Digital audio workstations is big business. It is expected to become a $16.5-billion industry by 2026. It’s simply an easier way to create music, specifically now that technology is getting better and music is getting more and more digitized. Two of the best DAWs you can use are FL Studio and Cubase. But which one is the better choice?
While both Cubase and FL Studio can stand their ground as the best digital audio workstation package out there, there are some differences.
Bottom Line Up Front Summary: These are both excellent tools, however I prefer the more approachable and easier to use interface offered by FL Studio here. The Cubase package is still a great option for vocal music production.
- 1 Main Differences Between FL Studio vs Cubase
- 2 What is Cubase?
- 3 What Is FL Studio?
- 4 FL Studio and Cubase Alternatives to Consider
- 5 Reaper
- 6 Logic Pro X
- 7 Studio One 4
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 Comparing FL Studio and Cubase
- 10 Cubase vs FL Studio: Which One Should You Buy?
Main Differences Between FL Studio vs Cubase
The main differences between FL Studio vs Cubase are:
- FL Studio offers the same number of tracks across the board which is 500 tracks, whereas Cubase allows anywhere from 24 to unlimited MIDI – 16 to unlimited audio tracks – 8 to unlimited visual studio technology tracks depending on the version you have.
- FL Studio does not have that many included sounds, whereas Cubase has more included sounds as 14 gigabytes of sounds are part of the package
- FL Studio is a paid platform and you get upgrades for life, whereas Cubase requires you to pay for new versions but upgrades to the version that you purchased are free.
- FL Studio is great for music production and MIDI composition, whereas Cubase is best for vocals and creating full songs easily.
So which one should you buy? Read on as we delve into the features, tools, and capabilities that make each one great, plus a more in-depth look at how they differ from each other, and lastly, a clear recommendation on what DAW program to buy.
What is Cubase?
Cubase gives you the tools to record, mix, and edit songs like a professional musician. You get studio-quality audio at every stage of recording and mixing songs.
This software has been regularly updated with new features that improve user experience. The creator has been busy adding new features, tweaking the existing ones, and modernizing the look and feel of Cubase.
With Cubase 10.5, you can now import different tracks from past projects. You can use Group or FX tracks that you have used before and use these in what you are currently working on. You can also access MIDI and other audio tracks complete with all the automation and processing you have used.
You can also export to video using the H.264 format without compressing the audio. You can also enjoy the improved Retrospective MIDI record that now allows you to call up performance in that are stored in the buffer.
Overall, if you create music, Cubase will be a great addition to your arsenal. This software allows you to use tools that let you make music your way, as intuitively and quickly as you can. You have a wide assortment of instruments, sounds, and effects that you can use.
It is still the software of choice for everyone, does not matter if you are a beginner or a professional composer, you can use Cubase for whatever you need.
What Can You Do with Cubase?
Cubase has something for everyone. Composers can use it to find the right chords and key, as well as quickly arrange their songs. Cubase can also create sheet music of your compositions so that others can play it.
Professional musical scorers and amateur music creators can also create their own musical sequences using the virtual instruments, audio recordings, and their own keyboards, while also allowing them to create catchy beats and tracks.
You can also use Cubase for editing audio files, effortlessly tweaking the pitch and timing. You can also use it to mix different tracks or record both instrumentals and vocals with studio-quality results.
Features and Tools
Cubase uses crystal-clear audio resolutions with a sample rate of 192 kilohertz. What you get is unassailable sound quality, true surround capability, and tracks that use six channels for that 5.1 surround mix.
If you are working with a lot of music and audio files, you will surely love MediaBay that helps you organize all your content. Cubase also has audio random access (ARA) extensions that allow you to use different plugins such as Melodyne and SpectraLayers.
You can save time by being able to combine section tools for ranges and objects. Further, you can create multiple workspaces so that everything you need is easy to find. Plus, the track archives allow you to export any of your MIDI, sound effects, groups, and music files for use with your other projects.
Other features you should know include:
- Channel Strip. If there is one module that is responsible for the exceptional sound that Cubase delivers, it is the channel strip. They worked with audio engineers and sound experts to give you the best hardware mixer so you can create professional-quality audio.
- Chord Pads. This tool allows you to compose creatively and quickly, as well as get you out of the rut when you are stuck when writing progressions. These chord pads are usable with a MIDI controller.
- Comping. Comping allows you to create the best version from different takes. This tool will create a lane for each track that is recorded and then allow you to choose the best parts to create the best version of your music.
- MixConsole. The MixConsole has been updated to ensure that it looks, feels, and works like a very expensive analog mixing console. What’s more, it works without a mouse.
- Sampler Track. This feature allows you to use any recording or music to create your own. You can apply controls and filters that will help you come up with great music from a simple sample.
- VariAudio 3. This vocal editing and pitch changing tool to help solve timing and intonation issues using only a few clicks.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the tools and features you can use with Cubase. There are a lot and some are focused on helping you compose music, recording, sequencing, or edit and mix audio. You also have special tools for virtual instruments, effects, sounds, presets and loops, MIDI effects, video, and collaboration.
How Much Is Cubase?
Cubase comes in five different flavors. Each one has its own set of features. If you want all the features, you will have to pay €581.99 ($689.75) for the Pro version. Meanwhile, the Artist and Elements versions go for €331.99 ($393.46) and €99.99 ($118.50), respectively. Further, the LE version comes free with some hardware device, while Cubase AI is free to those who bought Steinberg/Yamaha products.
All of these versions use the 64-bit engine and allows you to create audio files with an audio resolution of 192 kilohertz. However, only the Pro version allows you to use unlimited MIDI, audio, and VST tracks, others have a limit. For instance, with Cubase Elements, you only have the allocation for 64 MIDI, 48 audio, and 24 VST tracks.
This table will show you the differences between the packages.
|64-bit audio engine||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|192-kilohertz audio resolution||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|VST Instrument tracks||unlimited||32||24||16||8|
|Instrument sounds||> 3000||> 2600||> 1000||Over 185||Over 185|
|VST audio effect plug-ins||76||57||46||28||23|
|VST MIDI effect plug-ins||18||18||0||0||0|
|Physical inputs & outputs||256||32||24||16||8|
|Audio Channel insert slots||16||16||8||4||4|
|FX send and return channels||S:8 – R:64||S:8 – R:64||S:8 – R:8||S:4 – R:4||S:4 – R:4|
|Rack instruments||64||32||16||8||Not available|
|MIDI plug-in insert slots & sends||4||4||0||0||0|
|Channel Strip 2||Advanced||Advanced||Basic||Basic||Basic|
|Groove Agent SE 5||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Audio Warp Quantize||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Project Logical Editor||Yes||No||No||No||No|
What You Would Love About Cubase
Probably the best thing about Cubase is that they have put in a lot of thought not only into its features and tool but also in the interface. The user interface has been upgraded over the past few updates and it is also customizable, so you can tweak it in such a way that makes sense to you.
It is also extensible and contains all of the plug-ins and tools that need to be included in the package. It uses the 64-bit motor, which might be the best audio engine you will work with.
Indeed, you will find that Cubase is one of the most comprehensive and complete music production and editing tools available in the market now. With all these features that you have at your fingertips, the software is surprisingly easy to use.
In short, Cubase has something for every music lover, creator, and enthusiast. It gives you all you need to produce, create, and edit music in your home studio with professional quality results.
Cubase 10 delivers many impressive new features in a remarkably powerful software package. It includes many new tools to enhance your creativity and speed your workflow.
- Great set of audio editors and tools
- Excellent summing engine, which is responsible for processing tracks for the best output
- Offers 11 different kinds of time stretching tools
- Has more features than similar software
- Needs a dongle that has licensing computer to work
- Reports that it crashes easily and can sometimes be unstable
What Can Be Better
The Pro version, which has all the features and tools, can cost quite a lot, and the upgrade prices can make you think twice about upgrading or not. There are also some complaints about their customer service not being that responsive or helpful.
Plus there are bugs in some Windows versions that are not found on the Mac OS version, and vice versa. And while Cubase makes it easy to use the software, it is not geared towards beginners.
What’s more, loading times can also be slow, and even previewing something can take time to load.
Cubase: The Bottom Line
Cubase is an impressive piece of software that gives you everything you need to create and produce music easily and quickly. The range and variety of features can make your jaw drop, but the best testament to its capabilities is the excellent audio quality of the final product you make on it.
It is not perfect. A lot of the later updates have been mostly aesthetics and making the user interface better looking. Some features and versions are buggy, and loading times can be improved.
However, it is still easy to recommend Cubase for those who want excellent, crystal clear, and crisp sounds, vocals, and live instruments.
See how Cubase compares to others:
What Is FL Studio?
FL Studio is a digital audio workstation that is very powerful and lets you create electronic music and also lets you record live music with acoustic instruments.
Making Music with FL Studio
FL Studio makes music production a whole lot easier, with its step sequencer buttons, presets, and easy recording. For example, you can create a pattern by laying down notes. Or you can use the Fill in Steps features for faster results.
You can record from a MIDI keyboard and have the program quantize the notes for you. And once the patterns are done, you can keep them in the Playlist where you can easily access them and use them as needed in your track.
All of these are done either by copying and pasting notes and dragging things around. You can also adjust pattern lengths. You can switch from pattern mode that allows you to create individual patterns to song mode, which lets you hear the entire song.
Easy to Improve
FL Studio comes with an assortment of instruments, but these are not that powerful. You may need to tweak it around a bit to make it sound good. Thankfully, this software comes with fast automation features.
Intuitive User Interface
FL Studio uses a vector-based interface that is fully scalable, compatible with multi-touch monitors, and easy to read. What’s more, if you are using FL Studio on a touch display, you can work it like using a physical mixing board, moving the faders easily, and even moving two or more at the same time.
The FL Studio layout puts everything you need on the left side of the screen, including the instruments, presets, project files, audio clips, and other materials. It also groups together all the sound generators you are currently using in the Channel Rack.
The software offers several templates that allow you to create tracks.
FL Studio Versions
There are currently four versions of FL Studio.
The Fruity version is for those who want to create in-the-box music. This version costs $99 and it does not let you record or edit audio clips.
However, if you in-the-box production is all you need, this will be ideal for you. It has a wide variety of effects and synths, plug-ins, step sequencer, event editor, piano roll, and automation features.
Then you have the Producer version that costs $100 more. It allows you to record using microphones and manipulate the audio clips. This version also gives you the Sytrus synth.
You also have the Signature version that costs $299. This version gives you access to the time editor, and the NewTone pitch, as well as the DirectWave sample, Harmless synth, additional plug-ins, and video players.
Lastly, you have the All Plugins version that costs $899 and gives you more Image-Line synths, Sakura, and other features.
What You Would Like About FL Studio
FL Studio gives you free updates for life with your purchase. This ensures that you have new features every so often and enjoy improvements over time. Compare that to how others ask you to pay for upgrades. There are also those who have priced their software with a membership or subscription, where you pay every month, quarter, or year.
FL Studio Pros
- Visual, responsive, beautiful, and intuitive interface
- Great for beginners
- Easier to learn than other similar software
- Free and significant updates forever
- Plugins are included right out the box
- Piano roll is one of the best step sequencer tools in the world
- Supports a wide variety of formats, including VST/VSTi, Wav, Aiff, Rex, Acid, Apple Loop, Ogg, Mp3, as well as Mov, Mp4, and other video formats
- Supports sampling and resampling
- Fast and easy beats creation
FL Studio Cons
- Not intuitive enough for audio, vocal, and live instrument recording
- Does not have an extensive sound library
What May Be Better
FL Studio now works on Mac computers, something that was not possible in the past. More good news in that it worked and looked the same way as its Windows counterpart, except that FL Studio does not seem to follow the conventions of the Mac interface.
If you are switching from other DAW software, you might find that FL Studio works a little differently and that it may need a bit of time and working with it to get used to the new software.
Further, if your work is more into audio recording, FL Studio might not be for you. Because this is software for creating electronic music more than anything else, audio clips are treated as such. It works for vocal snippets, like the ones you hear on EDM, but maybe a bit of a challenge if you work with acoustic instruments and longer vocal recordings.
FL Studio: The Bottom Line
You can use FL Studio for creating full audio tracks. In fact, the software includes some demo samplers that are created with it. And you can work with these demos to learn how to use FL Studio, and get familiar with its features.
But FL Studio shines the brightest when you are creating hip-hop and EDM ditties.
See how FL Studio compares to others:
FL Studio and Cubase Alternatives to Consider
There are several DAWs that you can use aside from Cubase and FL Studio. Some of the better ones include:
Reaper is great for beginners because of its low price and ease of use. You only need to pay $60 for a personal license. The layout is customizable so you can change it up to suit how your work. There are a lot of tutorials for this DAW online, so if you are stuck on how to do something or curious as to what it can do, you can see it being done by users online.
- Excellent for beginners
- Feature-packed DAW with a low price tag
- Customizable interface and functionalities
- Excellent stock plugins are included
- Features are not as detailed or flexible as those found in similar software
Logic Pro X
You can use Logic Pro X for producing and composing music, but it also has mixing capabilities. It has an excellent set of plug-ins.
- Excellent for beginners
- Very flexible and versatile
- Perfect for composing and writing music
- Also great for mastering, mixing, and recording
- Limited audio editing features
Studio One 4 brings together what you like about FL Studio and Pro Tools, which means that it is a great tool for electronic music creation and audio projects. It includes a great range of features and an excellent set of stock plugins. It also has an intuitive interface that you will appreciate when you are mixing.
- Has a wide variety of tools for composing music
- Excellent stock plugins
- Customizable interface
- Does not have a score editor
- The interface can become cluttered and confusing
Unlimited audio and instrument tracks, advanced automation features, virtual instruments, Buses, and FX channels.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know that you have questions, and sometimes, you might not be able to ask them. So here are our answers to the most often asked questions about DAWs like FL Studio and Cubase.
A digital audio workstation is a software or electronic device that allows you to record, edit, and create audio and music files.
Plugins are codes that you can add to your DAW to extend their features and functionality. There are several types of plugins that you can use, including those that allow you to do signal processing, sound synthesis, and audio analysis.
Comparing FL Studio and Cubase
FL Studio and Cubase are two of the best DAWs that you can buy right now. Fans of both software attest that these two have made music production, editing, and creation a whole lot easier. Plus, the audio quality of the results is professional sounding and can rival the quality of those created in studios.
Both FL Studio and Cubase:
- Have Mac and Windows versions
- Supports MIDI
- Supports both 32- and 64-bit processing
- Excellent DAW packages that offer excellent sound quality across the board.
Reasons You Should Go for Cubase
If you need to record live instruments and vocals, you should know that FL Studio falters in this area. It is possible but Cubase’s vocal and live instrument recording tools and features are much easier to use than FL Studio’s.
Reasons Why You Should Go for FL Studio
If you are going for MIDI and EDM, then FL Studio is perfect for you. The software is widely recognized as one of, if not the best MIDI editors available today. What’s more, you can use Cthulhu if you need help with chord progressions. The Cthulhu modules are better than Cubase’s chord tracks features.
Users of both FL Studio and Cubase often find that FL Studio has a better upgrade policy. Aside from giving you upgrades free for life, they are also very much involved with their community, especially on their official forums. FL Studio delivers significant improvements with their new releases, both in terms of software features and what’s under the hood.
Cubase, on the other hand, charges for new versions of their software. A Reddit user, however, pointed out that there were not many improvements from Cubase 8 to Cubase 9. The user also writes that some long-standing complaints and much-awaited features are being ignored by the company.
Cubase vs FL Studio: Which One Should You Buy?
Both Cubase and FL Studio are excellent DAWs, and each has its own set of pros and cons. However, if you want to make your decision easier, then you should know that FL Studio was never meant for recording and mixing.
Over the years, however, they updated their software so that you will be able to do both, but it is not the best in these areas. So if you are looking for software that can handle vocal and live instruments, go with Cubase.
Cubase does better when it comes to audio mixing and recording as well as composing and arranging with MIDI sequencing.
However, if you are looking to create and program beats and music, then there is no better DAW than FL Studio. It is also more cost-effective over time because you get free upgrades forever and has a visual interface that is not only stunning but intuitive enough even for beginners to learn.
Bottom Line Summary: These are both excellent tools, however I prefer the more approachable and easier to use interface offered by FL Studio here. The Cubase package is still a great option for vocal music production.