Ableton Live vs Bitwig

I wrote this article based on hope that the two companies would learn from each other.  Lately, I’m having a DAW affair (cue in Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna”)

Why I keep using Ableton:

  1. Ableton’s PUSH is just so good for my workflow.  I do wish they made a 16 pad version.
  2. They care about the little things, like intelligent clip recording: automatically clipping my loop to the nearest bar….because sometimes we need to hold a chord or play to the very end and can’t stop the clip perfectly.  Also, many times I don’t know how long I’m going to make a loop.  I’m a real musician …I like to flow with my fingers.  So I may start with a 4 bar loop in mind, but end up recording 32 bars.  When I stop at 32 1/2, Abelton know I just want 32 bars.  This simple detail adds up to a lot of saved time, reduced mouse clicks, and eliminates distractions from the creative process.
  3. THE METRONONE.  This is petty, but having the ability to have the MPC-style click sound is so satisfying.  Who wants to hear beep or wood? Not me!
  4. Owners of the Suite bundle get a very generous collection of sounds, fx, presets, and instruments.  You probably won’t need to buy a plugin for a while because truly exploring the included packs will be rewarding, regardless of your genre.

What annoys me about Ableton

  1. Limited options for shorcuts. I perform a lot of repetitive tasks, like cropping clips and extracting grooves. I can’t assign a shortcut.
  2. Setting up complex modulations require to many max devices. In Bitwig, modulation is already built into each device and cross modulation between devies requires no extra devices.

Why I keep my Bitwig subscription

  1. A great selection of built-in synths and fx.  With Bitwig’s stock devices, you can achieve “VST quality” sound.  Most DAWs lacked good sounding synths and effects, which increased demand VSTs. The amound of waveshaping, distortion, and sound coloring built into the latest release is unmatched. With Bitwig’s spectral devices features the ability to add fx to specific frequency bands. Your CPU is the limit.
  2. Bouncing midi to audio while keeping midi active?  Yes please.  Why is no one else doing this?  Maybe because it requires a total rewrite of the source code.  Bitwig also allows you do bounce the group track audio…on the group track.  Just wow.
  3. Automation is very well integrated into just about everything.  I noticed that other software developers started follow the trend that Bitwig made popular.
  4. XY effects.  Imagine an XY grid where each corner is a separate VST effect.  You can blend them in real-time and record automation from a gamepad, tablet, smart phone, or other midi-capable device.
  5. The Grid: Bitwig’s modular canvas which allows you do built instruments and fx processors from a large set of tools.  I have spend some time building synths and found it easy to learn if you understand basic audio signal flow.
  6. Loading Ableton Sessions.  Maybe not exciting to everyone, but it has added a flare to my workflow for certain tasks that Bitwig does better…such as stemming.

What annoys my abount Bitwig

There are a few suble things about Bitwig that hinder full adoption:

  1. It currently lacks the intelligent clip recording mentioned mentioned earlier about Ableton.
  2. No straight forward note repeat like that of Ableton’s PUSH. There are work arounds, but they either subcract the element of real-time performance, or require a lot of patching to get it how I want, and hinders starting projects with new samples. Logic Pro had something relatively simple that allows a customizable rang of keys for note repeat. Even Ableton lacks this, and without PUSH hardware, you’ll have to be clever with arpeggiators and other devices just like Bitwig users.


Are you mainly focused on sampling and making beats?  Ableton would likely be a better workflow in combination with the Push hardware, especially coming from standalone hardware.   Are you into sound design, heavy/complex automation, or ?  Bitwig will do that better than any other DAW.

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