Image Line continues to admirably stick to its guns, delivering free updates for life to FL Studio users. And every update brings something new and noteworthy, rarely are they simple bug fixes. FL Studio 21.2 is no different, bringing two of the biggest updates in some time.
First up is the introduction of stem separation. This is huge for producers who want to dabble in remixing, but can’t get access to official stems for songs they want to reimagine. But it’s also a boon for anyone who is into sampling. At some point we’ve all come across a record that we absolutely love the drums or strings on, but can’t seem to find a clean enough section of the song without vocals or bass. This is a feature that has proven particularly popular in DJ focused apps like Serato and Djpro, but is obviously of interest to more traditional music producers as well.
FL Studio handled the handful of tests I tossed at it pretty admirably. The quality and busyness of the mix made a huge difference in how effectively it was able to pull out individual tracks, but that’s no surprise. It’s also limited to drums, bass, vocals and “instruments” which covered literally everything else.
When I pulled in a mix of an instrumental track I was working on it snagged the drums perfectly. The bass was isolated, but sounded thin and distant, while the “instruments” (two guitars and a synth) had a regular click in it that seemed like it might have been bleeding through from the hi-hats. The Escorts’ “All We Need Is Another Chance” and Beyonce’s “Freedom” fared better. While there was definitely some digital artifacts in the drums on “Freedom” they’d have been barely noticeable in a full mix. The bass and vocals came out perfectly, though. (By the way, reduced to just drums, bass and vocals, it still hits hard.)
In general the stem separator fared best with drums and vocals. Though, I dream of the day when the technology is advanced enough for me to single out things like guitars or strings.
The other major addition is one that might prove a little controversial, FL Cloud. There is a free tier, but its most exciting features are locked behind a subscription service, though, one that delivers a solid value. For one it puts all of Image Line’s samples and sound packs directly in your DAW and will tempo sync and time stretch them to match your project. If you pay for a subscription, you have unlimited access to all of these, including the new packs released every month — no worrying about credits or monthly caps like you might find on Splice. The free tier gives you access to free sounds, but you’ll have to pay for premium sample packs.
FL Cloud also includes an AI mastering tool. You get a basic version of this for free, but paying unlocks more advanced options tailored to specific genres. And lastly, subscribers get access to distribution tools powered by DistroKid directly from within FL Studio.
While there will undoubtedly be some users irked by even this limited implementation of a subscription model, it’s hard to argue with the value. $8 a month, or $80 a year gets you unlimited royalty free samples, advanced AI mastering and distribution to all the major streaming services. That’s the same price as a Loopcloud sample subscription on its own, which has pretty stringent monthly limits and significantly cheaper than any Splice sub. Image Line is even offering an introductory discount of $50 for the first year and a one month free trial to all FL Studio users.
Finally there’s also a new instrument added to the native FL Studio plugins called Kepler that is a pretty solid recreation of the Roland Juno 6. FL Studio 21.2 is available now as a free update for existing users, though some features, like the Kepler plugin are only available with the Producer edition or higher.