I reported on the public beta of Freestyle back in May (click here to check out that article). Now, just a couple of months later version 1 is released into the wild.
Freestyle – Next Generation VST Host
VST Hosts don’t sound very interesting, after all, can’t all DAWs act as VST hosts? Well, indeed they can but what a VST Host aims to do is to provide a much more focused experience. Most existing VST hosts are a bit long in the tooth and utility. Yet Freestyle manages to breathe a bit of badly needed fresh air into the idea. I’d say it was probably the Multi-Instrument in PreSonus’ StudioOne that sparked Freestyle into being. The way it was able to combine virtual instruments and effects in a wonderfully visual interface was inspired. Freestyle pulls that idea out and gives it a home of its own.
The setup is that you have a lovely thumb-nailed list of plug-in instruments and effects down the left hand side. You can drag any of these into the wide grey space to load an instrument. Pull in another and another and you can create large multi-instrument “Combi’s”. You can split and layer them across the keyboard, drop in effects and save the whole lot for instant recall. You can even load up the entire combination as a plug-in in your DAW. It’s perfect for live performance but also a lot of fun to play with in the studio.
You have a row of macro controls that you can assign to any parameter of any loaded plug-in. Underneath is a Structure View that gives you access to all the routing possibilities the plug-ins make available. It is light years ahead of anything else out there in terms of visuals and usability.
Did they fix the beta?
Since the public beta very little appears to have changed. The mixer looks improved upon and to be honest I didn’t notice the structure view before. There are problems with thumbnails not appearing for some plug-ins, notably the 17 instruments in the Arturia V Collection. Instead of a nice thumbnail of the GUI you get a grey box with “No Image” written in it which very much spoils the look. I suggested to New Sonic Arts that they should put a better placeholder in there or let you choose a generic icon from a list – maybe in a later update.
I had also hoped that this would be awesome for tablet use as it’s the sort of thing that can be handy when playing live. Touching the screen to change patches or parameters is so much easier than trying to use the mouse in a live situation. Sadly the issues with the controls lurching to and from the extremes when using your fingers remain as they were in the beta. It’s a shame because it could be an awesome piece of software for something like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
However, I really like Freestyle and I think it has a lot of potential now that it’s out there.
New Sonic Arts Freestyle is available now for OSX and Windows for an introductory price of $99 until the end of July.
More information is available on the New Sonic Arts website.