is simply the most beautiful and smartest person I’ve dealt with, and with Cubase I’m completely comfortable, knowing it inside out. I have lived a pretty ordinary life, dealing with the things that I know the most … until last month. I got Studio One for reviewing purposes. I thought it is just another sequencer on the market, and what’s even worse, a newcomer at that. So there should be no surprises in my working and writing schedule. However, just two days after I started my new project in Studio One I have become firmly convinced that I will never return to Cubase or any other sequencer. OK, I should admit that I discovered later that Studio One is not as much a newcomer as it would appear. The main programmer is the ex-Steinberg employee who actually worked on the first Nuendo and is the main man behind the VST3 protocol. One way or another, the fact is that this article will talk more or less about …
Why I switched to Studio One 2
For everything what I will describe here, your sequencer of choice also can do in some way. Maybe it doesn’t have exactly everything, but the first reason that prompted my change of heart is that Studio one takes the best and most usable things from other sequencers. The second reason is the straightforwardness of software. You will immediately notice that Studio One puts everything right in front of you. No matter what you do, you can reach any tool you need directly from the main window, mostly with one or two clicks
. Let’s start with the browser. Every sequencer has one, some of them hidden, some right at your fingertips. But this one is the most organized and most useful one I have ever seen. Well organized with a nice bottom row for switching between effects, instruments, files, sounds and pool. Choosing one of those possibilities is just the beginning. Every part can be further sorted: ordering by vendor, alphabetical order, category or anything else, according to what is selected in bottom row. Everything is drag and drop: effects, instruments and all sorts of sounds or loops, even MIDI parts.
Studio One has got one of the best stretching algorithms on the market, similar to the one found in Acid. It synchronizes everything immediately, so finding and using the right loop is a matter of seconds. The browser even works excellently with MIDI files. It shows MIDI tracks inside the MIDI file, and you can preview them with any instrument that you have selected at that moment.
Recording or arranging things in main window is a piece of cake. I recorded one bass and guitar part just to see what could be done. As always, I was a bit sloppy on the bass guitar, so I decided to quantize the audio. Right click on audio file pressing the “Quantize 50%” (or Alt Q) and it was corrected in a second. Just don’t give me usual “blah blah” about your sequencers, this one really works, even with a complicated phrase. I then just need to delete few transients, and that’s it. If you want to correct just one beat in a loop, right click, audio, detect transients, and then just drag start point of the beat you want to correct. With Studio One 2.5 Professional, you also get a Melodyne lite, so if you want to change your guitar solo in brass line, right click (or Ctrl M) and select “Edit with Melodyne”, then add a track with any brass instrument, and just press the audio track and drag it to the instrument track. Your MIDI is ready to serve. Bouncing a VST instrument into audio is a matter of seconds. After half of hour with Studio One I knew that I will spend the rest of my musical life with this sequencer. For every track you can add addition layers, so achieving the perfect take is a breeze. Cutting, selecting, duplicating or even stretching is all there. You can make a new loop, drag it into a browser and you have a saved loop for the future needs. You can even drag anything from any other song. You can also drag effect racks or anything else.
The mixer window offers everything that you need for such a task. It looks quite normal, similar to all the other sequencers. But when you start to drag things around, copying effects between the tracks just by dragging them on a next track, or opening the effects or effect racks, a new appreciation emerges. At first glance the effects look like those in Logic. They appear to be nothing special, but are very usable, so you can say goodbye to your third party effects. I started to tweak them, however, and soon discovered very useful presets and even pre-saved racks of effects. I glanced through many of them and soon I found the ones that worked the best with my arrangements. Selecting all of my drum tracks, I simply right clicked in the mix window, selecting “Add bus to the selected tracks”, and they were all routed to that bus. Presonus, I love you!!! Adding send effects or an I/O bus is a similar story. I just can’t stop talking about how straight forward this program is.
Studio One comes with a ton of other goodies like loops, sounds and instruments. Speaking of the instruments, there is also a very useful Akai MPC-like drum sampler called Impact. With many sounds and many outputs, you can say goodbye to your old Battery plugin. Present is an advanced sample player, fitted out with plenty of additional sounds, from average ones to the truly great ones. There is also a monophonic synth similar to those in Logic. With some basic programming skills, you can get plenty out of it. With Professional and Producer version you get Native Instruments Komplete Elements/Players, a very good collection with lots of useful stuff. These are limited edition versions, but they do supply almost everything you will ever need. Guitar Rig has enough effects and amps to fulfill all your guitar needs. Ok, I admit that I’m guitar maniac, having almost all virtual guitar tools that are on the market, and I like many options for my guitars. But I could survive with any of these amps: NI, IK, Magix or Scuffham – they are all more than good. There are also some fine Reactor ensembles. Studio One brings plenty for making your musical life perfect. It offers you everything that you need to create, arrange, mix and even master your songs or the whole projects.
Is there more? Yes, of course there is a lot more. I remastered my last two projects in the Studio One project window. It is a place specifically provided for mastering. After you finish your song, you can export it to the Project window, where you can add other songs comparison with yours. And you can include other songs from the same project to compare levels, color or any other aspect of your songs all in one window. This makes for efficiency in coming up with a solid master for the whole album. If you want to change anything in a master file, just click edit song, and the selected songs will be opened in a song editor in the main sequencer window. Fix the bass or anything else and from the menu choose update master and you are back in a Project window. No, it is not just nice, it is simply fantastic. There are probably a lot more things I haven’t mentioned. I’m relatively new to Studio One, so I’m still discovering things. For now, everything looks perfect, but …
I would like to see additional registration option: to license it through an iLok or any other dongle, not just by downloading license on my hard disk. I constantly change things inside my computer and I’m afraid that I will lose those 5 licenses that I got with my software in a year or two. I know that many people complain about dongles, but I like to put old dongles in a new computer without worrying about all those licenses. My second wish would be additional functionality for the Impact drum sampler. I would like to see an option that would allow me to drag a drum loop inside Impact, which would automatically slice it, arranging separate beats on Impact’s pads and allowing us to drag the MIDI of a sliced loop onto a MIDI track where we can further rearrange it (something as we find FX Guru, UVI Workstation and in PP Reason). My last wish is for a way to change the “category” for a chosen effect (for those that are still not assigned categories) in the Category submenu of the Effect window inside the browser. Maybe I missing something, but it seems impossible to do it.
Otherwise, everything is just perfect. Did I mention that Studio One 2.5 is even not expensive as many other sequencers? The Professional version will cost you 400USD. The Producer version 200 USD, Artist 100USD, and there is even a free version which does not support third party VST effects or instruments, but more or less is a true gold mine when it comes to free software.
No, there are no conclusions. I always thought that Presonus went mad when they decided to push their way into a crowded market with that product. But it turns out that Studio One is the best kept secret in the music world. It has an endless rank of satisfied users, very good support, and a big community with plenty of additional tools and setups extensions and presets. These are to be found in the Exchange zone on the Studio One site. Some of these are must-have tools with unique solutions that make your life much easier (not to mention some of the most straight forward approaches that I have ever seen). Yes, that’s why I switched to Studio One.
Visit http://studioone.presonus.com/ download a free version or even trial one and prove it to yourself. I know … you don’t intend to switch to it. That’s exactly what I also thought not so long ago.