For several years I have used Ableton Live Suite extensively in making music. I have come to the realization that it is no longer worth it. There are better DAWs out there that do not drag their feet on new technologies.
The first thing is Ableton live has a great workflow, I would say I do not deny this as the main benefit to the DAW. There is also a significant amount of depth in terms of features. Most of which I barely scratched the surface on.
Here is the thing though, they have continually dragged their feet on new core technologies related to midi and VST. However one issue stands above the rest. When Ableton 10 was announced there was no support for MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE). While this may seem like a small issue MPE is becoming an increasingly important technology for hardware instruments. Roli’s Seaboard, and Roger Linn’s Linnstrument may be the biggest names, but there is a wave of new instruments coming in the future that use this technology. Midi is moving beyond the keyboard and knobs into more expressive controllers. While there are other DAWs which lack support, Ableton’s lack of support for MPE is becoming a glaring shortcoming. A $200+ upgrade for a new version of the software without substantial new features is not worth getting. Especially if those features are becoming increasingly common in competitors DAWs as upgrades roll out.
Ableton is not the only company that is failing to support MPE, but it’s exclusion at this point is unacceptable. The thing is it is not just MPE, it is VST3 as well. Especially in the face that it’s competitors that are biting at its heals, Logic, Reaper, Cubase, Tracktion, and Bitwig, fully support the MP3 and VST3 technology.
The technological lag in most cases would be acceptable if the technology needed to stabilize and if implimentation of this was unknown. However, VST3 and MPE are known technologies. So what the hell is Ableton really waiting for. When ableton 9.5 rolled out the lack of MPE support was questionable, but understandable. But why are they charging several hundred dollars for an update that is not fully compatible with the newest technologies? While some new features are nice, the lack of adoption of current advancements in core technology for DAWs is problematic. While they took over Cycling 74 for MAX, they failed to integrate a core MAX feature, which is support for MPE.
My advice for Ableton upgrade is to skip it for now. If you need a workflow like Ableton, Bitwig comes rather close. Reaper is an inexpensive feature laden DAW if one needs that. Hell Reaper may have been the best DAW on the market for years. The reality is there are options out there, and what Ableton offers is becoming harder to justify considering the steep price. For me I will be likely using Reaper in the future. It seems like the best approach for me personally.