PreSonus Studio One 6 review: One step closer to the all-in-one DAW
Studio One has managed to wrestle itself into the list of top DAWs in home, project and commercial studios around the world. Does version 6 offer enough to steer people away from other major DAWs?
⊕ Easy to use
⊕ Lovely, clear metering
⊕ Decent sound quality
⊕ Very handy integration when paired with EVO 16
⊕ DA converters are a bonus for system expansion
⊖ No new virtual instruments
⊖ Some features only available in PreSonus Sphere
PreSonus has been striving to revolutionise music production for the past twelve years with its flagship DAW, Studio One. Each iteration of the software has further cemented its reputation as an all-in-one solution for recording, production, mixing, and mastering. With the latest version, Studio One 6, PreSonus has added a number of much requested updates while sneaking in some welcome surprises.
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One of Studio One’s greatest strengths is its easy-to-navigate arrangement window where you record, produce, and mix your songs. Being able master those tracks inside the Project Page makes Studio One very powerful and practical. But so much has changed in the music production landscape recently that PreSonus decided it needed give their users a bit more. So, it added a cloud-based collaboration and content tool called PreSonus Sphere. And for the performer who wanted to use Studio One for live performance, it added the Show Page, where musicians could take finished songs and add live vocals and musical instruments to them, complete with effects. It’s even added scoring tools for composers.
But what about content creators? Yes, they had the tools in Studio One to accomplish much of what they do, but video was, sadly, left out. You could import one video, but you couldn’t edit it. And doing anything else with it required other software tools. Until Studio One 6, that is.
For those new to Studio One, you find a clean Start Page. This is where you can create a new song, open an old song, configure your user preferences, create a new project (for mastering previously mixed tracks) and more.
The first new feature for those familiar with Studio One (aside from a flattened icon design) is found in the Recent Files area. You can now tick your favourite track, which creates a Favourites folder. You can create folders per project or artist, to keep things organised. This same feature is available in the Browser. You can gather all your favourite presets into a Favourites folder and even create custom folders to keep your presets together.
Clicking New on the Start Page now presents you with a list of Smart Templates. These are meant to make it quick and easy to set up a session. For example, Record and Mix allows you to create a quick session for recording and mixing – go figure. It even has an area where you can drop audio files and loops for your session. You can also tick a box and Studio One 6 will import those audio files to new tracks in the correct tempo of the song.
The Produce Beats option opens a new session with three instrument tracks ready to get you started building a track right away. There are other Smart Templates that simplify setup: Master and Release, Rehearse and Perform, Create Content and more. They include step-by-step instructions on the use of each section of the template. These templates are useful, but creating and saving your own templates is where this feature really shines.
Ready, preset, go!
Although Studio One’s built-in virtual instruments (Mai Tai, Presence XT, Impact XT and Mojito) are excellent instruments, PreSonus missed the opportunity to add a new instrument to its arsenal. However, it did add a couple of tools to enhance the current lineup.
Track Presets are a quick way to create repeatable tracks and they seem well implemented. Want to create a MIDI drum kit with each instrument assigned to its own audio track? Choose the Acoustic Drums track preset from the Browser and drag it into the session. This will create a Folder Track loaded with an instance of ImpactXT, a custom acoustic drum kit, an audio channel for each of the instruments in the kit, and Sends to a nice Drum Room reverb. This would have taken some time to set up on your own, but Studio One 6 does it for you.
There’s a fun track preset called Vocoder that creates a Folder Track, an Audio Track (Modulator) with the new Vocoder installed (more on that in a minute) and an Instrument Track (Carrier) loaded with a synth and side-chained to the Modulator. Just add a live or previously recorded vocal part to the Modulator track, et voilà – instant Daft Punk/Kraftwerk vibes, You can also modify those track presets, or create your own and save them.
For mixing, there are several cool new features that we don’t know how we lived without, including alternate panning modes for giving us creative flexibility in where things are placed in the stereo spectrum. Fader Flip is another one that, when activated, allows us to use a channel’s main fader to adjust FX, Cue Mix and Bus sends, which is very clever. Thankfully, PreSonus also added a much-needed de-esser to Studio One 6.
The new Channel Overview is a blessing. This popup window shows details for a track including fader level, panning, plug-in settings and send levels for Inserts, Sends and Cue Mixes. It’s invaluable for quickly understanding what’s happening on a track.
A huge upgrade comes to ProEQ, Studio One’s built in EQ. Now, you can finally apply EQ dynamically – a very powerful tool for mixing. ProEQ3 also allows you to solo frequency bands for hearing precision adjustments in isolation.
Did we mention that the Video Track is now editable? There are several other options available to content creators for editing video and its associated audio. There is also now lyrics support. Lyrics can be attached to a score or to MIDI or Audio tracks. You can also add them in the Shows tab for live performance – excellent! This brings Studio One much closer to an end-to-end solution.
With Studio One 6 Pro, users get the most features and content for use in their productions. However, it’s also the most expensive version. Sphere is the best deal for getting all the benefits of Studio One Pro, extra features, loads of sample libraries, collaboration and learning features, and more. We’re looking forward to making strong use of the new features and will welcome any more that PreSonus sends to its userbase.
Price: Artist £99, Pro £399, Sphere £14.95 (mo) / £164.95 (yr)
Alternative panning modes
Note Controller support for built-in Instruments
Global Video Track and video editing tools (Pro/Sphere)
Track presets (Pro/Sphere)
Fader Flip (Pro/Sphere)
Channel Overview (Pro/Sphere)
Global Lyrics Track (Pro/Sphere)
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