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PreSonus Studio One

May 1, 2010
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Fig1_StudioOnePro(MSRP $499.95, street $399.95; www.presonus.com)

Studio One Pro (SOP for short; there’s also a lite, “Artist” version for about $200 street) sometimes seems like a cross-platform ménage a trois involving Steinberg Cubase, Cakewalk Sonar, and Sony CD Architect. But it’s far from bloatware, and does its thing (including native Windows/Mac 64-bit operation, and 64-bit processing even on 32-bit platforms) with ruthless efficiency.

This extends to the look—clean and consistent, with subtle shading and a muted “euro” color scheme that relies on shades of grays and blues. You can work with this eyeball-friendly program for hours at a time.

THE MASTERING GAME

PreSonus claims SOP integrates mastering and multitracking to an unprecedented degree, and they’re right. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to call SOP a comprehensive mastering program; there’s no pencil tool, noise reduction, restoration plug-ins, and similar specialized mastering software tools. What you do get is an amazing program for assembling a CD (Figure 1), as well as Bob Katz’s K-Metering system, which is ideal for mastering.

SOP accomplishes this integration by offering two main workspaces, one for Songs (like a traditional DAW with track view, virtual console, browser, etc.) and one for Projects, where you assemble your songs into a CD (or image file, or for publishing to the web). The two are indeed tightly integrated; if you’re assembling a CD and feel that one cut’s drums are a little soft, you can jump into Song view, make the change, and zip back to the Project, where you’ll have the option to update the song file. You don’t even have to mix it: Studio One Pro will mix it based on the Song’s existing automation, levels, etc., then use the updated file in the Project. This is seriously cool.

MICRO VIEWS

SOP can also sidestep cluttering your screen with a zillion plug-in GUIs.

Although you can have a full GUI, inserting one of the bundled effects in a track creates a “micro view” that shows, and lets you edit, crucial parameters. You can always expand the view as needed.

Furthermore, opening up an effect (or instrument) GUI defaults to replacing whatever’s open. As most of the time you’ll tweak one plug-in at a time, this makes sense. But if you’re using multiple plug-ins, you can pin them to stay visible, and toggle between showing and hiding them all with a function key. Given the quality of the plug-ins, you’ll be using them a lot.

CONFIGURATION & BROWSING

Hooking up and assigning hardware control surfaces is simple. Plug-ins store maps so when you call up the plug-in, all the mappings are ready to go. SOP also stores I/O configurations per song, device driver, and computer; if you use different interfaces on different songs, calling up the song calls up the assignments. With PreSonus interfaces, pre-programmed templates automatically connect the software to the I/O.

The browser is pure drag-and-drop. It reminds me of Ableton Live, as you can drag in clips, effects, instruments, whatever—and stretchable clips import at the project tempo.

CONCLUSIONS

SOP focuses on the user interface and whether you favor the single-window approach or breaking these elements off into separate windows, you’re covered.

The target user is likely someone who appreciates conventional DAWs, but wants something more nimble. The project assembly/recording integration may or may not matter to you, but if it does, it’s killer—flipping between project and song saves time and potential confusion.

After working with SOP, I’ve come to appreciate its no-nonsense, no-fat approach to creating music. Sure, SOP will be adding features as it evolves (rumor has it V1.5 will include not only video support, but a bi-directional browser—how cool is that?). Yet I suspect the philosophy won’t change, and SOP will continue its “anti-bloatware” bent regardless of how many features it adds.

 


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