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PreSonus Studio One Recording Software Review

Sean W. Apr 10, 2011 5
Studio One Song Page

Studio One Song Page

Studio One is the professional digital audio workstation from PreSonus, maker of the Firepod audio interfaces and Studiolive digital mixing board.  It was originally developed by KristalLabs Software Ltd, which was founded by Wolfgang Kundrus and Matthias Juwan, both ex-employees of Steinberg and responsible for Steinberg Nuendo and VST 3 respectively.

Studio One is a relatively new program, when comparing to software like Logic, Cubase, Digital Performer and Pro Tools having decades to add features and support their program.  This review is of version 1.6.4, which has been available since March 14, 2011.

Studio One UI and Navigation

The program starts on what is called the Start Page.  This page list the most recent songs that were loaded, the audio interface, sample rate, news, information and tutorials.  Either after selecting a songs from the song list or by creating a new song, the program will switch to the song page.

Studio One Start Page

Studio One Start Page

Studio One uses the standard DAW layout on the song page.  Large window in the center for the arrangement of the song.  To the immediate left is the volume, record arm, input monitor, track mute and track solo buttons.  On the far left is an inspector for displaying automation settings, tempo settings and layer selection.

The location of the mixer is on the bottom of the song page.  It has three settings, small at the bottom of song page, large at the bottom of the page, and as a pop out if a second computer monitor is in use.   On the right side is where you find the browser.  Within the browser, you can search for instruments, effects, sounds, audio within the song audio pool or any file on the computer.  They can be sorted by vendor, category and folders, but, as of the time of this review, the program does not have any search function.  I spoke to a representative regarding this and he said a future release will have a search function.

The browser and mixer displays can be toggled visible and hidden by pressing the labeled buttons on the bottom right part of the page.  Along with the Mix and Browse buttons, there is also a Edit button that opens a window that zooms in close to the selected track for fine tune editing.

The bottom of the song page has transport controls, metronome setting, time signature, tempo, CPU performance and  a clock.  The top of the page has the editing tools, quantize setting, snap setting and quick automation access.  On the top right is a shortcut to the Start Page, the Song Page and the Project Page for users of the the full Studio One software, not the artist version.

Most of the standard tasks within Studio One could be completed extremely quickly.  Functions like copying a selected part and pasting it to the end of the track can be performed by pressing a single key on the keyboard.  This made idea capturing within Studio One a easy task, which is great for songwriting.

Within the mixer, plugins can be added by clicking the plus sign on the top of the track.  Each plugin can be edited by fully opening up the plugin or by mini controls that appear within the mixer.  Copying plugins from channel to channel can be done simply by dragging one plugin to the desired spot, no keyboard modifiers are needed.  Clicking the arrow to the left of the name of each plugin will bring up a menu that allows you to expand, collapse, rename or remove any plugins.  Clicking the small arrow on the top of the track will bring up a list of plugin chains.

Studio One EQ

Studio One EQ

Adding Aux sends works in a similar way, with most of the precess being automated.  For example, when adding a reverb to a voice track, by clicking “add  FX channel”, Studio One will create the send, create the return and route it to the main mix, then turn up the Aux channel so it will feed the FX channel.

When using the mixer in the mini view, a small arrow will expand the channel so the insert plugins and Aux levels become visible.  This is done in an effective way, making using solely the mini mixer to mix a song not a difficult task at all.

The browser window features two way drag and drop features, allowing quick dragging of files to anywhere on a computer for use in other songs.  Studio One is very CPU efficient, allowing several songs to be open at one time with little to no conflict or slowdown.  If a accidental part might work better in another song, just dragging it to the browser is all that’s needed.  A new song can be started and the file can be brought right into the new songs without opening windows explorer or the Mac finder, nor by closing the original song that was being worked on.

Bouncing can be performed online or offline, offline only if external midi instruments are being used.  Studio One can mixdown songs to Wav, Aiff, MP3, Flac and Ogg Vorbis file formats.  Studio One also can mixdown individual tracks nearly instantly.  Any instrument track that needs to be converted to an audio file is an easy process within this DAW.

Audio Engine and Sound Quality

Studio One uses a 64 bit audio engine for process any song or effect, with the included plugins running at a native 32 bits.   Audio can be recorded from 44.1 khz to 192 khz, and from 16 bit up to 32 bit.

The sound quality of the program reflects these high bit rates.  Everything recorded and played back though Studio One sound clear and strong.  There is no degradation of the audio in any way when adding plugins nor by playing a large quantity of tracks simultaneously.  I am extremely impressed by how warm this DAW sounds.  It sounded a bit smoother and more lively than Avid ProTools, and more open than Apple Logic.

Plugins and Software Instruments

Studio One Ampire

Studio One Ampire

The effects in Studio One are excellent.  The compressors are very usable, yet transparent.  The modulation effects do as advertised, personally being not satisfied only with the phaser.  The reverbs within this DAW are absolutely amazing.  While wearing a set a closed ear headphones, a slight reverb on the snare track caused me to turn around behind me several times thinking there was something behind me making a whacking sound.

The TriComp would have to be one of the nicest plugins within Studio One.  It is a three band mastering compressor with bass and treble controls with selectable frequencies.  This plugin will make anything running though it strong, warm and powerful, with no loss in sound quality.

Studio One TriComp

Studio One TriComp

Unfortunately, the same excellent quality can not be said for the included instruments.  Studio One comes with a instrument player called Presence, a drum player called Impact and a synth, Mojito.  All the synths are usable but not stellar.  The program comes complete with the basic needed toolbox of instruments for composing including pianos, basses, horns and strings.

It also comes with the Sample One, which is a software sampler that harkins back to the days of the Ensoniq ASR-10 and S-series samplers from AKAI.  Samples can be assigned to keys, set to certain key ranges and be adjusted by pitch, LFO, filtered and amplified in any way.  They can then be played back via midi notes on a keyboard.

Studio One is compatible with VST and AU plugin formats, which makes it compatible with just about any plugin available on the market.  In addition, it is also compatible with the .caf file format used with Apple logic, opening up Presonus to all the included sounds as well as Logic and Garageband sounds.

Project  Page and CD Burning

The project page is an integrated stereo audio program with sole purpose to prepare music for commercial release.  It makes it easy to arrange music in the desired ordered, apply any last minute compression and EQ to individual songs or an entire mix, then burn them directly to CD or prepare it for a digital release, like iTunes.   A variety of analyzing tools are visible so frequency problems and phase issues are immediately visible for correction.  An audio timeline is visible on the bottom of the page and the audio files are displayed as blocks that can be moved to any point in the timeline.

The project page has great integration with the song page of Studio One.  For any songs that is created within Studio One, it is linked to the file within the project page.  If, after a song is mixed and is being arranged for CD duplication, it is discovered that a bass part needs a little more punch it, the program will reload the original song.  Changes can be made to the song and after it’s saved, the project file will update automatically while maintaining the timeline as well as any mastering effects used.  It works extremely well and makes making adjustments while mastering a much easier project.

Studio One Project Page

Studio One Project Page

Conclusion

The Studio One program is an excellent recording program that has a solid foundation within what is the most important requirements for a good Digital Audio Workstation, and that is a great sounding audio engine.  Also, the work flow of the program is well thought out, with most common tasks being extremely quick to perform and that is a pleasure when trying to capture song ideas quickly.  Studio One is a excellent audio program that I would recommend as a great all around audio recording program for musicians.

Rating: ★★★★½