It’s the 21st century, and making music has never been better, especially with the advent of the Digital Audio Workstation. With so many DAWs on the market today, it's gradually becoming difficult to decide which DAW would give you the result you seek.
However hey! Don't worry; we've reviewed two of the leading players on the DAW scene. Both Cubase and Ableton live are two of the best DAWs around.
If you already used either of these DAWs and you're thinking of switching to the other DAW, let's help you decide if you should take that massive leap of faith with this Cubase vs. Ableton review. Ready to make your big decision? Then, let’s dive in already.
- 1 Cubase vs Ableton: The Differences Between Cubase and Ableton
- 2 Cubase review
- 3 Ableton Live review
- 4 Last Words
Cubase vs Ableton: The Differences Between Cubase and Ableton
When it comforted with choosing between these two DAWs, we understand why it might be a difficult choice. For starters, both DAWs operate at the level of professional music production. I mean, both DAWs have a rich list of high-profile music producers, composers, artists, etc., that use them in their music creation process. For instance, Cubase has Hans Zimmer head over heels. I love it. In case you don’t know Hans Zimmer, here’s a brief introduction. He is a German who’s the most sought-after Music producer and film score composer.
Cubase is the DAW that's key to his music composition and editing process of his midi tracks. Zedd is another famous musician that uses Cubase. On the other hand, Professionals like David Guetta, The Chainsmokers, Diplo, DJ Snake, Marshmello, etc., deploy Ableton in their music production and editing phase. If one thing at all, the fact that both DAWs have a rich profile of great musicians and DJs using them is enough proof that both DAWs are tremendous and, on most levels, they can achieve similar results. Now, the question is, how do these two DAWs differ?
Generally, they possess different workflows and features that would be beneficial to what you intend to achieve. So, the first tip to choosing between either of these DAWs is to figure out what your result should be or resemble—done that? Great! Now let’s get into the differences between these two DAWs so we can help you determine which one would give you the result you seek.
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- One feature that sets Ableton Live apart from Cubase and other DAWs is its live feature. Aside from recording and editing your music, Ableton Live presents an extraordinary new and unique approach to live performance. This feature makes it a catch for DJs. As a DJ who uses Ableton, you can custom arrange your song on stage. You can also you can boost your performance by playing backing tracks.
The preset changes you make on your drum machines, keyboard, etc., can be automated. Although you can use your Cubase for Live performance, you'll surely experience a lot of limitations. While Cubase presents a flexible approach to mixing music, Ableton does best for Live performance; it is a very flexible DAW to work with for live performance.
- When it comes to recording any track, both DAWs present almost similar results. With Ableton, the team offers you a modern recording style. All you need is your audio interface. You can set up your microphone with a good audio interface to receive the vocal or instrument recording into the DAW via the audio interface. With the recent introduction of the comping feature, you can edit as many tracks as you wish simultaneously.
Ableton allows you to record as many instruments and vocals at once. This flexibility when it comes to recording and editing tracks is also present on Cubase. The only difference is that Cubase’s audio recording audio studio follows a traditional style. Nevertheless, it is functional. You can also record and edit more than one song. You have to ensure your audio interface has more than enough inputs to record anything.
- For starters, mixing and matching on Cubase and Ableton works differently. While Ableton doesn’t have a dedicated mixer for mixing your track just like other DAWs have, Cubase has its dedicated mixer. Now, you might be wondering what the absence of a dedicated mixer means for Ableton. Well, for one, it means that you can add audio effects to your music during the editing phase, especially as a beginner. You deploy the drag and drop technique to spice up your track on Ableton.
Sure, the drag and drop technique might seem pretty convenient, but there are disadvantages attached to it. For instance, you'll find mixing a lot of tracks energy and time-consuming. That's why most producers that edit with Ableton import their Ableton creation to other DAWs for mixing. On the other hand, Cubase comes with a wealth of audio effects to aid your mixing and mastering. Also, it comes with its dedicated mixer that professional mixers deploy in quickly mixing and mastering their music.
With Cubase's dedicated mixer, you'll feel like you're using a traditional mixer. Let me blow your mind a little. Cubase grants you the liberty to add a maximum of 16 effects per channel while mixing and mastering. Awesome right? You see, when people claim that Cubase is greater than Ableton, they're probably referring to the fact that Cubase can do a lot for you when it comes to mixing and mastering; that is all thanks to its dedicated mixer.
- Now, DAWs handle CPUs differently. A DAW that doesn't crash during your music process allows you to add as many effects and software instruments flawlessly is the software that you should use. When it comes to these two DAWS, Ableton is a lot friendlier to your CPU. If you look closely at both DAWs, you’ll understand why. There’s not much beauty when it comes to Ableton’s graphics.
The plugin has been tagged ugly, and there's not much color. People do not know that getting a DAW fully alive with colors and beautiful graphics means you'd have to pay for it. You'll pay for it with the stress it would put on your CPU to operate just like Cubase. It has a lot of beauty, graphics, etc.
But the price to pay for using a DAW like Cubase is to get a computer with a lot of space and is powerful. Otherwise, your system might crash from time to time or hang while making use of the Cubase DAW.
Before jumping into what Cubase is about, let's make a little history. For starters, Cubase has been around longer than you can imagine. Manufactured in 1989, it was first available on the Asari ST’s first personal computers with the GUI bitmapped color. Nevertheless, Cubase was just a simple MIDI sequencer on the Asari ST computer. As time went on, it got included on Mac and Windows computers. Its purpose was simple: record, editing and arrange for music and MIDI.
Of course, the team has released several versions of this DAW, created with upgrades and innovative features. Some recent versions have features that make it easy for music producers to use visual synthesizers with their MIDI compositions. Also, these recent versions allow doing post-production. Hence, if you feel anything is missing in your composition, you can easily add or spice up your creation in the flawless post-production phase. Popularly called Steinberg Cubase, this DAW is one of the DAWs that is the easiest to operate.
Quite a lot of people also agree that the user interface is intuitive. Hence, beginner music producers would find this DAW very easy to use. It’s also one of the easiest ways to introduce a beginner to the world of digital music production. There are several features that the Cubase DAW possesses across all the versions that make it one of the most desired DAWs in the world of digital music production.
How Does it Work?
Operating any Cubase version is pretty easy for both beginners and professionals. The secret is to the epic workflow you'll get on Cubase is how user-friendly it is. The team designed it to be the only mixing, recording, and mastering tool you’ll ever need to make great music. The team behind this DAW invested great detail into this DAW. It is also the perfect tool for any genre of music, and it's all you'll ever need to create and perfect your music. Start by connecting your microphone to an audio interface, especially if you want to record vocals.
Then connect the audio interface to your system in the right spot so it would reflect on Cubase. With the gain control on your Cubase, you can make changes to the vocals you just received before getting to the proper interface of this DAW. Every modification to the vocals using the gain control is entirely irreversible. So, you have to be careful about what you do.
After the gain control phase, you can now proceed to the processing or editing phase. Here, you can add plugins and use the wealth of features available on the Cubase DAW.
Where Should You Use it Better?
Cubase is a flexible DAW. You can use it both on your mobile device and your PC/ Laptop. The mobile version has a straightforward interface that grants you access to almost all the features you can access on the laptop version. You can also connect your audio interface to your mobile device to record vocals, instruments, etc.
During the editing phase, you can apply almost all the synths, plugins, and other features available on the DAW. The best news is that the Cubase Mobile version is available on Android, iOS, iPad, and Tablet devices. The PC/ Laptop version is also very detailed. Frankly, you'll most likely enjoy using Cubase on both your PC and mobile device. It now depends on which device you prefer to use when recording, mixing, and editing.
Another thing about Cubase that most users would find attractive is the beautiful workflow. The mixer channel comes with quite the color palette option. This color palette changes the outlook of the mixer, making your workflow a seamless endeavor.
In Cubase 10, this colorized mixer goes as far as presenting you with diverse options of colored mixers to choose from rather than the default-colored mixer. Hence, you can customize the mixer to look attractive to your eyes as it poses in your favorite color palette appearance. Thankfully, the colors would help you quickly discover the tracks you've created whenever you need them.
Thanks to the inclusion of this feature, music composers would now find it easy to write chord progressions. It affords you the luxury of the real-time composition of chords. You can play these chords in real-time on the DAW too. Also, if you ever start with a chord progression and feel the need to make some changes to it, Cubase ensures you can make those changes effortlessly with the help of the Chord Pads. You can also improvise your chord performance and patterns with the real-time feature. So, feel free to unlock your creativity as Cubase has got you covered.
Pros & Cons
- Editing on Cubase is thorough and detailed as you have every tool you need and the ones you didn't think your music required
- It has a vast collection of Plugins bundles.
- The UI is enticing and navigable.
- Some of the upgrades on the app are pretty expensive.
Ableton Live review
Like the Cubase DAW, many celebrities use the Ableton Live DAW. In essence, it is as good as the Cubase DAW. Developed by Bernd Roggendorf, Gerhard Behles, and Robert Henke, this DAW works as a live performance instrument and a tool for mixing, mastering, recording, composing and arranging. DJ would find using this DAW a delight as it allows them to do things like crossfading and beatmatching. Also, did you know that these three guys who developed Ableton Live are the co-founders of the Ableton DAW? Well, now you know.
Trust me when I say that this DAW is nothing like traditional DAWs that most people are familiar with. Nevertheless, it’s easy to get used to. Sure, you’ll need some time to get used to it. But when you eventually get used to it, you’ll find yourself tapping into parts of your music creation self that you didn’t know existed. Here are some of the new features in Ableton Live that aren't common in Ableton.
Ableton Live has upgraded the list of sound on the DAW to give users a wide range of sound options to improve your recording. Some newly added sound lists include; Upright Piano, mood reels, drone lab, brass, and string quartet. The voice boxconsists of a vast library of vocal samples to spice up your music creation process, as well as an updated rack for effects. In Mood reels, you’ll find instruments that skillfully blend synthetic and organic sounds to beautify your music. Upright Piano allows you to add a classical sound touch to your music. String quartet pulls together the Cello, Violin, and Viola for a perfect yet intimate sound, etc. Just know that Ableton live has blessed you with refreshing sounds to spice up your music and widen your music creation scope.
MIDI POLYPHONIC EXPRESSION (MPE):
If your issue with using the majority of DAWs on the market is that it doesn't give your songs that Unique personality, then you're in for a ride with this feature in Ableton Live. Thanks to the MPE feature on Ableton, you can modify individual notes to make them sound unique by adding things like pressure and pitch blends to each note. You can work this MPE magic on plugins like Sampler, Wavetable synthesis, and Arpeggiator.
With this feature under their belt, Ableton has made it easy for even beginner producers to become badass in a flash. Here's the thing. Comping makes it easy for you to record more than one takes off a part of your song. Then, you can now sit to carefully select the best takes, combine them to create a beautiful mastertune. Of course, you can do it with both instruments and vocal recordings. The best part is that it works for MIDI and audio tracks too. Ableton makes it easy for you to step up your music production game.
Linked Track Editing:
After recording two or more singers singing different parts to a song, you don't need to stress yourself with editing these multiple parts individually. Ableton makes it easy for you to save time and energy by linking these many song parts together. Once connected, proceed to edit them simultaneously and watch your edits reflect on the song parts. This feature applies to MIDI and audio tracks too.
Updated and New Plugins:
What would a DAW be without plugins and more plugins? Probably a DAW that limits one's creativity. But not Ableton. It's no news that the Ableton team are suckers for adding new plugins with every Ableton Live DAW released. Also, there’s bound to be an update to the already existing plugins. For instance, in Ableton Live 11, the new plugins debuting on Ableton Live with the 11th version includes Redux, Chorus-Ensemble, PitchLoop89, Inspired by Nature, Hybrid Reverb and Spectral Time, and Spectral Resonator.
This feature is another unique feature of Ableton. It is very effective for electronic music producers when devising song arrangements. Here, you can create loops, then create an entire song from those different loops by simply joining them together to form a single piece. Quite a handful of music producers make use of this session view on Ableton, perhaps because it is uncommon in other DAWs but is a vital part of song arrangement for musicians.
Pros & Cons
- Easy, fast, and effective workflow.
- Expandable and collapse tabs to make the UI easily navigable
- The suite version of Ableton Live gives you many sample versions that you'll find helpful in creating your music.
- Latency doesn’t flow effortlessly.
Now that you’ve enlightened yourself on the Cubase vs. Ableton similarities and differences, you should have already figured out which DAW to opt for. Frankly speaking, do not opt for the Cubase DAW unless you have a powerful system that can carry its capacity. Otherwise, you’ll end up drowning in the pool of frustration every time you attempt to produce any music or beat on the DAW.
Subscribe to the Ableton DAW as it is equally as good as the Cubase DAW. However, unless you're a beginner or an electronic music producer, you might not precisely enjoy using Ableton as it has its shortcomings that might affect and limit you as a music producer. Either way, both DAWs are an excellent choice for music production. So, don't look down on either DAWs before getting to know them and how they can both serve you differently.
Graduated with a Bachelor of Audio Engineering and Sound Production. He has worked with a number of studios as a Recording Engineer, with over 10 years of servicing experience in both re-recording mixing and sound editing.