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PreSonus Studio One 6.5

Digital Audio Workstation By Robin Vincent
Published December 2023

PreSonus Studio One 6.5

The latest update to PreSonus’ top of the line DAW introduces comprehensive Dolby Atmos integration and more besides.

Studio One 6.5 is an interesting update. It has exciting new features and innovations, but ones that target very specific users. So specific, in fact, that you will likely be left feeling either thrilled or completely ignored. Of course, no one expects a DAW developer to be able to please all of the people all of the time, and I will suggest that much of what might not seem like your business could be quite revolutionary if you give it a chance.

So, cutting to the chase, we have complete integration of Dolby Atmos object‑orientated immersive and spatial audio mixing, we have support for the DAWproject Exchange format, we have ARA‑enabled plug‑in support in the mastering project page, and PreSonus are giving Linux a go.

Dolby Atmos

This is a huge deal for a lot of people. Many people believe it to be the future format of all music mixing, and many others point out the often impossible hardware requirements that must be fulfilled to enjoy it. As we probably learned from the home 3D cinema failure, if something is too much of a faff, it’s unlikely to succeed in the mainstream. But it’s being driven by some very mainstream providers. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime support Dolby Atmos for movie and content streaming. With their insistence that VR is the future of everything, Meta need immersive audio in games and other content. On the music side, Apple Music would very much like you to submit an Atmos mix. All of them appear unconcerned by the challenges involved in experiencing Atmos outside of a pair of headphones. Although, it’s the headphones and their remarkable ability to approximate an Atmos mix through binaural rendering that’s likely to be the saving grace. In any case, I’m not here to review the ins and outs of Dolby Atmos, I’m here to review Studio One 6.5 and its response to the huge jump in demand for Dolby Atmos content.

In a nutshell, Dolby Atmos allows you to place recorded tracks of audio as ‘spatial objects’ within a 3D space around the listener’s head. Not just left to right like with stereo, or around you like with surround sound, but up and down and from very specific directions. So it could feel like you are standing on stage in the midst of a band rather than at the back of a hall, watching from one direction.

The Dolby Atmos Renderer is fully integrated into Studio One 6.5.The Dolby Atmos Renderer is fully integrated into Studio One 6.5.

To mix in Dolby Atmos you need the Dolby Atmos renderer plug‑in. It takes the multiple audio streams and renders them as objects in 3D space based on positional information from the spatial audio or surround sound panner on each track. For some DAWs, you must buy the Dolby Atmos Renderer separately for about $299 and configure the routing between them. In Studio One 6.5, Dolby Atmos is fully integrated for no additional charge. All the routing and features are in place, and you can export directly from Studio One in the required ADM BWF format. There’s even a template that prepares you for an Atmos session.

What I like first and foremost about PreSonus’ implementation of Dolby Atmos is that it comes with a tutorial. Studio One version 6 introduced the concept of an integrated walkthrough system for taking beginners through all sorts of aspects of Studio One’s features. PreSonus have produced one that covers Dolby Atmos, and it’s simple, to the point and comes with an eight‑track project of easy‑to‑identify spatial objects. I greatly appreciate that PreSonus understand everyone will want to have a go at this and many people will need a little help.

So, how do you handle the hardware requirements? Standard Dolby Atmos requires you to be surrounded by seven speakers, plus four in the ceiling and a subwoofer. That’s a major investment in both hardware and the remodelling of your studio space. If you already mix in surround, then it’s just a matter of dangling some very precisely placed speakers above your head. For those of us making music in less‑than‑ideal spaces, this will not work. And that’s why binaural mixing on headphones saves the day. In the Atmos Renderer, you simply click on the spanner icon, tick the box to add an additional headphone output, and it appears as a completely separate monitoring output to your speaker system. PreSonus tell me that the ability to have a separate speaker mix and binaural headphone mix running concurrently is unique to Studio One 6.5. The binaural mix replicates the Atmos immersive experience in a regular pair of headphones, and it’s pretty convincing. Well, at least in as much as it’s different from stereo. There’s a real sense of space and a vague sense of position that stereo doesn’t give you. You can fiddle with some binaural modes for each object or bed to tweak the feeling of distance.

I should note at this point that you’ll need an audio interface with lots of outputs to support the number of speakers. But if you don’t have outputs, Studio One doesn’t appear to mind. The speaker setup within the Atmos Renderer does not have to reflect the reality of your hardware setup. So you can do up to a 9.1.6 Atmos mix on a stereo audio interface or the headphone output of your laptop using binaural headphone monitoring. You can also just do it in stereo on regular speakers. The renderer will fold down to a stereo mix or whatever your speaker system allows; you’ll just lose the spatial positioning.

You don’t have to start an Atmos session with a template; you can simply enable Spatial Audio in the Song Setup of any regular stereo project and it will be spatially objectified. It might require a rethink along the lines of routing and bussing. For a track to become a spatial object, it must be routed to the main output hosting the renderer. So you’re no longer routing your drum kit to a bus for combined stereo processing if you want it to be spatial. You have to treat each microphone on the kit as an individual object. However, you can make the bus itself a spatial object and place that within the space. There are many levels to explore.

PreSonus have upgraded all of their native plug‑ins to support the full range of speaker configurations. I found that when converting some songs to Atmos I’d get distortion and overloading at the outputs until I reloaded the odd plug‑in. It may be something I did or didn’t do, but I can’t find another reason for it. The native plug‑ins can process all the speaker channels from a single instance. Third‑party non‑surround plug‑ins will only operate in stereo, but you can choose which speaker channels you want them to affect. So you can absolutely use third‑party plug‑ins in your Atmos mix; it just might take a few more instances.

Immersive Plug‑ins

Along with the surround sound upgrades to existing plug‑ins there’s one entirely new plug‑in and a major update to the Open AIR2 reverb. Open AIR2 is Studio One’s convolution reverb, and PreSonus have included a library of stunning three‑dimensional impulse responses to immerse yourself in. These are particularly good for sound design and Foley editing as you can almost visualise the position of objects as you place them within the space. There are rooms, studios, concert halls, cathedrals, car parks, staircases, swimming pools and all sorts of spaces to play in.

New immersive environments in the Open AIR2 convolution reverb.New immersive environments in the Open AIR2 convolution reverb.

The new plug‑in is the predictably named Surround Delay. It has individual sound panners for up to eight taps with which you can encircle your head with individually timed echoes. Each one has its own feedback, level and position controls. It’s the sort of place you can spend a really long time just enjoying the idea. The only odd thing is that it doesn’t appear to come with any presets; highly unusual for Studio One.

One thing I noticed while messing about with the Surround Delay is the unexpected size of the latency buffer. I had loaded up the Presence virtual instrument with Surround Delay and found it to be more or less unplayable. Digging into the audio setup I found that the buffer size was unexpectedly set to 512 samples. If I tried to set it to anything smaller, I would not get any monitoring of the instrument through the additional binaural headphone output, although, strangely, the rest of the project continued to play back fine. Searching through the manual, I found a reference to the fact that Atmos needs a block size of 512 or 1024 in order to function. However, this didn’t seem entirely true. If I turned off the additional headphone monitoring and just used binaural through the speaker outputs (monitoring on my headphones through my audio interface) it would work at much lower latencies. So, I think I can deduce that to use the dual monitoring of speakers and binaural headphones, unique to Studio One, it has to be at a larger buffer size and at the expense of real‑time virtual instrument use.

Maybe this is Atmos demonstrating that it’s best as a post‑production tool rather than a creation tool. I wonder if that’s going to be a handicap for music makers?

The new Surround Delay plug‑in, where each tap can be placed around the listener.The new Surround Delay plug‑in, where each tap can be placed around the listener.

DAWproject Exchange

Moving on from the immersiveness of Atmos and into the philanthropy of the DAWproject format, PreSonus have been working with Bitwig to produce a new open exchange format that lets you move projects from one DAW to another relatively unscathed. A music production project will typically contain MIDI tracks, virtual instruments, audio tracks, automation, plug‑ins and dynamics processing. We can already share MIDI files but they don’t contain audio tracks, or we can transfer edited audio with OMF or AAF files, but they don’t contain MIDI or plug‑in information. So a more complete way of transferring projects between DAWs is probably way overdue, and that’s what DAWproject hopes to address.

DAWproject intends to offer seamless transferring of all or near‑as‑dammit all the information from a session in one DAW to a session in another DAW. The information that gets ported across includes MIDI and audio tracks with edits, layouts, automation data, track names, colours, markers, audio time warping, transposition and all the clips used in clip launching. But the biggest breakthrough is that any VST2 or VST3 plug‑in states are also retained. So, not just which plug‑in was loaded, but the preset or parameter settings with automation. This, of course, assumes your destination DAW has the same plug‑ins available.

Exporting as a DAWproject file is just a couple of clicks away.Exporting as a DAWproject file is just a couple of clicks away.

This neatly highlights another potential problem — what about native DAW‑specific plug‑ins like EQ, compression and so on? It is a bit of a conundrum because different DAWs have different ideas about what processes and plug‑ins should be part of the system. To tackle this, DAWproject currently supports a ‘generic’ EQ, compressor, limiter and gate, which effectively takes the settings from the source DAW’s stock EQ and applies them to the stock EQ of the destination DAW, and so on. This is probably the magic feature that DAWproject needs to get right to make this fly, because you are likely to be using your DAW’s EQ on every track in your project, and it’s a lot of work to get that back when moving to another DAW.

DAWs are also different, so there will inevitably be elements that don’t make it into the transfer. Bitwig Studio doesn’t support Atmos or video, so those will be ignored. Studio One doesn’t have a clip‑launching facility, so it will only take the audio from the arrange page. But DAWproject is clever enough to cope with these discrepancies.

There is a question about why anyone would want or need to move sessions between DAWs. It can be very common in post‑production and sound design, where a number of different composers or engineers are working on the same project. It’s probably less common in music production, although you could argue that DAWproject enables us to utilise the different strengths of different DAWs in the same session and that offers up some very interesting creative possibilities. There’s also the possibility of working on your music around a friend’s house, or taking it into a studio that’s running a different DAW.

So, does it work? Yes, almost entirely. In the first project I tried, moving from Studio One to Bitwig Studio, the hard stuff, all the EQ and compressor settings, the automation, plug‑ins and mixer settings were completely perfect. The audio tracks, on the other hand, were a mess. The arrangement wasn’t right; clips had shifted, and sometimes the audio inside the clip had shifted and didn’t match the edits I’d made in Studio One. In Bitwig, nothing was where it was supposed to be. The same thing happened with a much simpler session.

Audio tracks had unexpectedly shifted in both time and content when exporting to Bitwig (left) from Studio One (right).Audio tracks had unexpectedly shifted in both time and content when exporting to Bitwig (left) from Studio One (right).

With other projects filled with edited audio and complex virtual instrument arrangements, the transfer was perfect, even down to the right Kontakt instruments being loaded. It’s very impressive. I generated new projects, recorded some audio and instrument tracks, and they all went over flawlessly in both directions.

So, what was up with these two rogue projects? Talking to Bitwig, it appears that it’s something to do with differing definitions of time duration. Both projects used audio tracks that were recorded outside of Studio One. It was all live audio taken from phone video recordings done during Covid lockdown. I extracted the audio and pulled it into Studio One without any reference to tempo or timing. If I understand this correctly, Bitwig was expecting the audio to be defined by musical time, whereas Studio One had defined my audio track’s position in musical time but the length in seconds. This caused the misplacement of the audio. Bitwig then thanked me for my contribution to the project.

A successful transfer to Bitwig (left) from Studio One (right), including the generic EQ information.A successful transfer to Bitwig (left) from Studio One (right), including the generic EQ information.

Perhaps part of the problem is that there’s no documentation in either Bitwig Studio or Studio One, so I felt I was probably doing something wrong. Another example is when I tried opening a DAWproject file on another computer; I discovered that the DAWproject file didn’t contain any of the audio tracks. I assumed when the file was created it would include all the audio tracks and any assets required to run the project in that one file. This is what’s supposed to happen, but it turns out that your audio tracks need to be in the session’s Media folder; otherwise, they are only referenced rather than bundled in. Anyway, Studio One has a function where it will copy external audio files to the Media folder, and once I’d done that, I was able to generate a much larger DAWproject file that had everything in it.

This is version 1 of DAWproject, and there are bound to be some bumps along the way. But I’m confident that, with Bitwig and PreSonus behind it, it will quickly become the standard way to transfer projects between DAWs. It could also be a great way of moving projects between computers using the same DAW.

Scoring & Note Editing

Version 5 introduced Studio One to a decent score editor, and it’s had a few tweaks since, but it’s taken until version 6.5 for PreSonus to pull the chord track into the lead sheet. It’s one of those updates you forget wasn’t there before because it would seem mad that it wasn’t there from the start. All you have to do is tick the ‘Show Chords’ box in the score editor, and, yes, that’s right, the chords from the chord track appear above the stave. Great stuff.

Interestingly, if you transpose the score for another instrument, the displayed chords are also transposed. I’m in two minds about whether that’s what you want because the chords are presumably for a guitarist who would not be transposing for the sake of a trumpet. The chords would need to remain the same. But then, why have chords displayed on a trumpet line at all? I guess it’s all in your use‑case scenario, but I think it would be a good idea if there was an option to not transpose the chords so that every musician, regardless of instrument, could be referencing the same chords.

Guitar tablature, with all sorts of expressive symbols, is now available in the score editor.Guitar tablature, with all sorts of expressive symbols, is now available in the score editor.

Talking of guitarists, Studio One now has tablature. Depending on your string count and tuning, you can choose from several tablature types. The tab is shown below the melody line and includes all sorts of bends and whammy bar interactions as symbols on the page. The symbols do not translate as MIDI pitch bends or vibrato or anything; they are just for the printout. Studio One decides on an appropriate layout of notes across the strings, but you can change that by grabbing and moving the fret number to another string, and the number will update to reflect the new position. If you want to change the note’s pitch, you can do that in the regular staff above the tab, or double‑click the number to edit it.

Other improvements include turning notes into rhythm charts with rhythm slashes. You can also generate slashes in empty bars with a click. So all in all the scoring side is shaping up nicely.

Don’t get hung up on not having an Atmos speaker system in the studio or living room; embrace the fact that it’s all about the headphones.


Studio One 6.5 is a meaty update for people wanting to move about in the immersive world of Dolby Atmos, but slimmer pickings for the rest of us. I have thoroughly enjoyed delving into the possibilities of binaural mixing on headphones, though. It definitely adds another dimension and thought process to mixing and I would recommend that you try it out. Don’t get hung up on not having an Atmos speaker system in the studio or living room; embrace the fact that it’s all about the headphones. The integration of the Atmos renderer and associated routing and panning is as slick and seamless as we’ve come to expect from PreSonus. The fact that they are aiming it at everyone and not just post‑production is to be commended, and it is absolutely easy enough to get into for any level of music‑maker.

DAWproject promises to be a fantastic solution to inter‑DAW exchanges. I’m certain any initial humps will be smoothed out as more people share their experiences, and the open‑source project can react.

Otherwise, all updates are a welcome thing. This update is free to owners of Studio One 6 or subscribers of Studio One+, which is nice because you can put the cash you saved towards another speaker!

ARA In Project Page

The mastering or ‘Project Page’ side of Studio One has picked up ARA support for track‑integrated effects and processing. (For anyone not in the know, ARA is a plug‑in extension that allows better communication between plug‑ins and DAWs.) If you right‑click an audio track, you can go to Event FX and choose from any installed ARA plug‑ins. The work will then be done in the main display window. You can also create Event FX from your regular plug‑ins, although it’s unclear why this would be preferred to using regular inserts for that event.

Melodyne is the only ARA plug‑in I have, and it doesn’t feel particularly appropriate for a mastering project. However, others could be useful in a mastering context, and apparently, more are on the way.

Other Bits & Bobs

The Studio One Remote software for iOS, Windows and Android has been updated to version 1.8 and includes finger‑touch control over all the immersive audio and surround mixing. It now has keyboard shortcut templates from Ableton Live and FL Studio, and support for the NI Kontrol S‑Series Mk3 MIDI controllers.

At the time of writing the Linux version of Studio One is in public beta. Exciting times for Linux users...


  • Free Dolby Atmos integration.
  • Full support for binaural mixing on headphones.
  • DAWproject has enormous potential.
  • Score editor now supports tablature.


  • Not much else if you’re not into immersive audio.
  • DAWproject is not quite there yet.


Studio One gets in on the immersive audio trend with a slick integration of Dolby Atmos, and flirts with other DAWs via DAWproject. Not much for people working in stereo, though.


£339. Free upgrade for Studio One 6 owners and Studio One+ subscribers. Price includes VAT.

$399. Free upgrade for Studio One 6 owners and Studio One+ subscribers.

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