Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: Competent DAWs for Aspiring Music Producers

When it comes to Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio, these two DAWS are very different in approach. So which one is right for you? Today we go over the different reasons why one is better than the other…for you!

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: Two Of The Oldest DAWs…

About 20 years ago, I knew a ton of people using Fruity Loops to make beats and drum loops. You could load your own samples, and many of my friends started with Fruity Loops as a beginner sequencer, moving on to more sophisticated products. Unfortunately, this is how Fruity Loops is remembered by a lot of users, as a beginner’s tool.

The reality, is Fruity Loops Studio is still an amazing sequencer program today, but now it is also a fully-functioning Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Much like Cubase, it has plugins and built-in features that make it easy to create and produce songs efficiently. So what is the main difference between the two?

We have already checked out how Cubase stacks up to Logic X Pro, and the differences were bigger than we originally thought. Choosing the right DAW for your style and purposes is paramount, since it will reflect in your workflow. And your workflow dictates your total output, which is what we all aim to achieve.

In the dynamic world of digital audio workstations (DAWs), two giants have been capturing the hearts of music producers for decades – Cubase and Fruity Loops Studio (FL Studio). With their rich histories and continuous evolution, these DAWs have cemented their positions as powerful tools for crafting music.

In this detailed article, we’ll delve into the features, strengths, and weaknesses of Cubase 12 and FL Studio 21. Whether you’re a professional seeking precision or a beginner exploring your creative potential, we’ll unravel which DAW might be the better choice for your musical journey.

We can start this journey by looking at the histories of both of these powerhouse music editing programs. Both DAWs started out years ago focused on different procedures. For example, Cubase was for MIDI software, while FL Studio started as a sequencer. Let’s look at both, and describe the features of the two DAWs.

The Long History of Both DAWs: The Road To Today

Both DAWs that we are discussing today have a pretty long history, both beginning before the industry had switched completely to digital recording. Many studios were still using tape machines when these programs were created. The 90s and early 200s often blended digital with tape.

At the time, the computer hardware had yet to catch up with the aspirations of DAW technology. Even the fastest home computers would have trouble running too many multi-track sessions, especially when it comes to sample-heavy programs like Fruity Loops.

These days, your cell phone probably has more RAM and processing power than computers at the time, since technology have definitely advanced. Over the years, DAWs added more features as computers could handle more plugins and effects. Both DAWs have a long history, with totally different origins:

Cubase, developed by German company Steinberg, first emerged in 1989. As one of the earliest DAWs, it revolutionized music production by introducing MIDI sequencing capabilities and a user-friendly interface. Throughout its version history, Cubase evolved into a robust platform for recording, editing, and mixing audio, becoming a staple in professional studios worldwide.

FL Studio, originally known as Fruity Loops, was launched in 1997 by Belgian company Image-Line. Initially designed as a simple drum machine, it quickly evolved into a full-fledged DAW with a focus on loop-based composition and electronic music production. Over the years, FL Studio has grown in popularity, especially among beginners and electronic music producers, thanks to its accessible and intuitive workflow.

Both started out as a simple solution to a current issue in recording, but evolved to become their own digital ecosystems. Cubase and FL Studio have seen numerous iterations over the years, each version bringing new features and improvements to enhance the user experience.

Let’s looks at the different version histories of both, starting with Cubase:

  • Early versions of Cubase focused on MIDI sequencing and basic audio recording capabilities.
  • Cubase VST (Virtual Studio Technology) introduced support for virtual instruments and plugins, revolutionizing music production.
  • Cubase SX and subsequent versions added audio editing features, improved MIDI functionality, and introduced VST Instrument Rack for easier plugin management.
  • Cubase 10 and beyond further enhanced audio manipulation, introduced VariAudio for advanced pitch correction, and improved mixing and automation capabilities.
  • The latest version, Cubase 12, boasts advanced features like SpectraLayers One for spectral editing, enhanced automation, and improved MIDI editing tools.

But FL Studio has also seen a ton of improvements over the years as well, with an integrated DAW:

  • Early versions of FL Studio were primarily loop-based and focused on pattern-based composition.
  • FL Studio 3 introduced audio recording capabilities and a more traditional DAW layout.
  • FL Studio 6 brought a major interface redesign and included features like Edison audio editor and the Fruity Slicer plugin.
  • FL Studio 12 revamped the user interface with vector-based graphics and introduced multi-touch support for enhanced accessibility.
  • The latest version, FL Studio 21, features significant performance improvements, consolidated automation clips, and enhanced plugin management.

So both Cubase and FL Studio started as something much different, with a more singular purpose. But as digital recording systems started to develop, both programs started to add the elements of DAWs to their ecosystem. That being said, both have a different “feel” regarding the UI, and this is what matters to users.

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: Features and User Interface

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio

The UI is going to be one of the most important parts of a DAW to the user, beyond anything else the program has to offer. If the user interface is not easy to use, or it has a confusing layout, most users will move on to something easier to use. I don’t blame them, since learning a DAW is much like learning a new instrument.

The user interface needs to be accessible to the person using it. This means effects and plugins need to be easy to use, and simple to find within the program. Both Cubase and FL Studio have their strengths in that department:

Cubase 12 offers a comprehensive set of features tailored for professional music production. Its user interface is well-organized, with customizable workspaces that accommodate various workflows. The MixConsole provides a powerful mixing environment, while the Key Editor and Drum Editor offer precise MIDI editing tools.

Cubase’s audio recording and editing capabilities are top-notch, making it a reliable choice for recording studios and audio engineers. The inclusion of virtual instruments, audio effects, and comprehensive plugin support further expand its creative potential.

Cubase 12 has some serious power when it comes to the mixing and mastering plugins that come with the DAW. This means that you spend less time scrolling through 3rd party plugins at the end of your projects, and more time actually producing music.

FL Studio 21 excels at loop-based composition and electronic music production. Its user interface is visually appealing and accessible to beginners. The pattern-based workflow, alongside the Piano Roll editor, allows for quick and intuitive MIDI programming from both internal instruments and 3rd party software/hardware.

FL Studio’s real-time performance and MIDI controller support make it an excellent choice for live performances and electronic musicians. The DAW’s bundled virtual instruments, effects, and seamless integration with third-party plugins offer a vast library of sounds and creative possibilities.

FL studio still possesses one of the easiest sequencers to use on the market. It still has loops included that you can edit to your choosing, as you remember it from years ago. FL Studio also works well with MIDI controllers in conjunction with the piano roll. This makes beat-making quick and easy for just about anyone.

These are big reasons why someone would choose one DAW other another, and it comes down to your workflow and the type of music you want to produce. Cubase may be better for artists that record live instruments with some MIDI added.

FL Studio is clearly the better option for someone that is primarily looking for MIDI options, with a few live instruments added into the overall mix. They are almost opposites in this regard, with Cubase adding new MIDI elements in the newest version, but still less than what FL Studio has to offer.

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: For Beginners

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio

When it comes to learning a DAW from scratch, like we have already stated many times, can be like learning a whole new instrument. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating, if you do a little bit of research and experimentation. Both DAWs offer online tutorials, and online forums that go over FAQs.

Both can be used for any genre, and just about any style of music. FL Studio has a reputation for being specifically for electronic music, and this couldn’t be more wrong. Cubase gets a bad rap as being for “pros only” and that is also a little reductive.

I used FL Studio to program drums for a Metal song 20 years ago. I used Cubase in the past to make some electronic music, using many of the built-in synth programs. So while each DAW does excel at doing one genre better than the other, both are viable options.

The stereotypes still persist today, with FL Studio often being looked down on in the professional world. In reality, both DAWs have a lot to offer beginners:

Cubase 12: For beginners seeking a comprehensive DAW to grow with their musical journey, Cubase 12 is an excellent choice. Its user-friendly interface, comprehensive feature set, and extensive documentation make it accessible to newcomers. Cubase also works well with 3rd party plugins for guitar and bass.

The robust MIDI editing tools and advanced audio capabilities offer versatility for various music genres. Cubase’s long-standing reputation in the professional music industry ensures ample online resources, tutorials, and a supportive user community.

FL Studio 21: Is a great fit for beginners exploring electronic music production and loop-based composition. Its visual and intuitive user interface makes it easy to grasp for newcomers, allowing them to start creating music quickly. However “traditional” instruments also record well, so more organic music is possible as well.

The step sequencer and pattern-based workflow are particularly helpful for electronic music genres. FL Studio’s bundled virtual instruments and effects provide a wide range of sounds without the need for third-party plugins, simplifying the process for beginners.

Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses, and while FL Studio might excel in EDM production, it can also do Metal or Blues with some finesse. Cubase may seem like a more traditional DAW on the surface, but the powerful MIDI editor works well with virtual synths and drums.

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: For Professionals

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio
FL Studio’s Spectacular Direct Wave Synth Plugin, Included with FL Studio 21

If you are building your professional home studio, picking the correct DAW is just as important as sound treatment and outboard gear. Both of these DAWs are used in professional environments these days, and both are very powerful with their included plugins and instruments.

However, for professionals this is where the fine details really start to matter. FL Studio is definitely more apt for recording electronic music. While it is capable of much more, this is the “focus” of the DAW. Cubase is much more useful for full band recording, and mastering albums.

Again, these things are not going to affect most beginners, or novice producers. Professionals are looking at the details, and a “real” studio has to take in every pro and con when it comes to choosing a DAW. In fact, some studios use more than just one DAW to get the end product.

For example, maybe you program 70% of a project in FL Studio. Then you export that stem to Cubase to finish the project with elements that Cubase features. This is more common than you may think, as DAWs are simply tools. Just as you might use two guitars to record tracks that sound different, producers use plugins and DAWs the same way.

In a professional environment, you use all of the tools you have at your disposal. But if you can only choose one DAW to work with, there are advantages/disadvantages to Cubase and FL Studio alike. Let’s take a look at both in a professional studio environment, and weigh out the pros and cons of both:

Cubase 12: For professionals seeking a DAW that offers a complete suite of tools for audio recording, editing, and mixing, Cubase 12 is an industry-standard choice. Its advanced audio manipulation capabilities, precise automation, and professional mixing environment cater to the demands of seasoned producers and audio engineers.

Cubase’s extensive MIDI editing tools, coupled with its orchestral scoring capabilities, make it an ideal platform for composers and arrangers working on intricate projects. Cubase also has notation software to create sheet music.

Finally, Cubase 12 is also equipped with plenty of plugins that get you closer to a well-mixed project, as well as mastering tools for a final product. This includes templates for mastering tracks that are being exported to streaming platforms.

FL Studio: While FL Studio is popular among beginners and electronic musicians, it is also utilized by professional producers and DJs. Its real-time performance features, seamless integration with MIDI controllers, and focus on loop-based production make it a valuable tool for electronic music performances.

For producers in the electronic dance music (EDM) realm, FL Studio’s easy-to-use interface and powerful beat-making capabilities offer a fast and efficient workflow. It can also be used in a live situation by DJs to trigger MIDI items and prerecorded tracks.

While FL Studio works well with just about any genre starting out, it is fine-tuned for electronic genres. While the DAW can be used for live instruments, professionals may integrate another DAW with FL Studio for mixing and mastering live instruments.

So for beginners, I think it is safe to say that both programs work well. But for more professional use, Cubase works much better as an all-around DAW for both MIDI and live instruments. Recording a full band or an orchestra is going to be easier to dial in with Cubase.

FL Studio is much more tuned for electronic genres and MIDI triggers. It also works great for live situations that are triggered by MIDI. Remember that FL Studio is still a piano roll sequencer at heart, and it excels at using samples and adding effects.

Cubase vs. Fruity Loops Studio: Wrapping Up…

In conclusion, Cubase 12 and FL Studio 21 are both powerful DAWs with unique strengths, catering to different user needs and musical styles. Cubase excels in professional audio recording, editing, and mixing, making it a staple in recording studios and film scoring projects. Its extensive MIDI capabilities and comprehensive 3rd party plugin support provide endless creative possibilities.

FL Studio, on the other hand, shines in loop-based composition and electronic music production. Its visually appealing interface and real-time performance features make it a favorite among electronic musicians and DJs. The inclusion of bundled virtual instruments and effects further simplifies the creative process for beginners.

Now don’t get me wrong-both of these DAWs can be used for just about any genre, especially if you are a beginner. But I think professionals will gravitate more towards a DAW like Cubase 12 since it is geared more towards live instrument recording, and use FL Studio for stems to import into the project.

Cubase 12 is also more equipped to mix and master a song or album. While FL Studio comes with some of those tools, FL Studio is based on fully-realized samples that do not require additional compression or mixing. FL Studio is much easier to “drag and drop” sounds and program MIDI sequences.

In simple terms…Cubase 12 is more for bands of any genre, using real instruments and recording live sessions. FL Studio on the other hand is much better for DJs or EDM artists that want to work almost exclusively in MIDI. Both can be used in conjunction with each other, to great effect, by professional studio environments.

Ultimately, the choice between Cubase 12 and FL Studio 21 depends on your musical goals, preferred workflow, and the type of music you want to create. Both DAWs offer trial versions, allowing users to explore their features and decide which best aligns with their needs.

Whichever DAW you choose, the journey of music production awaits, and both Cubase and FL Studio will serve as powerful tools to unleash your creative potential. There is no “right” way to use these tools when it comes to being creative!

Steinberg Cubase Pro 12

Used by everything from Hans Zimmer to Meshuggah, Cubase is an industry stalwart and a leading pioneer in the field of DAWs. Ideal for creating, recording, mixing, and mastering, Cubase has all the tools you need to create professional-sounding music at home. We love this software.

  • Control Room: Unmatched recording and monitoring control for a superior mix.
  • Sound Quality: A 64-bit audio engine that delivers professional-level audio.
  • Plug-Ins: A wealth of high-quality plug-ins for any genre.
  • Score Editor: Ideal for composers with its sophisticated notation feature.
  • Customizable Interface: Adaptable to your workflow for optimal productivity.

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