Logic Pro vs Ableton Live

Posted by James Cullen on

Logic Pro and Ableton Live are both flagship DAWs at the forefront today's music production world. There are a myriad of features common to both, and certain areas that each excels in over the other one.

Today with Top Music Arts, we will take you through a summary and comparison of both Logic Pro and Ableton Live.

So if you're new to producing, familiar with one program, or both, hopefully you'll find our comparison useful and you might learn a thing or two!


Logic Pro

Logic Pro was originally released in the early 1990s as Notator Logic or just Logic by a C-Lab, a German software development company. Later, the company was bought by Apple in 2002, so Logic then officially became an Apple Product.

Logic Pro is the second most popular DAW in the world, second only to Ableton Live, going by a survey in 2015. Now a Mac only program, which was originally available as a boxed application, it is only available as a digital download from the Mac App Store.

A stripped down DAW using Logic's audio engine is available as a free software for Mac and iOS called Garageband. It takes the basic concepts of Logic and allows users to experiment in a stripped down version of the software.

It's great for kids or beginners, or if you're just making songs with loops (who hasn't done this with Garageband?) but if you're looking for Pro results and a more fleshed out program, Logic Pro is the one for you.

Logic Pro X comes with 69 Effects Plug Ins, as well as 23 Software Instruments. There are also 9 MIDI Plug Ins, 7238 Apple Loops covering many genres and support for up to 255 Audio Channels, the same amount of Software Channels and a further 255 Auxiliary Channels.

Due to Logic being an Apple exclusive, if you're running Windows, your options stop here unfortunately. While Ableton Live supports both platforms, Logic sadly does not.


Ableton Live

Starting its life in 2001 as a DAW and software sequencer, Live - made by German company Ableton - is the most popular DAW in the world for electronic music producers, many varying surveys have been done, and Ableton always seems to come out on top.

Built to function in a similar way to all other DAWs, Ableton contains all the features you'd expect to allow users to create, record, compose and produce music. However, it's also bundled with a whole host of features that make Live essentially an instrument for performing live or DJing.

Live's built in engine essentially acts in a similar way to a Loop pedal, and it also includes tools for beat matching, cross fading and other performance based effects. But more on this later.

Live comes in three iterations. Intro, Standard and Suite.  

  • Intro is targeted at the hobbyist musician market. It  limits the number of Audio and MIDI channels to 16, allows 2 Send and Return tracks, with 8 audio inputs. It has 4 Software Instruments, and 21 Audio Effects and 2 MIDI Effects. It lacks a large amount of the full version of the software's capabilities.
  • Standard has no limitations on track amounts, and offers a great many of the features of the full software. These are 12 Send and Return tracks, as well as 256 input and output channels. It also comes with 5 Software Instruments, 34 Audio Effects and 8 MIDI Effects.
  • Suite, as the name may give away, is a full music production suite. It comes bundled with All of the above, as well as Max for Live, all 15 Software Instruments, 55 Audio Effects and 17 MIDI Effects. Live Suite encompasses a complete integrated studio, giving you everything you need for Music Production.

For a more comprehensive look into what makes Ableton so unique, check out our other article here.


What should you consider when you're comparing DAWs?

There are a whole host of DAWs on the market, so there are a lot of questions to consider when comparing or considering one for your own use.

What do I want to get out of my DAW?

What features are essential to me?

What type of music will I be making?

Am I going to be performing my music, or just recording?

If you're making electronic music to be performed, for example, Ableton Live is the best choice by a mile.

If you're more focused on recording instruments and getting to use lots of technical plug ins, maybe Logic is the way to go.


Price point.

Straight off the bat, if you're going in blind with no former knowledge of the two, there's no getting away from the fact that Logic is much better value for money than Ableton, because it's cheaper, and comes bundled with everything you need.

The full version of Logic Pro X goes for $200, while Ableton Live 10 Suite -the full version with all the bells and whistles- costs a considerable $749. That's over double the price, and then some.


Obviously if budget is a consideration for you, there seems a clear choice

It's an unfortunate reality that Music Production can be an expensive hobby (with some plug ins alone costing in the hundreds) but if you're serious about making it work, that won't stop you. 

However, if you aren't sure, or if budget is not an issue, read on to check out exactly what sets these two DAWs apart from each other, and which one is right for you. 


What type of musician are you?

This is probably the most fundamental question you need to ask yourself when trying to decide which program suits your needs best. If you know exactly what you need from a DAW, you're better prepared to choose one.

If your workflow takes the form of building a track in an arrangement, delving into sound design and composition, then Logic is for you.

Logic's MIDI editing tools are often regarded as superior to Ableton's, and the Audio Recording and Processing in Logic is hands down the better deal.

If you're a musician who records acoustic instruments, vocals or live drums, then the ability to comp, edit, track and record audio are an essential part of your arsenal. Logic lets you do this with ease, whereas these features are sadly pretty much nonexistent in Ableton.

That's not to say that Live doesn't allow you to record audio, just that if you are wanting something more akin to a studio environment, where you can record multiple takes onto one track, splice and edit the audio together efficiently, then Logic excels here and Ableton falls short.

Having said that, the two flagship DAWs are constantly tweaking and subtly borrowing ideas from each other when they release updates, so who knows where Live's audio editing functionality will be in the future?


Are you purely a Writer or a Performer as well?

While the previous section may seem to put Logic in the lead, there are more things to consider. If performing your music is part of your goal, then Ableton is the choice for you. 

Live is unique because as well as having the traditional DAW features in its Arrangement View, it also comes with Session View, a unique environment in which you can employ a totally different song writing approach.

Building loops, and hearing them in real time is what Ableton's tools lend themselves to most effectively. When paired with Ableton's Push controllers, Live becomes a performance instrument, which can be used in either context; jamming out a song idea, or performing in a live situation

This is why Live is so popular with electronic music producers, as genres such as House or Techno, which are progression based and largely focused on looping parts building on top of each, are so easy and intuitive to create within Live's environment.

Live also offers extensive mapping to MIDI controllers, allowing pretty much any parameter from any plug in to be mapped to a control surface such as Ableton's own Push or Push 2, but third party controllers also work. This allows control down to a minute detail on many elements of a song's performance, and there's no limit to how creative you can be with effects when it comes to this level of customisation with MIDI programming and assignment.

Even DJs use Live. The audio snycing and beat matching is where Ableton's skills also shine. It has complex audio analysis and warping tools, allowing you to select and create transient markers, to ensure that the audio you're working with is perfectly in time with your project.

This is what makes using Live as a DJ tool possible, you can drag a full song onto a single clip, and ensure the beat is locked with the BPM of your Live session. Using Ableton's built in performance effects and tools, you can create a full DJ set up within Live's environment. Adding songs to individual clips, and creating a full line up of songs for a DJ set is entirely possible.

While Apple does offer Mainstagedesigned to be a live performance app and often seen as companion to Logic, for a live performance context, you can't beat the functionality and customisation levels available in Ableton Live. 

So if you're an artist with a clear view to being able to perform your music in a live setting, Ableton is the winner here for its unique performance oriented features. 


What's your history with DAWs?

Logic uses a layout that anyone who has previously used Pro Tools or Cubase would be familiar with.

Each DAW mentioned shares an area for arranging on a timeline horizontally, and a separate mixer for balancing your tracks volume, panning, FX, sends etc.

Live, on the other hand, while sharing an Arrangement View, can be confusing if you're only used to using the aforementioned DAWs. The Session View is Live's unique feature, and if you don't think you'd use it, sticking with Logic Pro would be the best bet. 

Ableton's Session View is so unique because it is a non-linear work space, visually arranged similar to Logic's mixer but with Clips arranged vertically and Scenes arranged horizontally.

Clip contains one part or element of a track. An Audio or MIDI phrase for example, while a Scene is a section of the song with all clips playing at once.

This section allows you to improvise and promotes building your track as a loop. A clip will loop infinitely if you leave it playing, so if your approach to songwriting is building on ideas in real time, you can do this.

Then when you're finished, you can switch over to Arrangement View and create the song's full arrangement in a more traditional timeline sense.

For a comprehensive comparison of Ableton's Session View, check out our article here which takes a closer look at Ableton's interface.


If your focus is on Mixing and Mastering...

If you're less of a songwriter and more of an engineer or a technically minded producer, Logic has a boutique of plug ins that are perfect when it comes to Mixing and Mastering your tracks.

The EQ plug in in Logic Pro X provides much better graphical feedback than EQ Eight in Ableton, for example, and Logic's Compressor is similarly superior with emulations of most compressor types.

There are even argument for Logic's audio engine sounding better. Though these are largely an issue of taste preference. There's definitely a difference between them, but is it enough to set one apart as an industry standard and the other as sub par? Not really.

The point is, great music can be and is made in both DAWs.

Something to consider though, is that many producers (myself included) have found themselves producing a track in Ableton, and then moving over to Logic for a more comprehensive mixing and mastering process.

While Ableton may lend itself well to particular composition scenarios, Logic comes out ahead when it comes to Mixing and Mastering.

Bottom line, if you're mastering, you want to be doing it in Logic. While you can master in Live, and if you don't own Logic Pro, you absolutely should, if you have access to Logic, you can't beat the complex tools and analysers that help in a Mastering context. Logic's Adaptive Limiter is a great example of this.



As I'm sure you've figured out by now, there's no clear answer to the age old and often argued about question is Logic or Ableton the better DAW?

While Ableton may come out on top on many polls, you could argue that that's just because it's supported on both Mac and Windows, while Logic is only a Mac app. This may affect results of polls because of how many people have access to each program, so it's worth bearing in mind.

You should never pay any attention if someone is blatantly shouting about how one is better than the other. It's entirely subjective.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of various elements to consider, and the most important thing is knowing yourself what kind of a producer you are, and what your needs are when it comes to music production software.


Hopefully you gained something from this comparison of Logic Pro and Ableton Live. Stay tuned for more content, and check out the rest of Top Music Arts' posts, templates, tutorials and more!










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