I’ll jump in. I went with Studio One a few years ago when I got back into home recording. The other contenders were Cakewalk and Reaper. For me, Studio One was just the right combination of older analog console feel and an updated UI and workflow.
I started on SO2 Producer, upgraded to SO3 Pro and am now on SO4 Pro. It’s the only DAW I really use, so I can’t answer your comparison questions, but I’ll tel you up front, I absolutely love it.
Correct, if you open a SO3 song in SO4, you are warned when you save that it can no longer be opened in SO3. However, if you need to keep them separate, SO4 and SO3 installed into 2 different directories, so I would think you could keep your songs separate for the 2 versions as well.
I’ve never used it. You can export the .WAV files if you want to copy those between session. Or, if you’re going to another Studio One installation with the same plugins etc., the songs are stored in a “songs” folder, and you can just copy the entire song from that folder and stick it on the other machine and Studio One can read it in. I do that between my DAW and my travel laptop - works great.
They’ve got a pretty respectable set of native plugins. If you jump soon, they are giving away their Fat Channel bundle and plugins for FREE too.
They recently gave away UJAM’s “Virtual Guitarist Sparkle” for free too.
That said, they’ve got decent enough reverbs and delays. But a 3rd party delay was the first thing I went looking for. Still, I’m sure it was the user’s short coming and not the software.
All in all, I’m a total fanboy and have never once regretted going with Studio One.