Finding and choosing a digital audio workstation is the first crucial step in developing a music production career or hobby. In this PreSonus Studio One 3 Review, I will discuss how well this software works, its essential and unique features, some minor drawbacks, and where to get the best deal when you buy it online.
By the end of this review, you should have a good idea as to whether PreSonus Studio One 3 is the right DAW for you.
- Product: PreSonus Studio One 3
- Standard Price: Free | $150 | $450
- My Rating: 4/5 stars
PreSonus Studio One 3 Review
Table of Contents for This Review
Studio One 3 Overview
PreSonus Studio One 3 comes in three versions: Professional, Artist, and a free trial version called Prime.
PreSonus Studio One 3 Professional
With the Professional version, you are given full music making, editing, and arranging power. All the things you need in a full-functioning DAW are in this version. This is a 64-bit DAW, capable of running 64-bit VST3 plugins. It has all the feature plugins that a producer and composer needs, plus loads of optional additional content to keep you busy for a while. This is the DAW for you if you’re serious about a music making software.
In this review, I will be discussing is the Professional version, mainly.
Presonus Studio One 3 Artist
The Artist version is the cheapest version of Studio One, with limited features and capabilities. However, I find that this version is great for musicians and singer-songwriters who are mostly interested in recording their music and instruments, doing some basic arrangements, edits, and mixes. It’s not a “producer’s DAW”, so to speak, but a suitable DAW of musicians who are non-producers. It is also 32-bit, so you’d only be able to load 32-bit 3rd party plugins on it. Drawbacks are that it lacks some excellent functionalities that make this DAW great, such as Scratch Pad, Note FX, Open Air Reverb, Groove Delay, and Console Shaper, to name a few.
Presonus Studio One 3 Prime
Then there is the Prime version, which has the basic essentials of a music production software. But as expected with a free trial, there are a lot of limitations. It comes as a 32-bit software. You can’t load 3rd party plugins on it, but you can play with the limited supply of plugins it comes with to get the “feel” of this DAW works.
PreSonus Studio One 3 Review
The main thing that makes Studio One 3 stick out among DAWs is its workflow. Everything in this DAW is drag and drop based. Everything. This is excellent for beginners, and those learning how to use a DAW, as Studio One 3 was based on the standard DAW formats and layouts. A combination of Reason and Cubase, with some similarity to Logic Pro X, if you started working with Studio One 3, working in another DAW environment can make a smooth transition, as the other popular DAW options require a steeper learning curve to overcome.
I found that this drag and drop workflow feature increases productivity, as the other popular DAWs on the market require some know-how to do things like creating a new instrument or audio track for your plugins. But it’s not that this DAW is only for beginners, and I’d rather not give you the impression that it is solely a beginner’s DAW, far from it. People who have used Pro Tools and Cubase find the various workflow features, as well as the ease of accessibility to options and tools, makes Studio One a refreshing choice in a market full of clutter GUIs.
Studio One seems to be exceptionally good for people whose main focus is on music composition and arrangement. Producers who are also songwriters, or vice versa, also find this DAW a great tool for creating arrangements and instrumentations, as the GUI feels as if it were created for the purpose of creativity, not only engineering. As mentioned above, there is no need to learn how to route instruments to channels in order to begin composing your tracks. Simply find your instrument in the search bar by typing its name in, and then drag it onto the arranger view window. Want to put some reverb on your vocals?
Just look up for Room Reverb or Open Air and drag a preset setting over onto your track. The plugin with the preset will load up even while the track is playing, and you can switch between presets if you didn’t like the one you loaded. This creates a smooth workflow without any disruptions or nicks in your creativity. The more you use it, the more you get into your own creative rhythm and flow. And if in the middle of your arranging and composing you have some ideas that you wish you could quickly record but don’t want to compromise your song, the Scratch Pad feature allows you to quickly create new musical ideas on the fly to save and use later in your arrangement, all at the press of a single key. That’s pretty cool.
Another unique and awesome feature in Studio One 3, is its dedicated mastering session page called the Project Page (Professional version). This is very useful for creating your albums or EPs for release. The Project Page has the ability to update your music in the mastering session. Don’t like how loud the snare was on the third track of the album you’re mastering for a release? You can quickly open the song project from the Project Page and turn down that snare, then update the master file and get back to the album. When you’re done refining your album or EP, just burn it directly to a disk, create a disk image, or even upload it straight to your SoundCloud. Just like that.
King of Content
Another cool thing is that the Professional version comes with a vast array of instruments, sounds, and effects plugins. The effects plugins themselves are sufficient enough that you may not even need to buy many third-party replacements, and the instruments and 15 GB worth of sound content can be good enough to create music with for some time to come. Of course, like with every DAW, the in-house instruments and plugins might, to some, still feel somewhat lacking. However, my experience with using Studio One is that PreSonus seems pretty dedicated to providing their users with everything they need, without the necessity to go out and find a 3rd party option. A little searching and you might find that your perfect sound was just a few clicks away.
PreSonus acquired Notion, a scoring software, so that you can work with music scores in your DAW. This is great for those working on film scores. It may not be the greatest scoring integration software, however. I’d say that Cubase or Logic Pro X has the best scoring feature, but it is a nice addition for those who’ve come to appreciate Studio One’s features and usability (again, people tend to stick with it because of its workflow).
Plugins And Effects
Integrated with the software (Professional) is Melodyne, which will be useful for those wanting to tighten up some tuning on their instrument recordings and vocal tracks. The new Professional version also comes with a cool MIDI plugin bundle called Note FX. Essentially, this consists of a Chorder for coming up with new chord progressions, an Arpeggiator, a Note Repeater for interesting note patterns, and an Input Filter. These are becoming more and more essential plugins for composers and beat makers, so it’s nice to see PreSonus introduce them in their new version. One can see, also, that as this DAW is maturing, PreSonus is more and more providing its users with all that is needed, without the need to run out and buy additional software.
The Console Shaper is a new addition to Studio One. PreSonus implemented it in version 3 and, I must say, this is one of the most impressive additions for me so far. What Console Shaper essentially does is emulate the analog sounds of the studio mixing console. You have settings to integrate hissing, dirt, crosstalk, and so on, to make you mixes and music have that warm analog sound found in a vintage recording studio. This is essential if you are working on recording live instruments and vocalists into your DAW. And even if you’re working on EDM, you’ll find this helps to add polish, character, and color, to your music.
Want to know more about how the console shaper works? See the video.
Wanna Touch It?
If you’re on a laptop that utilizes multitouch or touch screen, you’ll be interested to know that Studio One 3 has been enhanced to work with those features. Added to that the fact that PreSonus has released a free iPad control app which allows you to control your mixing levels from within your iPad app. Studio One also has integration for Windows Surface tablets and laptops.
Another cool feature is the Multi-Instrument. If you’re interested in layering instruments onto one plugin, Studio One 3 Professional’s Multi-Instrument will make that possible for you. Like the name suggests, you can load more than one instrument, setting the parameters so that certain keys trigger certain instruments, or layering sounds one atop the other to create cool effects. The only problem with this I’ve seen so far is that this induces more latency and high CPU use, naturally. I expect that as time goes on, there will be some updates to this, making it more efficient and effective. I can really see this being very useful in a live performance setting, as you can use your MIDI controller to then trigger more than one instrument and blend sounds together. In concept, it is a very good plugin idea, I haven’t used it, but I could definitely see myself utilizing it in the future.
If customization is important to you, you can change the colors of the interface to suit your taste. It might not be as customizable as some DAWs, however, but I’ve always found its interface to be clean and attractive. You can edit, change, and add keyboard shortcuts. This is great if you’re coming from using another DAW and are used to the shortcuts you used there. Also, the Macro feature allows the user to breakdown custom multi-commands and actions so that you don’t need to repeat the same processes you’re often having to do over again. This adds even more to the workflow of the DAW.
So Studio One 3, as you can see, seems to emphasize a lot on workflow fluency and creativity. But how does it match up in the real world?
In the next part of this review, I talk about my own experiences with it, as well as the experiences of others who have used it.
My Thoughts on PreSonus Studio One 3 (Professional Version)
I came to this DAW after trying to use LMMS in Ubuntu to work on a project for a national musical theater backing track album. Because of the demands made on me, I needed something I could quickly compose and arrange music with, as well as make edits over time, as I had many tracks to work with while the show was being completed, and finishing touches to its script added, demanding continual revues and changes in some tracks.
Anyway, I was familiar with Reason and FL Studio, especially Reason, but because I needed a DAW that could do scoring and recording, I went online to search for an alternative.
Many other DAWs required a learning curve. Cubase, and Pro Tools especially. And since I was on a PC, Logic Pro was out of the question for me. I came across Studio One and tried out the Prime version for a week. After I used it to sketch out a swing band track, I purchased the Professional version so that I could continue using it on that track and on others.
Just as I mentioned above, the thing that impressed me the most was its workflow. Whatever I needed to be done, I just dragged and dropped, without needed to think of how to do anything. I could get work done just like that – I had no time to learn, I only had to time to create. It was really a refreshing experience for me, and I wondered why other DAWs couldn’t be as efficient as this. I started out with version 2, however, not 3. But even then I found it amazing, as now I find version 3 even more fluid.
The main thing I wasn’t entirely impressed with was its sound libraries. Even though they are very good, for me they didn’t have “the sounds” I was looking for. But if you’re going to be making music on a DAW anyway, at some point you’ll end up getting 3rd party software plugins. I normally use the sounds and instruments that come with Studio One for sketching out new ideas, then change the instruments to a 3rd part plugin later. Sometimes, however, I will get a sound in Mai Tai synth or a string or organ sound from Presence XT that is just right, so there is still value in Studio One’s native instruments. Also, latency seems to be an issue, as well as processing power. But as for the latter, you can always freeze tracks (render to audio) to reduce CPU workload.
To ease CPU workload, the new version has a feature where you can set “sample drop protection” to low or high. Sometimes when I’m working on music, especially music in which I’m using a lot of audio samples, I might hear that not all the audio are triggered. I can adjust this setting so that while I’m editing or creating, I’m not so fussy on whether a sample falls out, so I can let the CPU work less. But when I’m ready to export, I set the protection to Maximum.
MIDI functionality isn’t its greatest attribute. Don’t be fooled, though, not everyone is going to need the extent of MIDI features that Cubase, for instance, has. Studio One’s MIDI function is powerful and capable. Practically all of my music is MIDI-based, and I was pretty satisfied, as Studio One handles MIDI very well. But there are some MIDI parameters which I do wish existed in this DAW. Some advanced functions like time handles (MIDI notation stretching) and expression control are not in this version, though I’m sure it will be in future versions.
I’m not entirely familiar with Cubase, but from what I hear, these DAWs seem to share similarities in their overall concept. In my discussions with a friend of mine who is a film score producer, and a user of Cubase, I find that there’s much in common between our DAWs. This is because Studio One was developed by the same developers behind Steinberg’s Cubase. It may not be as “advanced” in certain respects (although I think “advanced” is a matter of opinion… advanced how?), but for some, it may feel like a more modern version of Cubase that suits the current paradigm of computer music production.
What Do Other’s Have to Say about Studio One 3?
In many of the forums, I’ve found that there are quite a few reasons why people have made the switch to Studio One from, say, Cubase, or even Logic Pro X. For one, on a PC, Cubase has been known to have some crashing issues. Especially the newest version of Cubase 9, which has been known to have stability problems, while Studio One has, so far, been a rock solid and stable DAW.
For some others, it’s the bundle plugin package that comes with the Professional version. Unless you already own your own plugins from 3rd party vendors, Studio One plugins are very good alternatives to the myriad of other plugins to sort through. Literally, any plugin you need is found in Studio One Professional. You quite literally have no need to run out and buy another plugin when it exists somewhere in your plugin directory. Your decision to get 3rd part plugin would be based on some other factors besides the basics of what you are trying to accomplish in editing and mixing.
Wally Callerio talks about why he loves Studio One
Naturally, the ease of use comes up the majority of the time. Many users have highlighted that the latest version seems to be geared toward enticing the EDM users more, as updates in the previous version seemed geared toward rock, pop, sort of producers. In fact, a search on Youtube shows that there are videos being uploaded regularly featuring EDM and trap producers making production tutorials, alongside tutorials by mixing and mastering engineers, and producers and songwriters sharing their skills. This is one of the things that’s drawing people to Studio One, the fact that it is so versatile a DAW.
Many are happy about the fact that Studio One doesn’t need a dongle, like many other DAWs, for it to work. As an anti-piracy device, the dongle is used to activate your software in order to use it. Cubase and Reason use dongles, which for some people prove to be an annoyance and inconvenience. Studio One already has a pretty good anti-piracy system, so you don’t need to purchase a dongle in order to get it activated and working.
In conclusion, a major reason why I saw producers and engineers switching and staying with Studio One was the workflow, which enhances speed and efficiency. And the major complaint would be the lack of advanced MIDI control options that come with, say, a Cubase, as well as video support. Another thing was that, though Studio One does support video, its Quicktime format can be troublesome for some users.
Pros & Cons
- Drag and Drop Interface
- Project Page for mastering song files that can be quickly updated
- Non-Clutter GUI
- Tons of High-Quality VST Plugins (Professional)
- Audio Editing is quick and simple
- Great support from community
- Limited MIDI functionality
- Can be CPU intensive at times
- Sound packages still not the greatest
Presonus Studio One 3 Review – Summing up
Having used this DAW as my main music production software for about 2 years, I’ve found it stable, reliable, and suitable for all my production requirements. Occasionally, I’ve been tempted to try out other DAW software, but never felt the need to move from PreSonus Studio One 3 as it covers all my needs. Of course, everyone is different. So I’ve found that Studio One is best for you if you’re most interested in having an unobtrusive workflow, where you’re not trying to “figure things out” every few minutes, want the flexibility to work on electronic music genres, but also the option of having powerful and fast audio editing capabilities, as well as the ability to be a DAW suitable for a recording studio.
A big plus is the mastering page, the Project Page, which alone is the best reason to get this DAW, as you can master and create your own albums. I also recommend this DAW if you’re unfamiliar with DAWs and are looking for a “first DAW” that can possibly be your main DAW for life. As its GUI is friendly and intuitive, it’s a great platform for learning the ins and outs of a standard digital audio workstation.
Which Version to Get?
If you’re looking for a DAW to purchase, you have two options: Artist and Professional.
The Professional version is the one I most recommend because of its full functionality. You are not restricted from any of PreSonus’ content, features, and updates, which is great as you start to improve and learn your way around the DAW. This is the version I went straight to getting, because I knew I’d eventually need all the features it provided. If you want a serious digital audio workstation, this is the DAW your should get.
The Artist version lacks some of the features I mentioned in the review above. I find that, as a DAW, it is mainly useful for musicians who aren’t all that interested in music production. Perhaps you simply want to record your sessions and send them off to another producer for arrangement. Or maybe you’re more of an amateur with a light interest in music production. Then you can purchase the Artist version.
Upgrading from previous version? Click Here
If you want to simply try it out, then you can get the Prime version for free, and then later upgrade to the full version
This completes my Presonus Studio One 3 Review. I hope you found it informative. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them down below.