Want to start producing and are undecided on which DAW to purchase? Let’s take a look at both DAWs and see how they stack up against each other
It’s no secret FL Studio and Ableton are two of the most popular DAWs used in music production. This wasn’t always the case with Cubase being the DAW of choice in the early 2000s. Since then FL Studio and Ableton have stepped up to the plate and both offer incredible packages for writing music. Which one is right for you though? Let’s take a look at the details you need to be informed of in our FL Studio Vs Ableton breakdown!
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The entry-level for FL Studio is a modest £85 with the complete bundle tallying up to a whopping £409. The producer bundle is where most start off as it offers an array of stock VSTs that can help you get started for only £164. What’s great about FL Studio is you only have to buy it once since you get free upgrades for all their future releases!
Ableton offers a cheaper entry point than FL Studio with options to split the price into 3 payments making this DAW more accessible to producers on a budget. Their complete bundle is £130 more expensive than FL studio’s at £539 but again you have options to split this into 3 payments. All future versions aren’t part of this package unfortunately and require payment to access.
FL Studio wins on the price with all future editions being a free upgrade being the deciding factor. Ableton’s installment plan is noteworthy and great if you’re strapped for cash.
FL Studio’s UI offers a clean layout which is broken down into 5 sections (Playlist, Channel rack, Browser, Piano Roll, and Browser). There are multiple approaches you can take to achieve the same results in FL which allow you to cater to your workflow. An example of this is being able to use the channel rack or playlist to arrange your drums to add panning and velocity.
All sections can be hidden or brought to the foreground offering more screen space for your project view and VSTs. All of FL Studio’s parameters can be automated with a right-click option. Trying to automate 3rd party VSTs are not as intuitive as native ones but possible.
You’re also able to customize the background image which is cool for those who like to change things up. Not only that they allow custom themes which you can get for free on their website!
Ableton’s UI also offers a clean layout similar to FL in some ways but very different in others. The difference being you add effects to the tracks and not the mixer channels. The playlist is called the arrangement view which you swap between the session view. The browser is on the left but with less options to resize compared to FL. You set favorite samples in Ableton which puts them in their own folder. To do this on FL you would need to copy the sample and add it to a new folder. Effect racks and piano roll are located at the bottom of the UI which you switch between when you needed.
Ableton doesn’t offer multiple approaches to do the same task like FL Studio but it does give you a quicker workflow once you’ve learned how to use it effectively. If you’re a session musician wanting to record live then Ableton offers you far more tools than FL does making a must-have. Ableton’s native plugins pack a punch too with more freedom to control them than FL Studio.
Like FL Studio, Ableton also offers free themes on its website and full customization!
We call this one a draw as which is better is different on a person-to-person basis. However, if you’re a session musician then Ableton takes the win.
FL Studio’s stock plugins are simple and straight to the point with all the necessary effects you’ll need to write good music. Their stock synths are powerful with Harmor and Sytrus being the stars of the show if sound design is your goal. They also have VSTs with nice preset sounds to choose from like FLEX, their new addition to FL 20. Flex also offers extra packs for you to buy giving you more options to choose from if you need them.
FLs native plugins lose to Ableton with their rate settings not allowing you to set perfect HZ ratios. This can be frustrating for artists who want to sync up their chorus or phasers with the BPM like Dubstep producers. FL does offer more than makeup for it with effects like Vocodex or Effector which help make your bland sounds more interesting and modern.
Ableton also has the usual suspects when it comes to VST choice and in a lot of ways does it better than FL. Their VSTs give more visual representation making your tweak more logical to understand what it’s doing. Setting HZ rates is a breeze allowing you to type out the value you need for more accurate modulations.
Sound designers will feel right at home with Ableton’s stock synth Operator which allows you to make a variety of high-quality synths for any genre. Tie that with their stock effects to shape and morph it to your liking and you have endless possibilities at your fingertips. If OTT is a plugin you’re familiar with you’ll be interested to know it’s modeled off one of Ableton’s Multiband compressor presets. Xfer recreated to show producers the power of Ableton’s stock effects and its since become a staple of the industry.
While FL Studio offers a great selection of plugins to choose from, Ableton has them beat. Ableton’s VSTs offer a more user-friendly UI and better options for precision.
FL Studio is more patterned based which makes it pretty easy to pick up and use. New projects come loaded with drum samples which make it easy for newcomers to write beats. Painting patterns in the playlist make writing each section of your track a breeze to lay down quickly.
The multiple approaches FL Studio offer to do the same task can be confusing at first. Once you’ve got it down you’ll have multiple options to choose from which each offering its own advantages. The advantage is mainly methods that save on CPU usage with FLs channel rack features save the need to automate levels and panning on the playlist.
Ableton has a pretty high learning curve to a newcomer. If you take the time to learn your DAW the layout becomes second nature with time and practice. You will also have a much faster workflow in Ableton with effects being visible all at once without having to bring them to the foreground. Features like Session view make Ableton perfect for recording jamming sessions and editing them into your project with ease.
Ableton also has amazing features if you enjoy working in audio. Features like warp let you fit recordings to your grid perfectly. You have time stretching options you can automate on the sample making interesting grainy sounds. Being able to do it on the sample also leaves your project cleaner with less automation clutter on the screen.
FL Studio has this one as it’s more intuitive for a newcomer to navigate and write ideas down. The channel rack and pattern-based writing make creating sections easier than placing samples on the grid. Ableton isn’t rocket science however and can be learned with dedication and time.
FL Studio comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Windows with only a 64-bit for Mac. Linux unfortunately has no support but you could work around it with a virtual machine. FL Studio also offers a mobile phone version that lets you make ideas on the go and open them in your DAW. This third-party plugin supports VST 1, 2, and 3 for Windows and AU for Mac. If you want to use hardware in FL you’re in luck as it supports an array of controllers for you to do live sessions with.
Ableton comes with only 64-bit support for both Mac and Windows. Like FL there is no Linux support but there are workarounds to getting it running. Last year, Ableton also released their mobile app Note. Projects made in Note are also able to be opened in Ableton. VST support is the same as FL with VSTs 1, 2, and 3 on Windows and AU on Mac. Ableton also supports a variety of hardware controllers making these DAWs close to neck and neck.
This was so close to being a tie but FL Studio’s 32bit support on Windows gave it the lead. If you’re making music it’s probably a good idea to be using 64-bit computers but if you’re stuck on a 32-bit system FL at least have you covered.
I have used both of these DAWs for many years and so have experience with both. In my expert opinion, FL Studio is the winner overall and is a great starting point for newcomers to start making beats. Its free upgrades make it great value for money as they improve features with each version they release. 32bit support makes it more accessible on a wide range of Windows computers and its pattern-based writing tools simplify arrangement.
Both DAWs do the same thing and each has its advantages. Anyone can learn to use them effectively and it’s a matter of personal preference which one you enjoy the most. Which DAW is better to use is subjective as everyone swears by the one they use. Unless you play instruments and you want to record your sessions then Ableton is probably more suited to you.
We hope this helped inform you of your decision. If you found this article helpful why not give it a like and share? We hope to see you back again soon!