Magix Music Studio might not be as well-known as Reason or Cubase, but it´s been around for a decade and this 11th edition has a lot to live up to, given the extremely high standard of previous versions and the huge opportunity for improvement.
Rather unusually - and as with all the versions that preceded it - Music Studio 11 Deluxe is split into two discrete parts, these being MIDI Studio and Audio Studio.
MIDI Studio is based around the old PC version of Emagic´s Logic, and is a full-on MIDI/audio sequencer that comes complete with a selection of software instruments (including renamed versions of Logic´s analogue and FM synths). New to Music Studio 11 is the ability to add insert effects to audio tracks and a feature that enables proper use of compression and gate effects.
The only other discernable difference in the MIDI Studio is the addition of the SampleTank 2 MX VSTi. Though this cutdown version of SampleTank 2 only offers up a few dozen acoustic instrument sounds, they´re of the highest quality, and their addition will be a blessing to those who are still struggling with weak General MIDI patches. Although both of the new inclusions to MIDI Studio are extremely welcome, it's not exactly a significant update.
The Audio Studio component of the package is based on a cutdown version of Magix´s Samplitude software, and doesn´t feature any MIDI at all (and therefore no VSTi compatibility). Instead, you get a wide range of audio-based features, several of which are new to this version.
Possibly the most important of these is the new graphic 4-band parametric EQ, which supersedes Audio Studio´s rather limited 4-band non-graphic EQ. Unfortunately, this can´t be used as an insert on the mixer, though; it has to be employed as a track effect, which is a little limiting if you´d rather use it on the end of an effects chain. On the plus side, it sounds fine, and really enhances the Audio Studio´s sound-shaping capabilities.
There´s also enhanced distortion in the form of the Tape Simulator plug-in, which offers lighter colouration than the existing Amp Simulator. The Reverb effect has also been improved (with a stereo hall algorithm), and the Elastic Audio pitch correction tool is now capable of automatically generating harmonies. It´s a simple feature and the algorithms aren´t the most sophisticated we´ve heard, but it certainly beats castration.
On the arrangement front, little has changed aside from the introduction of Auto Jam - a new function that´s designed to spice up the processes of composition and arrangement.
The new Task Assistant can be very useful, especially if you´re a sequencing novice. It takes the form of a menu of tutorial videos that can be accessed from the taskbar. Unfortunately, the videos don´t go into that much detail, and the absence of any transport controls means that they can´t be paused or rewound.
Hopefully the Task Assistant feature will be developed further in the inevitable Music Studio 12, but its addition does makes up for the insubstantial printed manual and help files, which gloss over many of the software´s fundamental features.
A final addition to Music Studio - one that was perhaps inspired by Reason´s recently acquired MClass suite - is the new mastering tool. This features the 4-band parametric EQ, a stereo expander and a multiband compressor. Although basic, this tool is ideal for simple projects, and won´t give users who are unfamiliar with the mastering process any headaches.
Music Studio 11 Deluxe does offer some worthy new features, but it's not the massive improvement that many had hoped for. Yes, the MIDI Studio is based on a classic sequencer, but its time has been and gone, and the Audio Studio´s fiddly interface and lack of MIDI are major irritations.
So, while Music Studio is still packed with features and represents great value for money, it only comes recommended to those who don´t need sophisticated editing features and plan on making simple recordings without MIDI. If you´re on a budget then you might be tempted, but if you can raise any extra cash, invest in a slicker sequencer that has a more contemporary feel.