There are a ton of DAWs out there to choose from and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Today we’re comparing Cubase and FL Studio. Keep reading to find out who wins the Cubase vs FL Studio battle.
If you’re going to take music production seriously, you’re going to need to get a DAW. There are many options out there including Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, and FL Studio. Two of the most popular ones, and the ones we’re going to cover today, are Cubase and FL Studio because this was a topic that came up recently.
Before we continue our Cubase vs FL Studio battle, let’s look at who Cubase and FL Studio are. We’re going to be looking at the full versions of each software instead of the lower-priced versions.
Major Differences Between Cubase and FL Studio
First, let’s look at the major differences between Cubase and FL Studio.
Both Cubase and FL Studio have different versions to choose from. This is common in DAWs, but some DAWs, like Logic, only have a single version which makes picking your version much easier.
The different versions of Cubase have various capabilities when it comes to the number of virtual instruments and track sizes you can use in a project. The lower-end versions of Cubase are limited to 8 virtual instruments and 24 MIDI tracks, compared to the higher-end versions which have unlimited tracks. Or at least how many your system can handle.
With FL Studio all versions of the software allow you to have 500 tracks.
The various versions of Cubase come with a number of virtual instruments and they’re pretty decent. These mostly include synth virtual instruments. FL Studio, on the other hand, comes with many more sounds.
Cost of upgrades
Every once in a while Cubase comes out with a new version with new features. You’re going to need to pay to upgrade to these versions, but the upgrade prices aren’t nearly as high as buying a new copy outright.
When upgrading, you do get all the cool features, but you do eventually have to upgrade your version. The older versions stop being supported and won’t work on newer operating systems.
FL Studio offers you upgrades for free for life. This is huge because this means you could purchase FL Studio as a side DAW and keep it pretty much forever to play around with it.
Audio recording and full production
Cubase is very powerful. Pretty much anything you want to do, including recording a whole band, can be done with Cubase. Audio recording and editing are just as good as working with MIDI and virtual instruments.
FL Studio, on the other hand, is more focused on working with MIDI instruments and virtual instruments. You can record audio with FL Studio, but I often hear complaints about recording and working with audio in FL Studio.
Cubase: A Brief Overview
Cubase is made by a company called Steinberg and has been in business for a very long time. It started out on Atari computers, but eventually made its way to Windows and MAC, making it a cross-platform DAW that could be used by pretty much any music producer.
Cubase started out as a MIDI sequencer, and it is still known for being great at working with MIDI and virtual instruments. It’s so good at MIDI and virtual instruments that famous composers like Hans Zimmer use Cubase as their main DAW.
Even though Cubase is great at working with virtual instruments, that doesn’t mean that it’s limited to just that. Cubase is also great at recording audio, mixing, and mastering. Cubase is a feature-rich DAW that can do pretty much anything you want.
Pros of Cubase Compared to FL Studio
Let’s look at the pros of Cubase compared to FL Studio, or what Cubase does especially well.
Cubase’s Drum Editor
AS a drummer one of the best things about Cubase is the drum editor it has. This is similar to a MIDI piano roll, but it’s more suited to drums. You’re not working with lengths in the drum editor, so it’s easier to write complex drum parts, something you’ll want to do if you are, or are working with, a good drummer.
Cubase has a feature that allows you to record multiple takes and combine the best versions to make one “master” or best version. This is really great if you are working with a vocalist that just can’t seem to get a perfect take. You just have them sing a few takes and then get the best version between all of them.
The comping feature of Cubase is really a killer feature if you’re working with audio.
This is one of the killer features of Cubase, but it only comes with the two most expensive versions of the software.
VariAudio 3 lets you pitch correct and change the timing of specific notes. That means if you’re working with a singer and they miss a note, you can change it with VariAudio.
This is really powerful and a lot of DAWs don’t come with similar features. That said, I’ve also used Melodyne and have enjoyed using Melodyne better, just as a personal preference.
Cons of Cubase Compared to FL Studio
There are some things that Cubase just doesn’t do as well as FL Studio does. Let’s look at those.
USB Dongle System
Cubase requires that you plug in a USB dongle in order to validate your copy of the software. This is to protect against piracy. This isn’t a big deal if you are just using a desktop computer for music production – you’ll have the dongle plugged into the back of your computer and you’ll never see it – but if you are working with a laptop, you have to have the USB sticking out and you will lose a USB port.
Steep Learning Curve
Cubase is known for being one of the more difficult DAWs to get started with as a beginner. Just connecting your audio interface and getting your inputs and outputs to work can be a headache for first-timers.
There are so many versions of Cubase it could be hard to figure out what version is good for you. The differences between the versions of Cubase take up a whole, very large, webpage. It can be overwhelming when deciding on what features you need and are willing to pay for.
For me, it seems like the cheaper versions of Cubase always seem to be missing the one feature I need at any given time. This can be really frustrating when you know Cubase has a certain feature, but you can’t find it in your version because it’s not included in the version you purchased.
While there are cheaper versions of Cubase, getting the Pro version with all the bells and whistles is kind of expensive. And to top it off, you’ll need to pay for upgrades every few years when Steinberg comes out with a new version. You won’t have to buy a new version, you can continue using your older version, but eventually, older versions lose support and just stop working on new operating systems.
I’ve used Cubase on laptops, desktops, PCs, and MACs, and the one thing that is constant is that it crashes sometimes.
Now, it doesn’t crash so much that it’s unusable, but it crashes more than other DAWs like Logic. In my experience, the crashes aren’t bad enough to switch DAWs completely, but it still is a pain in the neck.
FL Studio: A brief overview
FL Studio was originally called Fruity Loops. So, if you ever remember hearing the term “Fruity Loops” in the past, then this is the new version of that.
I’m not 100% sure why the company changed the name of the DAW. Probably because Fruity Loops was well known for working with loops and they didn’t want users to think that loops were the only thing you could do with the new version of Fruity Loops – FL Studio.
With FL Studio, you can, of course, do more than just work with loops. That said, it seems that its history has really influenced the current use of FL Studio. Many music producers that are beatmakers or loop makers still prefer FL STudio over other DAWs because the workflow is set up for that kind of thing.
Pros of Fl Studio Compared to Cubase
Here are the pros of FL Studio compared to Cubase.
More Geared To Loop Making And Beat Making
Cubase can do pretty much all the same stuff that FL Studio can do – and more – but FL Studio has a large community around making beats and working with loops.
Does that mean you can’t do the same things with Cubase? Of course not. But if you are looking for tutorials for how to produce a certain type of music and you write electronic or hip-hop, then FL Studio is going to be a great choice for you, since that’s what the community works with a lot.
Doesn’t Cost As Much as Cubase
Cubase’s Pro version can be pretty expensive. That doesn’t take into account that you’re going to have to upgrade every few years to make sure that your version is still supported. FL Studio, on the other hand, offers free upgrading and it’s cheaper to get started with – that is, unless you go and buy the biggest plugin collection.
Cons of FL Studio Compared to Cubase
Here are the cons when it comes to comparing FL Studio to Cubase.
Not suitable for recording as much
This is a big complaint that I hear with FL Studio users: recording audio can be done, but it’s not as smooth as with other DAWs. If you’re going to be recording a lot of audio, and are going to have complex setups like micing drums, then FL Studio is not a great choice.
Cubase vs FL Studio: Which one is better?
Both Cubase and FL Studio are powerful and popular DAWs, but they do have theory strengths and differences. Here’s what I think about choosing Cubase or FL Studio.
If you just want to be a beatmaker, it’s going to be hard to find a more popular DAW than FL Studio for that purpose as it’s very popular among beatmakers and hip-hop artists, meaning that there are many tutorials out there for you.
If you want to record a whole band, work deeply with audio, or create large musical compositions for orchestral tracks, then Cubase is going to be the choice for you.
Alternatives to Cubase and FL Studio
Cubase and FL Studio aren’t the only DAWs out there. There are many others such as Logic, Pro Tools, and more. Read our other DAW reviews to find out what the best DAW is for your use case.
Josh is the founder and main author of Songwriter Nation. He has played music for over twenty years and even studied music at university earning a minor in music.