For complete transparency, I have to say right up front that I am a fan of PreSonus hardware products. I’ve put quite a few miles on PreSonus interfaces and other gear, and I have also used previous versions of their Studio One software. All that said, my music projects and collaborations vary, and, as a result, I have exposure to a few different music production applications. Like most of us, I have some pet peeves and favorite features I lean on. So, when I heard rumors of Studio One 6 (Sweetwater) coming, I was anxious to see if the new version would offer the types of features songwriters need, and maybe be versatile enough to convince me to stick with one DAW.
Key Features and Setup
Two of the most important features for me I found advertised in the Studio One 6 documentation. First, even more than previous versions of the software, this new release promised to make creating music quick and easy. From the list of features, Studio One 6 looked to have everything a songwriter would need to record, mix, and master. Plus, there are features that provide for using the software for live performance—maybe not for everyone, but potentially useful. Second, there seemed to be a good deal of flexibility with the workflow, along with the ability to customize the interface so you can put what you need and use most often right at your fingertips. This was one of the first features I tried out.
The download, installation, and registration of Studio One 6 were easy. I did this at the PreSonus website where I had registered previous PreSonus products. The hardware requirements spelled out there were in line with other music software, essentially you’ll need macOS 10.14 or higher (64-bit only) or Windows 10 (64-bit only) and Windows 11 (64-bit only); an Internet connection for installation and activation; and enough storage for the Studio One package (Professional 40GB, Artists 20GB or Prime 2.6GB).
I chose the recommended installation path for the Professional version. However, I suspect that whatever path you install, there will be a good deal of downloading to do with all the tools provided. So, while it is possible to download the software over a WIFI connection, a hardwired Ethernet connection will save you time and avoid possible errors with large downloads. On your first start-up, Studio One finds any audio devices you have installed and walks you through the setup for each to select audio input and outputs and configuration options. You can, of course, easily change these to support new devices to tune devices for top performance.
One of the most useful customization features I went immediately for was the new Customization Editor, which allows the user to select just the tools and functions they need for what they happen to be focused on. This has the effect of tailoring the user interface so you can work faster and make repeated operations easier. It’s simple, but effective, as is Studio One’s drag-and-drop workflow employed throughout the software. If it makes sense, just select an item and move it where you need it.
There are three new features of this software which you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other music software. First is a Channel Overview window that provides a single place to look to get a consolidated view of all channel parameters. It’s a great idea given how complex mixes can get and I’m planning to use this a lot. Next, you’ll want to check out something called Fader Flip, a one-click time saver to send outputs to effects or cue mixes, and Track Presets with which you can set up on one or a bundle of tracks the way you like them and do it quickly. Track Presets are like templates for your favorite track setups.
Speaking of templates, I used to rely a lot on demo files provided with DAW software, copying them and using them as templates, overwriting the original parts with my own. That’s not necessary anymore because Studio One provides Smart Templates set up to do the kinds of sessions we do most often. Templates are already customized for you to accomplish highly focused tasks, like creating beats, to elaborate mix sessions. There are even very specialized operations like mastering a song—something I previously would look for specialized software to do. With automatic mix updating, DDP, and Redbook CD burning built-in, the mastering module gets pretty deep and deserves its own review, but the fact that it is included and so easy to operate is pretty impressive. Plus, PreSonus provides guided tutorials for the templates, so if you’ve never mastered them before, you have a place to start learning right away without leaving your session.
One of my favorite existing features of the software, and one that songwriters and arrangers will appreciate, is a powerful Arranger Track. It allows you to easily copy, reorder, move, or remove song sections. Being able to intuitively move verses and choruses with a simple drag-and-drop motion lets you quickly try out new forms while saving a lot of time and frustration over cut and paste methods, plus it’s much less error-prone.
All the features I tried outperformed as expected on a PC with an Intel i7 processor and 32GB of installed RAM, as did the more complex pop mix that downloaded with the software. However, there are lots of new features and plug-ins that deserve a deeper look. Something I didn’t spend a lot of time with but could be important to songwriters that need some help or inspiration in the harmony department, was harmonic editing features for both audio and MIDI using a Chord Track. There are also Lyric workflows that allow songwriters to add in their lyrics and even an advanced Video Track and the ability to edit and stream a final product with the Show Page—stream right from the software.
For recordists looking for an arsenal of virtual recording gear, Studio One 6 now sports a nice suite of Native effects plug-ins, including a familiar-looking De-Esser and Vocoder, plus a ProEQ3 for level responsive EQ adjustments. A Console Shaper emulates the sound of an analog console with control over drive, noise, and even true channel crosstalk. Five powerful virtual instruments include: Impact XT drum sampler; Presence XT sample-player; Mai Tai polyphonic analog modeling synthesizer; Mojito monophonic subtractive synthesizer; and Sample One XT sampler and sample editor.
If writing out parts, lead sheets, or entire scores is your thing, this version of Studio One incorporates some very impressive score writing ability with Notion notation provided by the Score Editor. And for delivering your finished product, Studio One has integrated cloud services you can investigate, including the PreSonus Shop, PreSonus Exchange, and bi-directional SoundCloud integration.
Studio One 6 puts everything a songwriter could ask for into one very comprehensive, all-in-one DAW package. Plus, PreSonus software engineers have obviously been paying attention to songwriters and home studio users because they’ve put ease-of-use high up on the list. Some favorite features for many will be the informative Track Overview that will simplify mixes and the Customization Editor that lets a user tailor the interface essentially hiding menu options that aren’t important to the task at hand. This allows users to focus on the tools when and where they need them. That’s smart! In general, all the new features are smart and useful.
The software did not download with many sample demo files, just one pop mix (albeit a very good one). Since I’m seeing this version early, perhaps PreSonus will add more to show off the virtual instruments and some track layout examples. However, the product more than makes up for that with a full complement of project templates that come with tutorials that support using Studio One 6 in many different ways–maybe that’s even better.
Studio One 6 does a great job of putting all the software tools a songwriter could need in one place. If you are new to digital recording or a less experienced DAW user, PreSonus has not only made the software intuitive but provided the help you need along the way with tooltips and even an optional help section on screen. That’s not to say that the software “dumbed down” in any way. There are simply a lot of entry points for users of all levels.
For advanced users, there are very useful plug-ins and recording features to keep the producer in you happy, as well as drag-and-drop and organizational functionality to help you get to your final product quickly. As a result, I’m sold on trying to make Studio One 6 my go-to DAW. It’s the only one I’ve worked with that puts it all together and allows me to tailor the software to fit the challenge at hand.
PreSonus Sphere 1-Year Membership $164.95 | Monthly Membership $14.95
Studio One 6 Professional $399.95
Studio One 6 Artist $99.95
Upgrade pricing for previous versions and crossgrades is available.