PreSonus Studio One
(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.
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.
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,
automatically connect the software to
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.
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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