Ableton Live is a DAW known for its versatility resulting from two separate views. This DAW can be used for live performances just as easily as it can be used for studio production. Because of its widespread use, there is a huge amount of tutorials online and dedicated hardware.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Advanced automation
You can add curves to automation. Additionally, Ableton lets users duplicate certain automations quickly.
Pro Great creative DAW workflow
Ableton's session view gives a much quicker, more flexible way of experimenting with ideas than a typical linear interface. In session view, each instrument part is a separate entity that can be mixed and matched with other parts without having to rearrange anything. Any and every effect is consolidated into one clean looking interface.
It allows users to experiment with effects and other manipulations very quickly. Because of this, Ableton is known as one of the most creative DAWs out there.
Pro Great for sampling
The Ableton DAW offers a great sampling experience, which can be approached in many different ways. Audio can be directly chopped, quantized, warped, and even chopped into MIDI clips. Ableton's built in sampler also allows clean pitching along with useful loop functions.
Pro Optimized for playing live music
While all DAWs are capable of playing music live, Ableton Live is the most DJ friendly DAW out there as it allows mixing and mashing various MIDI or audio clips together in real-time while still making sure that they're in sync.
Pro Multiple "workflows" or ways of achieving an outcome
Not everyone realizes this, but anything can be done in multiple ways in Live. Multiple ways of playing samples, multiple ways of slicing samples, multiple ways of sequencing MIDI, etc.
Pro Exemplary time stretching facilities
Not only can the time stretching can be done in real-time, there are about a dozen of TC/E algorithms to choose from.
Pro Advanced content browser
The browser lets users choose from live Sets, tracks, clips, devices, presets, samples, etc. There is also an auto-play function for audio clips that enables users to browse samples quickly. The search function is also handy, but only for clips that are labeled appropriately.
Pro Outstanding EQ
Ableton's new EQ includes an integrated spectrum analyzer so users can see exactly which frequencies need to be adjusted. Additionally, this EQ cuts by 48 db. Up until Ableton Live 9, the EQ only cut by 12 db.
Pro Endless creativity
After some training this daw can be used for doing anything. There are basically no limits.
Pro Minimum skeuomorphism
Skeuomorphism is described as retaining antiquated aesthetic features on an updated version of a device. For DAWs, this happens when an interface is littered with analog nobs, wires, and other things that are reminiscent of older technology. While this can be considered a stylistic choice for some DAWs, it tends to block progress towards better practices in music production.
Pro Many software specific controllers
Many MIDI controllers have been developed for the exclusive purpose of being used with Ableton. Some popular Live controllers include Push, APC40, and Launchpad.
Pro Comes with 70GB included sounds
15 software instruments, 55 audio effects and 17 midi effects.
Pro Can play a midi note from the middle
In Live V10, you can trigger MIDI notes without having to do so from the start.
Pro Dual monitor support
Starting with Live 9, users can see session and arrangement views at the same time with dual monitor support.
Pro Max for Live lets users build custom tools
With Max for Live, users can create custom synthesizers, audio effects, sequencers, samplers, and more. Max for Live is a feature that is available starting with Live 9 Suite.
Pro MIDI notes can be forced to a scale
With a simple plugin, Ableton allows the user to pick from a wide variety of scales when triggering notes.
Pro Widespread Online Support
The amount of well-versed tutorials and guides online can help you master Live in a few hours. Secret tips and tricks are also widespread. Forums are filled to the brim with support for any issue you can think of.
Pro It is very stable
Maybe not on certain systems, but when used in an normal system it's very stable.
Pro Able to to download own skin/theme
You can make your own skin/themes online and use it in "preferences" tab!
Pro VST3 support as of Ableton 10.1
VST3s now run smoothly in Ableton 10.1 and up. However, be careful when loading in CPU-heavy plugins.
Pro Very intuitive
Pro Reliable production software
Pro Great midi features
Audio to midi, scales on piano roll etc
At 749 USD, Ableton Live Suite (the most fully-featured edition) is more expensive than other DAWs.
Ableton Live Standard can be bought for 449 USD.
Ableton Live Intro can be bought for 99 USD.
Rounding up, all three versions will set you back triple digits. That's before you get into additional sample and plugin packs, which also cost hundreds of dollars. Consider the price of the software before you enter the Live ecosystem.
Con Sometimes very slow reaction
If you switch from one track to another with APC- or Push-Controller.
Con No 32 bit VST support on newer
The ability to load 32 bit VST was dropped for some godawful reason. At $700 - a hefty price tag - and most of the code already in the software, you'd think they would be able to keep that functionality, but no.
Con No SF2 support
Soundfonts need to be imported as samples, and they don't work as intended since the zoning is lost.
Con Can't save keyboard shortcuts globally
There are no global keyboard shortcut editing mechanisms in Live. You are only able save keyboard shortcuts per project. This makes production a long-winded endeavor.
To edit shortcuts on Live, use Ctrl + K, or CMD + K.
Con Outdated GUI
The GUI feels too old and ugly compared to other DAWs.
Con Not very convenient for mixing
Con Plugins on frozen tracks are loaded and unloaded as the session opens slowing down opening and creating DSP limitations
For example: If you freeze more than the allowed number of plugins on a UAD DSP device, when you open your session, Ableton will open and close all the frozen plugins on every channel even though they are not active in the session. The UAD control panel application displays the DSP usage of the hardware. During loading the levels (bars) will fluctuate by extreme amounts and typically will produce errors once the Ableton session is loaded.
After the session is loaded, UAD plugins that should be running are disabled because there wasn't enough DSP available during load.
The user then has to open and look at each UAD plug in to see if they are disabled and turn them off and on again to enable them. This illustrates there is enough room for the DSP load for unfrozen plugins, but that the loading process was at fault.
Con No Dolby Atmos / surround
Con No ARA (audio communication e.g. with Melodyne / VocAlign)
Con Classic arrangement workflow could've been better
Con Max makes startup longer
Con Sound library sounds really bad
Con Not very stable
Live has been known for its hilariously bad stability on weaker systems. But this is only when it is under enormous strain. It will be under enormous strain, too.
Most people that work in this software love to fill their projects up with tons of cool ideas. Ableton should bear this in mind when continuing to update Live.
Con No source code
This can be a privacy concern for some.
Con Limited routing
Tracks can go into groups and sub-groups (as of Live 10), and sends are available, but that's the extent of routing.
Con No LV2 support
Does not support the LV2 plugin standard.