Anyone using Ableton for their sound designing and other audio editing needs? I also use PT8, but as of late, I've found Ableton to be a much more intuitive and streamlined DAW that allows to to do more with less time spent. Thoughts?

(By the way, I'm running Suite 8)

13 Answers 13


I've always had a really hard time using Ableton for anything but music. Don't get me wrong, the stuff it can do straight out of the box is munkey farking incredible. Pro-Tools is a large pile of bull refuse in comparison.

My beef with Abletown is the same I have with Logic, Cubase, and Reaper, the audio editing just isn't there for me. The way I work, the multi-tool and shotcut keys are absolutely essential. Like, not having option-scroll wheel for zoom? holy crap I want to die.

That said, I try really hard not to be a stick in the mud. I've actually spent the time to learn how to use all of them quite well, but PT is just my heart's heart when it comes to SD.

  • True, PT is the flagship audio editor, but I've recently come to appreciate Abletons UI and ease of processing, but it's not that great for film work. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:52

Ableton is my go-to tool for creating one-off FX. I couldn't live without Sampler. The ease and speed of throwing sounds into there for incredibly quick mutability makes life easy for me.

I usually operate with it Rewired into Pro Tools. I agree that it is definitely not made for doing sound to film but that's what I've got Pro Tools for right?


  • Sampler and Simpler are two of my favorite parts of Live, so much editing capability without altering files. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:51
  • Yea that's what I love! It's like Sample "shaping" almost :)
    – JTC
    Aug 9, 2011 at 15:30

I just started using Suite 8 a week ago to compose some music for a final project, so grain of salt etc. But I've been wondering the exact same thing.

Have been using Pro Tools for absolutely everything until now, so here are my early pros and cons:


  • It is fast. Fast to get going, fast while it's running. I feel like I can load on all sorts of plug-ins, VSTs, effects, bundle them up, tie them all together in macro controls and just play much more quickly than I would in PT. Not having to enter the I/O menu and create all those buses helps with this.
  • It feels stable. I haven't experienced a single DAE error or seen things start stuttering due to CPU usage just yet. I'm thinking it may just be built a little more efficiently than PT by virtue of not having a codebase with its roots more than 10 years back.


  • No timecode-based grid to snap to.
  • Printing automation still feels awkward. I'm super accustomed to the three-finger salute to print envelopes and haven't found the Ableton equivalent, if it exists. There is a lot of digging to get everything you want to automate showing up somewhere in a lane so that you can copy/paste presets around as you make variations on a sound.

It's freaking awesome for just messing around and generating source, but I don't know that I would want to cut in it any time soon. But I'm keeping my mind open.

Maybe some others around here can share some tips on how they fit it into their workflow?

  • Yeah, even though it has video capabilities (for free), it isn't really meant to do audio for film. Seeing that I'm not in that field, that doesn't bother me much, I'll still do work in PT if needed, but for one shot sounds and loops, I'll take Live over PT any day. Aug 8, 2011 at 0:50
  • If you don't need a timecode grid I could easily see moving over to it full time.. especially if you already own a license and don't own a Pro Tools one. Heard good things about Reaper as well!
    – lucafusi
    Aug 8, 2011 at 2:57

Ableton is a really handy tool! I use it regularly especially for midi (don't like PT midi editor) stuff. Also you can use ableton as a plug-in in PT which is nice (although you can't use VSTs WITHIN Ableton in this mode). But it's great for messing around with ideas, I use it for soundscape type stuff, the 'instrument rack' makes it easy to layer synths, the grouping mode makes putting plugins across several tracks a doddle. AND, you can import video so that's really nice too (although Luca is right no timecode, oh and it's probably a good idea to take the 'automatic warping' mode off in the preferences). You probably wouldn't do a whole film project in it, but for bits and pieces it's superior to PT in lots of ways (just my opinion!).

All in all, Ableton is a great tool that's really intuitive, interacting with controllers is much easier than in PT (ie setting midi controls) and generally, especially for 'musical' (loosely defined) tasks, it's fantastic.

  • I agree, Ableton just makes everything a little easier and quicker to do imo. I do also appreciate the easy of loading MIDI instruments and quickly writing music and building synths. Also, the pre-loaded audio effects and instruments aren't bad, and definitely out perform anything PT comes stock with. I don't do much film stuff, and if I do, it would be in PT. Aug 8, 2011 at 0:49

Ableton is my main sound design DAW. Whenever I need to sync things to picture I open up Pro Tools. Also, certain sounds (especially ones that will be demanding of dynamics and headroom) I design in Pro Tools because the internal audio bus to my ears sounds much better in Pro Tools. Yet, 75% of the time I work in Ableton, just because it's so freaking fast and convenient to use.

  • QFT, I'm the same way! Aug 8, 2011 at 16:50

Originally i bought Ableton to be able to perform music live and for that reason alone it's worth every penny. However, the last couple years i find myself more and more often starting most sessions in Ableton to create source material, effects, loops etc and record/import it to Pro Tools, where i make all the arrangements and mixing. The intuitive design and implementation of MAX (4L) makes it really inspiring to work with and with a midi controller and/or iPad, i can do anything i want to. I usually use this when i'm making music and related things, but more and more often i also use this when designing sound for picture, but i always end up in PT of course...

On the surface it doesn't look like anything you'll need, but after digging a bit deeper, it turns out to be an essential tool!

  • Same, I originally got it so that I could expand my musical capabilities into the digital realm easier (I'm a drummer), but after working with PT for a few years, I've moved towards Ableton for 80% of my work. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:49

Yep, Ableton Live is where I spend nearly all of my time for designing effects and writing music. Nothing comes close in terms of how streamlined and inspiring it is. I use the native plugins almost exclusively and I don't feel like I'm missing out. The program inspired (and continues to inspire) me so much that I actually spend a great deal of time producing tutorials on using it in a musical sound design context which often crosses the line into sound effect creation.

However, Like @tim prebble says, Live is basically garbage for sync'ing to picture so don't expect to use it for that. PT definitely still has its place in that respect. As much as I wish Ableton would add some better Post features to the program, I suspect that would bloat it far beyond its original intent as a Live performance tool. Sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone and just use the right tool for the right job!

  • Could you link me to your tutorials? I'm always looking to learn the program more thoroughly. I don't do much (if any) film work, so Ableton has been nothing short of perfect for my needs. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:48
  • tinyurl.com/42j7pgc ;)
    – MtL
    Aug 8, 2011 at 18:33
  • touche' sir... XD Aug 8, 2011 at 18:45
  • All in good fun.
    – MtL
    Aug 8, 2011 at 21:40
  • @grindblaster just saw your comment. My site is linked from my profile here on SSD, or just use that link that @Joel Corriveau provided :) Aug 9, 2011 at 0:44

I always get dead-ended when using Ableton Live for composition. When there is material in the Arrange AND in the Clips view at the same time, it's...I just don't like it.

I use it for percussion loops and some mangling, but I find it very limiting in terms of composition.

  • I understand what you mean. I have found though that one of the cool features of ableton is how easy it is get get out of. What I mean by that is that most all of my composition projects will end up in Protools but may start in Ableton, and being able to quickly export "all tracks" as audio with one function and then pull them into protools is extremely helpful. I often write in ableton until I feel I've run into it's/my limitations but used it's strengths and then move into Protools. The combination can be powerful.
    – Brad Dale
    Jul 26, 2012 at 13:55

I use it to make/process sounds occasionally (esp when its a VST that won't run properly in ProTools) but in terms of sound design to picture ableton LIVE is pretty much useless, it just isn't designed for it - there are literally hundreds of post specific features in ProTools that ableton lacks... just my $0.05

  • Agreed, I use it to make one-shots and loops for games, and in my experience, I prefer Ableton for that reason. But I agree, nothing matches PT with film post work. Aug 8, 2011 at 0:51

Its gimmicky but good for performance musicians which i love

  • That's why I originally got it, to expand my musical capabilities. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:50

Once in a while I'll open up Ableton to mess around with the granular engine, which you can get nice a dirty sounding very quickly when abused, but that's about it for. I find sequencing in Ableton to be really clumsy and awkward. Most of the time if I use it, it's just to generate a bunch of raw material to throw back into Pro Tools.

Fantastic tool for live performance, however.


Been on it since version 1 and its definitely my favorite composition environment. Love it to pieces, in spite of its quirks(bugs). For one-off effects, I can spend all day in AudioMulch, though it's not as practical for anything time based or super structured.


I enjoy Abelton's inherent differences to PT. When I use Ableton I am usually staying in the Session view just because to me that's where it stands out above many other daws. The non-linear, away from the timeline, (edit view -PT) encourages a more stream of conscious process to sound creation, music or otherwise. So many of us spend countless hours locked to the grid in PT looking at an edit timeline that I find it very freeing if not uncomfortably enlightening to work in the session view without a timeline in front of you. In short, it's less "cut/copy/paste" and more "feel it and go"

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