When comparing Ableton Live vs Sonar, the Slant community recommends Ableton Live for most people. In the question“What are the best DAWs?” Ableton Live is ranked 6th while Sonar is ranked 10th. The most important reason people chose Ableton Live is:
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.
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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 Advanced automation
You can add curves to automation. Additionally, Ableton lets users duplicate certain automations quickly.
Pro Dual monitor support
Starting with Live 9, users can see session and arrangement views at the same time with dual monitor support.
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 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 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 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 Comes with 54GB included sounds and 40 effects
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 Supports "scales" plugin
If you want to write in a specific scale, choose it from the scale plugin and your music will automatically be configured to be that key.
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 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 Endless creativity
After some training this daw can be used for doing anything. There are basically no limits.
Pro Can play a midi note from the middle
Since Live 10, you can play a midi note without having to play it from the start.
Pro Powerful mixing including ProChannel
A Pro Channel ensures that you have all the necessary plugins in a really good mixing rack with console emulation for all busses and channels. This feels and sounds like a real mixing console.
Pro Highly customizable UI
The Sonar DAW comes with a new and improved UI with extra focus on being customizable.
Pro Built in vocal comping and pitch correction
The Sonar DAW has some of the best pitch correction available, and it comes with the DAW.
Pro Great bundled instruments
Pro Vocal Alignment tool
Pro Add effects plugins to individual audio or MIDI clips
In addition to an effects rack and ProChannel effects that you can insert into each track, SONAR also allows you to insert effects plugins on individual audio or MIDI clips.
Using the non-destructive editing, you can easily cut one of those clips into smaller pieces if you'd like to apply an effect non-destructively to an individual note or musical phrase.
Pro Session Templates
New projects can have the entire session defined from a template. Tracks, IO, folders routing, Etc
Pro Includes Melodyne Essential via ARA
Pro Integrated drum replacement
Pro Home Studio, Platinum, Professional, and Artist subscription tiers
Lots of new features to separate them from the pack and put them in the lead again like when they were the very first DAW to go 64 bits. New model for purchasing the DAW means a purchaser can pay a monthly fee to use the DAW instead of having to buy it all upfront, so now you can try it for a month or 4 and if it does not work for you, dump it without having spent the full price to buy the whole thing.
Pro Includes Addictive Drums 2
Pro Touch screen support
If your computer has a touch screen, use gestures to optimize your workflow.
For under 200 USD, you get the full version of the DAW with all the bells and whistles, and free stuff that comes in the bundle you would not get from another DAW.
For less than 200 USD more, you get free updates for a lifetime. Any future updates with the SONAR Platinum DAW is free when you have this pass.
They have sold the SONAR Platinum DAW with the LIFETIME Pass key as a bundle from June 01, 2016-Aug 01, 2016. It's already over but who knows when it will comeback? The team from cakewalk are just generously full of surprises.
Pro Track folders
Group tracks into folders to expand/collapse Solo Mute or Archive.
Pro Integrated SoundCloud and YouTube uploads
When you're done with a project, upload it straight to SoundCloud or YouTube from the Sonar DAW.
Pro Very frequent updates
The last few years they have given updates with new features and fixes nearly every month. Great support, constant innovation.
Pro Highly flexible audio routing
In SONAR Platinum you can create an unlimited number of audio tracks, patch points, aux tracks and busses. Each track can send its output or an unlimited number of aux sends to any patch point or bus. A patch point can route to any number of aux tracks. Each aux track or bus can send its output or an unlimited number of sends to any other patch point or bus. (* A patch point is a destination where audio can be sent from any output or aux send, while an aux track is a track that receives its input from a patch point. This allows the track to be used similarly to a bus, with the additional flexibility of allowing multiple aux tracks to get their input from the same source point, and the organizational convenience of having the track alongside other tracks, instead of in the separate bus area.)
Pro Inbuilt bridge
Includes inbuilt bridge allowing a 64-bit software to use a 32-bit plugin and vice versa without having to painstakingly use an external bridge to bridge the plugins. This will save one from bridging every new plugin that isn't compatible.
Pro Intuitive interface
The interface is very intuitive once you learn the program. It's like working in the studio with physical components.
Pro In collaboration with BandLab Technologies
At around $749, the Ableton Live Suite DAW is more expensive than other DAWs. Ableton Live Standard can be bought for $449, and Ableton Live Intro can be bought for $99.
Con No VST3 Support
Con Not very stable
Plug-ins can crash the whole process.
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 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 Interface looks terrible
It really looks shoddy. The fonts are much too small to be comfortable and there is no return to beginning button included in the navigation controls. (But font size can be increased)
Con Can't edit more than one MIDI clip at once
Con Can't save keyboard shortcuts globally
Shortcut keys have to be set per project, for every project (Cmd-K on Mac) and shortcuts can't be exported to other projects unless you set it up in one and save that as a template, but if you ever add another key, you have to add that individually to all hundreds of your other projects.
Con Worst punch-in ever
You can't start recording other than where you start playing. This absurdity causes everyone to use the work around of making extra tracks just to punch in a part. Huge waste of time and design flaw. Do Ableton designers use their own product?
Con The Pencil (Grrr!)
If you click on the wrong part of a track just to set the play back point, it adds an automation point and switches to the pencil tool. This is really annoying even after more than a year of use.
Con No comping / playlist feature when tracking
Con Sometimes very slow reaction, if you switch from one track to another with APC- or Push-Controller
Con Windows only
This DAW isn't available on any operating system except for Windows. However, many Mac users operate the Sonar DAW in a dual boot environment.
A version for Mac is in the works. You can learn more about it here.
Con Gibson owned (they're almost Bankrupt, $500,000.00 in Debt)
Many feel with the "Lifetime" subscription, really hurt Cakewalk as there is no more monthly/yearly income. Most likely the IP will be sold as Gibson is in a bad financial situation (they owe about half a Billion $ due early next year) They are one of the all time "Great" guitar builders.
Con Steep Learning Curve
This DAW has a bit of a learning curve, if you're new to DAW software, this may not be recommended for a beginner.