DAWs – or digital audio workstations – don’t have to cost the earth. LMMS is free, and FL Studio is competitively priced. You can create music from home for a low cost using their software, and they have plenty of tools for beginners to work with.
But which one is better, and are they easy to use?
Bottom Line Up Front Summary: We prefer the eminently more usable and well-designed FL Studio here, but LMMs has its strengths too. We’ve tested them both, so you can keep reading to find out more details.
We’ll be looking at:
- The main differences between LMMS and FL Studio
- Their similarities
- LMMS and FL Studio in more detail, including their main features, pros and cons, and pricing
- Some alternatives to try
- Frequently asked questions
- Which one we think is the best, and why
Let’s start by looking at how they differ from each other.
- 1 Main Differences Between LMMS and FL Studio
- 2 The Similarities
- 3 What is LMMS?
- 4 What is FL Studio?
- 5 The Main Features of LMMS
- 6 The Main Features of FL Studio
- 7 LMMS vs FL Studio – Digital Audio Workstation Pros and Cons
- 8 LMMS vs FL Studio – Pricing
- 9 Alternatives to Try
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions
- 11 The Final Verdict – Which is Better Between LMMS vs FL Studio?
Main Differences Between LMMS and FL Studio
The main differences between LMMS and FL Studio are:
- LMMS is completely free, whereas FL Studio has four price tiers.
- LMMS is based on community-created content, whereas FL Studio has plugins created and developed by them.
- LMMS has a steep learning curve, whereas FL Studio is a bit easier to navigate.
- LMMS has a basic interface, whereas FL Studio is nicer to look at.
- LMMS has dozens of free plugins, whereas FL Studio has a smaller range.
- LMMS doesn’t record audio, whereas FL Studio does (on certain price packages).
- LMMS focuses on different types of synthesizers, whereas FL Studio has a focus on creating beats.
They’re quite different, as you can see. LMMS is free, but the trade-off is that there’s a pretty steep learning curve if you’re new. It will involve a lot of browsing the internet and reading tutorials to figure out how to use it properly.
FL Studio costs money, but is more self-contained – it’s easier to learn, and the interface is more user-friendly. The plugins cost extra, but are easy to use and install, and they’re visually appealing.
A huge difference here is that LMMS doesn’t allow for audio recording, whereas FL Studio does (but not as part of the Juicy price package). That’s a big difference, and may sway you one way or the other depending on what you need.
There are quite a lot of similarities, too:
- They both have plugins to choose from
- They both allow you to drag-and-drop tools on your screen
- They both have a good user forum and knowledge base
- They can both be used by beginners, with a bit of research
Now let’s take a look at each of them in more detail.
What is LMMS?
LMMS (formerly known as Linux MultiMedia Studio) is a free, open-source platform. Users can arrange samples, synthesize sounds, and record using a MIDI keyboard. It doesn’t allow users to record audio.
It’s a completely free software with various plugins created by other users. There is a strong community around LMMS, with a dedicated wiki and forums.
What is FL Studio?
FL Studio (formerly known as FruityLoops) is a DAW, created by Image-Line. It comes in 4 different editions – Fruity, Producer, Signature, and the All Plugins Bundle.
It has a strong focus on beat creation and sequencing, and it has a built-in sequencer to craft beats. It has a sizable library of samples, too.
Famous users include Madeon and Deadmau5.
The Main Features of LMMS
There is one version of LMMS, which can be customized depending on which plugins you choose to download.
The interface is a bit sparse, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved in figuring out how to use it. You can drag and drop tools to set up the screen the way you want it.
It’s not the most visually appealing software out there, but given that it’s free, you may be willing to overlook that.
There is a plugin library that pops up instantly, allowing you to browse in the platform itself. There are dozens to choose from, but the descriptions aren’t that clear if you’re not experienced at music production – it will take some time to research which plugins are best for you.
Some popular plugins include:
- Serum – a high-quality synthesizer with a visual interface
- Freeboy – a Gameboy sound chip emulator
- SF2Player – a Fluidsynth-based Soundfont player
Although you can browse plugins in the platform, installing them involves a few more steps – there are lots of guides online to help you figure out how to download and install them.
You can get a range of instrument plugins too, including drums, keys, guitar, harmonica, and brass/horns.
The main draw of LMMS (apart from the fact that it’s free!) is that it has a heavy reliance on users creating their own plugins and sounds. It’s more complicated to use and involves a bit of searching, but it kind of forces you to get creative – there’s an endless amount to choose from, but that does mean the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating music.
There’s a focus on synthesis, with tons of types available – more choice than you tend to find in more expensive DAWs. If you want to create a MIDI part, you can choose from different inputs. You can use a MIDI keyboard, draw with your mouse, or use the keyboard on your computer.
You can also pick a scale and draw in chords using their piano-roll editor. These are really useful tools, especially for beginners.
The audio mixer is not as advanced as others out there (including FL Studio), and it doesn’t have the capability to record audio, which is important to remember. It’s worth a try for beginners if you’re willing to spend some time learning how it works.
The Main Features of FL Studio
Now, let’s look at what FL Studio has to offer, starting with an overview of each version.
Fruity is focused purely on beat creation. There are no audio recording or editing tools available – you can use this just for the built-in instruments.
Producer allows you to record audio, and you can drag and drop clips onto your playlist. This is a good option for most people, as it has a lot of functionality – it’s just missing some mixing plugins and instruments.
Signature comes with almost everything that FL Studio has to offer. It unlocks full control over software and all the plugins. You’re only missing a few instruments with this one.
All Plugins Bundle
The All Plugins Bundle includes everything – all the niche instruments, all the plugins, and complete control over the software. It’s pricey though, so it’s going to be out of reach for most amateurs.
The interface looks nice, although it’s not as smooth as others on the market (like Cubase or Pro Tools). Each plugin has its own style, which is a nice touch, and it’s pretty easy to navigate.
You can play around the visuals using the ‘view’ tab, which will allow you to set up the workspace the way you want it.
They also have a ‘plugin picker’ which is a nice, visual way of grabbing the plugin you need quickly.
There’s a bit of a learning curve, but they have a series of tutorials, a forum, and a knowledge base, which you can access any time under the ‘help’ tab.
Plugins (VST and Others)
One big strength of FL Studio is the plugins – although they’re not all included on every plan, there’s a huge range to choose from. Popular plugins include:
- DirectWave, which loads and edits most sound formats (including WAV, SF2, AKP, GIGA, and more). It can also sample existing VST plugin (VST instrument) and VST options
- Drumaxx – offers high-quality drum samples using a fun interface with 16 drum pads
- Edison – a high-quality audio editor with drag-and-drop support
- Flex – an advanced synthesizer with subtractive, wavetable, multisample and FM&AM based synthesis
There are 24 plugins at the time of writing, with various bundles to choose from. They’re nice to look at, with each having its own style. This is the Toxic Biohazard plugin:
And this is the Sawer Synth plugin:
As we mentioned before, there is a strong focus on beat making here, and FL Studio is one of the best platforms out there for that. With their Drumaxx plugin, you can create incredibly realistic drum sounds – the technology allows you to create authentic-sounding beats as opposed to electronic-sounding beats.
It has enough tools – especially if you go with the Producer version or above – for amateur music producers to work with, and the recording function works well.
The other thing to consider here is that FL Studio is great for experimentation, especially if you buy plugins (or go for a package with all the plugins included). It’s fun to play around here if you’re a more experienced user and you want to try out some new stuff.
While you can certainly get a lot done with FL Studio, there are limitations. It lacks the more advanced editing and recording features found in other software (like Cubase or Pro Tools). It can’t be used live, either. Although it’s not a given that DAWs can be used live, other competitors do allow for that (like Ableton).
LMMS vs FL Studio – Digital Audio Workstation Pros and Cons
- Completely free
- Strong community of users
- Endless creative possibilities
- Lots of choice when it comes to synthesizers
- Steeper learning curve
- Basic interface – not that nice to look at
- Can be difficult to figure out how to install a plugin
FL Studio Pros
- A huge array of plugins available
- Large sample library
- Clean, easy-to-use interface
- Focus on creating authentic-sounding beats
FL Studio Cons
- Lacks some advanced recording and editing controls
- Can’t be used live
LMMS vs FL Studio – Pricing
LMMS is completely free to use but is slightly more complicated to download and install (especially when it comes to plugins). You can find out more about it here.
As we said, there are four versions to choose from:
They offer a free trial, so you can try it out before you commit to buying.
Alternatives to Try
There are a few DAWs you can consider instead:
- Ableton – if you want to try sequencing and sampling in real-time, this is a great one to try. You can read our Ableton vs FL Studio comparison for more details.
- Reaper – Reaper aims to offer professional-level tools for a lower cost. You can find out more about it in our Reaper vs Pro Tools comparison.
- Pro Tools – Pro Tools is a popular platform with advanced tools and plugins. You can see more about it in our Pro Tools vs Ableton comparison here.
- Cubase – Cubase is a useful DAW, and it’s had a lot of upgrades over the years. It has plenty of features including a high-quality recording tool. You can read more about it in our Cubase vs Logic Pro comparison.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about LMMS and FL Studio:
Question: How can I learn to use LMMS?
Answer: There are a lot of tutorials out there, including in-depth guides on YouTube. The LMMS Wiki has a few guides including the Complete Beginner’s Guide.
Question: Are LMMS and FL Studio available on PC and Mac?
Answer: Yes, they’re both available on PC and Mac.
Question: Do either of them have mobile apps?
Answer: LMMS doesn’t have a mobile app, but FL Studio has – you can find it in your Appstore under ‘FL Studio Mobile’.
Question: What are the basic plugins I will need?
Answer: There are four basic categories of plugins, and it’s good to have a mixture of all of them:
•Virtual Instrument Plugins
Virtual instrument plugins emulate real instruments, allowing you to ‘play’ the instruments using a midi controller for the midi file (or using your mouse). You can also get sampler plugins, which take small samples of sound and play them back, and drum machines. Drums and keys are pretty essential, but you can find all sorts of virtual instruments.
Effects plugins change audio coming in. Basic ones include reverbs and delays, choruses, flangers and phasers.
Dynamic plugins are processors that can change the amplitude of a signal coming in. It can change the way audio sounds. They can be a bit more complex to get your head around, but equalizers and filters are essential if you’re working with vocals.
Emulation plugins are good if you want to maintain a more authentic sound, as it emulates analog hardware devices you’d find in a studio. Although it might not seem essential, it could make a big difference to your final result.
The Final Verdict – Which is Better Between LMMS vs FL Studio?
These are two very different DAWs, so it’s tough to pick a winner.
If you’re on a low budget, and you just want to make music, you’re going to be drawn to LMMS. You have to put more time into it to really make the most of it, and it’s got a steeper learning curve. With time and patience, you can get really good results using LMMS.
Bottom Line Summary: However, for the ease of use, the nice interface, and the high-quality plugins, we’d have to pick FL Studio.
It’s an investment – especially if you want to be able to record audio – but compared to professional software it’s decently priced. There are enough tools to get some really good results, and it’s fun to use. If you plan to use it a lot, it’s worth spending a bit more to make the experience more enjoyable.
Luckily, LMMS is free, and FL Studio has a free trial – so you can try both for yourself and see what you think.
If you’ve used LMMS or FL Studio, let us know what your results were – leave us a comment!
FL Studio features a friendly user interface that's fairly easy to use for both beginners and more advanced users. It's packed with great features and plugins designed for the ultimate user experience you'll surely love.