Ableton Live vs. Cubase

Overview
ProductRatingMost Used ByProduct SummaryStarting Price
Ableton Live
Score 10.0 out of 10
N/A
Ableton headquartered in Berlin offers Ableton Live, the company's flagship digital audio workstation and audio editing suite.
$79
Cubase
Score 9.8 out of 10
N/A
Steinberg Media Technologies headquartered in Hamburg offers Cubase, a digital audio workstation and audio editing application.
$579.90
Pricing
Ableton LiveCubase
Editions & Modules
Live 10 Intro
$79
Max for Live - Crossgrade
$79
Live 11 Intro
$99
Max for Live
$159
Live 10 Standard - Students & Teachers
$269
Live 10 Standard
$359
Live 11 Standard
$449
Live 10 Suite - Students & Teachers
$449
Live 10 Suite
$599
Live 11 Suite
$749
Live 10 Intro - Push
$799
Push + Live 10 Standard - Students & Teachers
1,068
Live 10 Standard - Push
1,078
Push + Live 10 Suite - Students & Teachers
1,248
Live 10 Suite - Push
1,278
Starting Price
$579.90
Offerings
Pricing Offerings
Ableton LiveCubase
Free Trial
NoNo
Free/Freemium Version
NoNo
Premium Consulting/Integration Services
NoNo
Entry-level Setup FeeNo setup feeNo setup fee
Additional Details
More Pricing Information
Community Pulse
Ableton LiveCubase
Considered Both Products
Ableton Live
Chose Ableton Live
While I love Cubase and used it for many years (still do for certain projects), I definitely love Ableton better when it comes to writing music. The shortcuts are much easier to learn and make more sense than Cubase's, which means the time you have to spend setting things up is …
Chose Ableton Live
I cannot say that the other programs listed aren't capable. They surely are. But for what I do and my workflow environment, Ableton suits my needs better. I know a lot of people that use Pro Tools and Logic Pro. They are both very powerful programs. I have knowledge of how …
Cubase
Chose Cubase
While Pro Tools is the industry standard when it comes to recording and audio mixing, I've found Cubase to be superior when it comes to writing with MIDI. Also, it comes with a lot of features (MP3 exporting, time code) that Pro Tools charges you extra for. They're both about …
Chose Cubase
Cubase was our choice based on the cost of the software as well as an easy to user interface, this coupled with the low hardware requirements meant that roll out was easy and cost effective.
We have used Pro Tools in the past and found that training staff to use this software …
Top Pros
Top Cons
TrustRadius Insights
Ableton LiveCubase
Highlights

TrustRadius
Research Team Insight
Published

Ableton Live and Cubase are digital audio workstations (DAWs), designed to help musicians and sound designers create audio. Cubase has a traditional timeline-based approach to its interface. Ableton Live, by contrast, is optimized for creators interested in iterating on looping audio samples. Both products are primarily used by small businesses, likely because independent artists and freelancers are more likely to be creating custom audio tracks. Medium-to-large companies are more likely to purchase stock music or work with contractors for their marketing and internal audio needs.

Features

Although both Ableton Live and Cubase are capable of producing professional-level music and audio tracks, their layout and key features set them apart from each other.

Cubase is focused on track-based audio design, and is usually easier for new users to learn. It supports video import, making it a popular tool for musicians creating video scores. It has a lower price point than Ableton Live, making it somewhat more attractive for budget-focused users. Some users also prefer Cubase’s traditional window-based interface and organization, especially for multi-monitor setups.

Ableton Live, by contrast, shines in loop-based music composition. Its workflow is optimized for creating looping audio samples and then experimenting and iterating on them, making it especially popular with live DJs and electronic music producers. Experienced users praise Ableton Live’s many shortcut tools for helping them optimize their workflow. Some users also find its tab-based interface more intuitive and less cluttered than window-based alternatives.

Limitations

Ableton Live and Cubase aren’t perfect, however. Each product has important limitations to consider before purchasing.

Ableton Live may be popular with experienced DAW users, but users new to the field may be intimidated by its layout and extensive functionality. Some users find Ableton Live’s audio recording function to be tedious, especially when recording multiple takes. It’s also slightly pricier than Cubase.

Cubase, on the other hand, may be frustrating for some experienced users. Its shortcuts and workflow are optimized for linear editing as opposed to loop-based creative experimentation. Cubase can also be taxing on computer resources, and users may experience sudden slowdowns and unexpected bugs. 

Pricing

Cubase uses a tiered one-time licensing model for pricing. Cubase Elements is $99.99 and includes basic functionality and a selection of virtual instruments and effects. Cubase Artist is $309.99 and includes more instruments and effects, increases the number of tracks per project, and includes additional features such as tools for merging multiple takes of an audio recording. Cubase Pro is $559.99 includes additional effects, unlimited tracks per project, and additional tools for pitch correction and recording studio setup. For first-time purchasers, Cubase Artist and Cubase Pro also require a USB-eLicenser for an additional $27.99.

Ableton Live uses a tiered one-time licensing model as well, with an optional 6-month payment plan. Ableton Live Intro is $99.00, includes a basic set of stock sounds, software instruments, and audio effects, and supports 16 tracks and 8 input channels per project. Ableton Live Standard is $449.00 and includes an expanded library of sounds, instruments, and effects, as well as supporting unlimited tracks and 256 input channels. Ableton Live Suite is $749.00 and greatly expands the available library of sounds, instruments, and effects, as well as adding tools for live performances and custom-built digital instruments.

Best Alternatives
Ableton LiveCubase
Small Businesses
Descript
Descript
Score 8.8 out of 10
Descript
Descript
Score 8.8 out of 10
Medium-sized Companies
Audition
Audition
Score 8.9 out of 10
Audition
Audition
Score 8.9 out of 10
Enterprises
Audition
Audition
Score 8.9 out of 10
Audition
Audition
Score 8.9 out of 10
All AlternativesView all alternativesView all alternatives
User Ratings
Ableton LiveCubase
Likelihood to Recommend
10.0
(7 ratings)
10.0
(5 ratings)
Support Rating
9.6
(3 ratings)
10.0
(1 ratings)
User Testimonials
Ableton LiveCubase
Likelihood to Recommend
Ableton
Ableton Live is a perfect fit for loop-based music like electronic music of all varieties. It is especially suited to minimal techno and IDM, but is really suitable for any style of music that relies extensively on loops and samples. Ableton Live is also well-suited for sequencing out loop-based music through its Live view, while the Composer view allows for enough arranging features that you can take a song from concept to completion fairly easily. Ableton Live is less well-suited for fully recorded music that has no sample-based or looping components. It is less well-suited for non-electronic genres, although it is perfectly fine, but many of the features would not be useful or necessary in these cases.
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Steinberg Media Technologies
As Cubase has different levels of product available, there is a starting point for most people in the industry who require this software with the Pro version being the top level. Therefore, it can be built around end user needs rather than paying a fortune for everything and only using 40% as other software products do. It would be less appropriate for beginners, or those who do not wish to use VSTi instruments as there are cheaper products on the market which would allow this (Reaper being one). It is all down to user preference at the end of the day, and there isn't one product that will tick every single box for every user.
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Pros
Ableton
  • Session View: This is the biggest advantage of Ableton. It provides you this view in which you can create different tracks for the same part of the song. For example:- If you are making the chorus of the song, you can save one thread. Now if you want to try and listen to a different drum set in a new thread, you can simply do that and listen to the new track while preserving the older one. Once you are satisfied with what you're listening, simple record the same in arrangement view and you are done. You can switch to the arrangement view and listen to the final song.
  • Pre-installed instruments and loops:- Ableton's library which is included with the software itself while you purchase it is amazing. I bet you will ever need third-party plugins for it. It comes loaded with hundreds of loops and number of instruments which are completely professional and free to use.
  • Amazing Graphical User Interface:- Even if you're a beginner in this field, Ableton can be learned within a few hours. The basic functionality of this software is very easy to understand and use. Of course, advanced stuff comes with practice but the basic functioning can be learned and within a few hours you are producing your own music.
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Steinberg Media Technologies
  • MIDI: MIDI has been an integral part of Cubase since the very beginning. In Cubase 11, working with and editing MIDI has become a very streamlined process.
  • Advanced Audio Features: One of my favorite audio features is the ability to generate harmony voices in just one click. This speeds up the production process and helps new singers understand different harmony lines. It also gives the ability to add modern harmony sounds to our tracks.
  • Channel Strip: While we use many plugins to emulate famous consoles and outboard equipment, the stock channel strip is outstanding. The included channel strip could easily stand on its own to get a finished sound.
  • Control Room: This is an amazing tool that emulates a monitor controller right in the software. Using this allows me to set up headphone cues, headphone mixes, and different monitor configurations. I am able to insert plugins into these chains that do not affect the master bus.
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Cons
Ableton
  • Version 10 chews up all my CPU but prior versions didn't
  • Midi channel automation isn't intuitive, have to make an instrument group
  • New version install should overwrite older versions
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Steinberg Media Technologies
  • Keyboard shortcuts aren't the best, I find it tedious to zoom in and out of the timeline
  • Multi-track recording of multiple takes can become hard to manage
  • Composing with Midi can be hard, the midi editing is a bit outdated
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Support Rating
Ableton
I haven't had to reach out to support yet, but they're great at keeping me abreast with updates, compatibility issues, new features, and tons of videos on how to use the software. I feel like they're helping me success by giving me tools I can use in my daily work.
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Steinberg Media Technologies
Any time I've had to reach out to customer support, they've been fast to respond and answered my questions to the best of their ability. Authorization of the software is easy, and the company is great about emailing you promptly. Overall, they do a great job.
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Alternatives Considered
Ableton
I cannot say that the other programs listed aren't capable. They surely are. But for what I do and my workflow environment, Ableton suits my needs better. I know a lot of people that use Pro Tools and Logic Pro. They are both very powerful programs. I have knowledge of how to use them all. Going into different studios and collaborating with people, you need to know at least the basics of them all. But for me and my studio, we will continue to primarily use Ableton for the foreseeable future.
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Steinberg Media Technologies
Pro Tools is an industry standard for a reason, but does come at a cost and with a learning curve. I've found that Cubase is a great place to start, having the ability to do very advanced things, but without the need for it. While my experience has been limited with other DAWs, I think it's been worth the (small) investment.
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Return on Investment
Ableton
  • Ableton Live allows me to rapidly sequence multitrack music as needed, without getting stuck at any step of the process.
  • Ableton Live also allows me to quickly export or upload to SoundCloud for easy sharing. This is a big time-saver.
  • The only negative ROI I can think of is the cost. There are competitors like Reaper that are much more affordable and have many of the same features.
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Steinberg Media Technologies
  • As a result of having Cubase in my inventory I have received 15-20 large scale projects increasing turnover by around 25%
  • Ability to work in remote areas with no internet and not have to worry about activation / licence renewals
  • The interoperability of Cubase with Nuendo provides increased scope for work with other sound designers / editors / post mixers.
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