Music Creation: Reason vs FL Studio

In the beginning, there was sound! Then we invented a way of saving those sounds (by using visual representations), not only for ourselves, but for others, too, so that they could play them. It was a way of communicating, like words. Both sounds and words can make you cry, love or hate. But the difference between these two is that music gives you a wider range of feelings and sensations than words.


We’re now living an electronic revolution. But what started it in the first place ? Well, people started inventing lots of devices that could process audio signals, modulate them, and so on. These hardware devices were ment to discover new sounds, new feelings. And they did, but whit a lot of work, a lot of patience, a lot of wiring and plenty of headaches. They all had lots of knobs, buttons, wires, some had displays, and they all needed a lot of knowledge – all these to make new sounds. But was it worth the effort ? Of course it was! Music is the universal language, and these smart people extended that language to a level of endless possibilities.

A short history about virtually crafted music

When the computers started to appear, they were not seen as a way of making sounds or even music. But armed with time and will, some people saw the potential of computers in the music industry, an industry that already reached adulthood.

Computer programmers started to create pieces of software intended to generate sound, and once that step was done, they already had everything they needed to make music and even save it for replaying it. The first music production applications were very complicated by means of handling, and also primitive, compared to the current music software. And even if computers had a great potential in making music, people were’nt ready to give up on their real hardware devices and musical instruments. So a new problem popped up for computer programmers, and that is connecting computers to real hardware. This was the biggest step ever in the music industry, because it allowed people to take music developing to a new level by combining real hardware with virtual applications.

So now, every music and recording studio has both computers and real hardware working together in order to get the most out of music making. The only problem was that people needed to spend some more money on special devices (hardware interfaces) to connect the hardware to their computers. So if you want to make your own recording studio, think carefully, because you’ll need a lot of money to buy all the gear, like mixers, some instruments, special “walls” for mastering and filtering the sound, speakers and amplifiers, microphones, signal processors, recordering accessories, studio monitors, outboard effects (compressors, reverbs, equalizers, and so on), lots and lots of cables, and do not forget the computers and all the hardware interfaces needed to plug the equipement).

Competitive issues between two well known DAW’s

First of all, what is a DAW ? It stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and it’s basically a system that records, edits and plays back digital audio. The “workstation” in DAW reffers to the combination of music software and real audio hardware that we talked about earlier. Some of the modern DAWs include software like Ableton Live, Adobe Audition, Cakewalk Sonar, Steinberg’s Cubase, Logic Pro, Sony ACID, Pro Tools, Propellerhead’s Reason and FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops). I’ll be talking only about the last two DAWs, because these are the biggest competitors out there in terms of music production.
Both Reason and FL Studio provide the basic tools and techniques for recording, editing and playing back music. But as any competing software, they both have pro’s and con’s. Users world wide still debate the problem of competition between these two, and this debate started many years ago and I honestly don’t know if it’ll ever end. So i compiled a list of pro’s and con’s of these two DAWs after many hours of reading lots of forums and articles on the Internet. But before I present you this list, let’s look at some screenshots of Reason and FLStudio.

Propellerhead Reason 4

FL Studio XXL 8

I will now list the pro’s and con’s of these two DAWs, but in a different way, meaning that for each DAW I will list the features that it has and that the other DAW doesn’t have. Warning: if you never used DAWs or any music software, the following lists will be meaningless to you!

Reason 4 ($449 + $99 for upgrading)

  • sounds produced with it are more realistic and less digital, but it also allows you to make digital sounds;
  • possibility to create sounds far better than any VST out there (VST = Virtual Studio Technology, an interface that allows using third-party plugins and effects inside a DAW);
  • endless possibilities for making new original sounds;
  • allows to reproduce any sound you wish;
  • provides advanced mastering control;
  • tons of soundbanks available on the market, so you never get bored;
  • soundbanks shipped with the product don’t contain childish sounds (like FL Studio’s stock sounds);
  • professional and “realistic” look;
  • the user interface teaches the user about hardware interfaces, how they connect, signal processing, etc.;
  • using many devices on one song won’t crash your Reason, like FL Studio crashes when using many or some VST plugins and effects on a song;
  • it’s easier to use in combination with a midi keyboard;
  • it hasn’t a “reason sound”, so you cannot easilly say “oh, that’s a reason sound” like you do for most FL Studio songs;
  • provides advanced sampling with ReCycle and Dr.Rex;
  • advanced hardware routing and connecting using the rear rack view (check the wires in the screenshot – this feature pops reason out from the other DAWs);
  • doesn’t tend to lag in latency;
  • better memory management;
  • tempo and time signature automatization (it’s sick, in a good way!);
  • has a full drum machine (see ReDrum);
  • no skin support, so reason focuses only on its’ fuctionality and it doesn’t try to impress by using skins;
  • combined with Ableton Live or Cubase, you can get your own virtual monster music studio inside a box;
  • no limits for mixers, effects or anything else (FL Studio has limited mixer channels and effect slots per channel);
  • full support for MacOSX (even for Ableton Live and Cubase), compared to FL Studio which has to run in a virtual machine.

FL Studio XXL 8 ($299)

  • VST and VSTi support (this feature makes it extensible, and because of no support for VSTs in Reason, users tend to run away from it);
  • easy to use user interface with no daunting “monster hardware devices”;
  • excellent for beginners, so you can learn it as you produce music;
  • creates loops much more easier than many other DAWs;
  • tons of VST plugins and effects so that you can create lots of new sounds;
  • provides support for audio recording;
  • mp3 support (another feature that Reason doesn’t seem to think about, but you can use SoundForge or any audio converter to convert your songs from wav to mp3);
  • better support for vocal processing;
  • lifetime free updates for customers (this is really awesome!).

So, after a few years of using both of these DAWs and after all the forums I’ve read, I sincerelly recommend you to start with FL Studio, create some songs, and then switch to Reason. This is what I have done, this is what many have done, and that’s because learning to use Reason from the beginning could get very frustrating, but once you master the basic concepts and techniques in FL Studio, it’ll be a piece of cake to use Reason. Anyways, if you care about the price, you will definitelly start with FL Studio, and maybe never switch to Reason at all.
You cannot say that Reason is better than FL Studio, or vice versa. Both have their pro’s and con’s, that’s for sure. But in my opinion, Reason is far better than FL Studio. Hey, don’t I have the right to an opinion ?!
You could also do another thing, if it’s still a hard choice to make regarding which one to use. Propellerhead has developed together with Steinberg a technology called ReWire that allows you to combine two DAWs into a single DAW! Amazing, isn’t it ? So you could buy both Reason and FL Studio and then use the ReWire technology to connect them both into one big virtual music studio. And yes, by combining them with ReWire, you get all the features from Reason and FL Studio, so you could, for example, create music in FL Studio using Reason devices, and then export it to mp3! I, myself, couldn’t choose between these two DAWs, so I use them both when producing music.

Article written by Ursan-Mihalcea Razvan.

21 thoughts on “Music Creation: Reason vs FL Studio”

  1. I've used Reason for sequencing percussion tracks. I could have tried the same thing in FL Studio, but I definitely wanted to avoid having a very obvious "fruity loops" sound.

    Good points about each. FL Studio does have a few strong pros, and I could see why using ReWire would be worthwhile. If you know what you are doing, though, Reason is all you need.

  2. Nathan, you could avoid the fruity sound by using some well known VSTs, but you'd have to buy them (good stuff ain't for free) and then learn how to use them.. that's what I don't like on FL Studio: too many VSTs to choose from, the need for time to learn how to use them properly, the cash needed to buy all of them just to avoid the fruity sound. What I'm trying to say is that it is possible to avoid it, but with a greater effort.

    P5audio, you're totally right! A professional music producer is the one who uses more than just one piece of software to make music. Here's a good example:

    Use AbletonLive as a mastering and mixing unit, and use FL Studio for better voice processing while rewiring it with Reason where you'll be creating the raw song! Use the power of these three together, and be the man!

  3. @ Ursan: There are quite a few interesting and free VST instruments and effects around. Just search the KVR-audio website.

  4. How about Installing Virtual Box on Ubuntu and then install XP in it and then FL studio or my favorite Ableton Live.

    Been using it for month. Without much of a problem, except, the overall volume is low in Ubuntu . Am on Dell Inspirion 1525.

  5. You recommend Reason over FL Studio, you have to be mad.

    Reason does not record audio OR host VSTs. For those two reasons (no pun intended) Reason is out. Get FL Studio, it will do anything and everything you will ever need to do. There is no comparison.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly. Reason is the perfect tool.. for tools that are sad they can't have the actual hardware.

    "possibility to create sounds far better than any VST out there (VST = Virtual Studio Technology, an interface that allows using third-party plugins and effects inside a DAW);"

    Your an idiot.

    "it hasn’t a “reason sound”, so you cannot easilly say “oh, that’s a reason sound” like you do for most FL Studio songs;"

    Again.. your an idiot.

    If you can't create original music in FLStudio.. It sounds like your the one who lacks originality. Every song I have ever heard done in Reason was the same tired old House or Trance BS.

    Man up nancy boy and start loading FLStudio inside of Ableton.

    1. Hey Buddy, you must be the idiot here; your is possessive. I think you meant to use the you're version, meaning you are. And if all you have heard from reason users was house or trance, then look for a different genre!

  7. "I sincerelly recommend you to start with FL Studio, create some songs, and then switch to Reason."

    What? How do I record vocals in Reason? or any multi-track audio???

    You're nuts,

  8. If you are a good producer you use both software and many more at the same time. I prefer to use fl studio to start some ideas and then i switch to reason. If i like a MIDI sequence that i have in fl studio i can load it in reason but if its not hard i make it again. I prefer both =D

  9. Reason is merely a glorified VST-sequencer solution out of a box. FL is fully modifiable. The VST support alone sells it. FL spits out MIDI information for any synth you lay on top of it: z3ta+, Absynth, Philharmonik Miroslav, Omnisphere, Zebra, anything…

    FL sucks for recording, BUT it can do it… It's like comparing a man with a cane to a legless invalid. One limps on a stick, the other doesn't walk at all. Yeah, FL can't do jack for crossfading, but give me my hardware synthesizer, and a decent soundcard, and I've got my own electric symphony in a bedroom. And oh yeah… Reason's VA options will never sound like my Roland hardware synth.

    The fact that FL ships with childish sounds should only motivate a seasoned musician to learn and shape their own more professional sounds. Even the problem-riddled 3xOSC can stand up against Reason's Subtractor with enough programming. Nothing within Reason can touch the beast that I own called "Reaktor 5".

    Now don't get me wrong, I've heard some tight stuff coming out or Reason. But the FL options greatly outweight Reason, IMO. I respect your opinion and other folks who find the workflow is not for them. At the end of the day, it is personal work flow preference.

  10. i thank they both work buetifuly together, fl is very nice on strings,brass,wind sounds,and syths, reason is also nice on drums clashes vsts and fx

  11. In a few days it will be 2010, wow has the game changed in more ways positive than negative IMO. I have a secret to tell you all, it has nothing to do with the software/hardware and everything to do with innovation. The technology is so streamlined and evolving at such a fast pace in another 10 years there will be no such thing as a 5K+ a night studio. Dont ever compensate for lack of experience or legitimate talent with every new plug-in and DAW with fully automated 16+ bus digital i/o boards and G5's with 16G ram and 100TB drives… get my point. I know this is gonna sound like blasphemy to any old school studio rats reading this but you will be able to compose, record, mix, master and distribute full length albums without leaving your home computer. Because in reality nobody buys full length albums, and with the techno;ogy available all music bought and made will be able to stay at max bit/sample rate with no CD compression cause its a dead format already. Its all about to change and the music industry is gonna become a living network of artists and thier fans. No more corporate agendas and greed, no more expliotation for mass marketing of acts and no more middle man between you and your favorite bands

  12. Thanks for this article.
    I started with Reason 2 years ago and have stuck with that, it took some time to learn how it all works, but I am getting very comfortable with it and it is very user friendly after you get the basics. After I finally got the midi-keyboard it is all a bliss and I think the Reason synths are great and it is easy to make your own sounds to have in stock for future use.
    All my tracks are made with Reason 4.0, guitars I record with Cubace/Recycle/Dr.Rex(sometimes use ReDrum to play guitar loops as well). Next purcase will be Reason Record.

  13. i think in short i know fl is actually d best software ever made and thats 4 me cause it depends on d person handling d software and not d software itself cause d software cannot produce itself but d person behind it produces d song and thats d brain but fl can do d imaginary.cause reasons too straigth forward

  14. Pros: Make virtually any sound – FL9 includes over 30 software synthesizers covering Acoustic/synthetic bass, Electric Guitar, multi-sampler tools including piano & strings, general sample playback and beat-slicing
    Cons: If your first time to use a software like this it will so complex for you and you will never use most features of FL studio.
    And you dont need purchase a software which is $99 fee.
    Summary: I recommend Dbturbo it is fee $29.99. save your $70
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