What users are saying about
16 Ratings
8 Ratings
16 Ratings
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Score 9.5 out of 100
8 Ratings
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Score 8.9 out of 100

Highlights

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.

Attribute Ratings

  • Ableton Live is rated higher in 1 area: Likelihood to Recommend
  • Cubase is rated higher in 1 area: Support Rating

Likelihood to Recommend

10.0

Ableton Live

100%
7 Ratings
8.7

Cubase

87%
4 Ratings

Support Rating

9.6

Ableton Live

96%
6 Ratings
10.0

Cubase

100%
2 Ratings

Likelihood to Recommend

Ableton Live

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.
Jonah Dempcy | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

I have been a longtime fan of Cubase and would recommend it to anyone, whether they are just starting in recording or a seasoned professional. I find that it is really strong in the pre-production and production phases of a song. Tools like the arranger track, track versions, and the chord track make writing and experimenting very easy. I have used these tools on almost every song that I have started from the writing phase. I am able to experiment with different variations of a song, different channel settings, and even completely different arrangements all with just a few clicks. My writing process and speed have improved so much over the last few versions of Cubase.We have also enjoyed working with the mixing process. The mixers in Cubase are laid out much like a regular console. So for an old timer like me, the learning curve is very low. Cubase did a very good job with layout and labeling. Things are labeled what you would expect them to be and laid out in an order that makes sense. The other part of the mixer that makes it great is the ability to color code and organize tracks. My mix time has drastically decreased since using Cubase.
Dan Butler | TrustRadius Reviewer

Pros

Ableton Live

  • 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.
Jaspreet Singh | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

  • The user interface is very accessible and easy to operate
  • Cubase will run fine on most PCs with regular hardware
  • VSTs are easy to manage and install
  • Audio routing within the mixer is very simple
Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cons

Ableton Live

  • 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
Eric Reithler-Barros | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

  • Some documentation is confusing and may be different than the version you have
  • Finding how to set up more complex audio environments can be cumbersome
  • Audio library can be a little confusing
Walter Aho | TrustRadius Reviewer

Pricing Details

Ableton Live

General

Free Trial
Free/Freemium Version
Premium Consulting/Integration Services
Entry-level set up fee?
No

Starting Price

$79

Ableton Live Editions & Modules

Edition
Live 10 Intro$79
Live 10 Standard$359
Live 10 Suite$599
Live 11 Intro$99
Live 11 Standard$449
Live 11 Suite$749
Live 10 Intro - Push$799
Live 10 Standard - Push$1,078
Live 10 Suite - Push$1,278
Live 10 Standard - Students & Teachers$269
Live 10 Suite - Students & Teachers$449
Push + Live 10 Standard - Students & Teachers$1,068
Push + Live 10 Suite - Students & Teachers$1,248
Max for Live$159
Max for Live - Crossgrade$79
  1. none
Additional Pricing Details

Cubase

General

Free Trial
Free/Freemium Version
Premium Consulting/Integration Services
Entry-level set up fee?
No

Starting Price

$579.9

Cubase Editions & Modules

Edition
Starting Price$579.90
  1. none
Additional Pricing Details

Support Rating

Ableton Live

Ableton Live 9.6
Based on 6 answers
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.
Rob Gokee | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

Cubase 10.0
Based on 2 answers
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.
Rob Gokee | TrustRadius Reviewer

Alternatives Considered

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 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.
Eric Fox | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

We chose Cubase in the beginning due to price differences between Pro Tools and Cubase. As we learned to use Cubase, we realized the flexibility between MIDI and audio was far more advanced than any other product on the market. We still feel like the MIDI implementation in Cubase is beyond any other product on the market. We have also found that the audio engine alone is on par with all of the industry standard software. During the 18 years we have used Cubase, we have noticed more and more high-end mixing, mastering and production studios using Cubase in their workflows.
Dan Butler | TrustRadius Reviewer

Return on Investment

Ableton Live

  • 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.
Jonah Dempcy | TrustRadius Reviewer

Cubase

  • Using Cubase over something like Protools means that new users are more likely to be successful during training and due to this, decrease training time.
  • More trained staff means that we are able to complete more projects faster instead of waiting for a more skilled staff member to become available.
  • Implementation on-site for on-site recording has been very reliable and has decreased the amount of failed recordings during events.
Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer

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