When One DAW Closes Another DAW Opens: Logic vs Ableton

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So you want to get the most out of your productions but have heard that another DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) has more to offer than the one you are currently using. There are a handful of DAW's that come highly recommended e.g. Apple Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase etc, but which is the right one for you? Speaking from personal experience there are benefits and weaknesses of each, this article will focus on two DAWs (Logic Pro and Ableton) specifically as many house and techno producers swear by one or the other.

If user-friendly, quick, creative workflow is what you desire perhaps Ableton will be better suited to you. Its basic interface and 'drag and drop' mentality is perfect for beginners but also experienced producers that are working to time schedules or just want to get rough ideas sketched out. It comes with some great features including a variety of sampler's and synthesisers. My favourite of which is Drum Rack, this is basically a large number of empty samplers in one common instrument; simplicity at its finest. This allows the user to construct whole rhythmic arrangements of many samples in one step sequencer, while being able to control each parameter of every individual sample separately, allowing even the average beginner to build complex poly-rhythms.

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Another great aspect about Ableton is its straight forward side-chain trigger. If you prefer to side-chain your kick and bass line then a simple click of the side-chain function on the compressor and voila' the bass volume will duck when the kick plays avoiding frequency clashes that make your mix sound muddy. In Logic this is much more long winded as you must trigger the side-chain with a muted audio sample on another channel that sends a signal through a bus in order to get the same result. There are other options also but just as tedious to set up and slower to react, so I would suggest Ableton wins a point for this one.

Logic on the other hand brings plenty to the table in its own right. Its physical modelling synthesiser Sculpture is in a league of its own allowing users to replicate timbres of instruments with options like pluck which replicates strings as if you were playing a harp or guitar as well as strike that allows you to achieve a similar timbre to hitting the skin of a conga or bongo. The full potential of this synthesiser baffles me but the parts I have just skimmed over are merely the tip of the iceberg.

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Another great feature about Logic are its free plug-ins ('EQ's, Compressor's, Reverb's etc) the quality of Logic's Space Designer and Ableton's Reverb are at complete opposite sides of the spectrum. Space Designer sounds like an elegant series of echoes that can be shaped to create a unique sense of space, whereas Reverb sounds like '8 bit', 'white-noise' that clutters the samples clarity.

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I have only mentioned a few of each of the DAWs features and already feel that there are far too many colours in-between for this to be a black and white observation. At this point I would explain the difference between the two as undertaking experiments in a scientist's laboratory with pipette's, beaker's, gauge's etc or making the best of an Introduction to chemistry kit. Granted you perhaps get better results out of Ableton if that is what you are used to but with a full understanding of the periodic table and all of its elements I can't help but suggest that the laboratory wins every-time. This analysis is not to be confused with regards to live performance because I am aware Ableton is unrivalled at launching stems and syncing hardware equipment through midi mapping and macro controls, this is merely focussed on production. 

When remixing other producer's stems Ableton offers intuitive time-stretching options as well as one of their strongest features Envelope Automation. You can automate a section then bounce it to a new track on Logic if you want only that pattern to be automated that way, but the process is laborious as it takes longer to do and if you want to change it later you must still have the original MIDI pattern, whereas in Ableton you don't even need to bounce it as an audio file you can just automate the MIDI pattern in envelope mode and its done.

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 This certainly saves time with regards to precise automation techniques which helps when you are working to a deadline for a label, but if you have constantly changing automation throughout your music then both programs are pretty similar give or take the odd nuance. Though if you are a producer that feels like making the move to Logic or a new producer considering Logic over the other available DAWs then I would personally suggest Logic Pro 9 over X. I know that Logic have improved their software in some aspects and even offer completely new features in X, but I find the interface very off putting in a similar sense to Pioneer mixers, when did looking at a spaceship or a more modern 'skin' help creativity anyway?

I have attempted to be as objective as possible and not overwhelm you with a biased onslaught. This comparison could go so much deeper but I am not looking to write an encyclopaedia on every positive and negative of each program, though am very interested in all of your thoughts regarding this subject. Which program works for you and why? Which features do you wish that one program had that the other doesn't? Please feel free to share the article along with your question on the post, theres no right or wrong answer just personal preference.


Written by Michael Ainsworth