As you may have figured after reading my interview with Bitwig Studio, it's not easy to find success with a new audio sequencer. The market is already saturated with heavy competition, from industry veterans like Pro Tools to game-changers like Ableton. But PreSonus were clearly aiming to create a game-changer of their own, with the introduction of Studio One in 2009. This sequencer has taken it upon itself to advocate things like ease-of-use and a faster workflow. The response from the audio community have been very positive to say the least. I would know, since I've tried it. But in order to hear from the company itself, I got the chance to speak with their Quality Assurance Tester at the recent NAMM conference, and threw a few questions about Studio One his way.
Hi Dom! As people who have used Studio One, I'm excited to be able to talk to you about the company and your work there. Can you tell me what your position is at PreSonus?
I'm a quality assurance tester, as well as someone who helps out with upper level support, which means I get to answer a lot of tough questions about Studio One from our users. I also work with inter-operability tasks, which means that it's my job to make sure that all of PreSonus' software works with all of our hardware.
What's your background been like in terms in using Studio One as a sequencer? How did you get into it?
I've been working with Studio One since 2011. I had a beta copy that I used in 2009, but I was mainly a Pro Tools guy at the time, and was freelancing as an engineer. So a lot of my clientele also used Pro Tools. It wasn't until I started working with PreSonus and got a better feel for how easy it is to use Studio One that I began using it in the professional word. Especially with Studio One 2. Even if I got files that were from Pro Tools or Logic, I would just transfer them into Studio One.
Can you tell me about the specific moment when your realized that Studio One was a DAW that you wanted to work with?
I was working for a video game company that shared a building with PreSonus. One of their guys came to me and said "They're developing this new software called Studio One. You need to check it out!". I was like, "I'm into Pro Tools and Reason.". But he kept insisting, "it's got drag-and-drop and all these cool features". So I figured I could try to get a beta copy and test it out, and help them develop it.
One of the things that really piqued my interest about it was the inclusion of a mastering suite. I didn't have a solution for that before, and it just so happened that a RnB project I was working on needed mastering, and I was able to use Studio One for it.
Given your recording background, as well as your use of different DAWs, how do you think Studio One measures up to other DAWs out there? Does it have a particular feature that stands out?
The workflow is so much faster in Studio One. In another DAW, if you wanted to load up a VST instrument, you'd have to make an instrument track, go through a long list to find the instrument you want, instantiate it and then record arm the track. In Studio One, you can just grab the VST you want from the browser, and the program will both instantiate it and arm it for you. So that's 3 steps in one motion. Things like that make it easier to work, and I can avoid losing my concentration on whatever musical idea I may have, since I don't have to mouse around and look through menus. It's far more intuitive to just click and drag, and have the instrument set for me to use.
Given the fact that Studio One has had numerous updates since its launch in 2009, do you feel that each update has done something to improve upon the workflow, or is there a possibility that certain things have to be compromised to retain the workflow?
It's only gotten better with each update. For example, we introduced comping in 2.0, and then modified it 2.6, based on user feedback. So I don't think our updates have led to any compromises.
One of the things that stands out in Studio One is its integration of Melodyne, which isn't common to most DAWs. How did that come about? Was it difficult to implement?
It was definitely a process to come up with the ARA integration technology, which is what enables Melodyne to be integrated with Studio One. ARA is compatible with other plugins as well, but Celemony were the ones who created it, and we were the first ones who partnered with them to bring that to the public.
The feedback for it has been great. The old Melodyne workflow involved having to export out your audio into Melodyne, which wouldn't be inside your DAW, and then you'd have to work outside of the context of the song. Then you'd have to import the audio back into your DAW. In Studio One, you can have it automatically analyze the audio by pressing 2 keys. You can either run it in real-time or render it. So it drastically improved the workflow of working with Melodyne. Many of our users have been pretty wowed by that, because they know what the old method of using it was like versus this new ARA-integrated method
Are there any plans to use ARA technology to integrate other plugins into Studio One?
Yeah, there have been some hints of how we can use ARA with other plugins.
People tend to often rate third party plugins above native ones. Do you feel that Studio One's native plugins are able to stack up well to some of the best third party ones?
Definitely. The Pro EQ and Compressor are bread and butter for me. The Pro EQ even has a "high quality" mode that you can engage. It also has an FFT and Spectrum Analyser, so you can get visual feedback on the audio, which helps with making adjustments.
Open AIR is an awesome convolution reverb, and I've been able to download impulse responses from the Internet to use with it, in addition to using the ones that come with it. You can even make your own impulses for it.
You mentioned the mastering suite before. It certainly is a signature feature that Studio One has, but it's also received some criticism for encouraging people who don't have mastering expertise to use it recklessly. How do feel about that?
Well, the tools needed for mastering are already available to the public, so what we're doing is facilitating the process for people that want to do it themselves, which I think is great. However, people need to educate themselves on what it really means to master a record. Having a mastering suite and plugins doesn't make you a mastering engineer. But being able to integrate this as a final step of your workflow is an awesome thing, I think.
Are there any tools within Studio One that have been created specifically for mastering purposes, other than the suite itself?
Not really. All of the plugins are for both mixing and mastering. However, the Pro version of Studio One comes with a multi-band compressor, which is useful for mastering purposes. It also comes additional audio analysis tools that make the mastering process easier.
Another thing that pops up in discussions about Studio One is the quality of its audio engine. Whilst this may be subjective for different people, the consensus seems to be that Studio One possesses a superior audio engine to that of other DAWs. Can you tell me about where this type of opinion might stem from?
It's not easy to quantify, but there is some evidence in the fact that you can push Studio One's channels, and even the master buss, to an extent where your eyes might tell you that the sound is clipping but your ears don't hear it. It has the ability to accept hotter audio levels thanks to the audio engine's headroom, which means that you can get a certain sound from it without distorting things, and that's a testament to the quality of the audio engine.
Given how highly people have spoken of Studio One, have there been any recent stories of people in the professional audio world who have moved from their previous DAWs to Studio One?
I hear testimonies all the time, even here at NAMM. Simbad was at our NAMM booth yesterday, and he said, "I'm convinced. I'm switching".Once they see Studio One's ease of use, and how fast it is to do certain things, it speaks for itself. So it's mainly a matter of getting it into people's hands and letting them use it. We also work hard to put out tutorials and educate people about it.
We've also heard testimonies of people who got the software, but don't know what to immediately do with it. That could be due to a lack of an engineering or production background, but once I show them what they should be focusing on, they understand immediately.