If you are an aspiring music producer looking for a Digital Audio Workstation software that lets you record audio and MIDI, comes with software instruments and FX, then LMMS and FL Studio are worth taking a look at. Before you read further, you should know that both are aimed at budding professional producers. For beginners experimenting with beat-making or podcasters who just want to record audio, we suggest you check something like Garageband or Audacity out instead.
In summary, both LMMS and FL Studio offer strong features that enable the bedroom producer to create professional music from home. LMMS is freeware. FL Studio comes with three price tiers. LMMS can’t record audio (you can work with samples and clips only). FL Studio comes with all features of a professional DAW. Computer programs have replaced a lot of the functionality professional studios used to be gatekeepers for. And empowered anyone with the right skills to make professional music at home. Over the years, each DAW has grown with its unique characteristics that can have an influence on your music. So choosing the right one is important.
Here’s a comparison to help make your decision.
Originally written for the Linux platform (LMMS stands for Linux Multimedia Studio), it now runs on Windows and Mac OS as well. And supports 32-bit and 64-bit audio.
At first glance, you see a stripped-down User Interface with a somewhat retro vibe. The feel is minimalistic and fairly self-explanatory.
The system is divided into 4 primary groups:
- Song Editor
- Beat+Bassline Editor
- FX mixer
- Piano Roll
- Automation Editor
Song Editor (Sequencer)
The sequencer on LMMS is similar to most DAW's out there. They call it the ‘Song Editor.’
Track details like Volume and Pan are on the left. And a conventional linear timeline shows you the fruit of your experiments. Anyone with prior experience with music production will feel quite at home here with the UI. And creating a beat, basslines, some melodies, and recording vocals onto it is easy enough.
A 16 Step sequencer, the Beat+Bassline Editor, is a dedicated window for sequencing rhythms and repetitive musical lines.
In other words, it's a dedicated software drum machine inside a window that lets you make a beat before you commit it to the timeline. A handy tool for the overall workflow. Especially for Hip-hop and EDM producers.
The heart of the LMMS. And it’s primary work-horse. Edit MIDI data. Control Playback and Record. The official manual LMMS curates online describe this in complete detail. And highlights an array of tools you can use.
This is similar to any standard mixer on a DAW. Don’t let the (somewhat confusing) ‘FX’ in its name confuse you. Adjust volume levels, pan, and your effects chain. Muting and soloing tracks from here is also a standard function. Each FX channel is selected by clicking on its name, which turns to green on activation.
Automation refers to assigning pre-programmed changes to parameters like Pan, Volume, and FX.
Whereas mixing engineers do this in real-time when mixing analog, this feature lets you outsource the function to the software. The LMMS UI dedicates an entire section to it.
From simple functions like changing the volume of an instrument to more intricate control of envelopes and filters, all of these can be ‘drawn’ at a specific point on the timeline. Third-party VST and LADSPA instruments can be programmed as well.
LMMS comes with 20+ software instruments and 20+ FX. More are added from members of the online community, and you can check details on the online manual.
FL Studio’s primary strengths are its vector-based UI, ease of use, and a surprisingly versatile range of effects. Originally a PC-only app, it is now cross-platform.
In comparison to LMMS, FL Studio’s set of tools are a lot more professional and well-rounded. This is a professional DAW. You get what you pay for.
That being said, the overall sonic approach is more geared towards EDM producers.
Most preset patches hint at electronic music. But those with basic music production skills like EQ and compression won’t have problems tweaking these to suit their needs.
It is VST compatible as well.
The sequencer in FL Studio is a standard linear timeline. But the core engine of its workflow is the Mixer.
In addition to standard functions (mixing and mastering), it also gives you a host of features like advanced automation, side-chain compression, and latency compensation. This is what makes it so unique.
In contrast to LMMS, it is the Piano Roll which is used to assign automation to instruments and sequences in addition to standard MIDI functions you would expect from most Piano Rolls.
FL Studio comes with a very versatile playlist and browser that gives you a detailed and flexible overview of your sequence elements. A big plus to the workflow and one of the major reasons behind its popularity.
Comes in 4 versions:
- Fruity edition ($99)
- Producer edition ($199)
- Signature edition ($299)
- All Plugins edition ($899)
- LMMS works on Linux, OpenBSD, macOS, and Windows. It requires a 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and a sound card.
- FL Studio works on Windows 7/8/10 (32-bit or 64-bit versions) or on macOS. It requires a 2 GHz or Intel Pentium 3 CPU. 2 GB of free disk space and 4 GB of RAM is recommended (source: Official Website).
Verdict: LMMS vs FL Studio
- Sequencer: Tie.
- User Interface: Tie
- Audio: FL Studio wins.
- Sonic Capabilities: FL Studio wins.
- Learning Curve: FL Studio is easier to use.
- Compatibility: Tie.
- Price: LMMS is Freeware.
While the quality that freeware like LMMS offers is fantastic, it is clear that the value you get for the money you pay for FL studio is worth it.