If you are looking for a DAW that lets you produce music professionally on a laptop from scratch and costs less than $200, then FL Studio is a great choice to consider. Before you read further, though, you should know that FL Studio is primarily aimed at Electronic and Hip-Hop Music Producers. If you are looking for alternatives more suited to acoustic music or live tracking, have a look at Logic Pro X or Pro Tools instead.
In summary, FL Studio is one of the most popular music software programs used by professional and beginner music producers. Both these versions have been received very well by the electronic music production community. While the Producer edition is the better bargain to start your musical journey, the Signature edition comes with more advanced plugins (virtual instruments and FX). It also costs more.
Here's a comparison of the two most popular versions to help you decide if one might be the right one for you.
FL Studio made its humble beginnings as a quirky, lean software called ‘Fruity Loops.’ Over the years, it has proven its mettle by emerging to be the primary Music-Production tool used by some big names in the music industry. Some of these include:
- Hit-Boy (produced for Kid Cudi, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige, Chris Brown, Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, etc.).
- Mike Will Made It (produced for Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Future, Miley Cyrus, etc.).
- Cardiak (produced for Eminem, Lloyd Banks, Rick Ross, Joe Budden, etc.).
While the above roster looks impressive on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best DAW for your specific needs.
FL Studio Producer
For most people, the FL Studio Producer Edition is a great version to start with. One which provides ample tools to record, produce, edit, mix and master your track.
It comes with 87 virtual instruments and effects and 2 audio editors. Recording audio is easy enough and working with clips (smaller chunks of audio data) is a breeze.
Additionally, MIDI editing and scripting give you the ability to manipulate individual tracks and instruments seamlessly.
Generous content like loops, samples, and preset patches for your synths are included, along with a lifetime of free updates. All of these combine to give you a broad and generous enough palette of tools to work with. And have fun while at it using the much-loved FL Studio UI.
FL Studio Signature
If you’re asking what the FL Studio Signature Edition offers that makes the higher price worth it, the answer is Plugins.
Let’s have a look at these.
1) Video Player
For those of us who would like to score music for commercials, video games, or film, working without a video plugin is cumbersome. The Video Player 2 on the Signature edition makes this a streamlined affair. Sync the video to your sequencer timeline. Get a clear visual of the audio that is composed to video in real-time.
Small Caveat: The VST version of the Video Player 2 does not have Mac OS support.
2) Gross Beat
An amplitude and pattern manipulator that FL Studio users swear by.
If that's too much jargon for you, this is what it lets you do:
- Play around with the volume and dynamics of a clip.
- Create patterns out of it.
Example: Record 1 note on any instrument. Make a musical 'part' out of it easily by adding variations to the volume and rhythm—a handy tool for random, experimental inspiration.
A pitch correction tool. While using auto-tune can be controversial in certain circles, in most EDM genres, it's part of the timbre that is expected on a vocal track. Make subtle to drastic changes. Create that Auto-Tune sound. Or make corrections to your favorite vocal take with that one minor intonation issue.
4) New Tone
While the pitcher is great for those minor adjustments, the NewTone is FL Studio's official answer to Melodyne.
This lets you slap the quintessential Auto-Tune vibe at the touch of a button.
More importantly, though, it also excels at adjusting timing. So you can 'quantize' a vocal take to match with fit onto your grid effortlessly—one of the most powerful tools the Signature edition has to offer.
A virtual pedalboard for producing guitars. Or to add a twist to your synths, vocals, and drum machines.
The Hardcore looks and works like a pedal rig. Guitar players will relate instantly. True to its name, it gives you a somewhat niche 'Heavy-Metal'esque timbre. But sits quite well in the mix. So it's great for those cross-over projects.
A sampler instrument that lets you manipulate samples to create alienish to ethereal sounds. Perfect for those field recordings and morph them into your signature sounds. You can sample on-board plugin sounds too. The creative possibilities are endless.
No self-respecting EDM producer will take DAW without a virtual analog synth seriously. And that’s exactly what Harmless is. Based on classic subtractive synthesis that gives you retro synth leads, pads, brasses, and polyphonic patches. Extensive tweaking abilities give you multiple options to fine-tune preset patches to your taste. Or start from scratch to create your own.
- The FL Studio Producer edition retails at $199
- The FL Studio Signature edition is available at $309
You could always top up your Producer edition by buying the FL Studio Plugins individually. This would add up to about $559, though. So upgrading the entire DAW from Producer to Signature for $110 is a better value.
Here’s how FL Studio Producer Edition and FL Studio Signature Edition stack up against each other:
- User Interface and Ease of Use: Tie.
- Audio: Tie.
- MIDI: Tie.
- Video Capabilities: Signature Edition wins.
- Sonic Capabilities: Signature Edition wins hands down.
- Price: Producer Edition is cheaper. But the Signature edition offers more value.
The FL Studio Producer edition is apparently the most popular version (Source: FL Studio Official Site). But it would appear that the Signature edition emerges as the clear winner through overall value. That being said, a lot of part-time music producers or beginners may find some of the plugins to be overkill. And would be perfectly happy making music with the more than sufficient features the Producer edition includes.