Deciding upon which DAW to use can be tough, especially if you're a beginner.
If you're struggling to make up your mind between LMMS and FL Studio, then this article will help you make an informed choice.
In this post I'll be comparing the popular premium DAW FL Studio with LMMS, which is generally considered to be one of the best free DAWs available. I'll be taking a deep dive into their respective feature-sets and examining the pros and cons of both DAWs. I'll also be covering some other DAW options that you might also want to consider.
Be sure you read to the end before you make your decision. Let's get into this...
LMMS vs FL Studio at a glance:
The main differences between LMMS and FL Studio are:
LMMS is free to use, whereas FL Studio is available to purchase in four pricing tiers.
LMMS is truly cross-platform, whereas FL Studio is not compatible with Linux.
LMMS is open source, whereas FL Studio is not.
LMMS includes many free instruments and effects.
LMMS benefits from free community made content.
LMMS is less complicated and easier to learn when compared to FL Studio.
FL Studio's graphical interface looks more professional compared to LMMS.
FL Studio comes bundled with higher quality instruments and effects.
FL Studio includes more powerful audio manipulation tools compared to LMMS.
FL Studio has better support than LMMS for 3rd party plugin formats.
FL Studio allows you to record audio directly into the DAW. You can't do this in LMMS.
FL Studio has a larger user community than LMMS, so it is easier to find online resources.
Table of Contents
Overview of LMMS
LMMS, formally known as Linux MultiMedia Studio, was first released back in 2004. It's a free open-source DAW that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
LMMS is a community-driven DAW, supported by an active user forum and a dedicated team of volunteer developers.
Despite its rather humble beginnings, LMMS has evolved significantly during its lifetime, with many features and improvements having been added over the years.
Overview of FL Studio
FL Studio, previously known as FruityLoops, is a commercial DAW developed by Belgian company Image-Line. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac OS and is available to purchase in 4 different editions.
FL Studio has been around even longer than LMMS and has changed significantly over the course of the last two and a half decades.
FL Studio is the DAW of choice for many EDM and Hip-Hop producers such as Martin Garrix, Deadmau5, and Jahlil Beats.
LMMS vs FL Studio: Feature Comparison
Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the various features of LMMS and FL Studio to see how they both stack up:
LMMS is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. At the time of writing there is no native mobile app, however with a bit of effort you can get LMMS to run on your Android phone or tablet. Check out the video below on how to do this:
FL Studio is compatible with Windows and Mac OS. In addition, there is a separate FL Studio Mobile app included in the price which allows you to make beats on your IOS, Android or Windows device. You can even export your creations as audio files and import them into the desktop version of FL Studio.
Watch the video below on how to get started with the FL Studio mobile app:
One of the great things about LMMS is that it has a very small footprint so you can run it on pretty much any machine, with the download itself coming in at only 50 MBs! By comparison, the FL Studio download file is over 1GB and it is much more CPU intensive.
Usability and Workflow
LMMS has a very stripped-back simplistic look to it. Although not as easy on the eye as FL Studio, the upside is that this makes the interface uncluttered and easier to understand.
The UI layout in LMMS is very customisable. The work area within the DAW is actually unlimited, as it expands as you move the various windows out in any direction.
The top left of the DAW consists of shortcuts for opening, saving, and exporting your projects, as well as a handy info button for learning about the different controls within the DAW.
Below the File Menu shortcuts are the ones for the View Menu. Selecting these opens and closes the following tools used to create and edit audio:
The transport section to the right of the toolbar gives you information about the arrangement such as tempo and time signature. Next to that is the master volume and pitch controls alongside a CPU meter.
Along the left-hand side of the DAW is the media browser which contains your virtual instruments, samples, and presets.
Check out the following video where the DAW controls are explained in more detail:
The FL Studio UI looks much more professional when compared with LMMS, if perhaps a little overwhelming on first impressions. With a bit of practice however it becomes really easy to navigate your way around the interface.
It's worth noting that the FL Studio has a fully vectorial UI that will scale well to most screen resolutions.
The main menus for FL Studio are located in the top left of the DAW next to the transport controls. Moving across to the centre we find the main audio recording and editing controls, and then to the top right of the DAW are the pattern selector and the various window show/hide buttons.
The browser section to the left-hand side of the DAW is how you navigate to the various samples, instruments, and effects.
One of the great things about FL Studio is that much of the workflow is simply drag-and-drop, and although the interface might seem complicated at first, the workflow is actually pretty straightforward and efficient once you get used to it.
Check out the video below for a FL Studio beginner basics tutorial:
Included Instruments and Effects
One major strength of FL Studio is the quality of the bundled instrument and effect plugins. Exactly what you get in dependent upon which pricing tier you opt for, however they are widely regarded as being industry standard.
LMMS also comes with included instruments and effects however the quality of them is generally more variable as you'd expect from being free to use.
3rd Party Plugin Support
FL Studio plays nicely with most plugin formats including 32 and 64 Bit VST 1/2, VST 3 on Windows, and 64 Bit VST 1/2, VST 3, and AU on Mac, as well as Image-Line's own proprietary plugin format.
LMMS supports the Linux Audio Developer's Simple Plugin API (LADSPA), LV2, and VST plugins on Win32, Win64, or Wine32.
As previously mentioned, LMMS is completely free to use.
FL Studio comes in the following pricing tiers:
FL Studio Edition
Entry-level virtual music studio
Full song creation & mic recording
Contains more advanced plugins
All Plugins Edition
Includes all features and native plugins
Alternative DAWs to Consider
If you're after a free DAW, then LMMS is one of the best. However, it's still worth checking out other options. To help you out I've reviewed the best free DAWs here: Best Free DAW
If you're ok spending money on a DAW then you might want to take a look at other alternatives such as Cubase or Ableton Live. Both these DAWs are incredible but have very different workflows. Before you spend any money, I would recommend that you download the free version of each and dip your toes in to see which you're more comfortable with.
If you're on a Mac, then you should also consider Logic Pro. It's recently had a major update that introduced a ton of great new features.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does FL Studio Work on a Chromebook?
FL Studio doesn't work on a Chromebook. Instead, you can use the FL Studio Mobile Android app which is compatible with Chrome OS.
Does LMMS Support LV2?
LMMS has supported the LV2 plugin open standard since May 2020.
What instruments does LMMS come with?
LMMS has 16 built-in synths including emulations of classic retro sounds from the Roland TB-303, the Nintendo NES and Gameboy, Yamaha OPL3 chip, and the Commodore 64 SID microchip.
Is FL Studio bad for mixing?
FL Studio is not bad for mixing. You may be bad at mixing though.
Can I install FL Studio skins?
There are no official skins yet for FL Studio, although Image-Line have stated that they are working of themes for FL Studio 21.
The Verdict: LMMS vs FL Studio - Which is Better?
In summary, both LMMS and FL Studio are very capable DAWS which are targeted towards very different users. LMMS is great for making beginner beats as it doesn't take long to learn, however it's lacking in some important areas such as support for recording audio. FL Studio is the complete production package. It will take you longer to learn, but once mastered it will give you all the tools you need to make pro level tracks.
Is FL Studio better than LMMS?
FL Studio is a commercial DAW with a lot of money spent on its development. This shows in its polished user interface and high-quality bundled instruments and effects. Although LMMS is a really capable DAW, it doesn't compete with a professional DAW such as FL Studio.
If you're just starting out in music production, one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is whether you're going to invest straight away in a premium DAW or try out a free option first. This decision will depend upon how committed you are about learning music production, what DAW features are important to you, and of course your budget.
So, if you're unsure about whether making beats is something you'll want to stick at in the long term, experimenting with a free DAW such as LMMS would be a good option. Being restricted by the capabilities of your DAW is actually no bad thing as it forces you to be more creative whilst focusing on learning the basic concepts of music production.
I hope you found this post useful.
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Have a great day.