Earlier this week, Image-Line graced us some news that many music producers have been dreaming about for years now. The Holland-Dutch software company has finally released a native Mac OS X Alpha (pre-Beta) test version of their flagship digital audio workstation, FL Studio. At this point, if none of this rings a bell, this article probably does not concern you. However, if you’re one of the thousands of Mac-via-Windows-using individuals who have tried out this production tool at one point in their lives, this is certainly some remarkable news.
Assuming you’ve purchased a Mac after you’ve already started producing with FL Studio on Windows, the following were likely scenarios: you resorted to either using Boot Camp (or an equivalent multi boot utility) to run FL on Windows; you learned how to use a new (but more confusing) DAW alternative such as Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Reason, GarageBand, or others; or you continued producing music exclusively on a Windows computer. These probably led to a few possibilities: 1. You got used to working with multiple computers. 2. You eventually learned how to use the new software and became more adept with it than you were with FL. 3. You switched back to Windows. 4. You’re a computer whiz and found a way to work things out smoothly. 5. You (sadly) gave up and moved on. Regardless of the category you belong in, most who have used FL know it for its one-of-a-kind, user-friendly workflow. Many of the aforementioned are recognized as being "better" or "more professional" than FL; and while there may be some truth to that belief, FL ranks as one of the best when it comes strictly to loop-based, beat-driven production. The availability of this program on Mac OS X could be revolutionary for both budding and developed producers.
The Alpha version of FL Studio for Mac looks nearly identical to its Windows counterpart.
Despite the fact that the app is currently in the Alpha phase, for the first time, the software is running as an OS X-native application rather being disguised as one through the aid of third-party tools. If you're already looking to fire out some new beats with it, don't get too far ahead of yourself. A representative for Image-Line warned that the software "is missing features," "will crash," "is very buggy," and "is not ready for production work." Its purpose is to show users that the company is actually working on developing an OS X version, to try out the installation process and make sure that it runs on a wide range of systems, and to visualize the graphics performance for optimization purposes. Bugs are reportable, but Image-Line warns that because they "are aware of many already" and are still in "heavy development," it should be expected that they will not "act on [bug reports] for a while." Ultimately, we are to understand that the whole procedure is for a testing experience and not a working one.
As listed on release thread of Image-Line's official forums and mentioned above, the following are major features that do not work yet. Any VST/AU plugins you have (Universal Audio, Waves, Native Instruments, etc.) will not be compatible; only the included stock FL plugins work (specifically: 3x Osc, Control Surface, Fruity Delay Bank, Fruity Flangus, Fruity Limiter, Fruity Love Philter, Fruity Parametric EQ 2, Fruity Reeverb 2, Fruity WaveShaper, Gross Beat, Harmor, Maximus, Patcher and Sytrus; other than these, the rest are not loadable). If you have an external MIDI controller connected to your computer (keyboards, pads, mixers), none of these will function either as MIDI input and output are not supported. We had an AKAI MPK61 connected to our workstation and the application was unable to detect it. FL's signature drag-drop function from the browser tree is not; instead, users have to right click the tree and make their selection from a popup menu. Multiple-monitor usage is also disabled; the app can only run on the primary display. Some minor issues also exist, such as the Ogg-encoded WAV files being inoperative (.ogg files work fine, however) as well as scaling issues for those who are using Retina.
Despite having many bugs, many of the functions still work properly.
After successfully loading up the program, it appeared no different from the original at first glance. However, after testing out its functions, the program indeed contained a lot of bugs. The FL effects and "add more" option do not work; in fact, none of the FL instrument plugins, other than Harmor, are functional. Exporting MP3s and opening 3x Osc caused the program to crash and the layer function and button descriptions are nowhere to be found. The mixer also contain a fair share of issues: tracks are not re-namable, they cannot be selected at more than one at a time, and the horizontal scroller is extremely slow. Since the program is not multi-monitor-compatible, users must rely on shifting windows around. Unfortunately, moving windows around and resizing them is quite a hassling process. In summation, the program is not quite yet operational, and like its disclaimer warned, it will crash often and is very buggy. We suggest that you should not try to seriously produce a track on this Alpha version; it probably won't turn out the way you want it and you're also very likely to lose your work. However, with the understanding that this is just a test version for you to dabble with, many of the functions outside of the above have worked out wonderfully.
The application will run on Mac OS X 10.8 or later (if you use El Capitan, there are a few additional steps required). The Alpha was downloaded on a 21.5" iMac running on 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a one-terabyte Fusion Drive -- outside of the listed issues above, it functioned as it should. While its current limitations make it impossible to test out the software to its full potential, it's certainly quite a promising (and slightly emotional) experience for the FL Studio fans who have been waiting for this to finally happen. Unfortunately, if you did not download the test version within two days of its initial release, the public link has already been removed. You will only be able to download it if you are have an official FL Studio registration (from purchasing version 10 and up). We hope that they will soon release a Beta or full version -- and when that happens, make sure you cop it as soon as possible. Stay updated on the official FL Studio Mac OS X development & testing forum here (login required).