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Ableton Vs Pro Tools First Vs Ableton Live Lite ? Ableton Vs Pro Tools

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Looking to get started with music production but don’t know which DAW to buy?
We compare 2 of the most popular DAWS, head-to-head.Find out whether Pro Tools or Ableton Live is right for you.

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Introduction

Have a conversation with any music producer and at some point, you are almost guaranteed to hear the words ‘Pro Tools’. In fact, have a conversation with any musician and you will probably find out that they are familiar with the Pro Tools name, and if they’ve ever recorded in a professional studio, they have more than likely used it.

Pro Tools is arguably the ‘go-to’ DAW of choice for many professionals out there, but is it really all it’s hyped up to be?

Ease Of Use/Learning Curve

As a beginner opening up a Pro Tools session it can be difficult to know where to start. Like any musical craft, Pro Tools takes time to learn, inevitably you will end up having to read through manuals and probably consult google for your answers, but isn’t that part of the fun after all?

It is widely argued that Pro Tools is not the most user-friendly DAW out there.

Something that is quite easily achieved in Logic/Ableton, like creating a send, can be quite daunting in Pro Tools. Frustrating at first but processes like this, i.e. manually linking your signal chain, creates a steep learning curve that actually becomes really rewarding as you learn the program’s intricacies and functions which once mastered are often translatable to other DAWs.

Stock Plugins & Sound Libraries

While Pro Tools is one of the pricier DAWs, once you purchase it you will also receive a selection of plugins which are of industry standard quality.

The great news is regardless of whether you opt for the free ‘Pro Tools First’ or the full software you will be able to use Pro Tool’s own EQ, Compressor, Limiter and Gate.

There are arguably better plugins on the market, but these plugins have gotten some of the best producers by for decades. It’ll also give you an idea of how these types of plugins work and how they affect your mix.

You’ll also get a D-Verb and Mod Delay included with each package which gives you the basics to begin creating great mixes. Upgrading your Pro Tools package gives you a bigger selection of plugins (such as chorus, phaser and more) but this isn’t a necessity if you’re just starting out.

If you decide to opt for a paid-for version of Pro Tools you’ll also get access to a good selection of software instruments, such as the AIR Mini Grand Piano, and over 2GB of loops and samples which are sufficient for starting ideas and building tracks. Depending on the genre you write, you may find this selection quite limiting though.

Design/Interface

It’s not the prettiest interface, but it is efficient in its layout. You have your basic play, record, stop functions, a tracklist and your regions clearly displayed. You can quickly tab between the record and mix window where you’ll see your tracks laid out clearly, and you can insert plugins in either of these windows.

It can be a little confusing at first when creating bus or auxiliary tracks as Pro Tools won’t immediately link your signal path so spend some time getting to understand how these work and why you would use them.

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Once you get a better understanding of the screen layout then it is worth reading up on shortcuts and functions within Pro Tools that will speed up your workflow. Like anything, you get out what you put in and with a little bit of effort you’ll soon be using keyboard shortcuts which will save you clicking in menus constantly and certain shortcuts will become second nature.

Workflow

Aside from being just recording software, think of Pro Tools as a way to edit your tracks during and after the recording process, which is where the selling point really lies.

Are your drums not quite synchronizing with the click track? Hit CMD+8 on Mac (or CTRL+8 on PC) and bring up Beat Detective. A simple few clicks and you can transform your ‘not quite perfect’ drum takes into professional sounding, locked in beats.

In fact, Pro Tools will even allow you to lengthen, shorten and add fades to your regions without even having to select each region.

Once you get to grips with its shortcuts and time-saving functions Pro Tools quickly becomes second nature.

Price

Of course, cost needs to be factored into any purchasing decision and your wallet will take a hit if you choose to invest in Pro Tools.

A perpetual license will currently set you back a fair bit (check price here), although there are subscription options at a less intimidating rate.

If you are unsure then Pro Tools First can be downloaded for free, great if you don’t want to commit financially right away but this does restrict you to a maximum of 16 tracks of audio.

P.S. You could also check out our guide that breaks down 5 of the best free DAWs for making music.

Is Pro Tools Right For You?

There are undoubtedly cheaper DAWs out there such as Logic.

Much like learning a musical instrument Pro Tools takes time, but the rewards and sense of satisfaction you gain from it are huge. As the industry-standard software, learning Pro Tools puts you in good stead should you decide to pursue production professionally but also much like learning a musical instrument, the hobbyists will still have a lot of fun using and getting to grips with the program.

So consider your budget, your preferred styles to listen to and mix and what your typical session will look like. If it’s physical instruments you are recording then Pro Tools should be a serious consideration for purchase.

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There are other DAWs which you may over time find to suit your needs more but you can be certain that Pro Tools will be a huge asset when it comes to your recording, mixing and mastering.

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