Image-Line’s quirky, individualistic and unmistakably colorful FL Studio has gone from strength to strength since its initial 1997 release. As a DAW which has always offered usability, innovation, and functionality, FL Studio remains one of the world’s most popular music production programs.
Its modern developments have seen its professional user base grow to include headline names like the late great Avicii, Martin Garrix, Camo and Krooked, Deadmau5 and Afrojack.
The last version, FL Studio 12, wrapped up decades of software evolution from Fruity Loops – a simple drum and synth sequencing program to FL Studio – a professionally capable full-blown DAW.
The times are-a-changin once more, though, and Image-Line’s FL Studio 20 marks 20 years since the first Fruity Loops was released back in the late 90s. Let’s take a detailed look at where we are with the FL Studio line of DAWs and what changes FL Studio 20 brings to the table.
From Previous Version FL Studio 12…
Before the 20th version, FL Studio 12 was by far the strongest. It punctuated FL Studio’s evolution into a complex and scalable DAW that retained all the super-fast, easy to use and intuitive features that helped make it famous. FL Studio 12 tweaked the now-called Channel Rack, which is the window which houses a project’s instruments and samplers.
The piano-roll also shared information automatically with the step-sequencer allowing for quicker editing of MIDI information. The Channel Rack handily displayed channel routings between virtual patches, switches for bypassing effects placed on inserts and other workflow tweaks.
Revamped Vector UI
FL Studio has always been visually quirky which has partly formed its reputation as a bit of an audio ‘toybox’. FL Studio 12’s revamped GUI featured pinpoint sharp vector graphics which look awesome no matter what monitor they’re displayed on – 1080p, 2k, 4k and beyond – they’ll always look great!
Alongside advancements in the aesthetics of the program, FL Studio 12 finally improved the ability to record, edit and mix audio, which was once a little more tricky is this sequencing-focussed DAW.
Bells, Whistles, Menus and Buttons
- FL Studio 12 made major menu changes which users will be more familiar with going into FL Studio 20. There are no-longer two separate windows for imported samples – simply click on any sample from the improved Channel Rack window and each parameter can be adjusted in a new and unique window.
- FL Studio 12 also streamlined browser and import functions which set the scene for FL Studio 20’s further workflow tweaks when dealing with audio files. You can drag and drop several audio clips from your PC or Mac and by dropping them directly into the playlist, FL Studio will automatically sort them into separate tracks which can be routed to the mixer outputs.
FL Studio 12 really reinforced Image-Line’s brand and many old users of Fruity Loops and FL Studio reportedly fell right back in love with their old favorite DAW. FL Studio 20 doesn’t just add Mac support to this powerful plethora of audio treats, though.
…Into FL Studio 20, the Latest Version of FL Studio
Landmark Mac Compatibility
Like many DAWs, FL Studio was originally built for windows – mac compatibility lagged behind and with each new version of FL Studio, Image-Line would suggest mac compatibility was ‘in the pipeline’. FL Studio 20 is finally fully Mac native with OS 10.11 and above.
No More Emulators!
That means no emulation, no wrappers for its major plugins and no other cross-compatibility issues with project files.
Mac compatibility has enabled FL Studio to tap in an entirely new base of users, as the Mac is the chosen weapon of choice amongst a growing number of existing and budding producers.
FL Studio 20 comes with a license for both PC and Mac and projects are cross-compatible. This is brilliant for those who travel with a Macbook and also own a Windows desktop, thus can produce music anywhere, on the best of both worlds.
In FL Studio 20, it’s possible to create different versions of your playlist. You can essentially clone and edit as many playlists as you want. If you’ve finished a mix or composition but want to swap out some instruments, for example, then you can simply clone your arrangement and swap around instruments to experiment!
FL Studio 20’s Major Changes
Advanced Time Signature Support
- In support of FL Studios attempt to grow with professional audio recording outfits like Pro Tools and Ableton, FL Studio 20 now offers the same ability to create different time signatures throughout your arrangement.
- You can change time signature at any point along the timeline. This may see limited use amongst EDM producers but Djent producers, unite!
Rendering on the Fly
- FL Studio makes bouncing clips to audio super-easy. There comes a point in every project where the CPU cannot cope and things stop running smoothly – having a quick and easy method to ‘freeze’ or bounce clips is extremely useful.
- This means you can consolidate a track to audio, freeing up all of the inserts and instruments you used to create it. With FL Studio 20 you can render clips to audio in-situ and can choose whether to bounce a complete track or just a playlist clip selection.
Behind the Scenes Workflow Improvements
- I’m sure that FL Studio 20 brings a ton of fixes and minor changes which aren’t yet obvious but one major improvement is the rebuilt the Plugin Delay Compensation engine. This is part of Image-Line’s efforts to make FL Studio better in a more traditional studio setting when recording acoustic sources with microphones.
- Audio information is now displayed graphically in real-time and with updates across mixer sends, wet/dry FX and audio inputs, FL Studio 20 is much better at its predecessor when used as a more formal audio recording DAW when paired with external recording hardware.
Return of the Graph Editor
- Old FL Studio users will recognize this feature and now you can once again edit MIDI information from your Channel Rack.
- Tons of FL Studio plugins have been tweaked and revamped to bring them in-line with the program’s other changes. It is worth noting that Image-Line is still working on bringing every plugin to Mac OS.
- Plugins currently in the alpha stage of development include: Sytrus, Edison, Harmless, Ogun, Maximus, Gross Beat, Slicex, Harmor and Vocodex.
- Those which are already available in OS X VST or Audio Unit (AU) format include Toxic BioHazard, Drumaxx, Hardcore, Poizone, Groove Machine, Sakura, Morphine and Sawer.
In general, advanced FL Studio 12 users aren’t going to notice many changes instantly but with time, new features like playlist duplication and in-situ bouncing will creep into your workflow and you’ll definitely notice that FL Studio 20 has revamped both in-the-box arrangement, composition and mixing and the recording audio with outboard gear. It’s another great product in the now-legendary line and FL Studio has proven it can keep its head well above the water in our rapidly advancing world of audio-tech.