Logic Pro X vs Ableton Live 10 – Which DAW is better?

As a new producer, choosing the right DAW to use and potentially spend the rest of your career using can be a very daunting task.

The majority of new producers jump into this decision either without doing enough prior research or by simply basing their decision on what their friends and fellow producers are using at the time.

The downfall of this is that many producers later find themselves having to change to another DAW which better suits their requirements & workflow.

Studio Slave rounds up the main pro’s and con’s to think about when purchasing your DAW of choice.

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Price and value for money

Logic Pro X is set at a very affordable price for entry-level producers at around €170 which is roughly £150 from the app store. For anyone who has had any experience with Garage band, you will find its a very easy stepping stone to Logic Pro X. Most of the functionality and controls will either be very similar or exactly the same as GarageBand, which is great for ensuring a smooth and speedy transition.

Ableton Live offers 3 different versions, 

  • EUR 79 for Live Intro 
  • EUR 349 for Live Standard
  • EUR 599 for Live Suite

In our opinion, the most feature-rich version of Live (Ableton Live suite) is a bit too expensive for the hobbyist’s wishing to try it out, so we recommend getting a lighter version of the DAW and upgrading if it is the right workstation for you. Alternatively, you could also try out Live Suite for a free no-limits 30-day trial.

This is a great way to demo all of the extra horse-power that Live offers in the form of extra tracks, scenes, instruments, and devices without having to pay any money in the process.

Ableton Live price comparison

There’s also Ableton Live lite which ships with a plethora of hardware midi controllers, we recommend something like the AKAI APC40 MKII, especially if you are doing any type of live performance. It ships with Live intro and is specifically mapped so it works natively with Ableton Live right out the box. Live can also be bundled with push 2, their flagship controller, bundling Push 2 together with any version of Live will reduce the price slightly from buying them separately.

Logic doesn’t have any form of flagship controller but works fine with all standard midi controllers and control surfaces just like Live.

Ableton Push 2

Get it here.

The AKAI APC40 MKII
Get it here.

A point to note with Live Lite is that it has limitations on the number of tracks and scenes you have, as well as what instruments and effects you have access to, but it’s great if you’re just starting out and like the idea of using Ableton Live because of its unique workflow within session view.

Ableton Live can also be upgraded either on an individual pack basis, an instrument basis or by upgrading the entire application at a later date. If you are using lots of external plugins you may find that there is no actual requirement to upgrade your current version of Live.

In short, Ableton’s tier system can be a bit off-putting and Logic Pro is a much simpler option for those looking for a fast and cheap way to start creating music whilst also getting access to a lot of producer-ready sounds and instruments without any extra strings attached. 

Storage Space & CPU

Both applications only take up a few Gb of space and can also be expanded by downloading extra content libraries. In Ableton, this is done via ‘packs’ and in Logic Pro this is done via the content library manager.

We have found that in some cases Logic Pro can run into compatibility issues with projects if certain parts of the library are not installed, Installing the full library of sounds pushes logics installation up to almost 100Gb which could be seen as a disadvantage, however, the libraries are completely free and all of the samples & instruments sound amazing and can be used straight away with no preset tweaking.

Ableton Live can be used straight away without the need to install as much library content, but many of the stock presets don’t sound as production-ready compared to Logic with the exception of certain instruments such as ‘Operator’.  The extra packs available for download sound great but many of these are only free to download if you have purchased the Suite version of Ableton Live.

Both applications have been very careful to ensure that they can run with very low CPU usage and they have also added ways for the user to reduce CPU manually by disabling certain features which are not often used or required. We recommend to keep an eye on audio buffer sizes, oversampling, synthesiser voices and use of audio I/Os to reduce CPU usage. It also goes without saying to remove or turn off any devices not being used.

Reliability / Stability

Most logic users will agree that Logic Pro has always been much more prone to screen freezes or ‘hangs’ and full application crashing. Frustratingly this happens fairly often, which casts a bit of a shadow over what is otherwise a very powerful and comprehensive application.

Ableton Live has been considerably more stable in all previous versions which is clearly very important due to its heavy use for live performance where the possibility of a crash can be devastating to a show.

As a side note, we have found that there has been some issues with Ableton Live 10 crashing and causing elevated CPU in the initial Live 10 update but these issues appear to have been fixed in a more recent update.

Both Logic Pro and Ableton Live are capable of auto-saving in the background. In the event of a crash the application will give the option to either revert to the last auto-save or the last manual save. 

Accessibility

Logic Pro is for Apple Mac only. This is likely the reason why they can afford to sell the application at such a competitive price compared to other DAWs because a mac is required to run the software.

Ableton Live is available for both Windows and Mac.

Interface / Layout

Logic is similar to every other traditional DAW in the way that it has a linear style of arrangement, mapped to the time domain. 

Much like Logic Pro, Ableton Live also has a time-based arrangement-view but also benefits from session-view. Session view was how Ableton Live started as a program and is what makes it such a powerful tool for live performance.

Session view allows DJs and performers to jam and experiment with clips, loops, and arrangement to quickly get ideas, concepts or entire compositions into Ableton Live. These ideas can then either be re-performed using session view or recorded into arrangement view to be exported as a final composition. 

Both Ableton Live and Logic Pro’s user interface are now very nice to look at. It could be argued that versions of Ableton Live prior to Live 10 could have done with a face-lift, which is essentially exactly what happened in Live 10. Likewise, Logic Pro X has seen a vast UI improvement from Logic Pro 9.

As for style, Logic Pro X follows more of a traditional ‘pop-out’ style of windowed devices which mirrors how third party plugins work, whilst Ableton uses its device rack to house stock devices yet Lives third-party plugins work in the ‘windowed’ fashion.

This ensures all of Ableton Lives devices follow the same theme and in my opinion this also makes them more intuitive to learn and navigate because many of the parameters of a device can be found on multiple devices.

Logic Pro’s newer devices are also very intuitive to use, however some of the older legacy devices such as Ultrabeat and a few others can be fiddly to use due to the poor UI experience and over-complicated interface.

Both applications offer dual screen monitoring.

dual screens ableton
dual screens logic

DAW Functionality

Both DAWs are extremely feature rich. Here is a list of some of the key-points taken from both of them.

Logic Pro is superior for mix-downs because of its flexible routing options and the ability to see all the plugins, inserts and send/return settings at a glance on the mixer console – this is very similar to the layout of a real analogue desk. Ableton is capable of doing this as well but it is not a default feature and requires an options text file hack.

Ableton’s number 1 selling point is that it has an extremely fast workflow which is unrivaled by any other DAW, the workflow itself cannot be fully explained in this article as it is made up of lots of small components and concepts that cumulatively add up to make it an extremely fast DAW.

This workflow is geared towards quickly taking an idea or concept from a blank canvas to an 80% finished track, which is a big bonus for producers who feel that they need to stay within a flow-state in order to finish their music.

Ableton definitely has its advantages for electronic music which utilizes heavier use of audio manipulation and sampling in particular. Whilst Ableton also has good midi functionality it is not quite as flexible as Logic Pro’s midi manipulation.

Logic Pro’s overall navigation and general workflow can be a bit clunky, some people find this slower workflow actually helps by forcing the producer to take things at a slightly slower pace and make more informed decisions. However, from personal experience we feel that Ableton Live is the DAW of choice for fast idea-generation and a speedy workflow.

It pays dividends to learn the shortcuts for each application or look at getting a keyboard overlay to help you. Keyboard overlays are especially useful if you plan on using both apps and will be jumping between them on a weekly basis.

 

Logic Pro X Keyboard Overlay

Get it here.

 

Ableton Live Keyboard Overlay

Get it here.

Logic is great for singer/songwriters who don’t want to get too bogged down in the technicalities of production. They can very easily get a rough drum track down using Logic’s virtual drummer so they can practice or improvise new piano/vocal parts along to the track.

These ideas can then be recorded in ‘takes’ and ‘comped’ together to create the final part. Finally, the original virtual drummer can be converted into midi and the samples can then be replaced and the notes can be edited by the singer/songwriter or producer at a later date.

virtual drummer

Logic Pro’s Virtual Drummer

live performance with Ableton Live

Ableton Live used for Live Performance

Ableton’s way of warping/time-stretching audio is much easier to use than logic. Editing the tempo settings of logic can be disastrous if you haven’t set it up to flex correctly. In Ableton, this sort of task would require very little extra work from the user. For this reason, Ableton Live is great for creating complex live sets with tempo changes and is also a great tool for creating studio DJ mixes and radio show podcasts.

Logic’s flex-pitch feature is very similar to Melodyne. This is great for singer/songwriters and vocalists working on their own content that wish to produce their own music. Ableton has a basic pitch transposition engine which allows for basic edits to pitch and formant but has no real way of making in-depth edits to vocals at this stage.

Ableton has the ability to convert audio to ‘new midi’, ‘drums’, ‘harmony ‘and ‘melody’. Whilst this algorithm can sometimes get it disastrously wrong it can be used as a great creative tool to come up with new ideas and is also something we use to extract timing values as well as harmonies and melodies from sampled material.

Ableton Live has MaxforLive which makes the possibilities of what you can do with Ableton Live almost limitless. If you can think of it, Ableton and MaxforLive can do it, such as:

  • Controlling DMX lighting & lasers
  • Creating and controlling visuals
  • Controlling robots and electronic circuitry
  • Setting off pyrotechnics

Other software/hardware Integration

Live integrates with the likes of DJ and VJ software like Traktor and Resolume using Ableton Link. This makes it very powerful for large stage performances, live acts, audio visual shows and anything else where you might want synchronization between hardware, software & visuals.

Both Ableton live & Logic Pro can be integrated with iPads, iPhones and other touch devices. Logic Pro does this natively using its Native Remote app, audio-visual Ableton can accomplish this in a slightly trickier way using applications such as TouchOSC, however, this is not native and could also be mapped to any software that supports OSC/MIDI.

Logic Remote

TouchOSC

TouchOSC

Both Applications great with most standard midi controllers and control surfaces. Both apps were tested with the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol MK2 and passed with flying colours.

 

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2

Get it here.

Stock Instruments

Live suite 10 has some great new instruments but in general Logic would be better for someone who wanted to dive straight in due to the fact that you would need the Suite version of Live to get access to many of these new instruments and presets. If you are using third-party plugins such as Arturia, Massive, Sylenth, Serum or Kontakt then it won’t really matter that you are using live intro or standard because in most cases you would only be using the DAW for the workflow and fast sample previews & browsing.

If you don’t get the suite version of Ableton you are fairly limited to Simpler, Impulse, and Drum Rack.  However, you can buy the extra instruments individually. Operator and Wavetable are must have synths.

Logic Pro has a much greater choice for stock instruments and it is clear that a lot of time has been spent to create the presets and channel strips. These are great to use straight out the box and require little to no tweaking. We can firmly say that If you purchase Logic Pro then there is plenty of instrumentation going on to prevent you needing to buy any third party plugins unless you are trying to create a very specific sound.

Both logic and Ableton have a very comprehensive set of audio and midi devices. I would probably lean more towards Logic devices for things like variations of compressors and reverbs purely because Ableton only has the standard stock compressor, multi-band compressor, and glue compressor and lacks the ability to choose different compressor emulations.

Likewise, for reverb units Ableton only has the stock reverb device which is quite limited, there is also the convolution reverb which is a superb reverb unit, however this is a MaxForLive device so requires the user to have MaxForLive which comes bundled with Suite.

logic pro legacy and new compressors
Logic Pro's legacy compressor compared to the new compressor interface.

Logic pro’s legacy compressor side by side with one of the new compressor interfaces.

Learning

If you have had any experience with garage band then you will understand and pick up Logic Pro very quickly.

The advanced mode in Logic Pro can be turned off to simplify the workflow for new producers but we recommend leaving this turned on.

Ableton Live throws you in the deep end with having to understand session/arrange view which can be a complicated concept to grasp for beginners but it also has some great built-in lessons.

For bands, live acts, and electronic acts Live is a strong choice as it is the perfect tool for practice sessions and getting creative. A caveat to this is that some producers find they get stuck in session view and prefer the arrangement view to help them propel their ideas forward into finished tracks.

Apples Garage Band

Garage Band

Apples lite version of Logic Pro

Summary

There are a few things both applications could do with taking on board from one another but they are both equally good at what they do in their respective fields. We feel it is less a case of which software is better and more a case of which software best fits your requirements, style & workflow. The only way to truly know is to give both applications a fair trial run for a few weeks.

This may seem like a time consuming process but choosing the correct DAW is a decision that you will carry throughout your entire music career so a few weeks spent making the right decision now may shave years off of how long it takes you to break through as an artist in the future. Furthermore it may save you from having to transition to a different DAW in a few years time if you made the wrong choice when you first started producing.

Something important to bear in mind is that what you learn initially is what you’ll most likely stick to using, so think about what kind of act you are going to be to help shape your decision.

Is it okay to use both? Of course, it is, but keep in mind that it will take a considerable amount of time to become completely fluent in both programmes and know which one to use in to scenarios. This time may be better spent completely honing your skills in just one of the applications and focusing your spare time on pushing your career as an artist forward. 

Try the 30 day free trial of Ableton Live 10 Suite here.
Try out the Garage Band (Lite version of Logic) here.