Switching to Studio One
I recently worked to record my band's new EP, and decided to do something I don't normally have the opportunity to do when someone's paying me: I changed my DAW.
Backstory: my Mac is starting to become inoperable due to the longstanding need for operating system updates. Recently Chrome decided it didn't like my version of Mac OS anymore. But if I start moving to the California editions, I have to switch to Pro Tools 12. And if you don't know what that means, imagine moving from Adobe CS to Creative Cloud. Yeah, I sunk a lot of money into Pro Tools and I'm not really into paying $25 a month or $300 for a year at this point.
So, I pulled out some old You Might Think We're Sharks base tracks from our last session that never got overdubs, and finished "Summer Moon" in Presonus Studio One, which I've been threatening to switch to for a while.
It went well, so I recorded An Empty Room's new one on it as well. There are some tradeoffs, but overall it's just a better experience and I wish I'd done it sooner. One thing I missed from Cubase is that the music creation and mixing portions were well integrated. In recent years since dropping Cubase, I tend to compose in Ableton, then finalize and mix in Pro Tools. In Studio One, though it's obviously not the same as Ableton, I'm able to integrate composition, tracking, and mixing pretty well. That works for our workflow since we'll add synths and samples in the mix process after doing the tracking.
- Native compatibility with my hardware, which is made by Presonus as well.
- Almost everything is faster. To send tracks to a bus, just select them all, right click, and select "Create Bus from selected tracks." No more routing.
- Track presets and plugin groups (so you can save an entire chain of plugins that you use often).
- Stock EQ has a frequency analyzer.
- VSTs and AUs are invariably cheaper and more available than AAX.
- Comping is incredible. Just highlight each part of the take ("Layer" in Studio One) you want to promote and it's done.
- Fades are automatic (like Ableton), and they can be tweaked with bezier curves, as can automation.
- Dragging and dropping, in most cases, replaces menus and routing. Even importing audio files: just drag them in, and when you save the file Studio One asks if you want to copy the audio files to the project directory.
- As of version 3.4, there is a Smart Tool just like Pro Tools.
- I miss the single-stroke keyboard shortcuts. Leaving the modifier keys behind always made me feel like my keyboard was transformed into a spaceship control center. There are a few in S1, but not as many.
- By that same token, keyboard focus is sometimes wobbly. You can search for plugins in the Insert/Send menus, which is amazing. But you can't reliably use the keyboard to select the one you find, and I end up selecting tracks, soloing them, etc.
- Audio stretching is unintuitive.
- No Beat Detective equivalent that I know of. I didn't use it that much anyway.
- Nothing like Xpand! in the Artist version, but I recently picked up the VST version for a buck.
- That's... about it.
I'm currently using Artist Edition with the iPad remote and VST plugin support upgrades. Most of the features that I would love to have in Pro Edition are not things that Pro Tools even had, like the Arranger Track.
Overall, it was a small curve, a relatively painless experience, and I didn't lose much for features. Certainly didn't lose any fun.