Studio One 5 Professional review: A top-notch, unique competitor for Logic X

Presonus Studio One Professional is a top-tier digtal-audio workstation (think Logic X) with some unique and time-saving features. My favorite feature, a super-handy module for organizing and mastering albums, has been joined in the new version 5 by a clever take on organizing and managing a live performance.

Presonus has also unveiled Sphere: an online rental and collaboration service that delivers the entirety of the company’s music software portfolio for a remarkably affordable $15 a month. Even if you’re a diehard user of another DAW, that warrants a serious look at a very powerful suite of music tools.

Design and features

By today’s standards, there’s nothing startling about Studio One’s design. However, at its inception in 2009, it was the first traditional track/mixer DAW to adopt a drag and drop, paned design—you drag effects and instruments to the timeline to add them to tracks (or create a new track). The various areas of the program (timeline, browser, editors, etc.) fit together without overlapping like panes in a window.

The original developers were also responsible for Nuendo, a surround version of the venerable and popular Cubase from Steinberg. I mention this as Studio One bears more than a passing resemblance to those in both appearance and approach. 

studio one score view Presonus

Studio One 5 integrates some of the scoring abilities of its Notion musical notation program. Version 4 already had a pipeline for exchanging info with the standalone version of Notion. 

The layout of the main window consists of an inspector panel and controls for the current track to the far left, track headers to the right of those, the timeline area for clips (which may be layered), then the browser to the far right. At the bottom is the mixing console which swaps out with the various editors: piano roll, drum, Melodyne 5 visual audio editing (a license is included) via ARA2, and new for version 5—musical notation courtesy of the company’s Notion 6 score editing software. Notion was already pipelined to Studio One for easy exchange of data. 

You can float the editors as windows, and view the notation as such while the drum or piano roll are docked in the bottom pane. The changes in one editor are mirrored in the other in real time. Slick and highly useful. Dual monitors are also supported if you want to dedicate one display to mixing/editing and another to the track area.

As mentioned, where Studio One really sets itself apart from other DAWs is with its Project and Show pages. The latter is new for version 5 and is roughly akin to the mixing/automated performance software used to run modern stage productions. 

3 studio one 5 pro new show page Presonus

This is Studio One’s organizational “Show” page. Unlike with other DAWs with live capabilities more aimed at performers or DJs, this one seeks to accommodate sound engineers and performers using backing tracks, etc.

With Show, you define “songs” that encompass “players” that can be anything from mixdowns of songs, to external hardware, to stacked FX used by live performers. There’s a section to create these “Shows” (seen above) and a streamlined interface for actual performance use as shown below.