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25 Mar 2020

Review: PreSonus Studio One - A Comprehensive Guide

producer Review: PreSonus Studio One - A Comprehensive Guide

For those that aren’t aware, Digital Audio Workstations (or DAW’s) are essentially a piece of software that enables users to record, edit and produce music on computers. Professional music producers spend most of their working life utilizing some form of a DAW. As with all things in the pro audio industry, there are so many choices available; Pro Tools, Ableton, Logic, and Presonus to name but a few. So, which one do you pick, and why? Pro Tools has long been the industry standard, but many users are now switching to Studio One and there’s a good reason why. In my opinion (and I’m sure many others would agree) Studio One 4 offers the most sophisticated solution for all of your production needs.

What is PreSonus Studio One?

Studio One is a DAW, but what does this DAW have to offer? 

Tech specs/features

  • Mac and PC DAW
  • Transfer your own shortcuts (for example Pro Tools shortcuts for ex PT users)
  • Unlimited audio and instrument tracks
  • 64-bit resolution and support for up to 384kHz audio
  • AAF support for easy file exchange with other DAWs
  • Advanced ARA integration with Melodyne and synchro arts vocalign/revoice pro.
  • 37 effects, 5 instruments, 4 Note FX, plus AU, VST2, VST3, and ReWire support
  • Zplane elastique audio algorithms
  • Special features: chord track, arranger track, scratchpad and pattern editor.
  • Dedicated mastering suite
  • Pipeline plugin for super simple outboard hardware usage.
  • Announced at the 4.6 release
  • Ampire 3 – State Space Modelling Amp and FX Suite
  • New Plug-in: Pedalboard
  • The updated Browser user interface with new Gallery view and improved navigation
  • Support for tied notes in melodic patterns
  • Convert Instrument Part to Pattern option
  • Improved tempo-matching for loops
  • Improved copy/paste editing of Arranger sections
  • New Podcast Production Song Template and Macro Page
  • Different versions and Studio One Pricing (current offer with third-party integration)

PreSonus Studio One 4 is available in three different versions. Studio One Prime, Studio One Artist, and Studio One Professional. Presonus has also just announced the Studio Magic bundle which is included when you purchase a selected interface or mixer. 

This includes a copy of Studio One Artist and a whole range of third-party plugins from Arturia, Brainworx, Cherry Audio, Izotope, Klanghelm, KV331 Audio, Lexicon, Mäag Audio, Melodics, Native Instruments, Output, SPL, Studio Linked Trophies, UJAM and UVI. More information can be found here.

Studio One Prime | € FREE

If you’re not quite sure about taking the plunge and want to see if Presonus Studio One is for you, take advantage of Prime. PreSonus Studio One free offers a lot of features.

  • Unlimited audio, midi, virtual instruments and FX tracks
  • Arranger track
  • Midi editing
  • Drum editor
  • Custom DAW shortcuts
  • Ampire basic guitar amp simulator
  • 10 Native effects
  • Presence XT (sampler)
  • 1.68gb of studio one virtual instruments

Studio One Artist | €85.20

As well as all of the Prime features, Artist offers the following:

  • An intuitive single-window work environment with quick and easy drag-and-drop functionality and multi-touch support
  • Unlimited audio and instrument tracks, advanced automation features, virtual instruments, buses, and FX channels
  • Pristine sound quality with native 32-bit floating-point resolution and support for up to 384 kHz audio
  • Exceptional new virtual instruments: Impact XT and SampleOne XT for powerful beat or loop-based composition, live sampling, and robust sample editing
  • Patterns allow for intuitive drum and melody composition via familiar drum machine/sequencer style UI
  • 32 native effects
  • 5 virtual instruments

Studio One Professional | €344.40

Studio One Professional is the flagship offering from Presonus. Featuring all of the above and the following:

  • Chord Track manipulates audio and notes data of any or all tracks for Harmonic Editing and song prototyping
  • AAF import for easy song/session exchange with other applications for collaboration (Pro Tools,. Logic, Nuendo, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, and more)
  • Arranger track and Scratchpads
  • Mastering Suite
  • 41 native effects
  • Support for third party sampler formats (Kontakt, EXS)
Mai Tai
SampleOne XT
Image caption

How to get started

I’d recommend that you start with Studio One Prime. If you don’t want to make the big leap to professional, invest in Artist. Then later on if you decide you want the full Monty, you can make an upgrade at a reduced cost as you already own Studio One Artist. If you’re a complete beginner, then head over to the Presonus website and YouTube channel. They have lots of free tutorials on how to use the software. Studio One Expert also offers some great free blogs and Presonus Studio One tutorials. From industry professionals such as Paul Drew exploring how to take advantage of Studio One’s unique features and apply them to real-world situations.

How does Presonus Studio One work?

Above all else, my favorite thing about Presonus Studio One is how it works for so many different users. From artists and songwriters to seasoned mastering professionals – Studio One has a lot to offer each individual. I’ve separated the tech specs below to the different types of use (production, mixing and mastering) as I think this is the easiest way to explore all the different key features, and how they can be applied.

Production features: Virtual Instruments:

  • Presence XT is a full-featured sampler complete with library and the option to add third party samples with great parameter control, and effects.
  • Mai Tai polyphonic virtual analog synth offers great sound emulations of classic synths from Moog bass to lush CS80 reminiscent pads.
  • Mojito a monophonic subtractive synthesizer is a really simple synth that is great for beginners. It still has an extremely powerful and impressive sound, so don’t let that put you off if you’re a more experienced programmer. Perfect for mono bass and lead sounds.
  • Impact XT is a multi-channel drum sampler packing a tone of features. Similar to the legendary MPC hardware, offering drag and drop functionality for super-fast kit building. You can also map a single sample across all the pads by holding shift + alt.

Native plugins and Note FX:

  • Ampire XT – Guitar amplifier modeler and custom IR’s loadable.
  • Analog Delay – Tape delay emulator
  • Arpeggiator – Note FX arpeggiator with pattern sequencer
  • Auto Filter – Envelope-controlled filter
  • Beat Delay – Tempo-synched delay
  • Binaural Pan – Stereo panner and imager
  • Bitcrusher – Lo-fi and downsampling processor
  • Channel Strip – Compressor / expander / equalizer
  • Chorder – Note FX chord processor
  • Chorus – Three-voice chorus with stereo width
  • Compressor – Full-featured RMS compressor with side-chain
  • Console Shaper – Mix Engine FX analog console emulation
  • Dual Pan – Independent L/R channel panner
  • Expander – Downward expander with sidechain
  • Fat Channel XT – Native version of StudioLive Fat Channel
  • Flanger – Flanger with tempo sync
  • Gate – Noise gate with MIDI trigger output
  • Groove Delay – Multi-tap delay with tempo sync and tap filtering
  • Input Filter – Note FX filter for velocity and key range
  • IR Maker – Impulse response creation utility
  • Level Meter – Resizable, multi-scale loudness / level meter
  • Limiter – Brickwall peak limiter
  • Mixtool – Channel utility
  • MixVerbTM – Basic reverb
  • Multiband Dynamics – Multiband compressor / expander
  • Open AIR – Convolution reverb
  • Phaser – Multistage allpass-filter phaser
  • Phase Meter – Phase analyzer
  • Pipeline – External-processor insert
  • Pro EQ – Seven-band parametric equalizer
  • RedlightDistTM – Analog distortion emulator
  • Repeater – Note FX delay with transpose
  • Room Reverb – Room simulator
  • Rotor – Rotary speaker emulator
  • Scope – Digital oscilloscope
  • Spectrum Meter – Spectrum meter
  • Tone Generator – Multi-waveform signal generator
  • Transformer – Note FX transformer for pitch and controller data
  • TricompTM – Basic multiband compressor
  • Tuner – Chromatic instrument tuner
  • X-Trem – Tremolo / auto panner with tempo sync and step sequence modulation

Audio manipulation:

Zplane elastique audio time-based algorithms are integrated into studio one. Enabling accurate time stretching and configurable tempo mapping.

Chord detection – The chord track allows you to depict the harmonic content from a sample, audio track or midi data. It also means you can manipulate the information later on, if you decide you want to change the harmony or key of a chord.

Layout and track modes:

  • Arranger track – A very simple way to make quick adjustments to the structure of your song. If you decide you want a chorus or verse in a different place, you can quickly and easily move the entire part including all of the automation data too.
  • Scratch Pad – This is a godsend if you need to do multiple cut downs and ‘stings’ for working to picture. Often clients will ask for a 15, 30 and 60-second version of a piece of music. This takes the hard work away, and can all be done in the same session.
  • Pattern mode – Pattern mode needs an entire separate blog to go in depth about its feature set. Put simply, it’s a step sequencer (similar to that of an 808) that allows you to create rhythmic and melodic patterns on a sub-dividable grid.
  • Automatic aux and send routing – coming from a Pro Tools background, this was a big one for me. When you drop a plugin insert onto a send/return it automatically creates an AUX track. No more creating an aux track and setting up all the bus routing.

Mixing workflow:

  • Groove grid – Goodbye tab to transients. Wanting to trigger some samples for a weak snare or kick drum? You no longer need 6 hours and 3 cups of coffee. Using the audio menu, you can analyse and audio part and then simply drag your track into the groove box under the quantize tab. This creates midi data that you can sample to your hearts content. Job done!
  • Advanced ARA integration – Melodyne and Synchro Arts have teamed up with Presonus to bring advanced ARA integration into the DAW. This means if you need to tune or tighten vocal parts, you no longer have to do this externally, render it and bring it back into the session. Anyone noticing a theme here with the time says you’re going to save in Studio One?
  • Plugin list view – Studio one’s plugins are easy to switch between thanks to the list view header. As well as this, graphic thumbnail make it much easier to see your favorite plugins when searching for them.
  • Stems – In Studio One stems are automatically consolidated when you go to render them. No more import problems when working in other DAW’s!
  • Store FX Chains – I use this feature a tone. For voice-over work, I have a go-to FX chain I use to process my mic’s incoming signal. With the click of a button, I can recall this FX chain in any session.

Dedicated Mastering Suite:

If you master your own tracks, or you master music for clients, Studio One has its own mastering suite called the Project Page. Here you can match songs to references, with spectral and level meters. In addition to this, you can insert plugins as Inserts, pre-master and postmaster giving you the ultimate control in the final stages before making a release.

The spectral analyzer has a great set of visual modes, to view how the frequency of the tracks is being displayed. This can help you overcome any EQ issues your track may have against a reference.

FATChannel XT
XT Presence

Benefits of Presonus Studio One

Presonus seem to genuinely care and listen to their users. Something a lot of other companies take for granted. Many of the additions to new releases, bug fixes and enhancements have come from listening to customers' feedback.

Hardware integration: Atom and FaderPort

The Presonus FaderPort is popular among many producers, as it works well with most major DAW’s. However, the FaderPort is best suited to use with Studio One. Ideal for connecting with your productions on a physical level, allowing for superior control and workflow when mixing and automating levels, panning and more.

Presonus also offers the Atom, an MPC style controller with velocity-sensitive pads and endless rotary encoders. Perfect for beat making with Impact XT, and a great option if you want to use Studio One for live use. The rotary knobs also allow you to control plugin parameters and map custom third-party plugins to the encoders.

PreSonus Studio One vs other DAW’s 

Studio One DAW offers many things other DAW’s don’t. I think we can break this down into: workflow, integration and feature set. Things like the chord detector, arranger track and elastique audio could be the difference between a successful session, and a terrible one. Advanced ARA integration means Melodyne and Vocalign are just a shortcut away. Finally, the vast number of virtual instruments and native plugins that are included with Studio One 4 professional is astounding. 

No other DAW on the market offers all this, and at a price point that won’t make you say “How much!?”. If you’re looking to expand further, I’d definitely grab the FaderPort and Atom. With these controllers, Studio One Professional 4 and a good quality interface (which you can also buy and benefit from the Magic Bundle) you’ll have everything you need to make commercial quality productions.


Even if you’re a bit set in your ways, and can’t pull yourself away from your go-to DAW. Grab a copy of Studio One Prime for free. You might be surprised. Studio One has come an incredibly long way, for what’s still considered a relatively young competitor in the world of digital audio workstations. This is no longer the free DAW that comes bundled with a midi controller and gets chucked on top of a DVD rack (or is permanently pending download). Studio One is probably the most sophisticated all-inclusive production/composing, mixing and mastering solution on the market in 2020.

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