August 30, 2021

MultitrackStudio Review: Where have you been hiding?

This well-hidden gem of a DAW may not be for everyone, but it’s surprisingly powerful, easy to use, superbly stable, and supremely lightweight.

I’ve been using and following DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations, aka MIDI and audio recording software) since they first appeared on the scene some 35 years ago. I thought I knew them all. I thought wrong. A recent post at in the Hosts & Applications forum spoke of one I’d never heard of–MultitrackStudio. Of course, I had to check out the lite version which is a free, startlingly small download for Windows and macOS. There’s also an iPad version.

Full disclosure, largely because of the simple interface and nearly decade-old YouTube promotional video I wasn’t expecting much. However, after a few sessions discovering a multitude of features I hadn’t expected to find, I found myself properly impressed. How the heck did this program fly under my radar for so long?

Note that as of 11/18/2023, the slow drawing audio waveforms issue is gone, so ignore any comments about that. This review is point in time, so I’ve left the rest as is.

Life on the rim

There are a number of outlier DAWs, MultitrackStudio (MtS) being only one example, and they generally habituate the periphery for a reason. Quite frequently, it’s visuals that don’t jive with modern tastes. Sometimes it’s a lack of modern features. With MtS, there may be some of the former, but there’s absolutely none of the latter. Just some of the highlights from a cutting edge feature set are:

  • MtS is the first DAW I’m aware of to support MIDI 2.0 fully (well, almost) as well as the MPE it encompasses.
  • 24-bit and 32-bit floating point audio files up to 192kHz (Pro version)
  • VST3 and AU support
  • Multi-track editing
  • Ripple editing (inserts or deletions move other parts)
  • Audio-warping (altering the timing and placement of hits and transients)
  • Drum, piano, bass, and violin input grids with computer keyboard support
  • Musical notation entry
  • Unlimited effects/return channels
  • Included effects

If you know anything about the DAW market, you know that’s a rather impressive set of basic features. By rather, I mean very. The developer, Giel Bremmer, has also crafted a very, very solid chassis for this program. It never glitched, or hiccuped once during my hands-on. Indeed, it never even hinted at it.

As noted, I was also extremely impressed that the program (Lite/free version) download is a mere 7MB. By way of comparison, Bitwig Studio is considered a light download at 250MB. Ableton and others hit 2GB though that generally includes lots of loops and samples that aren’t strictly part of the program. MtS doesn’t provide any auxiliary content, though the $119 Pro version does offer a sampler that you can load your own samples into. From the docs, the sampler seems a bit primitive at defining instruments (think Logic’s ESX24), but doable.

So if the problem isn’t the features, it must be the… the look. MultitrackStudio is hardly ugly, but it’s unlikely to instill “gotta have it” in the majority of modern users. (Sorry Giel). Indeed, my first impression was “third-tier DAW”, though using it dispelled that notion. Take a look at the screen shot from the Mac version below and tell me what you think.

MtS is a bit staid in appearance, and there's little hint of the powerful stuff you'll find under the hood if you give this DAW a proper tryout.

MtS is a bit staid in appearance, and there’s little hint of the powerful stuff you’ll find under the hood if you give this DAW a proper tryout.

These images show the modern “dark” look, but you can change the color scheme to lighter shades of gray.

Below, you can see one of MtS’s most appealing features–its input grids. Did I mention that the program supports touch? Of course it does–there’s that iPad version.

MtS features several input grids modeled after instruments, including bass and violin. The piano keys are large and easy to hit. You can also enter notes via your computer keyboard.

MtS’s drum grid can be used to enter beats via click, computer keyboard, or touch.

For linear thinkers

If the look doesn’t discourage you, the linear nature of MtS might. I love it, but I grew up in the era of tape and LPs. Linear is in my lineage. Younger users that have grown up with Ableton Live and clip-based beat-making might not like it. Or, more hopefully, they might not like it until they try it. Linear does tend to make you to think in advance of the song as a whole, not just a bunch of parts thrown together randomly. Not that you can’t add or delete bars, copy and paste, etc., it’s just done in MtS via a multi-track song editor. I personally love the approach.

Beyond its linearity, I found the methodologies and workflow generally easy to learn and very efficient. I rather admire it for some of its unique takes on editing. In my experience, if a method makes sense, and it’s quick, users will adapt. I’d like to see user definable shortcuts added, however, those provided as default are consistent with common usage and logically applied.

I also like the way MtS handles panes and windows, though it was a bit disconcerting at first. If it makes sense to be in a captive pane like a single-track editor, it’s in a pane. If it makes sense to be in a separate window like a song or multi-track editor, it’s in a separate window. What I particularly like about the latter, is that they disappear if you select the main program window, rather than being buried behind it. If you need it again, open it again, which, if you think about it, is every bit as easy, if not easier than searching for it.

Alas, there was no keyboard shortcut for the multi-track MIDI editor (all tracks), something I used quite a bit, that I could find. (Note that 10.2 fixes this. I tested v10.1. 9/22/21)

The song editor is where you add or delete time. All tracks are shown, however, I only had one with data in it when I took this screen capture.

Another thing I liked was the way all the displays and editors are linked to the current playback position. Open an editor and you’re right where the play marker is on the timeline. Given the program’s linear slant, that’s understandable–but it translates into a very quick editing flow nonetheless.

There’s other clever stuff all over the place in MtS including a MIDI mass-editing dialog whose changes are reflected in the main editor as you adjust parameters. Cancel reverts to the original state. It’s pretty sweet.

Good stuff

  • Linear concept makes song creation and editing super quick once you adapt
  • Very efficient workflow
  • Facile MIDI, notation, and audio editors
  • Supports iPad and touch
  • Super low CPU usage, even with lots of plug-ins running
  • Miserly system resource usage
  • Rock solid editing and playback


  • Overall look could be a tad sexier
  • Meters and transport readout graphics are jerky
  • Waveforms draw extremely slowly during playback
  • Audio warping is elegant, but tedious for repetitive tasks
  • No traditional mixer

One thing that might deter studio types is the lack of a true vertically-oriented mixer. There’s automation for all major functions, but the purely lateral visuals might throw off engineers. If I’m being totally honest, and it’s not so easy admitting shameless shape-consciousness, the lack of a vertical mixer didn’t bug me, but the jerky meter, transport readout, and waveform animations did.

Rationalizing that feeling; the jerkiness might give one the impression that the program is poorly programmed. My limited experience with MtS says otherwise (all other graphics were speedy and the program overall very sprightly), and the developer stated that everything is drawn in real time to cut down on memory usage, allowing use on less endowed hardware. Most programs pre-draw, scalable, scrollable images and store them in memory.

I’m also inclined towards a positive connotation because in my limited hands-on time, MtS proffered very good audio performance and was parsimonious in its use of memory and CPU cycles. The Lite version allows only three tracks, so I couldn’t test a large project, but I did load it up the three tracks with about eighteen memory/CPU hungry instruments and effects, and CPU usage never exceeded 20%–far less than I had anticipated given plug-ins such as Gullfoss.

Whatever the reason for the jerky graphics, you never get a second chance to make a first impression–smoother graphics might have a more positive impact on people just taking a quick look and making a snap decision about MtS.

MtS offers extremely powerful and efficient, multi-track MIDI editing.

A gem in need of promotion (and smoother graphics)

The fact that I, a musician, long-standing DAW user and reviewer of such, didn’t know of MultitrackStudio is just short of astounding. But I’m glad I’ve found it and will continue to keep an eye on it. I might even use it for roughing out ideas because of the wonderful input grids. Download the Lite version and test it out. Ignore the laggy graphics and dig deep–you’ll find a lot of good stuff.