The infamous FL Studio “giant screenshot.” Go ahead – eat up our bandwidth and have a closer look at what’s in FL 10, visually; click for the full-size version.

FL Studio, aka Fruity Loops, has always been like opening a toybox of sound goodies for sound nerds – up to 30 instruments and 40+ effects in the latest edition. Just about every tool offers deep control for serious sound programmers, but there’s also a sense that those tools can be fun and immediate. And oddly, while developer Image-Line does introduce some instruments and effects as add-ons, all the functionality in the core program is covered by their lifetime free updates program. This isn’t feature bloat intended to entice you to upgrade; it’s more like what happens when you let the oompa-loompas run Willy Wonka and make whatever they want.

Or just forget all of that and think “FL Studio, the music app that makes you glad you’re running Windows.” (Don’t worry: fullscreen mode means you can actually even hide the fact that Windows is there at all.)

FL Studio 10 adds countless improvements to editing, from shortcuts to editing tools to display zoom, and gets smarter about working with 64-bit plug-ins and memory, as well as introducing new tools for manipulating audio pitch, time, harmony, and rhythm.

Among many new features in this version:

  • More 64-bit: Automatic 64-bit plug-in support
  • Smarter Memory Management, Audio Settings. Even on 32-bit Windows, you can get up to 2 GB of memory for plug-ins, with up to 192 GB for 64-bit Windows, and separate memory allocation for samples. There are also tweaks to ASIO audio performance.
  • Better Mixer: Improved mixer views (with wide strips, at last), metering, and automatic delay compensation.
  • Notation-ready, Smarter Piano Roll. It’s easier to edit with the piano roll view, thanks to new zoom, shortcuts, stretch handles (finally), display sync, and a “magic lasso.” It’s not just editing that’s better, though: you can also export directly to a PDF score by choosing Export.
  • Better Playlist: The Playlist feature now has loop, pause, and skip options for more dynamic live backing tracks, plus new shortcuts for editing and previewing.
  • File autosave and backup.
  • A new Patcher that lets you save instrument and effect chains as single presets, visually. (Not SynthEdit – it’s a new way of patching together instruments and effects.)
  • Optional add-ons for Celemony Melodyne-like pitch and time manipulation (Newtone) and pitch-correction, manipulation, and harmonization (Pitcher).

The addition of Pitcher is interesting, I think, because rival Propellerhead added their own take on this to Record in the form of Neptune.

If there were any comparison to make to FL Studio these days, Propellerhead’s software would be an obvious choice. But the two tools remain differentiated. Unlike Propellerhead’s dual Record/Reason offering, FL Studio is an all-in-one package, and it works as a plug-in and not just via ReWire. Record has more conventional mixing and arrangement tools than FL Studio, and the open signal patching interface in Reason and Record is unlike anything else available. And… actually, this list is so long as to not really fit in this article. But what I like about both is that you get a self-contained, unusual box of tools. Each has more of the sense of walking into a fully-stocked studio with some personality to it rather than a generic tool. (The generic approach has advantages, too, but the sense is different.)

FL’s capabilities remain:

  • Flexibility: use it as a VST plug-in or connect via ReWire.
  • Host anything: VST 32-bit and 64-bit, DX, and FL-native plugs.
  • Multi-track audio and MIDI, with unique, tracker-like and step sequencer interfaces in addition to traditional piano roll and audio views.
  • Unique built-in tools for manipulating audio, slicing and beat detection, warping, and now increasingly pitch and harmonization. (Yes, other tools do this, too, but FL has some unusual instruments and effects integrated with the workflow.)

FL Studio itself is really beyond comparison, a bundle of some of the best editing and instrument and effect tools out there. And that’s before you get to the stunningly-affordable pricing, which runs US$49 – $299 for download editions (up to $399 boxed, but I recommend the download version), all with free lifetime upgrades.

There’s just not a more affordable package in the long run, taking into account the breadth of the software and the endless upgrades.

You know where to go:
FL Studio 10

FL users, as always, I’d love to hear both what you think about the new release and how you use FL’s tools (new or old) in your work.

Update: yes, you can win things linking to FL, as Synthtopia notes. I’m not in love with this sort of marketing gimmick – I’m happy to write about FL purely based on its merits, personally – but it’ll certainly be awesome for you to win the prize, and if I for some reason do (which would be amusing), I’ll put the cash toward doing some free FL tutorials on CDM.

Full rules, if you want to enter:
$1010 competition

Of course, if you also link to CDM, I might just buy you a beer or two next time I see you. Odds of winning: 1 in 1. Beat that.

  • Tweakingknobs

    FLstudio really kicks ass , i really miss its bezier curves/lfo's , its piano roll and step sequencer, its advanced midi capabilities , its advanced midi capabilities , did i said that twice ? ;-)

    I use live, but having to dual boot on mac or use parallels is just uninspiring, also once you use live , u really dont want to go back to FL, i just miss so much its cool features…

    but is great to do some stuff live cant, and for programing beats , live cant compare its piano and "step sequencer" to fl studio's.

    live's piano roll dont even have a visual 1/4 grid to make things easier, no pan or pitch or swing for independent notes 

    FL really rocks , but live is somehow more … fun ?  

  • mercury

    i'm using FL studio and Live lately. at this point desktop software is getting very close to perfection…esp with my mac running bootcamp with live and fl studio linked, it is a very powerful combination…+kore+maschine…gotta say this is one of the smaller FL studio upgrades but that's also b/c a lot of features i've been testing via beta for a while

  • http://beatjazz.blogspot.com Onyx Ashanti

    i am very interested in making use of chainer.  thats gonna come in reeeeal handy.  i mess around with other host, but i always come home to "fruityloops";-)

  • trees

    Still no multi touch?

  • http://noisepages.com/members/sevenoi/ Jóhann Fri&et

    oooh, this makes me lean more towards dual booting. fruity was my starting point in music making (i bought it when it was still v.2.x and was totally essential for me for many years, until i chose to take a bite out of the apple. then it was Live for me, which I don't regret, but like @Tweakingknobs, I also miss FL greatly.

    Come next system upgrade (which is drawing closer and closer) I'll go dual booting, or even running FL within mac os. I've actually tried running it with WineBottler and it works surprisingly well, even though it's well buggy.

  • http://durkkooistra.com durk

    The fact reason does not support VST left me to see it as a plugin, the irony, like you pointed out already peter, is that IL actually made FL a plugin. 

    If I would compare it to anything I would say ableton live. Completely different from other DAW´s and in their respective rights, tools that out grew their original idea.

    FL studio was a step sequencer, ableton live, well.. a live application.

    Max4live and synthmaker, the list goes on.

    What makes FL unique too for me is the piano roll and the ability to many parameters to control another parameter with a simple right click. 

  • http://durkkooistra.com durk

    yikes sorry for all the typo´s!

  • jsph

    i miss fl studio, in a fantasy world i'd drop live for it on mac.

  • aCes

    Hopefully, this is'nt all lost on Ableton……..

    I, as many other Live users, are damn curious what Live 9 will bring.

  • Julz

    I love FL Studio and have been using it  for the past 5 years. The new layout is taking me a little to get used to but I think with a little time I will probably find it more efficient.

    When it comes to just making songs I think FL is the way to go. I do use Live for performance though, but thats a whole other ballpark,   

  • http://noisepages.com/members/foxystoat/ Benjamin Walker

    For those that are on OS X, I'd suggest downloading Wineskin, making a wrapper and installing FL Studio within that. I've been running the FL Studio 9.9 betas for several months without any problems. I just got 10 configured yesterday, and it appears to be running fine.
    http://wineskin.doh123.com/
    It's been fascinating watching FL grow over the years — especially having started using it at version 1, when it was just a drum machine application.

    People! There is a cache of Windows audio software that most of you probably aren't aware of because of its age — but there is *wonderful* stuff available.

    For free.

    Legally.

    Two words: SynC Modular.
    http://www.syncmodular.com/

  • juli

    please can anyone tell me how to view pattern table beacouse i just have the playlist tab not pattern tab (sorry for bad english).

  • nowaysj

    This review of flstudio only reflects the reviewer's ignorance of flstudio. Readers please disregard this review.

  • Jack Torcello

    I love the low ASIO latency – best its ever been!