In all this is a very gen­er­ous ‘point’ up­date to an al­ready ex­cel­lent DAW

Future Music - - REVIEWS | BITWIG STUDIO 2.3 -

When Bitwig Studio hit ver­sion 2 last year, it adopted a new ‘up­grade plan’ pric­ing scheme, whereby users pur­chas­ing or up­grad­ing the DAW are awarded 12 months’ worth of free up­grades, but then need to buy into a fur­ther 12 month plan for ac­cess to fur­ther up­dates. It’s an in­ter­est­ing idea, but one that lives or dies on how gen­er­ous Bitwig Studio are with up­dates.

Since 2’s launch, Bitwig have of­fered three ‘point’ up­dates, each with at least a cou­ple of new tools, and a chunk of sound pack con­tent. Ver­sion 2.1 added an amp sim and new MIDI tools, while 2.2 brought four new mod­u­la­tors – in­clud­ing a cool Au­dio Rate tool that al­lows for cre­ative fre­quency mod­u­la­tion – plus the Time Shift de­vice for mak­ing mi­cro tim­ing tweaks. The 2.3 up­date is the most sub­stan­tial so far though.

The head­line fea­ture is Phase-4, a new four-os­cil­la­tor synth based on clas­sic phase mod­u­la­tion/dis­tor­tion synths such as the DX7 and Ca­sio’s CZ se­ries. Son­i­cally, this is sim­i­lar to Bitwig’s ex­ist­ing FM-4, although its sound is richer, with a built-in fil­ter and an in­ter­face that feels bet­ter de­signed for Bitwig’s Macros and Mod­u­la­tors. It’s an in­stant favourite among Bitwig’s cur­rent stock synths.

Phase-4 takes ad­van­tage of the DAW’s other ma­jor en­hance­ment – ex­panded de­vice views. This al­lows the workspace of sev­eral tools to ‘pop up’ and fill the main cen­tral workspace, al­low­ing for deeper and more ac­cu­rate edit­ing, and bet­ter vis­ual feed­back. Along with the synths and sam­pler, this can be used with EQ-5, Spec­trum An­a­lyzer and Res­onator Bank. In all cases it’s a handy UI en­hance­ment (al­beit re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to func­tion­al­ity al­ready found in Able­ton Live).

Bitwig’s in­stru­ments also gain new Voice Stack­ing func­tion­al­ity. This is ef­fec­tively an ad­vanced uni­son mode, al­low­ing mul­ti­ple voices to be lay­ered and then edited and au­to­mated in­de­pen­dently. This is a great – if some­times CPU-hun­gry – sound de­sign tool, although it’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous how to set it up in ev­ery in­stru­ment (hint: it’s hid­den in the ex­panded view). As Bitwig adds more deep fea­tures, a bet­ter in-DAW help sys­tem for high­light­ing new tools would be use­ful. There’s a new Voice Stack mod­u­la­tor too for con­trol­ling these new stacked voices’ blend.

Be­yond this, Bitwig 2.3 gains sev­eral new timestretch al­go­rithms, in­clud­ing Zplane Elas­tique tech­nol­ogy, which pro­vides con­sid­er­ably more op­tions for warp­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing au­dio. It adds the abil­ity to au­to­mate time sig­na­ture changes too, us­ing mark­ers to ad­just the tim­ing of in­di­vid­ual tracks, clips or the mas­ter chan­nel.

In all this is a very gen­er­ous ‘point’ up­date to an al­ready ex­cel­lent DAW. If you picked up Bitwig 2 on day one, this is the first up­date you’d need to re­new your plan to ac­cess. Ver­sion 2.3 is just about worth the an­nual plan price alone, but if Bitwig keep up­dat­ing at this pace, it could prove to be ex­cel­lent value.

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