The "Fruity Loops" DAW Has Evolved, Times 9

Over the past ten years or so, Belgian-based Image-Line, a software development studio, has been quietly revolutionizing homemade music production for artists, producers, composers and programmers, one update at a time. I’ve personally been a user and huge fan of its DAW software products since the ’90s, back when the signature product was humbly known as “Fruity Loops.”

On 09.09.09, Image-Line released version 9 to the world. FL Studio 9 has evolved into one of THE most advanced, most stable and most widely used digital audio workstation (DAW) software components on the market. Some of the biggest producers and most famous tracks heard on Top 40 radio, in clubs and on TV shows and in film have been touched by FL Studio.

Whether you want to create the next big club anthem, epic trance soundtrack, jungle, hiphop, hard rock, industrial, IDM, glitch-tech, breakbeat or any of the dozens of sub-genres of electronic music, FL Studio 9 gives music creators and sound designers all the inspiring tools they need to concept, record, produce, mix, master and release their work. It is jam packed with things as fundamental as peerless software synthesizers, to things as obscure as typing text and hearing the computer say it back to you (i.e., Radiohead’s “OK Computer”). FL 9 includes new features like Vocodex (to create the robotic voice in today’s hottest electronic music) and AutoGun, (which makes it amazingly easy to use synth.

The effects included in FL Studio 9 are world class and up to par with some of the best effects on the market. If you can imagine it, FL Studio can make it come to life. New users might find it a little daunting to learn, but the truth is, this tool can be as simple or as advanced as you want. If you just want to make a few loops (and Acidize them for another DAW), all you need to do is bring up the world-famous Step Sequencer and plot in your rhythms and ideas quickly. Next, just add effects and export in any number of formats. If you want to create entire songs, you can save each part in a playlist and build up entire arrangements right inside the track view. If you want to do the full production in FL Studio 9, the DAW includes a mixing console, arrangement window and final mastering plug-ins like Maximus.

The other exciting thing about Image-Line, to me, is the fact that this company honestly believes in its software, wholeheartedly and without a doubt. This gives its user base a strong foundation to trust and encourages them to share ideas. The users inspire the developers, who in turn inspire the users. This symbiosis is so complete that after you purchase your first package, the company promises to give you every successive version for free. They call this Lifetime Free Updates. That’s right: no new investment for version upgrades-ever. I’ve personally never seen any music software company do something like this, and to be quite honest, I think it’s actually too generous. But it does certainly build loyalty.

The designers and programmers at Image-Line continue to put out cutting-edge, gorgeous synths, plug-ins, effects and other conceptual ideas that prove, may times over, its love for the crafting of music and music creation software. The company has got a truly humbling track-record of doing right by its customers and the world market. This also makes the community of FL Studio users a great place to learn techniques and tutorials, whether you are a novice or advanced user. I am honestly blown away every time these wizards put out something new for the community.

Training Extras, in the Box

The tutorials and sample projects that come with FL Studio 9 are mindblowing and more than worth the price of admission. You get to see exactly how dozens of artists have used the software to create broadcast-ready music, mastered pristinely. With tutorials on MIDI editing, automation, and synth design, you can quickly learn how to bring new worlds to life. You can actually start to learn the various features and methods just by examining the parts of the included session files. Go see for yourself with the full working demo.

FL Studio 9 has so many extras, and has evolved so far from its origins, I wish there was a higher rank I could give it than simply “Hot.” It also doesn’t have crazy system requirements, or crash as often as so many other software choices on the market. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are running a netbook, laptop, desktop or workstation; FL studio 9 will work for you right out of the box. On top of that, the UI is among the best on the market and makes working inside it fun. You actually see and feel the power behind the core engine of the suite. As you’d expect, the software supports VSTs, DXis, Re-Wiring into other host DAWs (like Sonar, etc.).

This is one of the best DAWs in the world, hands down. You can even custom-build your DAW, in the Shop section of the Image-Line Web site, with whatever synths, effects and add-ons you need. DirectWave is a fantastic sampling engine that has some very sexy sample libraries. Verazdin Orchestra is one such library that I personally enjoy.

I urge you to check it out for yourself, ask questions in the forums, talk to other users-you’ll see.