It Was Great, At First
I didn't even consider making music until I was about 18 years old, so my entire journey has always felt like I'm catching up - to what? The 10-year old me who could have hit the ground running I suppose. Regardless, it's only too late when you're dead, so here I am, loving and learning. After about 4 years of Fruity Loops, a Sound Technology program exposed me to Pro Tools (version 6 then) and after a month I bought it bundled with the Mbox 2 and started recording for clients. It was common knowledge that it was an "industry standard", so if it was good enough for multi-million dollar studios around the world, surely it was good enough for my bodacious bedroom setup. It was certainly a professional step up - its look and capabilities made me feel more like a pro. Particularly, my favourite aspect of it was its editing workflow.
A Pro Tools 'Pro'
Anyone whose had to "clean up" audio, do vocal compilations, fix strange anomalies, etc., would know how valuable a good editing workflow is. Tedious editing is one of the many reasons workers at the helm grind out a task non-stop, only to find they've finished it on a different day than they started. There have been times that after a long editing session I've had to spend about 10 minutes wandering around my room looking for clues as to the date, time and all the surrounding events I've missed. Some DAWs make you feel like you're serving a life sentence in post-production, and each time you come out of that workflow prison you have to adjust to the world that hasn't waited for you. Suddenly, you're being re-introduced to things like showers, hot meals and other non-waveform humanoids - the luxuries you didn't have while serving your time in solitary confinement. Granted, I'm exaggerating (not really), but you get the idea. Pro Tools had a handful of other pluses, but my hangups were steadily outweighing them more and more.
High End, High Neglect
Pro Tools was designed for top tier commercial use and in that context it has pleased many users and produced many great works. However, when they targeted the smaller, home-studio market, it quickly became clear that said market was not their expertise or priority. All these years later in 2016, I still feel like that's the case. Their time, energy and passion continue to pour into the high end user, and the rest of us tend to get the left-overs. They release more high end products, tools and features, have a support system designed for big industry (requiring a fee), and continue to do strange things like release a new line of Mbox interfaces (that were actually quite good), and then discontinue them soon after. I purchased the 3rd Generation Mbox Pro shortly after it was released and by the time I wanted to sell it and get something better suited for my needs, the value had dropped so low that it made just as little sense to sell it as it did to keep it. That's an in-between I hate being in. I've also watched Avid's Pro Tools announcements at NAMM and for the most part I've always felt like I'm not supposed to be in that crowd - too often the content doesn't apply to me.
When Avid acquired Digidesign, it seemed like an okay idea - everything under one powerhouse of a roof. But I just found myself lost in the heap of things, especially their website. I needed multiple accounts and logins and when they tried to conslidate things, it still confused the hell out of me. There were too many links, too many categories, too many products, too many services, too many different GUIs and layouts, etc. There was such a lack of harmony. I remember many times doing everything I could to avoid needing to go into that website and when I had no choice, it was always a pain. Personally, I judge a company a great deal by their website. To me, a website is a company's most important asset. It is your 24/7, primary advertiser, customer service representative, and even retailer for many. Most customers these days will only know a company through their website - all their dealings from start to finish will be through those internet pages. Thus, the personality, care and attentativeness of a site in relation to its users, is paramount. Avid failed me in this regard for years.
Those are the main reasons why after a decade with Pro Tools, I was aching for something better. So, my search began. Because I had tried some other DAWs in the past, looking back into them was a quicker decision. If I saw that old hangups still existed, I moved on. It wasn't really worth crossing over unless the change was big and inspiring. Some demos I couldn't even sample for more than 5 minutes because in all honesty, many DAWs over the years have just tried to mimic Pro Tools, and that was the vibe I was still getting. I wanted to get away from that. I wanted something that worked great, looked great, inspired me and cared about me as a customer and a creator.
Enter Studio One
I had come across Studio One years ago in their first version, but never tried it because of the look - I figured it was probably no different than Pro Tools, and it was a brand new DAW as well, so how could it compete with an industry veteran like Pro Tools? Well, in this new search I came across it again literally a few days before they were about to release Studio One 3, which they were hailing as "The New Standard". I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by that slogan alone, because "the standard" I had known up to that point was the source of my anguish, so a "new standard" was exactly what I was looking for. That line along with a screenshot of its completely redesigned look had me frozen like a Pro Tools glitch. I stared at that screenshot and immediately felt a surge of enthusiasm and interest. I was being inspired in a way I hadn't experienced in a decade and it was solely because of this one gorgeous and promising picture:
I was immensely curious, so I read PreSonus' website, I watched the videos, and sure enough my interest was peaking more and more. I had to download it and try (thankfully for free). Now, this is no lie - once it started up and showed me the startup page (example below), my mind was made up.
After one minute in that startup page, PreSonus catered to my most important need - the need to be cared about as a customer and a creator. That attractive startup page enables a user to not just setup their session, but also establish their identity within the program. This is something I never had before - an identity within my DAW. What this was saying to me, was that PreSonus wanted Studio One to revolve around its user, whoever they may be. I always felt that Pro Tools was designed to revolve around the rich and privileged, and in the ways Avid wanted. I am more likely to trust a company that says "Come in, have a seat, what's your name? Can I get anything for you? Here's a sample on the house. Tell us how we can do things better", and not a company that says, "Come in but don't sit down. Our name is more important than your name, and I can only help you if you pay me". I soaked in that startup page and enjoyed thinking of what it would mean for the actual workflow.
Their website reflects all these same qualities - everything from presentation to my own user account experience. Licenses are easy to transfer or remove (Avid couldn't have made that more complicated when I needed that done), it has the same personality and flow as Studio One, everything I need is there and clear, and everything I don't need isn't there. There's no noise - not with their website, software or hardware ;-). I'm confident in saying my raw audio and mixes even sound better in Studio One.