NAMM 2017 first look: Bitwig Studio 2

Bitwig Studio 2 looks lovely on Microsoft's Surface Studio.
Bitwig Studio 2 looks lovely on Microsoft's Surface Studio.

NAMM 2017: Bitwig Studio 2 was announced just prior to the show and, with it, news of its new modulation capabilities.

We had to head over to the Bitwig booth at this year's show to check out what it's like to wield this new-found power.

A large part of Bitwig Studio's charm from the outset was that, just like Ableton Live, it wasn't just a straight up DAW, but also a fully immersive creative tool, and the new edition has retained that feel while bringing much more to the table.

At first glance not much seems to have changed. However, plenty has been happening under the hood. The architecture is totally different, with the programmers grappling with new ways of working that have enabled the new modulation capabilities that have opened up an infinite web of possibilities.

The demo setup on the Bitwig booth was running on a brand new Microsoft Surface Studio and connected to Bastl Eurorack modules, all running through Bastl's brand-new Klik device - but we'll talk more about that later.

The DAW's effects chain is where all the action is. Opening up the modulation on each device will reveal a few empty slots and buttons to open up more slots. Every time you fill up a slot with a modulator, more empty slots become available; presumably, until you run out of computing power.

With the touch interface, selecting sources and destinations is super quick and easy. Once a modulator has been selected from a pop-up menu, connections can be made with just two taps. Selecting the little arrow on each modulator will reveal every available destination; simply hit the one you want and moving the mouse upwards in a vertical fashion dials in the desired amount.

What can get a little mind-bending is that each device has its own FX slot, so you can add a sub-FX chain to your device, which will only affect that device and not the main FX chain as a whole. Now you have a multi-dimensional FX chain thing going on which, as version 2 opens up the same modulation possibilities for third-party plugins, could start getting slightly headache inducing - in a good way, of course.

Clean and customisable

While all this talk of endless modulation and FX chains within FX chains sounds messy, much has gone into making Bitwig Studio's interface uncluttered and easy to navigate. The toolbar can be customised so easily, with each option within all the contextual menus featuring a little pin icon alongside it. Selecting the icon will make that option appear in the toolbar. It's a nice touch that allows you to decide how you want said toolbar to function.

Hardware control

Bitwig's collaboration with the forward-thinking Bastl Instruments opens up even more possibilities, especially with the introduction of Klik. Bitwig's new CV devices enable you to output the appropriate signals through your audio interface. These, however, need a little bit of help, and that's where Klik comes in. This tiny little box will amplify signals to a level that Eurorack modules can handle - and it's cheap, so you can start to incorporate your hardware setup with ease and at little additional cost.

Combine this with the bespoke content from Irrupt Audio and you have a very attractive package indeed. We've already put in our request to join the private Beta program and cannot wait to get our hands on Bitwig Studio 2 for a proper play.

Simon Arblaster
Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.