Buying Guide:PreSonus Studio One 2 DAW

The latest version of this surprise hit DAW adds features without impairing efficiency

Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief, Harmony Central


IBM told Xerox’s eventual founders that “The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most.” Bill Gates said, “I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time.” Thomas Edison stated that, “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” And when PreSonus announced Studio One, you could hear plenty of people say, “The world doesn’t need another DAW.”


But apparently the world did, because the cross-platform Studio One has not only carved out its share of the DAW market, but progressed to three different versions (Studio One Professional, Studio One Producer, and Studio One Artist). This review is based on the Professional version; we’ll call it Studio One 2 or SO2 for short.


A little history

Studio One entered the world with a few advantages. It started with a fresh code base, courtesy of some of the brain trust behind Cubase. And, PreSonus could bundle it with their interfaces, thus exposing it to a wide range of people—and given that these people were buying interfaces, they were probably in a position to at least consider a DAW.


Version 1.0 was rightfully promoted as bloat-free and easy to learn. However, it also had a “special sauce”: in addition to multitrack recording and editing, a separate Project page was optimized for album mastering and assembly. Taking it further, if you decided to make a few tweaks to a song’s mix after hearing it in context, the Project page reflected those changes automatically. This kind of integration between song creation and mastering/assembly was, and remains, unique to Studio One 2.


Back to the present

The downside of simplicity was that several “DAW standard” features were missing. Version 2 fills in the gaps—like track folders and composite recording—and also adds unique, innovative features.


Wisely, PreSonus hasn’t tried to make SO2 all things to all people; for example, there’s no notation, MIDI plug-ins, or surround support. Instead, PreSonus has focused on those who want to record, edit, and publish music. For instance, features like Control Link—which greatly simplifies using MIDI controllers—and simple, effective time-stretching (also, REX files import as SO2 “Audioloop” files that crossfade slices and convert the format to FLAC—cool!) are just two features intended to benefit the greatest number of users. By maintaining this focus, they’ve kept SO2 streamlined while expanding its capabilities.


Off to the future

PreSonus obviously listens to their customer base—when users wanted video support, it appeared in version 1.5. But SO2 is a major upgrade. Yes, there are folder tracks (that can hold automation envelopes) and composite recording, but there is also transient detection/editing for quantizing audio (PreSonus calls this “Audio Bend,” and it works in their usual straightforward way). This is also what makes Groove templates possible for audio as well as MIDI. There’s Melodyne integration for additional stretching options, including pitch. And one of my favorite features is obvious, but wonderful: a “listen” tool for auditioning any individual event or part. This is a huge time-saver compared to selecting a track, soloing it, moving the cursor, and hitting play.


In addition to the Audioloop format for audio, SO2 introduces instrument-based Music Loops. When exported, these include an instrument preset, any effects, channel routing with bus assignments, and FLAC audio, which greatly simplifies bringing a particular instrument loop into a project. What’s more, MIDI editing has gone multitrack (particularly helpful for drum parts with separate drums on separate tracks), while the “transform” option simplifies converting MIDI instrument tracks to audio.


The Project page now includes independent PQ code markers that don’t have to be tied to track beginnings, the ability to export your finished project as a DDP file (the format pro duplicating facilities prefer), improved CD burning, and the ability to bypass all effects for doing comparisons.


And of course there are lots of little improvements—for example, the Browser now has a search function and allows for operations like format conversion within the Browser itself.



While many musicians are committed to a particular DAW, I’ve always felt it helps to know more than one DAW because they’re optimized for different tasks—for example, a DAW that excels for live use might not be the best choice for doing soundtracks. While Studio One is already the “first-call” DAW for many users, it’s easy enough to learn that if, for example, you want a really efficient laptop DAW, it’s a great choice. Or if you collaborate with someone who uses a different DAW, you could both standardize on SO2 for collaborative projects. And some people might ignore the Song page entirely to make a beeline to the Project page for the comprehensive mastering/assembly options.


So does the world really need another DAW? Ask PreSonus Studio One owners—I know what the answer will be.




  • Beat and transient detection for audio warping and quantization
  • New Music Loop format does for MIDI what other formats do for audio
  • Multitrack MIDI editing
  • Integrated Melodyne pitch correction
  • Project page DDP export produces files for pro duplication houses
  • Super-tight music creation/mastering/assembly integration
  • Now includes folder tracks and composite recording
  • Retains version 1’s speed and efficiency on both Mac and Windows


PreSonus’s Studio One 2 updates their surprise hit with features that retain its traditional ease of use while enhancing functionality. Order today with the complete assurance of Musician’s Friend’s 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.