Review of Ableton Live 9 (from a Pro Tools User)

HI guys. Its me again, your friend PuzzleVortex. (@puzzlevortex)

I have a serious confession to make.

I just switched from Pro Tools 9, to Ableton Live 9.

Below, I’m going to explain why i’m switching to Ableton Live 9, even though i really love Pro Tools

(sorry digidesign, but i had to do it)

In this article, I’m going to summarize the features that i think will help me create better music, more quickly, as well how Ableton is a very different type of DAW when it’s compared to Pro Tools.

The Ableton features i liked included: midi effects, its ability to generate new melodies by altering your midi notes, its simple light weight interface, the Drum Rack plugin, its emphasis on looping, the ability to perform your music live with a controller, and Serato Scratch Live integration.


Why Would I Dare Switch From Pro Tools, when i really like it?

I’ve been using Pro Tools for over 15 years. I like it, alot. I hit the Save Hotkey unconsciously at this point. If my session crashes, i’m not even worried.

BUT, The whole point of this blog is to experiment with new music production software and post the results. For you, and for ME.

I felt like my production techniques were getting stale, and that i might be missing out on something, by just sticking to Pro Tools. (and i definitely was…)

Recently, I was told about Ableton by a friend, who is a very skilled and successful musician.

I really respect this person for his musical talent, so i thought it would be smart to listen to him.

This convinced me to try the free 30 day Ableton demo. (you can d/l it here)

Once i gave it a shot, i understood why alot of producers are talking about it.

Ableton Live is NOT just a recording DAW. It provides tools to help you create better music, more quickly. It is especially good, if you like working with midi and virtual instruments. It will even help you generate new melodies, based off of a parts you create in midi.

In addition, Ableton Live also has tools to help you perform your creations live.

You can also use the Ableton DAW in combination with Ableton Push (or any other type of controller), to trigger loops, volume changes, effects, or other parameters.

Adding a controller like Push allows you to perform the music you create live.


With its emphasis on looping, Ableton allows me to throw a song together, faster than i ever have.

For electronic music or hip-hop producers, i think Ableton is a great choice as a DAW.

BUT, if you’re more interested in recording live instruments, i think you might be better off in Pro Tools. (which is what it focuses on)

Is It Hard to Get Used to Ableton Live 9?

At first, the transition to ANY new DAW is a little bit painful.

There is definitely a learning curve. You won’t be fluent in ANY new DAW immediately.

Watching Ableton tutorial videos on youtube, is KEY to picking it up quickly. BUT, once you learn the basics, its not that hard.

Here’s an introduction to Ableton video (like the one below), to get you started:

How is Ableton Live 9 Different from Pro Tools 9?

Ableton Live gives you tools to create music with midi, virtual instruments, samples, and looping. Pro Tools focuses more on recording live instruments.

The Ableton DAW centers around the creation of clips, loops, and scenes in midi or audio. These loops are then recorded onto the Arrangement view, for further refinement of your musical ideas.

The loops, clips, or scenes are created in Session View (left image).



You can then arrange the loops, clips, and scenes that you create, in Arrangement View (left image).




Once the parts are recorded in Arrangement view, you can still alter the midi notes, instrument patches, and effects. Working with midi gives you alot of flexibility, that’s why i prefer to work in midi now.

Its easy to adjust all parameters in midi, as the song develops. (That’s why i like working with midi, rather than with audio) If you work with audio, you are stuck with what you have, unless you want to re-record.

This helps to quickly create musical ideas, arrange them, develop them, and then work them into a more structured song.

Which of the 3 Versions of Ableton Do You Need?

There are 3 different paid versions of Ableton which you can purchase.

There is also a full demo version you can test free for 30 days. (try the demo verison here)

If you want to buy Ableton, there are 3 versions:

  • Intro – $99
  • Standard – $450
  • Suite – $800

Here is a feature comparison of all 3 versions on Ableton’s website.

  • The Intro version of Ableton lets you make 16 tracks, 8 scenes, and 2 send/returns. (Its the bare bones version, and its NOT enough, in my opinion.)

BUT, Ableton does offer an upgrade from the intro version at a discount price ($375). So, its ok if you just want to get your feet wet in creating music.

  • If you are more serious about your music, you will need the Standard – Version. This version costs $450. (i just bought this one)
    • The Standard version lets you create unlimited audio and midi tracks (as many as your computer processor can handle). But, it doesn’t contain MAX for live performance, as well as the additional soft synths, and samples that come with
  • The Suite Version of Ableton costs $800.

It comes with extra virtual instruments, sample packs, live tools, and effects processors. I haven’t tried it, so i’m not really sure if its worth it.

(I purchased the Standard Version of Ableton and i’m very happy with it.)

The only additional piece of software i want to purchase for Ableton is the Serum VST, which i completely loved when i tried the demo.

Using Midi Effects in Ableton

One feature which i really liked about Ableton was the ability to use Midi Effects to change or create variations of your melodies.

Midi effects let you alter your midi notes in different ways including the pitch, velocity, length, etc.


For example, midi effects let you use an arppegiator, change the scale, pitch, or add some random changes.

These midi effects can help you create variations on your melody or bassline, which you could use as an additional part.

Here’s a video that shows you how to use Ableton to generate melodies:

Creating an Ultimate Drum Rack in Ableton

I really love creating drum loops with the Drum Rack Virtual Instrument in Ableton.

It is so easy. You just drag in any drum samples, then program your beat with midi.


Drum rack also lets you add effects and modulate any parameter on each individual drum sound. You have complete flexibility.

This allows you to use just one drum rack plugin, so you can keep the strain on your processor low.

Below is a video that teaches you how to put together a flexible Drum Rack in Ableton:

How to Perform Live With Ableton

Ableton was created with live performance in mind, its provides tools to help you do so. Pro Tools does not have this (at least not version 9 which i was using)

Ableton gives you improvisation tools, allowing you to trigger loops, samples, and keep everything in sync.

Ableton lets you to map certain keys on a keyboard (or other controller) to trigger loops, as well as faders, sends, and effects.

Serato Scratch Live Integration

You can sync Ableton Live and Serato Scratch Live by opening them both at the same time. They should sync automatically through software called The Bridge.

Here’s a video that gives you an idea of what is possible with Ableton + Serato Scratch Live:

Now That Ableton is my Prefered DAW, Will i Ever Use Pro Tools Again?

YES. Even though i plan on using Ableton alot, I will still definitely use Pro Tools.

I will use Pro Tools to record live instruments like vocals or guitars, but not for beat creation using virtual instruments and midi.

i think the Ableton software does midi, virtual instruments, and looping better than Pro Toos. (that’s how i prefer to work)

Also, note that i haven’t tried Pro Tools 12 yet! (I’ve only used Pro Tools 9.) So, there might be some new features in Pro Tools that i haven’t been exposed to.

If anyone at Digidesign wants to hook me up with a demo or copy of PT12, I would love to do a review of Pro Tools 12. (I still really love Pro Tools, I just cant afford to buy it right now.)

Also, if anyone has any questions about Ableton, or any software designers want me to review their plugins, VSTs, or DAWs, please contact me @puzzlevortex