Image-Line FL Studio 5 XXL review
With so many sound generators to play with, it takes more than a drum sequencer to make the most of them. Fortunately, piano roll editing is available for inputting melodic parts, and MIDI keyboard performances can also be recorded. Song construction is limited to generating looped patterns and arranging them on a simple playlist, but patterns can be layered and be of any length.
The main new addition in version 5 is time-stretching, which is available for live recordings and in the Sampler and Slicer modules. Recordings can be stretched manually, but more useful is the ability to change the overall tempo and keep audio tracks in sync – a great feature for remixes. Time-stretching is also useful for making loops play smoothly in the Slicer module, as well as having plenty of creative uses in the sampler.
Also new are automation envelopes for volume and pan-in audio recordings. It’s a worthwhile feature, but despite other minor improvements to the recording functions they remain basic and, at times, clumsy. We also don’t like FL Studio’s mixer layout, with sounds arbitrarily assigned to channels rather than with one channel per synth module.
Still, these criticisms don’t detract from FL Studio’s virtues. As a collection of software synths, it’s a good-value package, and the ability to record the odd live performance is a welcome bonus that its main competitor, Reason, notably lacks. FL Studio can play host to other software instruments in VST or DirectX format, but can also run as a VST instrument inside other host software such as Cubase. That means those who would be deterred by the pattern-based MIDI sequencer needn’t be restricted to it. All three packages are sound investments, but the XXL bundle’s superb collection of synths makes it well worth splashing out on.