FL Studio 20 Review: Ranked On 6 Factors (Worth It?)

Last updated:
Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, our opinions are not for sale.
FL STUDIO 20: WORTH IT?
VERDICT
FL Studio has secured itself among the giants of DAW companies, and for good reason. While its beginnings had a few stumbling blocks to overcome, a fresh new look+feel, updated suite of plugins, and competitive package pricing have helped it reclaim a permanent spot in the top 3 most popular DAWs for beginners and professionals.
Stock Plugins & Sound Libraries
8.5
Design/Interface
8
Functionality
8
Ease Of Use/Learning Curve
8.5
Workflow
7.5
Price
8.5
PROS
Packages to suit a range of budgets.
Arrangement and workflow is fast and intuitive.
One of the best piano rolls out there.
CONS
Its most powerful plugins are locked to the "All Plugins Bundle"
While intuitive, the User Interface can get a little cluttered.
8.2
OUR SCORE

FL Studio Review (Is It Worth The Money?)

FL Studio is a best-in-class DAW, with full-featured, professional-grade native plugins. The sum of the functionality, pricing and user interface results in a really great DAW for beginners and pros alike, delivering everything that every other DAW brings but with its own unique workflow.

Breaking Down Its Features & Capabilities

In this FL Studio review, we rate the DAW based on 6 different factors:

  1. Plugins
  2. Design
  3. Functionality
  4. Ease of use
  5. Workflow
  6. Price

Stock Plugins & Sound Libraries (8.5/10)

FL Studio comes with a plethora of professional-grade synths. These include Sawer, Harmor, PoiZone, Sakura, Toxic Biohazard and Harmless to name just a few. The synths available through the FL Studio software are second to none and are highly regarded throughout the production industry as some of the best synth VST’s on the market, being able to create rich and immersive sounds from the ground up.

One of my personal favorites in the full version synth bundle is called Sytrus. Labeled as a ‘hybrid synthesizer’ it offers frequency modulation, ring modulation and subtractive synthesis. It has three independent filters, 13 filter types and some of the presets and patches such as the ‘depth-charge’ preset were even created by the likes of deadmau5, amongst others.

Image result for sytrus fl studio
FL Studio‘s Sytrus

The host of stock plugins found in FL Studio are available both inside and outside the box, meaning that users of different DAW’s can purchase and install them into their DAW of choice.

The intuitive workflow of their native plugins make it one of the best options for beginners.

A good example of this visual aspect is the ‘Fruity Reverb 2’ plugin. The room shape and size is represented with a glowing wire-frame structure, and the user can see the amount of reverb represented by a dim or strong glow around the outlying shape of the structure. The size and shape of the room is also highly visual and adjusts in real-time according to the settings programmed using the sliders. You can add walls, remove walls, change the height, width, size, and shape of the reverb without even thinking about numbers. It’s intuitive to say the least.

Design/Interface (8/10)

Probably the most useful feature, when getting started in FL Studio, is called the step sequencer.

Most users of this program will be able to identify the step sequencer as one of the ‘staple’ tools within this DAW. The step sequencer functions as a ‘beat-grid’ of sorts, allowing for any sound or sample to be placed on the grid and be triggered as a part of a sequence.

The length of the grid can be as short as 2 steps or as long as 64 steps, and the samples themselves can be double-clicked on in the step sequencer window to open up the ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) functionality of any specific sample. This allows for time-stretching, reversing, pitch shift and a whole host of other interesting features and effects accessible from within the step sequencer.

It’s visually very intuitive. The application itself has a heavy focus on the way its native plugins interact within the DAW, and there are a LOT of native plugins.

The heavily visual nature of FL Studio allows you to use your eyes heavily in conjunction with your ears. So, if you find yourself not sure about the sound of something, you may find that the right audible adjustment comes from a visual adjustment.

Image result for flstudio shortcuts
Compare packages and pricing of FL Studio here.

Functionality (8.5/10)

Following the creation of a couple of beat patterns on the sequencer, the user then has the ability to copy a pattern directly to the next step sequencer window (from pattern 1 to pattern 2) retaining all of the steps from the previous pattern 1 sequence but allowing for the expansion on the previous idea in the pattern 2 sequence without losing the original idea.

This can help the user create a fluid and interesting beat progression in no time, these features combined with the ability to paint patterns straight onto the playlist makes for a super easy and customizable workflow.

The playlist window itself is also an integral part of the software. Any sound or sample can be dragged directly onto the playlist (the same as the step sequencer) and be placed anywhere along the timeline.

The list of tools along the top of the playlist window such as the slice tool can be used directly on the audio to chop up patterns, sounds or samples that you have added, into smaller bits to use for arrangement or differentiation.

March 2021 FL Studio Update Note

With Apple’s new range of powerful processors hitting the market, Image-Line has included support for Apple Silicon M1 processors, as well as 64-bit native support for macOS. Another notable inclusion is that producers can now use Audio Units (AU) PLUS, FL Studio 20 will now fully support and show AU plugins alongside VST plugins.

Ease Of Use/Learning Curve (8/10)

Upon opening up a blank FL Studio project file you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed, but its a good thing. there are a lot of features right in front of you and the linear aspect of sample searching and sound creation really shine in this DAW, and the full version comes with a fully produced track inside a project file that allows you to open up a finished song and pick it apart to figure out how things work.

It is worth noting that recording instruments into FL Studio is extremely easy. Provided you have an understanding of the audio interface you’re using, it’s extremely easy to sync up and create channels that record straight to the playlist via the floating mixer window.

Image result for fl studio

Workflow (7.5/10)

The ‘copy to next pattern’ function can help the user create a fluid and interesting beat progression in no time, these features combined with the ability to paint these patterns straight onto the playlist makes for a super easy and customizable workflow. The playlist window itself is also an integral part of the software.

Literally, any sound or sample can be dragged directly onto the playlist (the same as the step sequencer) and be placed anywhere along the timeline.

The list of tools along the top of the playlist window such as the slice tool can be used directly on the audio to chop up patterns, sounds or samples that you have added, into smaller bits to use for arrangement or differentiation.

The tools along the top of the playlist function almost behave like similar tools found in an image editing software in the way they intuitively interact with end-user and the audio clips.

Samples on the step sequencer can also be right-clicked and transitioned into a piano-roll format, allowing for heavier syncopation of drum hits and the pitching and playing of samples on the keyboard that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

It is also worth noting that there is an FL Studio iOS application that allows you to save FL project files and transfer between your device and your computer, meaning you can work on the go pretty seamlessly. Also, if you like working with touch screens, you’re in luck (thanks to the app).

March 2021 FL Studio Update Note
Another welcome addition to FL Studio’s arsenal that’s been introduced is the ability to freeze midi clips to audio.

Price (8.5/10)

FL Studio is currently available across 4 different pricing structures, with a one-time payment and a lifetime of free upgrades available. This means you only pay once and every time they update the core software, you get the new version for free.

Do note that you can buy any individual plugins from the Image-Line website, so if you’re only after a few bits and bobs, you can customize your own bundle and choose only what you specifically think you need.

Is FL Studio 20 Right For You?

FL Studio has secured itself among the giants of DAW companies, and for good reason. While its beginnings had a few stumbling blocks to overcome, a fresh new look+feel, updated suite of plugins, and competitive package pricing have helped it reclaim a permanent spot in the top 3 most popular DAWs for beginners and professionals.

All in all, FL Studio a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to dive deep into the world of music production and recording.

Still on the fence? Consider checking out our guide on how to choose the best DAW.