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FL Studio aka Fruity Loops has hit a version the developers are dubbing FL Studio 20. At age 20, the software still includes lifetime free updates – and a bunch of new features, including freezing of audio, and Hell freezing over.

The “Hell freezing over” bit you’ll see a lot around this release. It’s a reference to a claim developers Image-Line made that they’d add native Mac support “when Hell freezes over.” The comment at the time wasn’t so outrageous: FL Studio had been built a Windows-native development toolchain that made porting unthinkable. And while about ten years ago the company flirted with using emulation layer WINE to provide rudimentary support, that approach wasn’t terribly satisfying.

Now, Mac users can be first class FL Studio citizens if they so choose. FL Studio 20 is entirely Mac native – not running any kind of emulation. Of course, it may be hard to Image-Line to shake the Windows association, and some Mac users are coming the opposite direction, opting for the power-for-price ratio on Windows PCs. But the Mac still represents a huge portion of musicians, and this means choosing FL doesn’t require choosing a particular OS.

(I will say, though – a new Razer Blade is out. And even the old Razer Blade remains cheaper and better equipped than the Mac. Now you do have to disable some Windows 10 annoyances, like a CPU-hogging malware check and automatic updates on by default. Ahem.)

How to watch the Image-Line launch video without offending your aesthetic sensibilities

Okay, so… I have a theory.

Maybe one reason people assume FL Studio is for people making particular kinds of music is that … the video projects a particular kind of … uh, let’s say musical taste. Oh, sure, Ableton can throw a big posh party in Berlin and toss moody high-contrast artist photos beneath a stylish typeface they hired a London design consultancy to choose for them. FL Studio’s video may turn off a lot of producers simply because they hate the music.

So I’ve found a solution. First, cue up this delightful live performance of “Söngur heiftar” by classic Icelandic black metal band Misþyrming. It’s a little longer than the FL Studio 20 launch video, so don’t panic … you’ve got up to 60 seconds to then hit play on the FL Studio launch video, and hit the mute button in YouTube.

It’s the “Dark Side of the Moon” / Wizard of Oz approach to making music tech marketing videos more palatable. And it kind of fits. You’re welcome.

What’s New

Hell isn’t the only thing FL Studio can freeze. You can now bounce selected audio and pattern clips to audio, render clips to audio, consolidate clips or tracks or takes by bouncing, and more. That’s a huge difference in the FL workflow.

There are plenty of other new features in version 20, too:

Time Signature support (both in playlists and patterns, independently – so, yes, polymetric support if you like – and you thought FL Studio was just for 4/4 trance.)

Playlist Arrangements. Here’s something I find I’m often missing in linear DAWs – you can now set up multiple alternate arrangements, including audio, automation, and pattern clips, all in one project. That could be massive for tasks from trying out alternative song ideas to specific game or live performance sound designs. (I could see a theater show design using this … or fitting a score to different versions of a film trailer … and so on.)

Plugin Delay Compensation, rebuilt. FL already had delay compensation, both automatic and plugin varieties, but it’s been rebuilt from the ground up, say the developers. And it sounds very useful: “Mixer send compensation, Wet/Dry mixer FX compensation, Audio input compensation, Metronome compensation, Plugin Wrapper custom values remembered per-plugin and improved PDC controls in the Mixer.”

Graph Editor is back! This should never really have left, but a “classic” FL feature has returned, letting you edit MIDI information from the Channel Rack – a very Fruity Loops workflow.

Better recording. There’s now a live display of recorded audio and automatic grouping of tracks as you record – both overdue but welcome.

There are loads of improvements to various plugins, of course, plus lots of other fixes and improvements. Details in the manual:

New Features in FL Studio 20

It’s also pretty remarkable that FL Studio has hit 20 years without ditching its lifetime free upgrade policy. FL users have a substantially different relationship with the software than do users of most typical DAWs, both because of its unique workflow and interface and that lifetime policy. But I’m personally intrigued to give it another go – bouncing and working delay compensation make a big dfference, and FL remains a peculiar, interesting toybox full of nice stuff. I think the fact that FL has perhaps not been taken as seriously as tools like Cubase or Ableton Live might itself be a badge of honor – if you can adapt to its often nonstandard ways of working, it offers some big rewards on a small budget.

Announcing FL STUDIO 20 [FL Studio News]

You’ll need the sound back on for this one, but here’s an extended tutorial video explaining what’s new: