So, I hear you like tuned 808s. And strings. And pianos. And wavetables. And FM. And filters. And… okay, let’s just put all of those in one synth but make everything a preset. Meet FL Studio 20.5.

The folks at Image Line are always full of surprises – somehow their always-free-upgrades churn out more and more diverse updates. So, as music tech makers all try to figure out ways to encourage you to get to the sounds you want more quickly, FLEX is both that and – not that.


Yes, it’s a “preset-based” interface. So you get lots of sounds to navigate to pre-designed sounds quickly, plus macro controls that let you tweak them to your own purposes. That preset library also includes an in-line store for buying more sounds, which will give Image-Line room to grow later – and to make some money off users in the process, since they give you your FL upgrades for free.

We’ve seen this idea before, everywhere from Arturia’s Analog Lab to Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol. It makes sense that not everyone wants to be a sound designer, and even those who do are sometimes up against a deadline or need some fast inspiration. So you want quick access to sounds, but you still want the ability to modify those sounds and make them your own – a little or a lot.

But this is FL Studio, so you know this won’t just work exactly like everything else does. FLEX has a crazy number of possible sound engines under the hood – subtractive, wavetable, multisample, FM, and even amplitude modulation synths. It seems it also consolidates sound presets from elsewhere, including FL’s own Sytrus and Harmless, and could be a front end to sounds in the tool in future.

And then there are the extras. You can opt for lots of visualizations, including a vectorscope, frequency histogram, and nice colored sepctrogram, in addition to the usual waveform oscilloscope view. The envelopes aren’t dumbed down, either – you get full AHDSR envelopes for both amplitude and filter.

Wow – then, also, 22 (I think I counted right) filter types. That includes two comb filters, a vowel filter, notch, and lots of different shapes of shelves, low pass, and high pass – even three different variations of phaser effects. So, uh, what started as a freebie “beginner” synth somehow accidentally morphed into a filter-packed rival to flagship soft synths of late.

You also get effects, which also have tons of variants, including reverb and delay. The Limiter gets alternative distortion models.

It’s like you went in for a plain hamburger Happy Meal on sale for a dollar, and the kitchen went mad and added siracha sauce and replaced the meat with truffles, but … you know, no complaints there.

Also new in this version:

You can use FL as a VST or AU on Mac (Windows already worked as a VST)
Browser audio previewing
Performance monitoring
Tons of plugin updates
Tons of workflow updates

See the full release notes:

FLEX manual: