Ableton is undeniably one of the most popular DAWs on the market, but it is quite pricey. \n\n\n\nIf you are just getting started with music production it can seem like a big investment, but is Ableton worth the money or is it superfluous? Can you get the same elsewhere for cheaper? Why do people consistently shell out for Ableton Live and other Ableton products considering the price?\n\n\n\nAbleton Live is very good for certain types of producers, usually those in specializing in electronic music production. The live functionality, intuitive loop-based production, built in instruments, samples and effects and integration with Ableton Hardware make it well worth the high price tag. \n\n\n\nIf you do want a truly elite piece of software for making music, there aren\u2019t that many options. If the workflow of Ableton suits your production style then this is another big plus point, as Ableton is quite unique in its layout. Plenty of musicians are happy to pay the price considering the features Ableton has.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe Ableton Pricing Model\n\n\n\n\n\nAbleton Live has three versions. Intro, Standard and Suite. They all look very similar to start with, but if you buy Standard or Suite then you can enjoy extra VST instruments, effects and loops included. Plus, Ableton Live Intro restricts quite a few of the features and functions of the software. \n\n\n\nWhile Ableton Live Lite might be decent for playing around and getting used to the interface, the cheaper price tag shouldn\u2019t be enough to tempt in serious musicians. It is quite restrictive. For instance, you can\u2019t add more than 16 tracks to a piece of music you are making. It is definitely designed to try and get you to upgrade to Standard or Suite.\n\n\n\nLuckily, once you have purchased one version of the software, Ableton will let you upgrade, so you don\u2019t have to pay the full price to get the next level of software. \n\n\n\nThis upgrade cosy is a bit of a hidden cost to consider, you do have to pay to upgrade if you want all the features of the new software. You can still carry on using the old versions of Ableton though but you will always feel like you are missing out on something! These new versions come out every few years on average. Ableton is currently on version 10. \n\n\n\nThe price for the full version is similar to the price of Pro Tools, a competing piece of software, which is also extremely powerful, and aimed at musical professionals. There are some cheaper alternatives, as we will come to later on in the article.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhich Producers Will Find Ableton Worth the Investment?\n\n\n\n\n\nArrangement vs Live View\n\n\n\n\n\nWhether or not you find Ableton worth the money will largely depend upon how you use it, and if you find the workflow suitable for you.\n\n\n\nThe \u2018Live\u2019 in Ableton Live is there for a reason and the software is made with the idea of playing live heavily integrated. For this reason it has additional functionality to other DAWs and why it is favoured by many dance music producers who may want to take their creations to a live setting. \n\n\n\n\n\nAbleton's Live View\n\n\n\n\n\nInstead of the linear \u201carrangement\u201d window, Ableton also has its Live window, allowing you to audition loops and mess around with effects in real time. This is why so many dance music producers, and people who use a lot of loops in their production, have found Ableton to have a suitable workflow. This style is great for DJs who are used to working in looped modes, thinking of music in more of a live capacity.\n\n\n\n\n\nAbleton still has an 'arrangement view' more similar to that in other DAWs\n\n\n\n\n\nIf you've used DAWs before and like working in an \u2018arrangement\u2019 view then you may not even use Abletons \u2018live\u2019 view and that means you are paying a lot of money for something you aren\u2019t using. There will probably be cheaper DAWs out there which will be just as useful if that is the case. \n\n\n\nAlternatives if you would rather work in this \u201clinear\u201d fashion include Logic Pro and Pro Tools. There are some cheaper alternatives, too.\n\n\n\nWhether you find Ableton Live worth the money isn\u2019t just about how much it costs, it is about whether it aids your production or not. Many producers describe themselves as \u201cclicking\u201d with the Ableton layout. If you\u2019re used to DJing and want to be able to audition loops in a more live environment then it certainly could be your production companion. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHardware Integration\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAbleton manufactures its own hardware, and there is a lot of third-party hardware designed to link up with Ableton Live and give you a hardware controller with an instant Ableton setup. Ableton\u2019s own \u201cPush\u201d is one of the instruments that a lot of people like the idea of playing. \n\n\n\nIn the words of Ableton, \u201cPush is an instrument that puts everything you need to make music in one place\u2014at your fingertips.\u201d If you want hardware too, this might come into your consideration.\n\n\n\nSome hardware and even affordable MIDI keyboards come with Ableton Live Lite as standard, so this can be a way to trial the basic version of the software without having any extra expense. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHow Will You Know if Ableton Live is For You?\n\n\n\n\n\nWe realise our answer to whether Ableton is worth the money is going to be frustrating for some people, as we can\u2019t give you a \u201cyes\u201d or \u201cno\u201d. Plenty of people get a lot out of Ableton Live and would never switch to any other piece of software, which speaks volumes, but we definitely recommend trying it out.\n\n\n\nLuckily, Ableton gives you a 90 day free trial of Ableton Live Suite. You can simply download the software from their site. \n\n\n\nSome functionality is limited, and after 90 days you will have to make the decision of whether or not to pay for it, but this is pretty standard. The key is the fact that you will get to make the decision yourself after using Ableton Live for a period of time.\n\n\n\nThe question of \u2018which is the best DAW\u2019 is one you will find many conflicting answers for all over the internet. The reason for this is there is no one right answer. People tend to choose a DAW early in their production career and become familiar with it and often end up loving it. \n\n\n\nI have used Ableton since I got a free copy of Live Lite when I was just 15. I am now familiar and comfortable with how it works and that is one of the most important factors. You don\u2019t want to be spending hours or days re-learning a new piece of software when you could be writing music instead!\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe Competitors to consider\n\n\n\n\n\nBest if you don\u2019t want to spend anything: Garageband\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nReaders of the blog may know I often rave about Garageband. This DAW gets a bit of stick because it comes free on Apple products but I think that is unfair. For a beginner, it is a great way to learn about music production and how to arrange a musical composition. \n\n\n\nThe software is easy to start using and comes with some pretty nice sounding virtual instruments as well as letting you record your own of course. \n\n\n\nIf you are simply interested in getting started now for free, then give it a go. As musicians, we can get bogged down in talking about software and hardware but in reality, those are just distractions from actually writing and recording music! \n\n\n\nThe downsides of Garageband will become apparent as you progress as a producer. You are very limited with the number of effects and plugins you can use and more advanced production techniques are really a no go. But because it was free you haven\u2019t lost anything. \n\n\n\nThe other major downside is that you can only get Garageband on Apple products and so if you own a Windows computer or laptop you won\u2019t be able to get it. \n\n\n\nOnce you are comfortable with the principles of recording music on Garageband, transitioning to a paid DAW like Ableton will be much easier. It\u2019s a great stepping stone for a beginner. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBest if you aren\u2019t interested in live performance: Logic Pro\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIf you are a Mac user, then you might be wondering whether Ableton Live or Logic Pro is more suitable for you to download and start using. Obviously, there is an element of personal preference, but both have an incredibly professional reputation and relatively simple layout.\n\n\n\nThe full version of Logic Pro is less than half the price of the full version of Ableton Live, which is a considerable saving. \n\n\n\nIf you have a free reign to spend as much as you want then this won\u2019t come into your consideration, if you want something that is affordable as well as high-end then the affordability of Logic Pro might come into your thinking. Logic Pro still has plenty of virtual instruments and inbuilt effects, and the costs are considerably lower.\n\n\n\nOnce again I\u2019m afraid Logic is only available on Apple products. But I do really recommend getting an Apple computer or laptop for music production which I explain in this article if you are interested. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nA Cheaper Alternative on Windows: Reaper\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nReaper is a DAW that has increased in popularity immensely over the last few years. And this is mainly due to its very low price point. \n\n\n\nYou can get a non-commercial licence for Reaper for just $40 whereas a commercial licence is just $200. Most individuals will only need the $40 licence. \n\n\n\nReaper can be a little bit daunting to get started with as it has so many customisable elements. But that can be a strong point too. If you are comfortable with computers and don\u2019t mind spending time getting to know the ins and outs of a piece of software then Reaper is a very cool option. \n\n\n\nWhere it falls down compared to Ableton are again mainly the \u2018Live\u2019 elements. It isn\u2019t tailored in the same way towards dance music production or live performance. But if you are looking to record using acoustic instruments rather than produce within the computer using MIDI and loop based production then Reaper is a very interesting option. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nStudents and Teachers - Don\u2019t Forget Discounts\n\n\n\n\n\nA quick reminder for those who are looking to keep costs down. If you are a student or a teacher and can prove that you are involved with an educational establishment then you can make use of discounts of up to 40%. \n\n\n\nThis significant saving can tip the balance of whether or not you want to buy Ableton or not. Ableton is not the only software offering this discount for students, but if you are eligible then you shouldn\u2019t overlook the saving that can be made.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nConclusion - Is Ableton Worth the Money?\n\n\n\n\n\nWhether or not Ableton will be worth the investment for you is an individual decision to make. There are plenty of cheaper (and even free) options out there but that doesn\u2019t mean you should dismiss Ableton. \n\n\n\nAbleton really shines for certain types of producers and musicians. If you like to write in loops, use a lot of MIDI or software synths then Ableton is hard to beat and is extremely powerful. You aren\u2019t paying all that money for nothing. \n\n\n\nThat said you are paying all that money for nothing if you don\u2019t use it to it\u2019s full potential. If you are simply looking to record a few tracks using live instruments and vocals, Ableton is probably not the best option in terms of value. \n\n\n\nI personally use Ableton and have for years and so can vouch for it fully. If you think it could work for you give the 90 day trial a go and make sure you maximise that time. Explore the 1000s of Youtube videos about the software and watch people make tracks using it. If you are still unsure then try the Lite version next, you can still make some pretty cool tracks in that limited software. Then finally you can take the plunge on the final version!