The high price point for Ableton Live Suite can be justified by the amount of content that goes along with it. A slightly stripped-down version, Live Standard seems to better fit the usual price range without compromise on the quality of your productions.
We all have our wishlists when it comes to studio gear. With DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation) being the central brain behind our every musical project, it’s only natural that we want the best of the best that’s out there.
Ableton sure is one of the finest DAW’s out there. However, word gets around that it’s also one of the most expensive.
Is that really true, and if so, why?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why this DAW became infamous when it comes to pricing.
Things That Make Ableton Unique
Ableton’s User Interface
Ableton’s user interface is perhaps one of the greatest innovations in the DAW industry. Everything about it feels well-designed and intuitive.
Working in Ableton might feel a bit confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long for you to get along with its design logic.
It is one of the first DAWs to introduce an entirely new concept in the industry – a “non-linear” workflow intended to maximize workflow for loop-based music.
Ableton comes with two points of view – Session View and Arrangement View.
Session view is more or less a typical “linear” layout – you have a project window with tracks and channels that you can either record onto or layer loops and samples.
The arrangement view is where the magic happens with this DAW.
At first, it seems like another mixer window; however, there’s a catch.
Instead of plugin rows you usually find in every other DAW, here you have sample rows. You can load multiple samples and loops on each channel and play around with them as you see fit.
Needless to say that loop-based artists were thrilled with this feature.
Layering samples becomes an art form instead of a tedious task. How you can manipulate loops is only limited to your imagination.
Another great feature of Ableton’s design is that all you need is located in a single project window. Unless you load third-party plugins, you will hardly encounter a pop-up window during the session. This is especially useful for live performers.
Ableton is a real multi-purpose toolbox. This may very well be said for just about any DAW, but Ableton really gives a new meaning to the phrase. The amount of things you can do with it is insane.
It can serve as a standard recording and mixing software. However, there’s so much more to it.
In session view, you get all the benefits of an old-school DAW approach wherein arrangement view (also called Live view) you can use Ableton as a giant musical instrument.
You can audition loops, play around with audio effects in real-time and route almost any parameter to any other function in the DAW. Pretty cool stuff!
Essential For Live Performance
Gone are the days when electronic musicians were accused of not “really performing” their music in live situations. With Ableton, you can take your electronic music out of the studio and perform it live without any issues.
It allows you to play around with samples and loops in real-time. You can also control how an effect behaves simultaneously with the beat playing.
This has elevated electronic music to a completely different level of performance and musicianship.
Instead of being played back through PA, electronic music can be manipulated in such a way as to allow for interaction between musicians and getting really creative in your live performances.
The fact that you have no pop-up windows helps keep everything clean and less stressful when performing.
This level of live application is unique to Ableton and not found in any other DAW out there.
Hardware Integration With Ableton
Although most of the work nowadays is done through mouse and keyboard, hardware units can be a great addition to your workflow. Luckily, connecting almost any hardware is a stress-free process in Ableton.
If you’re looking for a “hands-on” experience while working in your DAW, Ableton has “Push” which essentially is a DAW controller specifically designed to work effortlessly with the DAW.
The reason it is stress-free is that you just plug it in, and Ableton handles the rest. In minutes, you will use all the benefits of an external hardware controller.
This is not just the case with Push. Many manufacturers have oriented their products towards being compatible with Ableton. Almost any hardware controller produced in recent years will integrate similarly as “Push.”
There’s also a vast array of products specifically designed to make navigating through Ableton easier in live settings, so there’s no shortage of options in that department.
Valuable Content Right Off The Bat
Ableton Live Suite comes with an impressive amount of tools and sounds. Not only are they big, but of extremely high quality as well.
When buying Ableton, you’ll hardly ever need to go for a 3rd-party plugin.
Most DAW’s are notorious for not really caring about their native stuff, as it’s pretty standard for users to buy additional plugins anyway.
This is not the case with Ableton.
If anything, the quality of sample packs, loops, virtual instruments, and plugins is so good that I would buy Ableton just for those alone!
VST instruments cover almost any genre and texture needed for EDM.
Analog, Impulse, Electric all sound amazing, and there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on stuff like Serum to make up for lousy stock synths.
Drum rack is also great at piecing together your perfect kit out of different samples.
Samples go from standard 808 kits to some wild stuff. Even their acoustic drum samples sound great.
When it comes to plugins, every plugin is thought-out and serves a purpose in building the ultimate EDM mix.
There are standard tools like EQs and compressors and some unique stuff like Vinyl Distortion and Drum Buss. Drum Buss alone would probably cost a couple of hundred bucks if sold separately as it is one of the coolest drum plugins I’ve ever used.
Reverbs and delays are outstanding, which is not the case for many stock reverb plugins.
Some plugins have unique descriptive names that could be very useful for beginners.
Is Ableton Really The Most Expensive DAW?
Ableton does seem to be notorious in the audio community for its high price point. Compared to some of the other competitors, you can expect to pay almost double the price for Ableton Live Suite. However, things are a bit more complicated than that.
This massive gap in the price range is simply because Ableton offers a lot more of the stuff right off the bat. Ableton is actually the only DAW that genuinely gives you everything you need to produce loop-oriented music.
It comes in three versions:
- Ableton Live Intro
- Ableton Live Standard
- Ableton Live Suite
Lite and Standard versions are roughly around the same price point as their counterparts in competitors’ catalogs.
There’s also Ableton Live Lite, which is a try-out for free version.
Although it is okay for some playing around with loops and such, it is not intended for professional use as you’re pretty heavily limited in what you can do.
The standard version seems to correspond the most to other pro versions of different DAWs. You generally get all the stuff you need, but you may feel like you lack some additional features.
Live Suite seems to be the version where all the controversy is as it is pricier than any other DAW out there.
If we take any other DAW as an example, the chances are that you’ll have to cash in a few hundred dollars to get all the tools you need.
For example, as much as Studio One is a fantastic piece of software, the synth sounds just aren’t good enough for modern EDM. They sound a bit dated, so you’ll need to buy a 3rd-party synth that will probably, in the end, be equal to the total price of Ableton Live Suite.
Considering that Live Suite comes loaded with some high-end synths and features like “Max For Live” you can easily opt for the Live Standard version of Ableton.
You’ll miss a handful of features that you can probably live without. In my opinion, you end up on roughly the same playing field as with the rest of the DAWs- they all have stuff we like and stuff we don’t, and you’ll need to replace the things you don’t like anyhow.
Having said all this, Ableton does seem to be the priciest DAW out there, even if we measure the price against Live Standard and not Live Suite.
The Standard Live version is perfectly capable of handling even the most intense EDM productions. Still, it does seem like the price is a bit inflated, considering all the things you get.
Is Ableton Worth The Investment?
The answer is straightforward – if you’re an electronic music producer, it absolutely is. Otherwise, probably not.
Ableton is built around the community of electronic music producers. If you’re not looking into creating music with loops and samples in mind, you may end up paying for stuff you’ll likely never use.
Sure, Ableton is fully capable of handling any other music production. Still, loads of expensive features won’t add any value to your work if you’re producing rock music, for example. You’ll just end up paying way too much than your actual needs require you to.
On the other hand, if you are into loop-oriented music, Ableton is probably the best investment you’ll ever put your money into. The workflow is so good and the tools so well-made that you’ll hardly need to go for anything more than what you get in the Live Suite version.
Why is Ableton Suite so expensive compared to Logic pro?
Ableton comes packed with unique features not present in any other DAW. Live Suite offers more content than pro versions of any other DAWs out there.
Why is Ableton Live so difficult compared to FLstudio?
I would say that Ableton feels a bit easier to learn if you’re transitioning from a different DAW. I remember needing a tutorial on finding a mute button in FL Studio!
On the other hand, beginner producers may find Ableton a bit harder to navigate through at first.
What is the difference between Ableton Standard and Suite?
The suite version has many more VST instruments, more loops and samples, more audio and MIDI effects, and the Max For Live feature.
However, this doesn’t mean that the Standard version is not intended for professionals, as you can easily produce world-class music in it.
Which DAW is easier to begin with, FL Studio or Ableton Live?
I would say that Ableton feels a bit easier to learn, especially if you’re transitioning from a different DAW. I remember needing a tutorial on finding a mute button in FL Studio!
What are the points to consider when thinking about Ableton vs Logic Pro?
Logic Pro works only on MAC, while Ableton can run on MAC and Windows. Also, Logic Pro is more of a traditional DAW like Pro Tools. While you can easily produce electronic music in it, Ableton has a much better workflow for that stuff.
Is Ableton Live a one-time payment?
You can pay once and use that particular version for the rest of your life, but you will have to pay for any future upgrades if you want to enjoy new features.
Is Ableton good for recording?
Although it’s mainly advertised for working with loops and MIDI, Ableton is perfectly adapted to any recording situation.
What is Ableton Push for?
Push is an external MIDI controller for Ableton. This means that you can fully control Ableton without using the mouse and keyboard through this device.
Is Ableton live a yearly subscription?
Ableton can be bought via one-time payment only and isn’t subscription-based.
While it is true that Ableton is the most expensive DAW right now on the market, one can argue that the price is fully justified by the elegance of Ableton’s design and the value of the content you get along with it.
If you find yourself not needing some extra perks that the Live Suite offers, going for the Live Standard will stay within the budget of all other major DAWs.
Remember you can also try out the full version of Ableton Live Suite for 90 days for free.