FL Studio For Mac Review: Almost Pitch Perfect

FL Studio for Mac is almost here and so we’ve taken a closer look at the Beta version in our FL Studio for Mac review. FL Studio For Mac has been one the most highly anticipated music production software releases of the year. Image Line’s incredibly popular FL Studio for Windows has been around for several years but until now, Mac users have had no choice but to either run Windows on their Mac or find an alternative. Often when PC software is finally released on Mac, it’s not always the same or lacks the same features but the good news is that FL Studio for Mac offers virtually all the same functionality as the PC version although there are some limitations as you’ll see. Here then we take a closer look at how it performs on macOS.

FL Studio For Mac: A Long Time In The Pipeline

FL Studio has come a hell of a long way since it started life on PC almost two decades ago as FruityLoops, a humble MIDI drum sequencer. It has now evolved into one of the most popular music production software suites out there capable of professional studio recording, live performances and use alongside other DAW software. With a more grown-up customer base came a more grown-up title and the name “Fruity Loops” was dropped for commercial reasons about four years ago in favor of “FL Studio”. The FL Studio demo installer alone is downloaded around 30,000 times a day (almost 10,000,000 per year) making it easily one of the most widely used music production software suites out there. An indication of how good FL Studio is, is that major artists including Avicci, Mike Oldfield and Basshunter use FL Studio to help create music.

fl studio for mac review - interface

It’s been a long time in coming on Mac but we think it’s been worth the wait as the Mac version of FL Studio delivers almost everything that makes it so great in Windows. However, in the Beta version there are some limitations such as some VST plugins don’t work yet for example and there is some instability but these will hopefully be ironed-out by the time the final version of FL Studio for Mac is released. You can see a full list of features that are still missing from FL Studio for Mac vs Windows here.

Adding Plugins To FL Studio For Mac

Plugins are one of the things that make FL Studio so great and one of the biggest concerns of Mac users is how well it works with them. The good news is the huge range of virtual instruments, sounds and loops available in FL Studio for Mac is exactly the same as on the PC version. Just like FL Studio for Windows, you can extend its functionality and let your creative juices flow with a range of plugins including over 30 synthesizers, drum machines, samples and effects. Prices start at around a few dollars for something like a Soundfont Player to around $20 for Maximus. Note that you do not need to download Mac specific VSTs for FL Studio for Mac – you simply download the Windows versions and use them in the Mac version.

fl studio for mac review - plugins

There are also plugin bundles with several plugins included for a significant discount.

The other cool thing is that FL Studio has a ton of user generated and third party content such as vocals and presets that you can purchase for a few dollars and enrich your music with making the creative possibilities truly endless.fl studio for mac review - content

As stated earlier, some plugins do not work in the Beta version of FL Studio for Mac. You will either get a “Can’t be found” error message when trying to access certain plugins or it simply won’t appear when you try to add them to your plugin list (see instructions how to add VST plugins below). However, these incompatibilities will probably be fixed in the final release.

The full list of plugins that officially work in FL Studio For Mac so far are:

Working Synths: 3x Osc, Fruit Kick, Fruity Envelope Controller, Fruity Granulizer, Harmless, Harmor, Ogun, Patcher, Plucked!, Slicex, Sytrus, Drumaxx, GMS, Morphine, PoiZone, Sakura, Sawer and Toxic Biohazard, Fruity Keyboard Controller, FPC, Fruity Slicer, DirectWave, Minisynth, Drumpad, BassDrum.

Working Effects: Fruity Big Clock, Control Surface, Fruity delay 2, Fruity Delay Bank, EQUO, Gross Beat, Fruity Formula Controller, Fruity Flangus, Fruity Love Philter, Fruity Limiter, Fruity Multiband Limiter, Patcher, Fruity Parametric EQ 2, Fruity Peak Controller, Fruity Recorder, Fruity Reeverb 2, Fruity Soft Clipper, Fruity Stereo Enhancer, Fruity Stereo Shaper, Vocodex, Fruity WaveShaper, Fruity X-Y Controller, Fruity X-Y-Z Controller, Fruity Send, Fruity PanOMatic, Fruity Vocoder, Pitcher.

Although the functionality of the Mac version is very similar to the Windows version, there are however differences in the way you navigate the interface, where menus are located etc. When you start the Mac version for the first time for example, it takes time to work out how to add VST plugins to your plugin library and until the final version is released with a full instruction manual, you may need to keep referring to the FL Studio Forums where you’ll find plenty of answers from other users to the most common problems and differences.

Here’s how to add VST plugins to FL Studio for Mac:

  1. Go to Options > Manage Plugins.fl studio for mac review - how add plugins
  2. When the plugins window opens, you then have to click on the Plugin search folder paths on the left-hand side:fl studio for mac - add plugin folder
  3. You then have to browse to the Applications folder on your Mac, select FL Studio for Mac and then browse to Contents > Resources > FL > Plugins and there you must create a folder to add the plugins such as “VST”.fl studio mac review - vst folder
  4. You can then add Windows FL Studio plugins with .DLL file names. Finally, you then simply click on Verify Plugin in the top left of the interface and click Start Scan. If the plugin shows-up  in the plugins list on the right, then it works with FL Studio for Mac. If it doesn’t, then unfortunately it’s incompatible with the Mac version yet.

Using plugins works exactly the same as on Windows. You simply go to the Plugins Database menu and select Installed > Generators and then select the folder you’ve saved them in to reveal them. You can then drag them into your Channel Rack to use them exactly like on the Windows version.

FL Studio For Mac & Edison

The good news is you can record live music into FL Studio for Mac using Edison. However, when you try to add it into FL Studio for Mac, using Edison’s insert tool (the arrow in the top right of the Edison toolbar) it doesn’t work. You just get a message saying “This feature does not work yet in the Mac version of FL Studio”.

fl studio for mac - edison live recording

Fortunately you can easily get round this by saving the recording as a .WAV file on your desktop by clicking on the save button in Edison and then simply drag into FL Studio on your Mac.

fl studio mac - edison

Like the Windows version, FL Studio on Mac uses step sequencers to compose and arrange your music simply by dragging and dropping samples, loops and other sounds into the sequencer. To activate a step you simply CMD-click on it and remove it by right-clicking. Adding effects such as parametric and reverb also works exactly like on Windows.

fl studio for mac review - mixdeck

Image Line have done a great job of optimizing FL Studio for retina displays on Mac. The colors in FL Studio For Mac looks stunning on 5K retina displays and it undoubtedly looks better than on PC and Windows.

fl studio for mac review - retina display

FL Studio Bugs On Mac

Generally everything works fine in the Mac version of FL Studio including the 3x Oscillator, Trap Crash and other effects. Adding sample packs such as drum samples also works pretty much exactly as on Windows. There are however other minor random bugs to be aware of.

  • The ZGameEditor Visualizer tends to crash if you select an effect which does not work with the Mac version yet. The problem is there’s no indication of which effects do work on Mac and which don’t so it’s a bit trial and error finding which ones do. Presumably this will be fixed by the time of the final release.
  • The great thing about FL Studio is that you don’t have to use it as your principle DAW of you want to use another app. “Rewire” allows you to use another DAW such as Ableton Live and hook-in the MIDI recording features of FL Studio for Mac. Unfortunately, Rewire doesn’t work in the FL Studio for Mac Beta version but hopefully this will also be available in the final release.
  • The interface can occasionally be a bit laggy when navigating. One performance tip is to enable multi-threaded processing in the FL Studio for Mac settings – this seems to noticeably enhance performance and speed of navigation in FL Studio on Mac.
  • In general, FL Studio for Mac can be a bit unstable and is prone to crashes from time to time which is to be expected somewhat with Beta version. Our advice is save your work constantly to prevent any disasters until the final version is released.

FL Studio For Mobile Integration

When the final version is released, Mac users will finally be able to enjoy integration between the FL Studio iOS app and FL Studio for Mac although this isn’t possible with the Beta version. The mobile app is surprisingly powerful and allows you to record, sequence, edit, mix and render complete songs. Note that although FL Studio for iPad and iPhone is free, there are in app purchases for samples and beats starting at $0.99.

fl studio mac review - fl studio mobile

FL Studio For Mac Demo Limitations

The great thing about the FL Studio Mac Beta is that it is more or less fully functional. Even better, the Beta isn’t just the basic Fruity version either – it’s the fully featured FL Studio Producer + All Plugins Edition worth $899. Almost all features are fully functional in both the PC and Mac demo including the ability to export projects to audio formats However, as on PC there are a few limitations to the FL Studio for Mac trial to be aware of:

  • Although Projects can be saved, they won’t open as saved until your registration matches all the features and plugins used in the project.
  • You can’t save or load some functions such as the “Clone channel” and “Save preset as…” options.
  • Some plugins may create static, white noise or silence at regular intervals.

However, this is an incredibly generous demo compared to most music production software on Mac and symbolic of Image Line’s philosophy that you should be 100% happy with the product before you buy it.

FL Studio For Mac System Requirements

To install FL Studio on Mac, you’ll need:

  1. OS X 10.10 Yosemite or above
  2. 1GB RAM Minimum but 2GB or 4GB RAM recommended
  3. 2GB Free Hard Drive Space

Basically, we advise having the highest spec Mac possible. The faster your CPU or processor, the more instruments and effects you can use at once and the more RAM you have, the more samples you can load and playback smoothly. Image Line offer some tips on how to improve performance of FL Studio although it’s geared towards Windows users rather than Mac users.

How To Get FL Studio For Mac

The FL Studio For Mac Beta demo is completely free. However, you need to already own the Windows version in order to unlock it. If you’ve already paid for the Windows version, all you need to do is sign-up as a registered user on the FL Studio website. You’ll need your Windows license key in order to complete the registration. You can also unlock the Mac Beta from Demo Mode by going to the “About” section in the app and entering your username and password.

flstudio for mac review - unlock demo

When the final version is released however, as on Windows, there will be 4 editions of FL Studio for Mac:

  • FL Studio Fruity For Mac ($99.99)
  • Fl Studio Producer For Mac ($199)
  • FL Studio Signature Bundle For Mac ($299)
  • Fl Studio All Plugins Edition For Mac ($899)

The biggest difference between the cheapest version FL Studio Fruity for Mac and the other editions is that:

  • It can’t record live instruments and therefore is not suitable for serious music producers. The live instrument recording tool within FL Studio is called Edison. Edison also makes reverbs, equalizers and other tools within FL studio, all of which are not present on the Fruity edition.
  • You can only use the beat sequencer, virtual instruments, plugins and loops within the software to create music

The editions share common features, but FL Studio Signature Bundle and FL Studio Producer have additional features, Instruments, Packs and Effects. There are far more plugins in the other editions of FL Studio than the Fruity edition although to get all of them, you must purchase the FL Studio All Plugins Edition for $899. For a more detailed breakdown of the difference between them, check out the FL Studio Comparison Chart. The FL Studio All Plugins Bundle is basically the Signature edition but with all plugins included. The other nice thing is that all FL Studio products come with free lifetime upgrades.

When Will FL Studio For Mac Be Released?

Currently, Image Line says that the release date is simply “ASAP” but with the Beta version looking increasingly complete, it’s expected to drop any day now. The Alpha version of FL Studio for Mac was released in early 2017 with the beta arriving in October so the final version should be ready in Q2/Q3 2018 at the latest. Note that Alpha software releases differ from Beta releases in that they are more raw, less complete and more prone to Betas which are basically the finished product with a few minor bugs to iron out.

Why Hasn’t There Been A Mac Version Of FL Studio Before?

The main reasons are technical and geeky. FL Studio is written in Delphi with Assembly Language which until recently, simply wasn’t possible to compile on OS X. While it’s still not perfect on OS X, it has allowed the Image Line team to finally work on a Mac version without having to write it in a completely different language (such as C#).

The other major reason is basically because FL Studio is highly geared towards utilizing the Windows API. This means that everything from moving windows to dragging and dropping beats relies on the Windows infrastructure to work as smoothly as it does. Porting this to something that works as well on OS X is a very big job and is another reason why the final version has taken so long to arrive on Mac.

The other thing that has helped is that a while back, Apple finally switched Macs from PPC to Intel processors which FL Studio is designed for on Windows.

You can watch and hear FL Studio for Mac in action below and as you’ll see, it looks and sounds great on Mac.

FL Studio For Mac Review: Almost Pitch Perfect
Fl Studio for Mac is real treat for amateur and professional music producers alike. Mac users have had to wait a long time but it's been well worth it as FL Studio for Mac delivers everything that has made it so successful on PC. Sure there are some bugs and instability in the Beta version but these should be fixed when the beta or final version is released. It's the creative possibilities that make FL Studio so good and even though it's a professional music production suite, the learning curve feels less then other similar software and there are lots of video tutorials to help you get to grips with it quickly. FL Studio for Mac won't disappoint those that have waited so long for it to arrive on macOS.
Pros
  • Huge choice of loops, sounds and instruments
  • Fully featured like the PC version
  • Looks great on OS X or macOS
Cons
  • Beta version subject to bugs and crashes
  • Rewire not available on Mac version yet
4.5Overall Score

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One Response

  1. MacHow2
    Kuba

    I agree. Everything works perfect. I love the new FL app on the Mac! No need to install through boot-camp. This is amazing and cannot wait for a stable version to come out although the newest beta almost barely if ever crashes or displays any issues. It works like a charm actually.

    Reply

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