FL Studio 20 Review (Is It Worth The Money?)

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  • Looking to get started with music production but don’t know which DAW to buy?
  • We break down the pros and cons of popular DAW, FL Studio
  • Find out if FL Studio is the right fit for you.

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FL Studio Review/Is FL Studio Worth The Money?

One of the biggest issues for a lot of new producers is getting their head around all the new lingo and detail that you find literally everywhere in any DAW.

Things like ‘room size/shape’ on your reverb unit, parametric EQ, compression and side-chaining can be overwhelming for new producers, but FL Studio (formerly fruity loops) can make the transition easier.

FL Studio is a fantastic program created by the team at Image-Line, but is it the right DAW for you? Let’s explore its features.

Stock Plugins & Sound Libraries (8.5/10)

FL Studio comes with a plethora of dope, heavy-hitting 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 can do frequency modulation, ring modulation and subtractive synthesis to name a few attributes. It has three independent filters, 13 filter types and some of the presets and patches such as the ‘depth-charge’ preset were created by the likes of deadmau5, amongst others.

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FL Studio’s Sytrus

The host of amazing 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 native plugins and VSTs available in this DAW 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, the user can see the amount of reverb represented by a dim or strong glow around the outlying shape of the structure, and the size and shape of the room is also represented visually 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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, AND use the touch screen for things like filters and FX, for a much more natural and organic sound than you would be able to achieve with your classic right click automation.

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, meaning: you only pay once and every time they update the core software, you get the new version for free. Please also 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, although, there are several other big-hitting package options available.

Image Line FL Studio 20 Fruity Edition (Boxed)
  • Powerful mixing and automation
  • Powerful MIDI editing and recording
  • Flexible Browser and workflow features
  • Support for all VST standards
  • Includes many powerful instruments and plugin effects
Image Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition Mac/Windows
  • Powerful mixing and automation
  • The best Piano Roll in the business
  • Flexible Browser and workflow features
  • Support for all VST standards
  • Over 80 instrument and plugin effects included
Image Line FL Studio 20 Signature Bundle (Boxed)
  • Powerful mixing and automation
  • Powerful MIDI editing and recording
  • Flexible Browser and workflow features
  • Support for all VST standards
  • Over 80 instruments and plug-in effects included

Is FL Studio Right For You?

The overall feel of the software is intuitive and exciting to use, whilst not dumbing down any of the important technical aspects that can be found (sometimes glaringly) in other DAW’s, FL Studio manages to maintain a certain level of professionalism whilst also opening up more possibilities to the end user via its use of fun and visual stimuli.

The sum of the functionality, pricing and visual aspects of this DAW equal out of a really great DAW for beginners, delivering everything that every other DAW can deliver but with a fraction of the stiffness and dryness of its competitors. The pricing is a contributing factor to the overall rating, in that there are several different categories for different producers and levels of income. Meaning that for as little as €89 you can get stuck in and be able to learn and create at the same level as the full version which is 10x the price, although it is recommended to purchase the producer edition just so that you have the maximum functionality from the get-go.

All in all, FL Studio a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to get their head around electronic music production and sound recording.

FL Studio 20 Review (Is It Worth The Money?)
Affordable packages across 4 price points.Engaging and intuitive GUI.Doesn't compromise on technical features or ability.
VSTs are locked unless you purchase the top package.FL Studio can be quite resource heavy.
8.2Overall Score
Stock Plugins & Sound Libraries8.5
Design/Interface8
Functionality8
Ease Of Use/Learning Curve8.5
Workflow7.5
Price8.5

Last update on 2019-12-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API