Now that Image-Line’s FL Studio 12.1 has officially gone live as a public beta version with multi-touch support for mobile devices, a bevy of added features and bug fixes and a fully scalable vector-based GUI, newcomers and devoted fans of this award-winning software can look forward to yet another meaningful update to what I personally hold to be the most workflow-efficient digital audio workstation developed thus far.
Unfortunately, since I’m working on a two-year-old Pavillion G6, I cannot provide detailed information regarding all things multi-touch, even though the product page indicates that multi-touch support extends to the mixer, and the online demo video published on Image-Line’s official YouTube channel depicts a product specialist taking full advantage of multi-touch optimization, which seems to cover a wide range of controls.
So, What’s New In FL Studio 12?
Well, quite a bit actually. For seasoned FL users, some things might take a little getting used to, but fortunately the changes are mostly positive. I might as well begin with the most jarring alteration to FL’s near perfect plugin management system, which was a bit frustrating at first, but the good people at Image-Line took notice of a gathering storm of requests to put the “More Plugins” button back where it belongs at the very top of the Add/Channel submenu that opens a new Favoriting Window providing access to all our plugins all in one place! I can appreciate having the luxury of organising my plugin library with user configurable category tabs in the Browser, but having to manually add each and every plugin to the category slot becomes a tedious process for people with ample libraries, so it’s always nice to have our plugins stashed away in a single location.
Now, let’s shift our attention to the lovely new vectorial interface, which can be scaled in real-time and supports high resolution monitors up to 8K. The new “Magnet Windows” automatically snap into place alongside parallel objects and to the edges of the screen. The Pattern/Song Mode button is markedly different, having been built directly into the Transport Panel next to the Play button. Note that Song Mode is activated when this button is switched off. Also, there’s a new button for the Plugin Picker (F8) plus a third Shortcut Panel with a context menu wherein twenty-four assignable “Action Buttons” can be displayed within all three panels!
In the Channel Options menu within the Channel Rack (having been swapped out with the Pattern menu) there’s an option to “Show Mixer Track Selectors” (Alt+M) which allows you to quickly route a channel output to its own dedicated mixer track without having to navigate to the Detailed Settings in the Plugin Wrapper. In the top-right corner of the Channel Rack is a new button that toggles between the Step Sequencer and Piano Roll overview, which is a huge time saver! Also, there’s a nifty little “Add New Channel” button that will open the Plugin Database, saving you the hassle of fishing through the tree menu via the Add button.
Now that the Pattern menu has migrated from the Channel Rack to the Toolbar menu, the left pane displays a list of patterns iterating MIDI control data – corresponding with the Pattern Selector – and more options to the right with key commands for renaming/coloring, cloning patterns, and a “Split By Channel” option that takes every channel in a sequence, splits them up into separate patterns and lists each of them by name, which just might be the single most useful feature implemented so far.
I was impressed by the new Pattern Selector, which offers an identical list of Pattern Options, a “New Pattern” button that opens a text window for renaming patterns, and a Preset menu featuring a list of commonly used track names i.e. “Drums”, “Synth”, etc. You can also right-click on the Color Selector button just to the right of the text field to randomly generate a color… a small adjustment that makes a BIG difference!
I’m very satisfied with the changes made to the Plugin Wrapper, especially the fact that channel settings are integrated therein, with a gear-shaped button next to the Plugin Options menu that will either expand or hide Detailed Settings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to click and drag the Plugin Wrapper out of the way just to get to the channel settings, so this is a much needed fix! There have also been some major adjustments to the Envelope/Instrument settings and the Miscellaneous functions, which are mostly cosmetic, even though there are some very noticeable improvements: Envelope handles are much easier to control with your mouse, and the Multi-touch Preview Keyboard is optimized for playing with your fingers.
A shocking amount of new features are available in the Mixer. In the “View” submenu within the Mixer Options, we can now display subtle “Lines Between Tracks”, or apply track colors to the entire channel strip by selecting one of three color levels (low, medium or high) within the “Colorful Mixer” node. Another added feature in the View menu is a “Routing Cable” option to illustrate patch cable connections to routed tracks. An “Extra Large” setting within the Mixer Layout menu displays a per-track effects overview beneath the mixer controls, so we no longer need to have the Track Inspector open to manage our effects. I love the way multiple tracks can be selected by simply pressing “Ctrl”, left-click and dragging your mouse cursor over the tracks you want to edit, which makes sidechain routing and submix grouping a walk in the park.
In the Browser, you can right-click on a folder and choose “Open” within the context menu, which will display the contents of that folder in the Windows File Explorer wherein you can select multiple audio files and drag them into the Playlist. Also within the Playlist, there’s an option to “Keep labels on screen” that will preserve the appearance of clip labels when the “Scrolls to reach time markers” button within the Snap Panel is engaged. In the General Settings tab, under the GUI Input window, there’s a “Click and hold & special gesture functions” option that will let you copy notes and/or clips in the Playlist with a single mouse click or multi-touch gesture. I find this particularly frustrating when using a mouse, so I’ve made sure to keep this button switched off.
Another small change in the General Settings window that makes a world of difference is a toggle button for “Auto zoom in piano roll” that will automatically fit the Piano Roll content within the boundaries of the screen. This can be a real headache when you’ve adjusted the Vertical Zoom level and then reopened the Piano Roll to find Vertical Zoom rescaled to give you a bird’s-eye-view of the entire composition, so I also keep this button switched off. Another useful feature that takes effect in the Piano Roll is an option to “Mute removed steps” in the Channel Options menu, which basically does what the Graph Editor used to (preserving note event data) now that the Step Sequencer is completely integrated with the Piano Roll, even though plans to replace the Graph Editor are currently underway.
Yet another exciting new feature in the Piano Roll is an option for “Editable ghosts” in the “Helpers” submenu that will let you make changes to notes in other channels, or even swap to the Piano Roll editor in a separate channel by simply double-right clicking on the ghost note. Also, there’s an option to highlight overlapping notes, and the ability to add Time Markers that determine the pattern length from within the Piano Roll editor!
Elastique v3, a new time stretching / pitch shifting algorithm has now been added to the “Stretching Method” dropdown within the Sample Settings, which allows you to adjust the pitch and playback speed independently. There are also four new acoustic drum kits (HQ Funk, Jazz, Metal and Rock) available as FPC multi-layered drum machine templates, and a lovely new Steinway Grand Piano made available as a Direct Wave multi-sampled instrument, which is surprisingly true to the real thing.
There are a few new effect plugins at our disposal, most notably the X-Y-Z controller optimized for multi-touch use but not limited to it, with a third axis (Z) mapped to the mouse wheel by default that also responds to the “pinch” gesture, resulting in zoom in/out functionality. For those without multi-touch, it would’ve been nice if we could click and hold the left/right mouse button while moving the Z axis with the mouse wheel at the same time, but for whatever reason, the mouse wheel has no effect when the other mouse buttons are being held down. However, you can always route a control signal to the Z axis. I like to route the X output to the Z axis in the Remote Control Settings and just invert the Mapping Formula. Good enough for me!
Also, there’s a new VFX Keyboard Splitter (most preferably used within Patcher) elevating key mapping to a whole other level, with up to sixteen Zones, each of which offering the same set of controls we’ve come to expect from anything that includes an Event Editor, with the ability to open state files, smoothing controls, etc. There are also Manual Mapping controls and Velocity curve editors in each Zone.
The “Fruity Edition” now features automation clips, so you’re no longer restricted to the Event Editor, and the “Producer Edition” now includes Sytrus: an incredibly versatile hybrid synth, and also Maximus: a powerful multiband compressor which has become my go-to maximizer; I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it! The “Signature Bundle” now includes Newtone: a pitch editing and time manipulation editor, Pitcher: a similar tool but for real-time pitch-correction, Gross Beat: time/volume manipulation for glitch-based effects, and Harmless: a flexible additive synthesizer that feigns subtractive synthesis, dubbed “The little sister of Harmor”.
As always, Image-Line follows through on their promise of “free updates for life” to registered users, a policy you’d just assume would (or should) be standard treatment, but surprisingly enough, Image-Line is one of few developers that values your business to the point that when you die, you’ll be buried with a current version of their software at no additional cost. Also, FL Studio now features support for Novation Launchpad Pro — and FLAC is officially a supported audio format!
These are just the new features! I could have easily written a much longer review discussing the entire DAW, but I’m fairly certain that the majority of our readers are marginally familiar with FL Studio’s overall architecture. In my less than humble opinion, this is the best way it can be done. You might have overheard proponents of competing softwares snidely refer to FL Studio as “a giant step sequencer”, and they’re not entirely wrong. What the haters overlook is that this is actually a strength, not a weakness. In most DAWs, in order to program a sequence, you must open the step editor inside of each individual channel strip, which can become a long and painful process if you’re trying to create complex sequences involving several instruments and effects scattered throughout your mixing console.
In FL Studio, the Channel Rack intersects with the Mixer in a way that results in a much more fluid workflow. The Piano Roll is unusually mouse-friendly, so there’s no need to memorize a long list of keyboard shortcuts, even though there are plenty of very useful key commands if you care to learn them. But the single most important aspect of Image-Line’s FL Studio is that it’s fun to use! Let’s face it. If you don’t enjoy making music, we probably won’t enjoy listening to it. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that
working playing with FL Studio.
More info: FL Studio 12 (official product page)
BPB is back after a two-week break! To celebrate, we are giving away a free FL Studio 12 Producer Edition license to one lucky reader, kindly provided by the Image-Line team!
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below. Only one entry per person is allowed. Please don’t reply to other people’s comments, as all replies will be deleted (since we can’t count the replies into our giveaway system). The winner will be picked using a random number generator on August 24th and announced on this page. Good luck everyone and thanks for reading BPB! :)
And the lucky winner is… our reader John (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is now a proud owner of FL Studio 12 Producer Edition! Congratulations to John and many thanks to Image-Line for providing the prize!
To everyone else who entered the giveaway, we know that it’s a bummer when you don’t get the prize, but perhaps you could try your luck in our Carbon Electra giveaway for a chance to win one of the five available free copies.
FL Studio 12 Review
With multi-touch support for mobile devices, a bevy of added features and bug fixes and a fully scalable vector-based GUI, newcomers and devoted fans of this award-winning software can look forward to yet another meaningful update to what we hold to be the most workflow-efficient digital audio workstation developed thus far.