Ableton VS. FL Studio

Ableton VS. FL Studio

Digital audio workstations (DAWs) are a must-have for electronic music production.  However, there are different software available for this purpose, so it can be hard to know which brand to choose from. Among the many brands of DAWs are Ableton and FL Studio, both well-known among hobbyists and professional music producers. 

Which is better, Ableton or FL Studio?  The answer is more complicated than a simple this or that. Both Ableton and FL Studio are exceptional digital audio workstations, so the answer depends on what features you are looking for in a DAW. 

For you to choose a digital audio workstation that best suits your needs, you’ll need to learn a bit about each of them.  Once you understand the ins and outs of both and what they offer, you will be better equipped to decide which digital audio workstation software is the right fit for you.

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What is a Digital Audio Workstation?

Hobbyists often use digital audio workstations; however, they are also essential for musicians and producers alike. Digital audio workstations are used to record, edit, mix and produce music.  For producers, DAWs are vital pieces of software that bring everything together. It is the application/software that is key in bringing everything to fruition. 

Besides digital audio workstations, there are also audio editors. At times, DAWs and audio editors cross paths and are used cohesively.  

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Digital audio workstations were created in the late ’70s. As time progressed, advances in technology paved the way for more advanced versions of digital audio workstations, all leading to FL Studio being created in 1997 and Ableton being established just two years later in 1999.

About Ableton

As previously mentioned, Ableton was developed in 1999.  It is a music production software (sequencer) used by macOS and Windows owners, designed for live performances as well as to be a tool for recording, editing, mixing, and arranging music. The ease of use, workflow, and resizable interface make Ableton an excellent choice in digital audio workstations.

  • Ease of Use & Workflow. Thankfully, the controls and resized texts keep the text visible when small bitmaps disappear. The controls are also minimal and straight forward. These controls are lovely in comparison with many other digital audio workstations that feature several tiny icons that seem to cause visual confusion—not to mention frustration.  
  • Resizable interface. The interface is resizable because it is created using simple stretchable bitmaps rather than static-sized bitmaps. You can even switch to a UHD display relatively fast.  All you need do is open up your preferences and set the interface to 200% or whichever percentage you prefer the interface to be set at.

Ableton has three versions: Intro/Lite, Basic/Standard, and Suite:

  • The Intro version comes with all of Ableton’s ten lives’ essential workflow, instruments, and effects. It only costs $99; this may seem expensive, but for everything you get with Ableton Lite, it’s very worth it!  
  • The Standard version’s price jumps up to a whopping $449 but comes with all the essentials, in addition to a few extras. The standard Ableton 10 live offers unlimited audio and MIDI tracks.  The 256 inputs, along with the 256 mono outputs, make this an excellent choice for an established band or musician.  
  • Ableton Live 10 Suite is the most expensive at $749. However, it offers everything and then some. By purchasing the suite, you get all the same features that the lite and standard versions have. You also get 60 GB more of samples and sounds, a total of 55 audio effects, and 17 MIDI effects.

Who is Ableton for?

Ableton’s three different versions make it an ideal option for several different types of people.  The Lite version only allows eight audio and MIDI tracks, as well as eight mono input and mono outputs. This version of Ableton is ideal for beginners. However, although this Intro version is excellent for beginners, it can take a full day to learn the system. That being said, it does help if you know a little bit about digital audio workstations ahead of time, so doing your research is essential beforehand.

The Standard Ableton live 10 is excellent for established bands to use for live performances.  These bands could be relatively new, but still, it’s best they already know what they are doing to some degree. 

The Suite version, as previously stated, has everything you could possibly desire.  It is great for producers and experienced musicians.  It has unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, audio slicing, and Max for Life: Max for Life powers several instruments and devices in Live Studio, which is wonderful for bands.

The good news is that as of April 2020, all three Ableton versions are on sale. You can purchase the Intro version for $69, Standard for $314, and suite for $524.  They are all 30% off until May 20, 2020. If you need more information on Ableton Studio or to purchase the version of your choice, click the link provided. 

Advantages of Ableton

There are several advantages that Ableton provides.  The first being that it is compatible with macOS and Windows. It’s true that FL Studio now has macOS compatibility, but Ableton has had both macOS and Windows compatibility from the start; this is beneficial because if you travel with a MacBook and have a Windows PC at home, you can use both to work on the same project. 

Secondly, compared not only to FL Studio but several other top names in digital audio workstations as well, Ableton has the fastest sequencer!  If you have an old computer with a slow processor, Ableton saves your central processing unit.  It has a flawless freeze track function and easy to use audio samples.  Another huge plus is that Ableton supports VST/AU (virtual studio technology and audio unit).

File management is also easy to use in Ableton Live.  You simply need to type what it is you are looking for and select it.  Ableton also has a fabulous new function that allows you to set a different color to each of your favorite plugins, so they’re easy to locate and configure.

Ableton is also incredibly user friendly.  Using an arrangement view, you can easily add any MIDI channel or audio channel.  After that, you simply add VST (virtual studio technology) or an instrument and mixing effect.

Disadvantages of Ableton

While there are many more advantages of Ableton over other DAWs, it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t fill you in on a couple of disadvantages as well; the only problem is that there are very few.  In fact, the only major con is that Ableton said to lack proper MIDI support.  It has less MIDI editing tools than FL Studio.

Another disadvantage is the prep time and prep work required before a live performance.  However, the extensive prep time and work can be easily mitigated by having a specific setlist already in place.

As of September 30, 2019, Ableton has had no track comping, notation view, or pitch correction tool.  Track Comping is essential to have during the editing process.  It is used in the process of editing audio recordings from multiple performances into one smooth, clean piece of music.

The pitch correction tool is an essential piece of software to adjust individual notes in vocal performances to match that of the musical key in the song they sing along with.  It is often used to correct only the wrong notes in a song. However, it can also be used on the entire song, which causes a much more noticeable effect.  How you choose to use this is up to you, but not having one can create a problem either way.

About FL Studio

FL Studio is a very well-known digital audio workstation. Many famous names stand by FL Studio, including Alan Walker and Porter Robinson. In fact, popular songs such as “Rockstar” by Post Malone and “God’s Plan” by drake were created using FL Studio.   

This digital audio workstation is a complete music production system.  It has a graphical user interface that relies on a pattern-based music sequencer.  It is compatible with Windows (34-bit and 62-bit).  Recently, there was an update that allows FL Studio to now be compatible with macOS (64-bit) as well.  

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FL Studio offers its users multiple arrangements, consolidating tracks, and a VFX (voice effects) level scaler! The recurring arrangement feature allows you to switch back and forth between different arrangements, as well as to merge and to clone your arrangements.

The consolidating tracks feature benefits the creative workflow by allowing you to place a consolidated piece in the sampler so that you can continue working on other sound designs. 

Who is FL Studio For?

Similar to Ableton, FL Studio has a few different versions of its software. These different versions are meant to benefit users with varying levels of experience.  The wise decision to make multiple versions of FL Studio makes it a worthy opponent to Ableton.

The Fruity edition is limited in its number of tracks, among other things.  It allows its users to form loop creations, as well as creating basic melodies.  It includes primary instrument sounds such as snares, drums, symbols, toms, and vocals as well.  Although it does not provide all of the effects that more advanced versions of FL Studio offer, it does have forty-eight of them, which is rather impressive for just $99. 

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The Producer Edition of FL Studio is currently selling for $199.  Although there is a price increase, it is well worth the added features and effects offered by this edition.  The Producer Edition offers forty-nine effects, audio clips that can be added to your playlist, and audio recording that allows you to use a microphone directly in FL Studio.  

The Producer Edition is best used by those with some previous experience with digital audio workstations.  Hobbyists that employ a digital audio workstation in their homes would be best suited in using the Producer Edition of FL Studio.  Along with those hobbyists, bands and musicians could also use this edition in their homes and practice space.  

The Signature Edition is superior to the previous offers for several reasons.  It provides all the features of the Producer Edition as well as the most advanced plugins FL Studio has to offer, included in the low price of $299. One of the best features included in the Signature Edition is Hardcore (11 guitar fix).  

Hardcore provides the user with ten timeless effects explicitly designed with guitarists in mind, including:

  • Chorus
  • Compression
  • Delay
  • Distortion
  • Equalizer
  • Flanger
  • Noise Gate
  • Phaser
  • Reverb

These effects can have its own “hardcore” sound on a neatly arranged hardcore pedal. It includes five cabinet simulations and eight-band graphic EQs. 

The last version offered by FL Studio is the All Plugin version. Its price is a steep $899. That being said, it includes all current plugins along with all the features of the Producer Edition. If you are an expert or a producer, this bundle is the way to go!  If you want to purchase a version of FL Studio, you can click the link provided to learn all of the details on the Image-Line webpage

Advantages of FL Studio

There are many advantages to using FL Studio.  The most apparent is that FL Studio is excellent for beginners and experienced producers alike.  The stock plugins are well organized, and it uses a drag and drop system.  It provides a piano roll, easy to understand mixer, and an excellent step sequencer. FL Studio also offers experts the many plugins and features they need. 

Another well-known advantage of purchasing FL Studio is the free lifetime updates.  Once you have purchased any version of FL Studio, you are guaranteed to get any updates Image-Line comes out with at no cost to you! What is great about this is that many customer reviews show satisfaction in the updates, meaning that the updates always benefit the user. 

Perhaps another beneficial aspect that is not as well-known is that FL Studio is the only digital audio system that provides VJ graphic generation (ZG Editor).  The VJ graphic generation is a designation for real-time visual performance.

One of the best advantages has still yet to be described, and it is their liberal and reasonable license. This license allows you to purchase the software once and use it on multiple devices.  Many other software brands do not offer such liberties with their license. 

FL Studio also can use its software inside another digital audio workstation.  It has an inbuilt cross 34/62 plugin bridge.

Disadvantages of FL Studio

Much like Ableton, FL Studio has very few cons, if any, at all.  Judging by some customer reviews, it appears that several people have issues with the organization of FL Studio.  Reviews have mentioned in particular the difficulty of the mixing table and in locating the bass, mid, and treble within it. 

If you’re working with audio, FL Studio is not as highly regarded as some other digital audio workstations.  It doesn’t have many of the features offered by other DAWs that benefit the audio.  One of these features is audio quantization.

Depending on the audio interface being used, there is, at times, a driver issue when using FL Studio’s ASIO.  Other minor disadvantages of FL Studio are that it lacks a notation editor and that instrument tracks must be manually assigned to mixer channels. 

The issue with manually assigned instrument tracks is the amount of time wasted dragging and dropping what is needed to where you desire it to be.  The process is time-consuming, and current FL Studio users would most welcome an update fixing this issue.

While FL Studio is not perfect, there isn’t a digital audio system that is completely perfect.  It may have minor issues; however, the cheap pricing makes up for that entirely. 

Ableton vs. FL Studio: Which is Better?

When all is said and done, this is not a simple one or the other answer.  Both FL Studio and Ableton are exceptional digital audio workstations.  They make it difficult to choose between the two, so in truth, it comes down to the person that is purchasing the digital audio workstation and what features and functions they want in their software. 

Both Ableton and FL Studio have simple versions you can use to dip your toes in the DAW waters.  In fact, both of their basic versions cost only $99, and both also offer a free trial if you’re not ready to commit just yet. Overall, they both have several advantages and very few disadvantages. 

FL Studio is a cheaper purchase overall, regardless of which version you choose to buy.  That being said, Ableton has excellent reviews concerning their organized and easy to understand workflow.  Both Ableton and FL Studio are excellent software for beginners to learn on.  Likewise, they are popular among professionals and experienced hobbyists. 

Both digital audio workstations are excellent choices. The plus side is that no matter which version you go with, so long as it is compatible with your computer system, you really can’t go wrong.  


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