Ableton Live – the ultimate creative production tool?

Some time ago I’ve become part of a music project which is heading more towards the dancefloor compatible side of electronica. We are currently testing Ableton Live and thinking about switching over to use it as the main production tool. I’m undecided yet. What do you think about Live – is this really the ultimate solution for electronic based music production? What are the known drawbacks?


  1. Live its all i use now days, and its pretty great for sound design. of course, it has its drawbacks, most people i know complain about the sound quality.

  2. I Like NI Kore.. he is more LIVE… i can play on many instruments, improvise, use samplers if i play “big part”… on ableton.. switch scenes and rolling knobs, i don’t think it’s real LIVE performance

  3. i love ableton live. I do not understand people complaining the sound quality, maybe because of weak onboard reverb plugin. The ableton summing sound quality is as good as other DAWs , and the workflow of ableton is amazing

  4. Christoph says:

    I switched from Logic 6 to Live 5 some years ago. It was hard to change my way of working for the first three months, but nowadays I don’t miss anything. My most wanted feature, the more flexible groove quantization, was integrated now in Live 8.

    One issue still seems to be syncing with other computers, hardware. – So i you have external drum-machines or similar you probably will run into trouble, as Lives clock seems not to be as tight as Elektrons for example. While using Live alone, you don’t feel that, but when I synced Live to my Machinedrum or another computer running Live, it always was hard to get all components in sync.

    I wonder, if I read somewhere, that you’re from Frankfurt? – If you are and need further tipps/help, don’t hesitate to contact me via mail… then we could communicate in German, what would be much easier for me.

    Best regards and biggest respect for your awesome plug ins.


  5. The only drawback a fervent Live-user told me was that “it was too easy”. Meaning, you get everything running very fast and quick, and end up with too many slightly mediocre songs, sometimes, due to that. Well of course that might not apply for you or many other users!

    A tool that I like very much, even though at first sight it might just be a drum-vsti, is GURU from Fxpansion. It is a perfect sketchpad for many many ideas and songs, so I thought I’d mention it.

  6. i hate ableton for his method playing on pc keys) ‘”qwerty-zxcvbn” is not work on ableton.. only “asdfghj”… and i have reaktor FX on pc keyboard, so work only “sd ghj – we tyu” keys

  7. I really say that FL Studio is much better for dance music production.

    See what I mean? That’s fully produced in FL Studio. Not only that, FL Studio XXL Edition is half the price of what Ableton is asking for Live, and the XXL Edition comes with a few synths (including Sytrus, Imageline’s flagship synth) and the FL Studio version of Synthmaker. Also through this link…

    …you can get 10% off as a first time customer.

    I’m not trying to advertise it mind you, rather I’m pointing out some obvious advantages. I also find that Live’s workflow is a bit clunky compared to how relatively smooth FL Studio’s workflow is.

    Again Bootsy, thank you for your great plugins! I’m looking forward to Density MKII. 🙂

  8. Hi Bootsie,

    There´s no better production tool for loop based modern music than Live. Quality is as good as any other DAW, forget about his summing myth (though you problably know, of course..).

    Having said that, you are maybe gonna miss some MIDI functions and features. If you work with orchetral libraries you wont be able to see 2 different layers of controllers under the piano roll, wont be able to see the content of 2 midi clips at once, etc. Things like that…

    Right now i only use Cubase for orchestral or heavy using of samplers genre, for other things you´ll do 10 times faster with Live.


  9. Ed, it’s no secret that Live 8 makes a large jump in sound quality. I know people that teach Live use, they know this. I know people that work at Ableton, they know this too. It was not just a myth, but Live 8 sounds fantastic.

    And you can’t deny that having the speed & ease for sketching ideas and laying down quick stuff in Live, combined with the integration of Max which can be painfully slow & complicated to use at times (depending on what you want to do) yet it can do ANYTHING…. is a totally killer combination. 🙂

    Not sure on the midi lackings, I have found none. But Ed’s notes about the piano roll (which isn’t necessarily midi, it’s just notation data which btw can also be sent through Max to OSC, for instance) are correct… but it’s more built into the way that Live shows the detailed information. You actually can see more than 2 tracks of notes at a time in the main view, and zoom that to however you like.

  10. I´ll not get into discussion about a DAW sounding better than other (or a version of Live sounding better than other). I have made some tests that prove this. Search in the web, i am sure you´ll find it as many others have done it before.

    About the 2 midi clips at once i meant, seeing both in the same clip editor (pìano roll) and being able to edit any of their note, regardless on which track they are.

    Yes, Max for Live will be a nice adition.

  11. that would be a complete mess if you are already using keyswitches in your kontakt patches,and it will be a pain in the ass to plan the whole piece basing on racks.

    I am just talking about about doing orchestral stuff. Imagine you have an arrangement with 70 tracks, different melodies, counterpoint, staccatos..I often select instruments in the same range and check if there are any wrong semitones messing around.

    Of course this is what i do..Good composers check notation on paper i guess.

    Another basic missing MIDI feature missing: real MIDI overdub.

  12. Talking about larger arrangements/libraries brings up the integration of multi-channel/multi-output plugins like Kontakt or so. Is that kind of routing (midi and audio) easily done in Live?
    In other hosts this is often solved really bad.

  13. Hi Bootsie,

    Unfortunately no, its not pretty straightforward. Now with folder tracks its easier to get things neat on the arrangement, but stil its difficult to get a good workflow when you need to record midi, monitor different outs,e tc.. I have setup a 10outs multioutput template with Kontakt in Live, if you want it send me a an email.

    You might consider using Samplelord for these kind of hosts. Features:

    # All instances share the same program resources.
    #Allows you to get maximum power of your hardware, thanx to using multiple core or multiple CPU on board.
    #Special Disk Streaming to load samples directly from disk, optionally even without sample preload.
    # Can load GIG, SF2, FXP, NKI, EXB, WAV, AIFF files, plus own Native Format and play these directly from disk.
    # No (re)conversion and (re)saving is done to hard disk during file loading, files are loaded directly into RAM memory.

    Looks like a nice alternative instead of multitimbral/output Kontakts. Still havent had time to try it though..

    Thanks for yur plugins man!

  14. Unfortunately some of the really good libraries are sticked to the Kontakt Engine (authorisation / copy protection) and so you don’t have direct access to the samples itself. Or think of the excellent Spectrasonics multi I/O plug-ins.
    Not a killer to me but definately a showstopper to migrate fully for having it as the one and only production tool.

    Good info here – go ahead 🙂

  15. Thats exactly the point. Its awesome for everything else than the big projects. But even on those there´s sometimes when you need some of Live´s features. Think of trailers, when you need some glitch, or deadline is so close you dont have time to program every little percussion on your huge cinematic drums (taikos and stuff) and you throw some loops here and there -not limited to REX, SAGE, etc you can use any source and it will preview the loop in sync with your song.. Also very useful for genres that mix glitchy/elcetronic elements with orchestral..then you gotta Rewire the old way and bounce to keep everything under 1 program.

    So..the one and only? No. Necessary? I guess not (but for me it is right now). Worth the money? Sure, and lets see about Max for Live, it can change it all. I would be very happy to switch completely to Live, but i understand they put in prioritiy the features that make their software unique: live use as an instrument/DJ tool and electronic loop based music production.

    Another must missing: user definable keycommands.

  16. I love Ableton Live, I would recommend avid users to purchase the Akai control surface.

  17. if you wanna do livesets, nothing compares to live.
    best call. definitely.

  18. Another yes for Live.

    I’ve worked with many sequencer’s, trackers of old, notator, cubase, nuendo, tracktion, etc, and apart from having to manage, mix and master Larger projects, I would highly recommend it.

    I know of no quicker way to achieve so much musically and production wise, in addtion to having great sample / loop support, groove managment to the point of being able to extract groove from loops and apply them to your own e.g. drum tracks.

    The reasons are too many to list here, but it’s not without reason many people rave about (and curse) Live.

  19. We do work with Live 7 as our standard DAW since its release. Our main work is mixing (with external, analogue equipment looped-in). Some minor bugs occure here and there, small latency values could be a thread while re-recording (drop-outs). Sound quality seems fine while avoiding time stretching, beat matching etc. otherwise you easily hear that it’s Live (which is just a question of taste).

    The Pros:
    Handling of plug-ins and plug-in chains (actually THE reason I bought it); MIDI-Learn (controller mapping); arranging audio/midi files (mainly using clips); sound design; overall simplicity

    The Cons:
    In-depth editing is a nightmare (comping, fades, subtle cleaning up) – fast editing/trim on the other hand is great; getting lost in complex arrangements (see as well “sampler problem” above) and scroll your ass off

    I would prefer the clean GUI of ProTools minus depending on hardware and a shitty sound design approach (therefore it wasn’t made anyway), which leaves us again with Live and/or the rest. Nuendo 4 would be my 2nd/3rd choice. Better to have all three of them (hrhr).

  20. Seem like Live will get some more workflow competition from Cakewalk with the Sonar 8.5 release. It’s still not the same but will have an updated matrix from Project 5 v2 and was an incredibly competent and complete DAW before that. Sonar might not be as simple as Live but then it has pretty much more to offer on the other hand.

  21. I’ve been using Live since version 6.
    It’s pretty much the only DAW I use.
    For live applications you can’t beat it.
    And I like it better than Reason because you can import VST and VSTI plugins.
    The interface is very intuitive and you can create tracks and ideas FAST.

    I doubt I’ll use anything else in the foreseeable future.
    GO LIVE!!

  22. The problem with Sonar and any other competitor of Live on the one hand (live, simple) and Pro Tools on the other (editing, simple) is a rather unradical, tempered approach amongst those competitors. Including an overkill of functions and a confusing interface design – their only domain (besides sound quality) actually IS the workflow area where any user with different preferences could be satisfied. It’s really hard to supersede Live, ProTools, Logic, Cubase/Nuendo, Sequoia (broadcast recording, orchestras etc.) in their respective areas. For a reason.

  23. Gustavo Coco says:

    I used to work with live, the session view its great for composition.
    But now… Im completely sold to Reaper!!
    Yeah reaper rocks!!
    ( And runs all the bootsy plugs without any problem )

  24. The only DAW can be compared to live is FL Studio.


  1. […] 12, 2010 After asking “Ableton Live – the ultimate creative production tool?” somewhere in last year I’ve struggled for quiet some time on whether to move or […]

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