For any musician who wants to record their music or make electronic music, a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is an invaluable tool. Unfortunately, DAWs can be quite expensive, especially high-end, professional DAWs.
Luckily, two of the leading DAWs, Pro Tools and Ableton Live, now have limited versions of their software available. Although they aren’t the full versions, they are a great way for anyone to start using professional software without having to spend hundreds of dollars.
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Ableton Live has grown considerably in popularity in recent years. Where it was once considered an underpowered, clunky piece of software, it is now considered a fantastic, easy-to-learn, and user-friendly alternative.
It can now easily compete with software, like Pro Tools, to create high-quality audio projects. And it has helped to give independent musicians the professional-grade tools they need.
Pro Tools is considered by most to be the industry standard. It is used by countless artists and producers around the world.
Most modern albums, film scores, video game soundtracks, audio design work, anything sound-related has likely been recorded, mixed, and mastered using Pro Tools.
Ableton Live Lite vs Pro Tools Trial
Both Ableton and Pro Tools now offer limited versions of their software as a way for people to test them before moving to the full versions. Ableton’s is called Live Lite and Pro Tools offers a standard trial version. Pro Tools used to have Pro Tools First, but this has been discontinued.
Price and License
This actually brings us to our first difference between the two. Ableton Live Lite isn’t quite free. License keys for Live Lite are bundled with certain hardware. That means that the only way of getting a key is by purchasing the hardware.
The Pro Tools trial, on the other hand, can be downloaded from the Pro Tools site for free. You just need to create an Avid Master Account.
The second difference is in terms of license duration. The Ableton Live Lite license is permanent. So, once you have a license key, you can use Live Lite forever.
Pro Tools uses the more traditional trial model. The trial version expires after 30 days. After that period you will need to buy a copy of Pro Tools or start paying the monthly subscription.
Of course, what really matters is what each version can do. This will also likely be the biggest factor when choosing which DAW to go with.
Ableton Live Lite is quite a bit more limited in terms of functionality. Not all the tools and features of the full version are available in Lite. Pro Tools, even though it is just a trial version, does allow you to use the full range of tools and features of the full version.
This might make it seem like Pro Tools is the obvious winner. But apart from the time limit, I think there is one thing that gives Ableton Live Lite the advantage.
Plugins are one of the most useful things you are going to use with a DAW. And you are almost guaranteed to either want or need to download additional plugins at some point.
Pro Tools is known for not working well with third-party plugins. That means that you will be limited to buying plugins from the Pro Tools store. These plugins can become very expensive very quickly.
And what happens once the trial period is over and you decide you don’t like Pro Tools? Then you would have wasted money on plugins for no reason.
Ableton, however, works great with third-party plugins. Not only that but there are many free plugins available for Ableton Live. Here is a long list of just some of the free plugins available.
Even though the tools are more limited with Ableton, they can be expanded much easily and for free.
There are a few more things that one of them does better than the other, or one of them lacks completely. The ability to recover your tracks is a feature that Ableton Live Lite lacks completely, while it’s present by default in Pro Tools.
Ableton’s UI is way easier to get used to, in my personal opinion. It’s also the clear choice for live situations. On the other hand, mixing is Pro Tools’ strong suit.
If I had to summarize, I’d recommend Pro Tools for professional sound engineers, and Ableton Live for beginners and enthusiasts looking for creative ways to explore the musical boundaries.
I think this is something that is often overlooked, but very important. Pro Tools is a bit more resource hungry than Ableton.
You will need to make sure your Mac or PC is powerful enough to run Pro Tools. This is especially important if you are planning on working with large project files.
I have seen many systems crash with Pro Tools because that one extra track or plugin was just too much. Ableton Live isn’t as demanding, and Lite especially since you have limited functionality anyway.
What Do They Do Best?
Truthfully, with enough experience and know-how, you can make both of these DAWs do anything. They will work equally great, no matter the situation.
But generally, Ableton Live is considered to be better suited to creating electronic music (EDM and the likes). It is also considered easier to learn, making it better suited for beginners.
Pro Tools is considered the best for audio production. In other words, recording, mixing, mastering, and live productions.
These are just the key differences between Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools. It doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other. Your own personal preferences will determine which one you choose in the end.