PreSonus interview “Fender acquired PreSonus for what it is, not because they wanted it to be something else”

Following their acquisition by guitar giants Fender, PreSonus have been on something of a roll. With a sparklingly spruced up iteration of their increasingly versatile DAW Studio One and the now cross-platform Notion Mobile astounding us last year, we caught up with the company to find out more about PreSonus’s aims for 2023…

“Not just more bells, but also better whistles” was how we wrapped up our review of PreSonus’s Studio One 6 recently, after spending some quality time with this feature-packed multimedia workstation. The breadth of Studio One 6’s new features – which include video editing, lyric incorporation and Smart Templates – seemed to indicate a move towards a more holistic philosophy, perhaps in tandem with the perennially cool ethos of their new parent company, Fender, who acquired the venerable music technology brand in 2021. Later in the year, an improved version of Notion Mobile appeared in platform agnostic form, and what, for our money, is the slickest route to sketching and composing orchestral music. We caught up with Arnd Kaiser (above, left), General Manager for Software and Chris Swaffer (above, right), Product Manager for Notion, to learn more about these major releases, and to learn more about the company’s major drives in 2023…

AMI: Last year, both Studio One 6 and Notion Mobile wowed the home production world, balancing advanced feature-sets with easy to navigate interfaces. How long had these new iterations been in development before release? And were Studio One’s new features – and the creation of Notion Mobile – influenced in any way by community/audience feedback for specific new features?

Arnd Kaiser: Last year was a great year for us, with both a major Studio One update and a brand-new version of Notion Mobile released. With projects of this scope, we are working in parallel with smaller teams sharing the work. In the case of Studio One 6, the team started back in January 2022 with part of the team still involved in Studio One 5.5 and subsequent maintenance updates. We’ve been working on Notion Mobile for quite some time—several years, actually, because we ported the original Notion code to the Studio One framework and also rewrote a lot of code. The first result of this effort was the Studio One score editor we released with version 5 in 2020. In turn, Notion Mobile inherited a lot of new Studio One code. It’s the shared codebase that allows us to work efficiently across projects and offer regular free feature updates for all applications.

When adding new features, we incorporate a lot of user feedback. We conduct regular surveys, monitor discussions on various forums and social media platforms and run a dedicated community-driven website ( where users can post, discuss and vote for feature requests. On top of that we’re organising local Studio One Meetups in places around the world where users meet other users, sometimes including beta testers or PreSonus staff. All this information combined provides us with a vivid picture of what Studio One users need and how they’re using our software. We’re planning to add more layers to this in the future and provide our users with even more ways to communicate their needs.

AMI: A notable addition to Studio One 6 was the refinement of video editing and the addition of the video track. Was this focus spurred by a desire to expand Studio One’s abilities beyond music production, and edge it further into being a broader multimedia toolkit?

Arnd Kaiser: Studio One users have been asking for extended video support for a long time, and we’re excited to see how well the new video features in Studio One 6 have been received. While our focus remains on music production, nearly 50% of our users describe their main activity as “content creation” involving mixed media, so the line between pure music production and content creation involving mixed media is blurred. One of the main aspects that sets Studio One apart from other DAWs is how well it responds to a user’s specific workflow needs. This includes, for example, convenient drag-and-drop import of mixed content (audio and video). We’re planning to add more video-related features in our next updates. We’re excited to see what users are going to do with it.

AMI: There’s also of course a raft of compositionally-focused upgrades, with the Lyrics Track and the raft of tailored Smart Templates. Were these additions intended to entice those who might not have previously favoured Studio One as a songwriting workspace?

Arnd Kaiser: Lyrics support has also been a long-time feature request from our users. We feel that Studio One has the perfect foundation for a complete end-to-end lyrics workflow, from songwriting to vocal recording, from mixing to live performance. We’re quite happy with the result.

The concept of Smart Templates was born when we discussed ideas for new workflows and how we could implement these without adding bloat. The new template browser shows the most important applications and workflows in one place. Combining tailored templates with user-interface customisation helps the user to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by unrelated tools and objects. In addition, we provide interactive tutorials as part of these templates, which are great for anyone who is new to Studio One and its many possible applications.

AMI: Of Studio One 6’s new plugins, which is your particular favourite?

Arnd Kaiser: ProEQ has become really powerful with the addition of dynamic bands but my favourite is probably the Vocoder. I’m a big fan of vocoders, and I love the vintage vibe of it. It’s great when combined with other plug-ins, and the Freeze feature opens the door for practically limitless filter shapes.

AMI: Turning to Notion Mobile, and is the now platform-spanning flexibility of the app something that had long been on the cards, and how has the app been refined over the years since its original launch?

Chris Swaffer: Notion has been on Windows, Mac and iOS for over a decade, so it was always known as a cross-platform app. But yes, supporting Android has long been the number one feature request, not just for standard Android phones and tablets, but also for education use on Chromebooks and family use on Fire Tablets. With so many more devices potentially running Notion, this was a challenge! But at the same time we had an opportunity to fully rewrite Notion on Studio One’s underlying software framework. This gave us a custom platform we could use and evolve as needed, underpinning an app that looked and worked exactly the same whatever device or operating system it was running on. This rewrite in turn also benefited other PreSonus applications: Our first product during this time was actually Studio One’s Score Editor, for example.

Over the years the Notion Mobile app has developed both in response to our users’ feedback and requests, and more broadly, to our ever-changing relationship with mobile devices. New generations of users expect a different experience from the one we set out to make in 2010: Our original app was very much based on the Notion desktop version, whereas our new version has been designed from the ground up as a truly mobile and adaptive experience.

AMI: The free aspect makes Notion Mobile a great way for beginners to immerse themselves into the mindset of a composer. For music production novices, why would you say that understanding scoring and sheet music is still an essential skill for the professional world?

Chris Swaffer: Even understanding notation just a little is a powerful and liberating skill to have. Having enough knowledge to whip up a lead sheet in a session or jot down and share your ideas makes you a more diverse (and employable!) musician—even just by speaking the same language as musicians you work with. It’s also useful as a different compositional approach: In production you can get really hung up on finding the right sound, to the detriment of making progress with the song. With notation, you move ahead and focus just on the piece itself—and the reverse approach is just as useful for notation users!

Music notation is often held up as complicated, but really it’s no more or less so to the uninitiated than, say, a piano roll view, guitar tab or rack of modular synths. Our goal when we came to design workflows between DAW and score was to make it as easy as possible. In Studio One, you can have lead sheets, Chord Track, lyrics and “human-readable” notation in a DAW at your fingertips, with no specialist knowledge.

Of course, I’m a little biassed when it comes to Notion. But a free notation and tab app that allows unlimited instrument tracks and access to the sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra, that works the same whether you are running it on an iPhone or Chromebook and that directly transfers with Studio One—that’s pretty special!

AMI: What has the impact been following the Fender purchase of PreSonus in 2021, has the company’s focuses changed in any way, or has the acquisition only cemented PreSonus’s existing aims?

Arnd Kaiser: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) acquired PreSonus for what it is, not because they wanted it to be something else. PreSonus perfectly complements Fender’s portfolio of brands and products by adding recording and production, as well as live sound and performance products and services. This has been our focus before the acquisition, and that hasn’t changed. We’ve seen steady growth since I joined PreSonus in 2012. Merging with Fender has allowed us to accelerate this growth and, with help of additional resources for our software team, provide PreSonus users with even more exciting products and updates.

AMI: With the increasing robustness of the PreSonus Sphere membership package, do you see it as becoming essentially the only music production suite that its members need? And how essential is it to foster and nurture the PreSonus creative community in 2023?

Arnd Kaiser: PreSonus Sphere is the perfect combination of application software, sound and learning content and services for a steadily growing user community. Although we are committed to continue providing a perpetual Studio One licence, in less than one year PreSonus Sphere has passed the perpetual licence product in terms of monthly new users. I see that as proof that we made the right decision to offer this membership package, and in my opinion, it perfectly complements Studio One as a user-oriented and workflow-driven music-production platform. We keep adding more content and more features and services on a monthly basis, so as a member, you know exactly what you get with a monthly or annual membership. Studio One is regularly being updated with new features and workflow improvements.

This year, we have several exciting updates planned which will be free for PreSonus Sphere members and Studio One 6 users. Together with new hardware products we’re planning to release, 2023 will be a great year for the PreSonus creative community.