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Review: PreSonus Studio One Professional 2 Digital Audio Workstation

Easy to use, powerful and efficient, Studio One “sounds amazing,” providing everything you need to record, mix and master your music.

In 2010, PreSonus released Studio One and successfully raised the bar for DAW intuitiveness. Now with the release of Studio One 2, the revamped DAW adds tons of new features while maintaining the flow that its users have grown to expect. 

While PreSonus is relatively new to the world of DAW development, StudioOne developers Wolfgang Kundrus and Matthias Juwan are no strangers to this field. Both were previously at Steinberg, where Kundrus was one of the early developers of Cubase and the primary author of Nuendo, while Juwan penned the plug-in specification for VST v3 and was later responsible for the freeware version of the KRISTAL Audio Engine. 


Studio One 2 seamlessly interfaces with the PreSonus line of hardware and works equally well with third-party hardware that supports Core Audio or ASIO. Studio One Professional 2 utilizes an advanced 64-bit, double-precision floating-point audio engine that delivers impeccable fidelity. The engine accommodates 32-bit plug-ins by automatically switching between 64- and 32-bit operation ensuring that you always attain both fast operation and high-quality audio (Artist, Producer and Free versions of Studio One utilize the same audio engine, but only operate in 32-bit mode). Studio One records in Broadcast WAV, at sample rates up to 192kHz, and bit-depths of 16-, 24- or 32-bits. Non-WAV imported files (AIFF, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and FLAC audio) are automatically converted to WAV.

Work on specific songs in Studio One is done from the Song page and working with multiple songs (e.g. mastering) is done in the Project page. Additionally, there is a Start page that appears when the application launches and is used to create a new Song or Project or open one already in progress, or set up hardware MIDI and audio devices. The Start page includes a News Feed that keeps users up to date with application updates, tutorials and other related info from PreSonus. This page allows projects to be personalized by adding track and artist name information. This data is retained through the production process and becomes part of the metadata for a bounced MP3 files. 

The user interface utilizes a clean single-window design. Instead of relying on the excessive use of editing windows or dialog boxes, there are several production task views that become part of the main window when activated. The DAW utilizes either mono or stereo tracks for audio recording and there is no surround or multi-channel format support. Virtual instruments are hosted on the instrument tracks, which can also act as MIDI tracks for integration with hardware instruments. Audio and instrument tracks have integrated parameter automation and dedicated automation tracks can optionally be created. Bus and output channels don’t have track lanes so they require automation tracks for automation. The tempo track handles tempo and time signature settings and changes. 

Studio One’s MIDI implementation is thorough and recorded MIDI data can be trimmed, spliced and duplicated, with or without the use of a grid as if it were audio. The piano-roll display in the Edit view can be utilized if more in-depth editing is required. Worth noting is the Control Link feature which painlessly links controller keyboard knobs to plug-in parameters and mixer controls.

The mixer setup is visually flexible making the DAW more adaptable to computers with smaller screens or allowing the user to visualize more if using a larger monitor. The mixer is solely for audio mixing and it includes audio tracks and virtual instrument outputs, along as well as hardware input meters and channels for buses and sends. The included ‘Native Effects’ plug-ins incorporate small panels that incorporate key parameters and occasionally metering in the Inserts section, allowing for common adjustments when plug-in windows are closed. I love the switchable metering on the Output channels, which allows metering to be alternated between a combined peak/RMS scale or the three standards of Bob Katz’s K-System. Regardless of selection, an ‘over’ indicator displays the number of samples that have clipped.

Studio One’s native effects are powerful and flexible and provide enough versatility to mix without the need to have to buy a bunch of plug-ins. The EQ and compressors (both single and multi-band) sound fantastic and the reverbs provide a ton of flexibility and sound smooth and rich. I love that the EQ plug-in can optionally display a spectrum analyzer, making it easy to visualize the frequencies that you are trying to boost or cut. The bundled instruments aren’t quite up to par with the audio plug-ins, but they still provide usability and a good starting point to build a collection of virtual instruments. 

The Project page exists to publish songs and other files into distributable formats and Studio One 2 is arguably worth purchasing for this feature alone. This page allows individual songs to be assembled into complete CDs and has added several features including industry-standard DDP export support, PQ editing, SoundCloud integration and improved sample-rate conversion. It includes a spectrum analyzer, meters and a goniometer (Phase Meter) as well as dedicated facilities for controlling CD pre-gaps, changing track order, and adding track metadata (including ISRC codes). Most impressive about Studio One’s Project facilitation is that Projects maintain a live link to the songs and when a song mix is updated, Projects that include that song are automatically updated to include the revised version of the mix. 

Studio One 2 ships in four variations, none of which impose limitations on track count or plug-in instantiations. Studio One Free is intended for newcomers to computer recording and is a great way to see if the Studio One workflow is right for you. It only includes eight plug-ins and one virtual instrument, it lacks several of the newer features like Audio Bend and Folder Tracks, and it doesn’t support Melodyne but includes all of the recording and editing features required for basic music production. Just when you thought there’s nothing for free, you were wrong because it really is free; it’s not a demo that times out or creates unusable audio artifacts in your project (download it here: 

Studio One Artist includes all of the primary audio and MIDI recording and editing features, plus a wealth of 32-bit effects plug-ins and virtual instruments. It is very similar to Producer but it doesn’t import or export MP3s and, aside from Melodyne, which is included as a trial, it doesn’t allow ReWire or third-party plug-ins to be utilized. While it’s only $99, PreSonus bundles this version with all of their computer interfaces so you’re likely better off buying one of the lower-priced interfaces such as the AudioBox USB for $150 and getting Studio One Artist included. Studio One Producer includes everything found in Studio One Artist with added support for ReWire and AU/VST plug-ins, MP3 import and export, and additional third-party content. Studio One Professional adds the Project page, which provides integrated mastering, fully licensed Melodyne Essential pitch correction, SoundCloud support, Red Book CD burning, video playback and sync, and five additional Native Effects plug-ins. 

What’s New?

I think the most exciting update to Studio One 2 is the integration of Celemony’s Melodyne giving the user the ability to utilize Melodyne without leaving the Studio One environment and allowing the previously lengthy audio transfer and pre-analysis process to be accomplished with a single command. If you own a more advanced version of Melodyne (e.g. Melodyne assistant or Melodyne editor) it will integrate into Studio One in the same way. Why bother developing your own pitch and time correction tools when you can just integrate the industry standard? I must say; PreSonus did an exceptional job incorporating Melodyne. 

Integrated comping has become a staple of the top DAWs over the past few years and now Studio One has added this feature. While it requires fewer keystrokes than any other workstation I’ve used, the new comping feature is smart and fast. After recording multiple takes of a track, the graphic display will show the most recent take. Right clicking on the track will reveal a menu where you can open up the track’s takes into their own graphic displays as layers underneath the actual track. You can audition the takes by clicking on the takes. Double clicking on a section adds that audio file to the comp. An entire comp can be built without changing tools and the comping process works for grouped tracks as well as single tracks. 

The concept of folder tracks is likely foreign to Pro Tools users but most Logic, Nuendo & Cubase diehards claim they couldn’t work without them and this feature is included in Studio One. Folder Tracks are sets of tracks that have been gathered into a single folder. Placing your drum kit, percussion, strings or backing vocals into a folder track provides quick control and a simplified workspace. The new Audio Bend toolset provides quantization, beat matching, groove extraction, and editing. It is Studio One’s answer to Pro Tools’ Elastic Time, Logic’s Flex or Cubase’s Warping. It is simple to use and works incredibly well. 

Studio One 2 expands the level of SoundCloud integration. The Pro version has always had the ability to upload tracks to SoundCloud but Studio One 2 (every version) has SoundCloud built into the browser allowing users to see the tracks contained in a SoundCloud folder and then easily drag them into an arrangement. This makes it easy for multiple Studio One users to seamlessly collaborate on a single project by uploading and downloading portions of a song or a complete song (the SoundCloud download feature works with Studio One Artist, Producer and Professional where the upload feature is exclusive to Studio One Pro). Additionally, the new PreSonus Exchange is a shared online database of useful tools including everything from FX Chains and Pitchnames to complete Soundsets and Extensions. These items can be accessed in the Browser window and can be instantly selected, downloaded, updated, etc.

PreSonus is following their recent purchase of Nimbit with a free Nimbit Extension for studio One 2.0.6 and later due to be released on August 1, 2012. This feature will allow Studio One users to go from the mastering step to immediately having the ability to sell and promote their music.

Studio One 2 doesn’t include any new virtual instruments but the Ampire guitar-effects plug-in has been drastically improved and is now called Ampire XT. The new OpenAIR convolution reverb includes over a gig of Impulse Responses and it truly sounds amazing, likely the best convolution reverb I’ve encountered. The IR Maker plug-in provides the ability to create IRs for both OpenAIR and Ampire XT.

The new Macro Toolbar provides the user the ability to customize their workflow by creating macros that string together multiple commands to form. It is easy to add groups and buttons to the Macro Toolbar for existing commands, making it possible to improve your workflow by adding your most used commands to the workstation window. Buttons on any MIDI controller (even controllers that aren’t natively supported) can also be mapped to trigger macros. 

In Use

Studio One installation is straightforward and easy: simply download and install. I installed it on two Macs and a PC and it was seamless in every instance. I love the Startup page; it’s great to immediately see your setup details and News Feed keeps you up to date on everything that’s happening with Studio One.

Before my review process began, I was already somewhat familiar with the program after receiving a copy of the Artist version bundled with the PreSonus Audiobox USB interface that I purchased a couple of years ago. This made it natural to just jump in and start mixing a song.

As I began mixing, the first thing that really excited me is the extensive utilization of drag-and-drop functionality, making the workflow both fast and intuitive. The Plug-ins and virtual instruments (or their presets) can be dragged from the Browser to the Arrange view for their instantiation and Aux sends in the mixing console can be dragged from one channel to another or audio files can be dragged to the Arrange view to create new audio tracks. Automation is equally intuitive and anyone who has solid mix chops on another DAW will likely be able to dive into working with Studio One, only occasionally needing to reference the manual. If you aren’t a big manual person, PreSonus has an extensive library of instructional videos on their website that are well-done and free, making learning new functions easy. 

While working on my Mac Pro, I utilized the HDX and Avid I/O interface; while working on my MacBook Pro, I utilized either the PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL or the Benchmark DAC1. I found moving a mix from one computer to another to be straightforward; Studio One stores I/O configurations with each song, for each computer, and for each device driver. This means after working on a song at another location, when you return to your studio, Studio One will automatically recall the original I/O configuration for the song as if you never left. Recording with Studio One 2 is as intuitive as mixing, and I found that I was able to record lengthy sessions of 50+ tracks without any problems on all three of my systems. 

I was able to get Studio One to crash when working with track counts beyond 140, yet during my regular workflow, I never had a single crash. One oddity I encountered is that my Mac Pro, for some reason, is not compatible with Studio One 2.0.6. After installing the update, the application crashes during the program launch. I went back to Studio One 2.0.5 and it works like a charm. I’m not sure what the problem is but hopefully the Mac Pro will get along with the next update when it releases. 

The mastering element of Studio One is so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if Studio One Professional frequently gets purchased for this purpose alone. Best of all, Studio One sounds fantastic. I continue to be amazed at the audio quality this DAW produces. In this area, it is beyond much of the competition. 


This easy to use, powerful, efficient DAW sounds amazing and provides everything you need to record, mix and master your music. If you don’t need surround or notation support (and many of us don’t), there’s no reason not to give the free version a test drive and see if Studio One might be the right fit for you. 

Russ Long is a Nashville-based producer, engineer and mixer as well as a senior contributor to PAR.

Price: Pro: $399, Producer: $199, Artist: $99 (Artist, Producer and Pro, respectively)

Contact: PreSonus |