REVIEW: Presonus Studio One 6

What do you give the DAW that has everything? asks Alistair McGhee.

Joking aside, that’s a serious question. Modern DAW’s like Presonus’s Studio One already have a deep and mature feature set. and it’s a fair question to ask, ‘how many more bells do we need?’, never mind the whistles!  The challenge to the development team is to add value without just increasing bulk or bloat. Not an easy job for software like Studio One 6 which has ambitions to cover recording, mixing, rehearsing, performing, mastering and delivery.
One way forward is to find new ways to make available more of the power, more of the time. And that certainly seems to have been high on the Presonus developers to-do list for Studio One 6.

First up we have Smart Templates and fully featured Customization Editing. First the Smart Templates, covering a wide range of starting points for your project depending on what you are trying to achieve. Beat Production, Record and Mix, Mastering, Rehears and Perform – there are plenty of options to choose from and the ability to build your own.  One great feature here is the Drop Zone where you can add content that will be added to your new template based project. This can really speed things up, my only complaint being I can’t add the drop zone to a custom template I have made. I feel the Custom Templates are a great stepping stone in the software, where newer users can get up and running without having to waste a lot of time project building. They simply get you to the creative coal face quicker.

Certainly, one of the most long awaited of the new features is the video track and the one I rejoice most over.  It’s dead easy to open a track and drag a video into it. Or select the global visibility icon which gives direct access to adding the video track to your project. With a click you can import the video’s audio and then the doors of dub city are thrown open. Don’t forget to unlink the video and its audio for maximum flexibility. You can even do simple cut and shut editing of your video which is not too shabby at all. I edit my videos in Lightworks and it is a thing of grace and beauty, but…while it gets a gold star for effort it has nowhere near the power of SO6 for audio. Having all the features of Studio One on hand to polish the audio makes for a dream team. And I’m particularly pleased that this new video leverage also ties in with the new loudness features available at mix down in SO6.

Now when you select ‘Export Mixdown’ from the Song menu, alongside all the options offered by version 5 you get a very flexible set of loudness options for your exported output. And of course this is a big deal in video production, you can tell that by the video options like YouTube and Netflix (I wish!) and of course EBU 128 alongside a host of audio only choices from Spotify and SoundCloud to Tidal. Here is where you can turn up to 11 or at least minus 11 if you select Spotify Loud. One feature here I would like is a measurement option – the opportunity to pick a clip or a whole song and calculate the existing loudness.

Track presets are another tool to aid work flow by inventing the wheel just once. Set your track up just the way you like and then save it or drag it to the Track Presets folder in the browser. Now you if you want that track set up in another project then just drag it in from the folder and hey presto – you get one minute and 30 seconds of your life back. And in a big project those minutes sure do add up.

It’s long been understood that a blizzard of menu options is less likely to get those creative juices flowing and more likely to lead to a sense of wandering in the option wilderness. In short when it comes to the interface, less is very often more. Studio One 6 offers ‘Customization’ in the view menu and there’s a set of four prebuilt options to get your going. The Audio Editing preset being where I normally start. You can of course build and save your own selection – and what you’re doing is deciding exactly what functionality you will see in your Studio One 6 work flow. For instance the Audio Editing control set removes ‘Instruments’ from your Browse tabs – makes sense to me. My only niggle here is there are just a few elements that defy  customisation – give me more power!  Allow me complete control over things I want to remove from the toolbar for instance, I’m looking at you Quantize here. It’s not that I don’t love you, I just don’t want you in every one of my customizations.

It’s not possible to cover every new feature and upgrade in Studio One 6, there’s just too many of them. The de-esser, the vocoder, fader flips  – which will feel very natural to anyone coming to SO6 from a digital mixer.  Micro view of 3rd party plugins, FX tracks in the mixer, new panning options and the ability to lock the track pan to your effects send. And more.

But let’s finish with a bang – the new lyrics features. You’ve written some handy lyrics or maybe stolen them from Billy Bragg –  I sat beside the telephone,  Waiting for someone to pull me through  When at last it didn’t ring I knew it wasn’t you – for instance. Get the lyric track enabled via Global Track Visibility and at the top of your project you’ll see said lyric track. You can type your masterpiece directly into this track and then arrange the blocks of text to align with your song. Or you can enable the Lyrics window where you can view and edit your words in their own panel. The lyric window offers variable font size, a ruler with adjustable measures and a karaoke style colour scheme to keep you on the right lines, literally. It’s a flexible tool and ideal for those with songwriting and performance in their tool bag and ideal too for video voice overs.

You can probably tell I’m most excited by the video and lyrics tracks and the new loudness options but I think the depth of the new features will provide lots of workflow upgrades in the months to come. Studio One 6, not just more bells but also better whistles,…

Welcome to issue 5 of Audio Media International