An easy introduction to sampling, recording and sequencing, FruityLoops has long boasted one of the easiest and most intuitive interfaces around.
Version 4.0 promises new features such as 64 FX tracks, and a piano roll-style playlist where pattern lengths are shown accurately and can be started at any time, in addition to patterns that can have individual lengths (See here for a screenshot). A new Live Mode is ideal for live use and quick tests. The entire program can become a DXi (DirectX) client in other sequencer software (such as Sonar), in the same way that VSTi client support has allowed Cubase users to do so since version 3.54.
New free built-in modules include Fruityslicer (for slicing/re-arranging beats), Boobass (a Fender Bass simulator), Wave Traveller (a tool to move through wave forms for various effects such as scratching) and, particularly interesting, the Dashboard (which allows you to design your own interface for internal and MIDI controllers).
Moving beyond a loop focus, FL Studio also includes a new mixer window with 64 channels, track routing and chaining, track recording, integrated EQ, volume and pan controls, and automated effects mute and effects mix level. Audio tracks will have waveform preview, cue points and direct to disk recording, and an integrated wave editor will also be included. Various pricing structures are available at the Web site.
Price: $US149 (new users)