Fruity Loops (Fl) studio was a workstation which initially started out as a drum sequencer. Over the years, it has evolved into much more than that. The latest version FL 20, named for being the 20th anniversary edition has now culminated into a single powerhouse of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for many professionals in the music industry. So, it won’t be much of a surprise to you when your teachers and elders in the industry will almost always point you towards FL studio.
Now fruity loops does not come cheap. Especially if you are looking for the complete package. You can get the basic edition for $99 but that will only go to a certain extent. Pretty soon, you will want and need to upgrade to the full package and that will cost you a sweet $899.
So, in case you are new to DAWs and want a more friendly and cheaper software to get to know your way around things, we have a list of fl studio alternatives you can choose from. These programs like fl studio will offer you the basic tools you need to to take your first steps in recording and mixing audio and in some cases provide you a better and smoother user interface than fl studio.
If you are looking to start out somewhere, then this is probably it. Audacity is a free alternative to fl studio which works on Mac, Windows and Linux systems.
On the outside Audacity looks like a bare software lacking any essential tools and aura of a professional DAW. But looks can be deceptive and in this case, it really is. Once you spend more than a day using this program, you will slowly begin to realise that underneath its basic appearance, lays a very formidable workstation offering you tools to record, monitor and mix your own audio. You get access to a decently stacked suite of audio-processing effects to remove the coughs, clicks, noise and other unwanted sounds that microphones can capture during your recording sessions. And if things become too much to handle for you, then you can seek help from Audacity’s own online manuals, tutorials, and support forums which are constantly monitored by users and moderators of Audacity.
Now the editing process in Audacity is destructive, meaning you will not be able to revert your final saved sessions. Also, you do not get support for MIDI or musical-instrument plug-ins which is a drawback if you are looking to record your own complete song. But considering that this software is completely free and suitable for vocal track recording and mixing and matching prerecorded songs, we think you should definitely give it a shot.
LMMS is another free fl studio alternative which is supported cross platform. Many people would say this is a better starting point than audacity, but we believe that they both stand on an equal footing.
Now it does lack some of the finer features you can find on fl studio like attachable and detachable panels, but unlike fl studio which only supports upto 500 tracks on the playlist in the latest version, here you can put in as many tracks as you would like on your playlist. Similar to the Fl studio, you get essential support for plug-ins such as VST and LADSPA.
Compared to audacity, LMMS has support for MIDI, so you can plug in your keyboard, guitar and other supported instruments and start recording right away.
Sadly, you do have to put up with some setbacks. The program can sometimes crash if you load your VST files especially on the 32 bit version. Also, you cannot merge or splice prerecorded tracks on LMMS which might be a letdown for a lot of musicians.
All in all, considering that LMMS is free it still manages to outshine some if its drawbacks and present itself as a capable starting fl studio alternative program.
We have Reaper as the first among the lesser priced fl studio alternatives. It is available for $60 if you intend to use it for your own personal use or are part of an educational or non profit organisation. Commercially you can use it for upto a gross income of $20,000 (we really don’t understand the purpose of the limit) and beyond that you are expected to cough up $225 for the full package. Now even at its highest price, it is still cheaper than the 2 highest editions of fl studio. If you feel unsure about it, you can try it for free with all the features for a period of 2 months without having to make an account or provide any personal details.
Now coming to its user interface and list of features, it is definitely much more sophisticated and feature packed than the free options on this list. You can change themes as much as you would like, have access to a lot of extensions and multiple options in the case of rendering of tracks.
Just like LMMS, there is no limit to the amount of tracks on your in program playlist but unlike LMMS, Reaper is a more stable software and will not crash often, especially when it comes to loading VST files.
Reaper is also very user friendly because if you use a slightly dated 32 bit machine, you can run bridged 64 bit plug-ins easily if your operating system supports multi-architecture. It is not very CPU intensive as well.
Reaper does fall short when compared to a full fledged DAW on some essential features such as limited support for VST plug-ins, no native groove integration and latency issues when using MIDI. But we still would recommend you to try it out, especially since you are getting a decent professional package for free upto 2 months.
Ardour is an open source DAW designed primarily for Linux but works cross platform on Windows and Mac systems too. You can get ardour for free or you can pay for the full package but the plans are really quite baffling to us. Read it here to find out for yourself.
As a DAW, ardour manages to hold its own against the others on this list. Since its code is open source, it has been graciously designed to support a variety of commercially available VST, LADSPA and LV2 plug-ins. Not to mention through ardour you can stay synced to other applications and hardware in your studio by connecting to a jack server, OSC or MIDI connection.
In comparison to some of the other DAWs on this list, you do not get any free demos, plug-ins, or virtual synths. So, when you opt for the free version, it almost literally free as ‘free’ can get. But you can always add your own demos and download samples and synths. You also get an app for android devices too which acts as a remote access control for certain functions and comes with an OSC standard. Not bad for a ‘free’ product we say.
OK, so now we have arrived at the pricier end of the list. First to be featured is Cubase, which is a DAW supported on Windows and Mac systems. Cubase is available in three editions. The lowest priced edition is available for around $115. The mid tier edition is priced at around $355 and the highest priced edition is available for around $643.
With Cubase at your hands, you can cover all the creative stages of making music such as composing, recording, editing and mixing. A standout feature of Cubase is its summing engine which can process tracks and combine them into the correct output almost 99% of the time.
The latest version Cubase 9.5 gives you support for unlimited audio, instruments, MIDI tracks and up to 256 physical inputs and outputs. And you also get 3400 sound effects preloaded to choose from to spice up your tracks as you wish.
German engineering has been tested through the ages time and time again, and with the Cubase series of DAWs, we can still say they have stood the test of time with this excellent fl studio alternative for musical veterans and casuals alike.
6. Adobe Audition CC
Adobe Audition CC is a program like fl studio which you have to commit to once you are sure of your audio editing and music producing skills. It is an incredibly powerful tool which has all the functionalities of a complete audio editing program but also the multi-track recording and editing capabilities of a DAW.
One of the rare features you can find even in the realm of pricey DAWs is the ability to ability to record multiple audio sources simultaneously. You get an audio editor also has a full digital mixer so you can adjust the levels, panning and other parameters of multiple audio tracks at once.
The most outstanding feature of Adobe Audition is its noise reduction capability, which will detect even the minutest of unwanted noise and sounds in your tracks and completely remove all trace of them.
Now this program isn’t exactly cheap (check pricing here) and in the long run can cost up a lot as it is subscription based. So you must be sure to fully commit yourself once you jump into its boat. If sound quality is your main concern, Audition is well worth your investment.