FL Studio, originally launched as FruityLoops, holds an iconic status in the world of hip-hop and EDM. What's new in FL Studio 20 (which is a 20th anniversary name but actually version FL Studio 13) is that it now works on Mac as well as PC.
The new FL Studio 20 is a 64-bit version which, when bought, can work on both Mac and PC, in case you want to jump between devices using the one license. The program crams in step sequencer beat building smarts, a comprehensive loop library and the ability to record with external instruments.
This is a DAW, meaning you get full production level smarts, but it's also built for the fans. That means it doesn't really take new comers in gently, with a steep learning curve. As such this is aimed more at those who know what they're doing or don't mind putting in a little time into working that out. It sits among our best beat making software (opens in new tab), but isn't recommended for newbies.
FL Studio 20: Features
FL Studio comes in four versions: Fruity, Producer, Signature and All Plugins Bundle. This goes up in price and complexity with Producer and Signature offering full audio capabilities, the latter of which comes with more plugins.
On all versions the arrangement spaces, known as Playlist, allow you to sequence audio, MIDI and automation created in the Channel Rack. This allows you to use instruments and plugins easily and route audio to the Mixer. Each instrument gets its own X0X type step sequencer for quick access adjustments.
There is a wide selection of effects plugins. The Riff Machine is great for new users, as is the Graph Editor, both of which make simple creation and editing easier.
Multiple Arrangements gives each project an unlimited number of alternative versions on the Playlist. This makes it easy to experiment with arrangements without the issue of breaking any existing compositions. These can be built up and copied allowing you to create plenty before combining them into a new Playlist as you want.
The number of tracks now sits at a whopping 500, up from 199 in the previous version. Multiple time signature options are also useful, allowing you to add a marker to a Playlist to create a shift in time signature.
FL Studio 20: Performance
The flexible consolidation capabilities of this software are a positive, in that you can bounce instruments or samples down but also you can bounce down full Playlist tracks too.
FL Studio offers a helpful video representation of audio when recording into the Playlist. If recorded in looped mode this will helpfully place multiple takes into new tracks in a group automatically. It's tidy, it's clear and can be helpful when picking variants.
The audio from the Channel Rack, mentioned above, is routed down to the Mixer so each track can get its own channel strip with insert plugin slots for effects processing. These aren't bound to specific tracks, as you might expect, but are instead linked to instrument routings coming from the Channel Rack.
Also Patterns can make use of more than one instrument in the Rack, working in a similar way. As such you can take on arrangement, creation and mixing also as separate workflows. This can be a very useful way to work with plenty of flexibility. That said, the many pop-ups can get a bit cluttered and may be overwhelming for some tastes.
Should you buy FL Studio 20?
FL Studio 20 is a very powerful DAW and beat builder that has added lots of functionality tweaks in the latest edition. This is ideal for pros but can be used by beginners with some knowledge and a good helping of patience.
Since updates are given for free this is a good investment where the program you're spent time learning will only grow and improve as you do.