FL Studio and Ableton are two of the most popular DAWs out there. And each has a dedicated fan base that'll try to convince you one is better than the other.
In this article we'll break down the best features of each, comparing plugins, going over price, a a few other elements to help you make a decision.
At the end is a simple 3 step checklist to help you decide which is the right DAW for you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Overview of FL Studio and Ableton
- Table Overview of Features
- FL Studio's Best Features
- Ableton's Best Features
- Stock Plugins
- Best FL Studio Stock Plugins
- Best Ableton Stock Plugins
- Do Professionals Use FL Studio
- Do Professionals Use Ableton
- Comparison Of Features
- Price Comparison
- Tips For Making The Most Of Either DAW
- FAQ and Common Questions
- FL Studio or Ableton: Which Should You Choose
Overview of FL Studio and Ableton
FL Studio was originally created as a midi-sequencer back in the late 1990s and has since evolved into one of the most popular DAWs available. FL Studio features an intuitive user interface with powerful sequencing, mixing, sampling and automation capabilities.
It's also known for its extensive sound library of drum kits, synth presets, vocal samples and more.
On the other hand, Ableton, features a unique session view which makes it highly flexible and provides an intuitive workflow for producers of all levels. Its powerful audio engine can handle large amounts of audio data and its extensive library of plugins, effects and samples make it an excellent choice for music production.
Both DAWs Are Great
FL Studio and Ableton both offer unique features that cater to different workflows and preferences.
You talk to FL Studio users and they'll tell you about the Piano Roll, its intuitive workflow, easy-to-use interface, Gross Beat and and the large collection of stock plugins that are included with the software. It's also a great choice for beat making and hip hop production.
On the other hand, Ableton Live's Session View allows for seamless loop-based production and live performance. It's also great for manipulating audio files with its warping capabilities and audio effects. Ableton Live is also favored by DJs and electronic music producers who want to perform live.
Both are great, so let's dive into what makes each great.
FL Studio & Ableton - Table Overview of Features
Let’s start with an overview of FL Studio and Ableton’s features. Here is a table summarizing the features and pricing of FL Studio and Ableton Live:
As you can see, both FL Studio and Ableton Live offer a range of pricing options with varying features and capabilities.
FL Studio's pricing ranges from $99 for the Fruity Edition up to $499 for the All Plugins Bundle, while Ableton Live's pricing starts at $99 for the Standard version and goes up to $749 for the Suite version.
FL Studio offers powerful tools for MIDI sequencing and editing, as well as a wide range of stock plugins. Ableton Live, on the other hand, excels in live performance and loop-based production, with unique features like the Session View and the Push controller.
The choice between FL Studio and Ableton Live will come down to your needs, where you're at in your music career, preferences, and budget. Keep reading to help you make a decision.
FL Studio's Best Features
Enough of the overview. Let’s get into what makes FL Studio a beast. The features that people love and keep people on FL Studio. Don’t worry we’ll get to Ableton next.
FL Studio has a vast range of features that make it a powerful and versatile music production software.
Choosing a single "best" feature is a personal decision based on how you like to produce.
BUT…if you ask FL Studio users there’s several key features that stand out. Some of the most notable features that make FL Studio stand out among other DAWs include:
1. Piano Roll: FL Studio's piano roll is a powerful tool for creating and editing MIDI data. It allows users to easily draw in notes and chords, quantize, and manipulate MIDI data with various tools. No doubt if you watch an FL Studio tutorial, you’re going to see the Piano Roll.
2. Stock Plugins: FL Studio comes with a vast collection of high-quality stock plugins, including synthesizers, samplers, effects, and more.
These plugins cover a wide range of sounds and styles and allow producers to create unique sounds without needing to purchase third-party plugins. Gross Beat, Edison, Fruity Delay, Fruity Reverb, Fruity this and Fruity that…FL Studio delivers on stock plugins.
3. Step Sequencer: FL Studio's step sequencer allows for quick and easy beat creation, making it a favorite among hip-hop and electronic music producers. It's also great for making amazing drum patterns.
The step sequencer allows users to easily program drums, melodies, and chords using a grid-based interface. It’s super useful and intuitive especially to new producers. A step sequencer is how I got started on music production making Boom Bap beats.
For more on Step Sequencers, take a look at the benefits of a step sequencer and the best DAWs that have Step Sequencers.
4. Automation: FL Studio's automation system allows users to automate virtually any parameter within the software, including effects, synthesizers, and mix settings.
This allows for intricate and precise control over a track's sound and dynamics. When you got a nice beat down, the automation makes it super easy to add in effects and layer in dynamics.
5. Pattern-Based Workflow: FL Studio's pattern-based workflow allows users to quickly arrange and organize patterns, loops, and clips within a project. This makes it easy to experiment with different song structures and quickly create variations of a track.
This is something that works with your brain or not. It reminds me of Logic (my main squeeze) so it works with me. But I’ve also seen people who can’t comprehend it.
Overall, FL Studio's combination of intuitive workflow, powerful features, and extensive plugin library make it a popular choice for music producers of all genres. It has a thousand ways to do many things and it can be a bit daunting.
Once you find your way in FL Studio it clicks and will make sense.
Ableton's Best Features
Ableton Live is a monster. It's a powerful and versatile digital audio workstation (DAW) used by many electronic music producers, DJs, and performers.
Like FL Studio, choosing a single "best" feature in Ableton Live may vary based on personal preferences and the type of music production you are interested in.
However, some of the most notable features that make Ableton Live stand out among other DAWs include:
1. Session View: Ableton Live's Session View allows for a unique and flexible approach to live performance and loop-based production. Users can launch clips, loops, and samples on the fly, allowing for spontaneous creation and performance of music. This is unique to Ableton and is what Ableton users rave about.
2. Warp Engine: Ableton Live's warp engine is a powerful tool for manipulating audio files, allowing users to change the tempo and timing of audio without affecting pitch, or vice versa.
This allows for easy tempo matching, remixing, and creative sound manipulation. The ease of use and speed of manipulating sounds helps you stay in the flow.
3. Audio Effects: Ableton Live's collection of audio effects includes a wide range of tools for shaping and sculpting sound, including EQs, compressors, reverbs, delays, and more.
Many of these effects include unique and creative features not found in other DAWs. Similar to FL Studio, Ableton has a solid lineup of audio effects.
4. Max for Live: Max for Live is a built-in platform that allows for the creation and use of custom devices and plugins within Ableton Live. This allows users to create unique and customized tools and effects to fit their specific needs and workflows.
Might not be something you get into when you first start producing, but seasoned producer can really take advantage of this feature.
5. Push Controller: The Ableton Push controller is a hardware device designed specifically for use with Ableton Live. It allows for intuitive and hands-on control of Live's features and functions, making it a favorite among performers and producers.
For those who want the best of analog and digital, it’s hard to beat the Push Controller.
Overall, Ableton Live's combination of unique features, powerful tools for audio manipulation, and flexible approach to live performance make it a popular choice for electronic music producers and performers.
FL Studio Stock Plugins and Ableton Stock Plugins
Ask any user of any DAW and they’ll talk to you about the Plugins. There’s a ton of 3rd party plugins that pretty much work with any DAW. Here’s a quick overview of the top stock plugins that come with each.
Best Fl Studio Stock Plugins
FL Studio users love the stock plugins. And I can’t lie when I was heavy in my Logic days, there was a time I was always googling “best Gross Beat VST equivalent”.
Here are some of the best stock plugins that come with FL Studio:
1. Sytrus: Sytrus is a powerful synthesizer that can be used to create a wide range of sounds, from classic analog-style patches to modern, complex textures. It features six oscillators, multiple filter types, and a range of modulation options.
2. Harmor: Harmor is a unique additive/subtractive synthesizer that allows for the creation of complex, evolving sounds. It features a resynthesis engine that can import audio samples and convert them into playable patches.
3. Gross Beat: Gross Beat is a time manipulation effect that can be used to create stutter and glitch effects, as well as other creative time-based effects.
4. Maximus: Maximus is a multiband compressor that allows for precise control over the dynamics of a mix. It features four bands, each with its own set of controls and visualization tools.
5. Fruity Convolver: Fruity Convolver is a convolution reverb that can be used to create realistic room and space simulation effects.
It can also be used for creative sound design, with the ability to load custom impulse responses.
6. Parametric EQ 2: Parametric EQ 2 is a versatile equalizer that allows for precise shaping of the frequency response of a mix. It features up to 20 bands, each with its own set of controls and visualization tools.
7. Edison - Edison is a powerful audio editor and recorder that can be used for sample manipulation and audio editing tasks. It features advanced spectral analysis tools, as well as the ability to record and edit audio directly within the plugin.
These are just a few of the best stock plugins that come with FL Studio. There are many more included, each with their own unique sound processing capabilities.
Make sure to check what exactly you get with each edition of FL Studio.
Best Ableton Stock Plugins
Not to be outdone, Ableton Live also includes a range of high-quality stock plugins that cover a wide range of sound processing needs.
Here are some of the best stock plugins that come with Ableton Live:
1. Operator: Operator is a versatile synthesizer that can create a wide range of sounds, from classic analog-style patches to FM synthesis and more complex textures.
2. Analog: Analog is another powerful synthesizer that is designed to recreate the sound of classic analog synthesizers. It features two oscillators, multiple filter types, and a range of modulation options.
3. Wavetable: Wavetable is a wavetable synthesizer that can be used to create rich, evolving soundscapes. It features a large library of wavetables, as well as the ability to import custom wavetables.
4. EQ Eight: EQ Eight is a versatile equalizer that allows for precise shaping of the frequency response of a mix. It features up to eight bands, each with its own set of controls and visualization tools.
5. Glue Compressor: Glue Compressor is a model of a classic analog bus compressor that can be used to add punch and cohesion to a mix. It features a range of controls, including attack, release, ratio, and threshold.
6. Reverb: Reverb is a versatile reverb plugin that can be used to create realistic room and space simulation effects. It features a range of controls, including decay time, pre-delay, and high-frequency damping.
7. Delay: Delay is a versatile delay plugin that can be used to create a range of delay effects, from simple echo to more complex rhythmic patterns.
Just like Fl Studio these are just a few of the best stock plugins that come with Ableton Live. There are many more included, each with their own unique sound processing capabilities.
Check the pricing page to see what exactly you get with each edition.
Do Professionals Use Fl Studio?
Yes, professional music producers and well known music producers use FL Studio. Here's a list of some notable producers who have been known to use FL Studio:
- 9th Wonder
- Metro Boomin
- Lex Luger
- Mike Will Made-It
- Sonny Digital
- Murda Beatz
- Ronny J
- Martin Garrix
- Steve Aoki
These producers have created some of the most iconic beats in hip-hop music, electronic music and have used FL Studio to craft their signature sounds.
In the hip hop community specifically, FL Studio's intuitive interface and extensive plugin library have made it a go-to choice for many hip-hop producers looking to create hits, and innovative and unique beats, and essential drum patterns.
It really gained buzz when 9th Wonder was using it and then exploded when Trap music took off.
Do Professionals Use Ableton?
Yes. Ableton is a staple among many famous music producers. Most notably:
- Flying Lotus
- Just Blaze
- J Dilla (in his later productions, obvi he's know for the MPC)
- Mike Will made It
Ableton user tend to lean EDM production, but this seems to be more of a historical trend. More and more we're seeing Ableton for other genres like hiphop and pop.
FL Studio and Ableton - Comparison of features
Let's take a deeper dive into the features such as user interface, sound quality, plugins/effects available, flexibility, and performance.
When it comes to user interface, FL Studio and Ableton both offer intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces.
FL Studio has a very straightforward user interface that is easy to use with all the main editing tools readily available in the sidebar. It also features a convenient Piano Roll feature that makes entering notes quick and easy and allows producers to quickly compose melodies and chord progressions with ease.
It's traditional “channel rack” view which makes it easier for users to see what they are working on.
Ableton's session view offers an alternative approach to music production, giving users the ability to launch multiple clips simultaneously and experiment more freely when creating tracks.
The session view also allows producers to "chop" their samples into smaller sections for further manipulation, or to easily create complex arrangements and manipulate audio and edit MIDI data such as chords to get great sounds. This helps provide users with more control over their sound design process.
Both DAWs come with powerful mixing consoles that make it easier for producers to adjust levels and EQ settings on the fly. FL Studio's mixer offers up to 99 channels with dedicated automation controls while Ableton boasts a 64-track mixer with advanced routing capabilities.
FL Studio's built-in sampler comes with a range of powerful features such as time stretching, pitch shifting, and loop slicing. This makes it easier for producers to manipulate samples and create unique sounds with ease.
Meanwhile, Ableton's built-in Sampler provides users with an intuitive workflow for sampling and sound design. It also offers a range of effects such as EQ, compressor and filter that can be used to further enhance the sound of a project.
When it comes to flexibility, FL Studio and Ableton both offer a wide range of options for producers. FL Studio allows producers to utilize its powerful mixer with up to 99 channels and comprehensive automation capabilities. This allows users to quickly adjust levels and EQ settings on the fly.
Additionally, its Piano Roll Editor allows for quick and easy composition of melodies and chord progressions.
Ableton, on the other hand, offers an exceptional session view that provides an intuitive workflow for users of all skill levels. It also features a powerful audio engine that can handle large amounts of audio data with ease. With this engine, users can "chop" their samples into smaller sections to create more intricate arrangements or manipulate them in other ways.
Overall, both DAWs provide excellent flexibility for music producers by providing tools that allow them to create and manipulate audio in unique ways.
Each DAW has its own strengths when it comes to specific tasks such as sound design or composition so it ultimately comes down to personal preference when deciding which one is best suited for any given project.
When it comes to sound quality, FL Studio and Ableton both offer a professional-grade experience. FL Studio's audio engine is capable of producing crystal clear tracks with minimal background noise, while Ableton provides users with a range of creative options such as warping and time-stretching capabilities.
Both DAWs also come packed with high-quality plugins and effects that can be used to enhance the overall sound of your projects.
In terms of performance, both DAWs are highly efficient when it comes to handling large amounts of audio data. FL Studio offers unlimited track count within its mixer while Ableton supports up to 128 tracks in its session view.
Very generally, if you’re at the point of deciding which one to start with, you don’t have to worry about performance.
Dr. Dre if you’re reading this (and I know that you are), you should deep dive into performance capabilities of both. But for you bedroom producers, it’s all the same.
FL Studio Price and Ableton Price
Pricing for FL Studio ranges from $99 for the Entry Fruity Edition up to $499 for the All Plugins Bundle. Ableton Live's pricing starts at $99 for the Intro version and goes up to $749 for the Suite version.
Whatever you choose, start with the entry level. It’ll be easier to master and then you can always upgrade later.
Here’s a rough breakdown of features and pricing.
Obviously the the higher you pay, the more features you get. For specific details on pricing and breakdown of what you get, you can see FL Studio Editions pricing and features compared and check out Ableton Live editions pricing.
It is worth noting that both FL Studio and Ableton Live offer free trial versions of their software, allowing users to test out the software before committing to a purchase.
Additionally, both companies often offer discounts and sales on their software throughout the year, so it's worth keeping an eye out for those as well.
A good rule of thumb is to check the sites around all major US holidays for discounts (New Years, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween (yes it’s a major holiday to me at least) Thanksgiving, Christmas).
Tips For Making The Most Out Of Either DAW
No matter which DAW you choose, there are several tips that can help you make the most out of either one:
Tip 1: Utilize the plugins and effects
Both FL Studio and Ableton offer an extensive library of plugins that can help enhance your sound design process.
Tip 2 Experiment with sound design
Try out new techniques such as warping, time stretching or modulating effects in order to create unique sounds within your projects.
Tip 3 Create custom shortcuts
Take some time to familiarize yourself with both DAWs so that you can create custom shortcuts that make workflow faster and more efficient when producing music.
Tip 4 Practice
Nobody made a hit the first time the fired up any DAW. Don’t get caught up in today’s world of social media where everything looks so instant and overnight.
You gotta put the time in and get reps in. Keep practicing, keep getting better. And get to learn whatever DAW you use.
Tip 5 Get Creative And Try New Things
Get creative and try new and creative drum patterns. When I first started way back on Garageband, I always used the same drum patterns and my beats got monotonous.
It’s what inspired me to create the Drum Guides - a massive amount of patterns to keep the creative juices flowing. Here’s s ton of Pop, HipHop, Trap, BoomBap, and more.
FAQ and Common Questions
Here's a list of common questions about FL Studio versus Ableton
Is Fl Studio better than Ableton?
Not necessarily. FL Studio excels with it's core set of features like the Piano Roll, it's stock plugins and sounds, and UI. However, Ableton offers a unique set of tools and workflow that many find appealing. Both are great options.
Is Ableton better than Fl Studio?
Not necessarily. Ableton excels with it's unique feature set , Push Controller, and Live features However, FL Studio offers friendly workflow that many find appealing. Both are great options.
Is Ableton or Fl Studio easier to use?
FL Studio tends to be the easier to use DAW. It's flexibility allows for a number of ways to get a task done. You'll find a way that works easily for you. However, once you get used to Ableton, it's quite easy as well. DAWs are tools you'll spend hours and hours in. Once you put in enough time, both will be pretty easy to use.
Is Ableton or Fl Studio better for Live performance?
Ableton is better for Live performance. It has a unique focus on live performing and has developed features for live performers.
Is Ableton or Fl Studio better for hiphop?
Fl Studio. Bother are great, but FL Studio has historically been a go to for Hip Hop producers. You'll find plenty of tutorials on hiphop production that are based in Fl Studio. That being said, there should be nothing that prevents you from producing hip hop music in Ableton.
Is Ableton or Fl Studio better for sample based production?
Ableton. It's warping feature is super nice for working with samples. FL Studio is still great with Edison and SliceX however. Both can be used quite well for working with samples.
Fl Studio or Ableton? Which One Should You Choose?
First, some reality: No one DAW is perfect.
No matter what DAW you pick, you’ll find yourself saying “oh man I wish it did this, or had that feature”. That’s the reality
Die hard FL Studio users and Ableton users will try to convince you otherwise. But every DAW has its pros and cons.
I created some heat in Serato Studio, but I wish it did way more in terms of MIDI editing. I can go crazy in Logic with midi but wish it handled samples like Serato Studio.
You’re going to run into the same thing with FL Studio and Ableton.
Second, whatever you choose, you’ll figure it out
There's nuances to both that you'll learn. Everyone will say argue this feature is better than that feature, or the way one DAW does something is better than the other DAW.
Yes they are different and don’t worry you'll figure out how to make you DAW work.
Millions of people make great music in FL Studio. Millions of people make great music in Ableton.
Neither will hamper you. Don't worry about missing out on features in other DAWs.
So what do you do?
Ok if you’re still deciding, here’s what you do:
Try Both DAWS First
First, pick a weekend and download the free trial of FL Studio. Play around with it, make beats, try different plugins and effects.
Get used to a workflow. Do nothing else this weekend but explore FL Studio
Next weekend, do the exact same thing but with Ableton.
Based on Step 1, you should have a feel for what you like. You may have made your decision by this point. If you’re still on the fence and still deciding, move on to Step 2.
Look At Your Bank Account
What can you afford? If you need to save a little, maybe go FL Studio. If you’re comfortable with the high end editions and can even get the Ableton Push, go with that.
If you’re still deciding, move on to step 3 and this will help you decide.
Which One Looks Better
It’s as simple as this. Seriously. Look at the UI of both. Which one looks better to you? Go with that. Here's why:
You’re going to potentially spending HOURS, DAYS, WEEKS, MONTHS, YEARS using this tool. You should like what you’re looking at.
Ignore all the features, and pricing, and what people say. If you made it this far, you're still on the fence and can go with either - well then: Which UI looks better to you?
For me, it’s FL Studio. But for lots of people it’s Ableton.
FL Studio vs Ableton, the conclusion
There you go, hopefully this article helped you get a sense of which one to choose. Probably the best piece of advice from all of this is Step 1 from above.
Try them out and use them. Figure out which one works for you.
Don't worry about FOMO, no DAW is perfect and you can do most of what you can do in one, in the other.
And just make sure you like looking at it. I know it may seem like a silly reason, but with the amount of time you're going to spend in this tool, you should at least like looking at it.
I appreciate you reading this article no doubt, but the most useful thing is to use each and see what you like 😉
No matter what you use, you’re going to need great drum patterns. We got em and you can have em too.