Anyone who is associated with music production or is simply passionate about music is probably aware of what a DAW is.
The acronym DAW stands for “Digital Audio Workstation,” a music production software used for recording, editing, and mixing digital audio. It supports Windows operating systems and MAC.
Two popular DAWs include Cubase and Ableton. Here, you will be given an honest comparison of everything you need to know about Cubase and Ableton. We will show you the features of both DAWs, their pros and cons so that you can make an unbiased decision as to which DAW to choose.
Before we get into Cubase vs Ableton, first let’s look at the DAWs separately.
Cubase: A Brief Overview
Cubase is a Digital Audio Workstation created by Steinberg. It is primarily used for recording, arranging, and editing music and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). This DAW has been around for a few decades.
In 1989, the first version of the program was released, a MIDI sequencer running on the Atri computers. Shortly after that, it became a cross-platform software that users on both MAC and PC could make music.
Features of Cubase
Primarily, all DAWs have similar features. Cubase has many versions, and different versions have different features. The features available with the fullest version of Cubase, which are:
The most popular feature of Cubase is the “VariAudio3” engine. In monophonic recordings, VariAudio offers pitch-changing of individual notes in addition to voice editing. It allows you to solve intonation and timing problems with just a few clicks.
The Sample Editor allows you to edit vocal lines the same way you edit MIDI notes in the Key Editor. Having the Chord Track integrated with your harmonies ensures precise pitch, even letting you harmonize your lead vocals in stunning choral arrangements.
It is exceptional when working with musicians. If the singer misses a note, whether pitch-wise or rhythm-wise, he can fix it. It’s also relatively easy to create the popular “robot voice” effect!
The next great feature of Cubase is “Comping.” Cubase lets you merge multiple audio tracks to make one “master take” that is error-free. Recording a couple of takes will do a great job!
Imagine that your singer can sing all parts correctly but can’t seem to get a smooth take. Using the comping feature, you can combine all the best parts into one take. Combine that with VariAudio, and you’ll be able to record more quickly and fix things in post-production.
Additionally, the comping tool offers immensely useful click-and-drag features for instant results.
Drum editor is another beneficial feature of Cubase that allows you to write drum parts. It is just a MIDI editor like a piano roll. Writing complicated drum parts becomes easy with the drum editor.
You can get into a lot of trouble if you’re programming complicated drum parts on a piano roll. Cubase’s drum editor doesn’t consider note lengths when programming rhythms. Hence, you don’t have to worry about note lengths like you would have to do with a piano roll.
You can use the drum editor to create and rework beats, rhythms, and grooves, with a plethora of tools that will help you compose the ideal beat for your song or production.
Ableton: A Brief Overview
Ableton is a software sequencer and a DAW that was originated by Berlin-based Ableton. It was designed for live performance, composing, arranging, recording, and remixing of songs. It works for both macOS and Windows operating systems.
By far, it is the simplest DAW to navigate and record with, especially for beginners. Its straightforward workflow makes it trouble-free and simple to use for a beginner. Just leap in and begin creating songs. It is also popular among DJs.
Features of Ableton
Ableton has a lot of unique and advantageous functionalities which help the singer in multiple ways.
Below are a few of its features:
One of the most significant features of Ableton, which makes it different from other DAWs, is “Session View.” Ableton has an interface that assists performers during live performances.
Performances can build, audit, and experiment with loops in clips slots by using the session view. MIDI devices can be used to playback these clip slots. This is a unique and fast way to express ideas since it makes launching a track easier for producers. Comparing ideas, organizing tracks, or stacking various layers of recordings is important.
Ableton’s Warp Algorithm
Ableton’s Warp algorithm allows people to use the software to warp audio. Ableton contains a superior warp algorithm with more warp modes than any other DAW.
How does Ableton’s warping functionality help you? It lets you time-stretch tracks to help in beatmatching, creating mixtapes and mashups, and sampling. Auto-Warp automatically adjusts imported audio to match the master tempo of your project.
To accommodate your project’s tempo, you can quantitatively adjust drum beats, loops, stems, and complete songs without affecting pitch. With an automatic beat detection algorithm, the rhythm is dynamically altered according to the beat information.
Quick MIDI Setup
Need a MIDI controller? Here it is. With a single click, the feature uses your QWERTY keyboard as a MIDI instrument. Using the MIDI mapping feature, you can adjust parameters using any knob or slider on your controller.
Ableton allows you to toggle any automatable value from your MIDI device. MIDI values include pitch, tempo, FX, and filter. You can choose presets from banks of instruments and play melodies without leaving your computer.
You can use Ableton’s extraordinary range of instruments with most MIDI devices simply by plugging them in. So what are you waiting for? With Ableton’s quick MIDI setup abilities, just start creating, performing, and experimenting.
Comparing Cubase and Ableton
In this section, we will compare both DAWs to help you make a wise decision.
Pros of Cubase Compared to Ableton.
There are some advantages and disadvantages of using Cubase as compared to Ableton. Let’s first discuss the pros of Cubase compared to Ableton.
Operates with Regular Hardware
Cubase works fine on most PCs with regular hardware. It doesn’t require high and complex configurations like Ableton.
The cheapest version of Cubase has a lower price than Ableton. It makes it more appealing for budget-focused users.
Good for Beginners
It is a powerful DAW that is versatile enough to be used for any music genre. Beginners will find Cubase easier and more convenient to use because of its basic controls.
Cons of Cubase Compared to Ableton.
Now let us highlight the cons of Cubase as compared to Ableton.
There are many versions of Cubase to choose from. It makes it challenging to figure out which version to get. However, this would be great for people on different budgets. Some documentation also becomes confusing in this regard.
You can use Cubase for live performance, but you’ll have to compromise a lot because of its limitations.
Pros of Ableton Compared to Cubase.
Ableton Live, by contrast, shines in loop-based music composition. Following are the pros of Ableton.
Session view is the most significant feature of Ableton, which makes it stand out from other DAWs. This feature is not available in any of the DAWs of the industry.
It enables you to create different tracks for the same part of the song. You can place your music pieces anywhere you like and experiment with endless combinations with a single click.
When you buy Ableton’s software, you get access to the software’s library. Probably you won’t need third-party plugins for it. There are hundreds of loops included in this package, as well as several instruments that are free to use.
The basic functionality of this program is intuitive and simple for even a beginner in music production. Thanks to Ableton’s sleek, minimalistic interface, you can fluidly build your projects without getting stuck.
By categorizing the countless presets and samples, the browser window allows you to find inspiration for your next composition quickly and easily.
Cons of Ableton Compared to Cubase.
The cons of Ableton are listed as under:
Cannot Work on Low Configuration Systems
Good systems are needed for this tool that can support heavy lifting. Take your base systems into consideration before using this tool.
It is a bit pricier than Cubase, but its exceptional functionalities are worth the price tag.
Cubase vs Ableton: Final Thoughts
Both the DAWs are designed to help musicians and sound designers create music.
For most musicians, Cubase is just fine. If you want to focus on MIDI and virtual instruments, then Cubase is the DAW to use. You will not be disappointed by the features in Cubase.
However, Ableton is the best choice if you want additional features such as effortless workflow, user interface, built-in instruments, samples and effects, and intuitive loop-based production. It offers you all the tools needed to become a successful musician.
Alternatives to Cubase and Ableton
There are other DAW options you can choose from including Pro Tools, FL Studio, and Logic Pro. You can read our other DAW reviews below.
Josh is the founder and main author of Songwriter Nation. He has played music for over twenty years and even studied music at university earning a minor in music.