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Ableton vs Bitwig for old school guy
Old 1st September 2018
  #1
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Ableton vs Bitwig for old school guy

Hi guys

I'm a very untypical Ableton Live user. I'm a guy who mainly play music rather than program it, and I totally suck at it.... (playing, that is) :D

I checked out Ableton many years ago almost by coincidence, thinking it was only for techno guys, then fell in love with it. I love the playful way I can make music with it, I can just play a riff forever into the session view until I finally get it right, and still correct timing when needed. I don't need a plan, I can just jam my way and put the things together like a puzzle, quickly trying out ideas, until finally I have something enjoyable to work with.

I play guitar and bass, I don't even own a keyboard, but I program drums with Battery 3 and sometimes a fancier plugin or something that came stock with Live. I don't mind experimenting with more moderns sounds, I'm just not too good at it.... :D

Arrangement view I find tedious and/or less intuitive to work with than Logic, but Ableton wins anyway because of the fun workflow that session view enables.

When researching whether it's worth it upgrading to Live 10, I discovered that lots of people now think the competitor Bitwig is better. However, when they talk about why it's so much better, they talk about MIDI, MIDI, modulators, MIDI, fancy effects, etc... it sounds more complicated to use, and for people who use it very differently than I use Ableton. Also the name indicates it's not quite for me.... however, I'd like to be sure.

So, for a guy who mainly play and make music the old school way, but wouldn't mind incorporating more modern methods and sounds, but that's not my main focus, is it worth it investing the time and effort to learn (and later possibly buy) Bitwig?

I know I can just check out their demo, but it takes so much time to learn something new, and I'm very unexperienced, there may be some negative surprises that I won't discover during the demo period.
Old 1st September 2018
  #2
Gear Addict
 

Personally, if I knew how to play music, I'd opt for a DAW that was more amenable to that than either of those two. However, if you enjoy what you're doing, that helps the creative process, so Ableton seems a candidate.

Here's a DAW comparison
The DAW Feature Chart

Honestly, if your main goal is to record music and also do a bit of programming, I'd start with the free/less expensive DAWs first and see if they'll do the trick. Tracktion 7 is free (Waveform 9, the latest of that app, is relatively inexpensive), and Reaper is also comparatively inexpensive for personal use.

Tracktion 7, free, is possibly better at audio recording than Ableton. Just in this area. Ableton has many strengths, but audio recording isn't yet one of them. And that's just one alternative. There's also Mixcraft, Harrison Mixbus (if you are familiar with a more analog approach), Ardour and more. I'd check out a lot of them if they have free or trial versions, try them out for awhile, before spending cash. But that's me. I like to do research.
Old 1st September 2018
  #3
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Let me make it clear: I love Ableton for what I'm doing, and never got along with Logic (which I also have), even if it's supposedly more for the performing musician. You could say that I'm sampling myself as I jam, and I totally love Ableton's session view, which allows me to do just that easily, and then mix-n-match what I got to build a song. I don't mind the more loops-based approach it enables, which is reminiscent of Hip-Hop which i love. The options are stick with Ableton, which I've been using for a long time, or switch to Bitwig.

I see no problem with Ableton's audio recording capabilities.

A quick search on Tracktion reveals that it's more like a traditional DAW, like Logic, which is not what I'm after.

Given that I already own two professional DAWs, I'm skeptical of "downgrading" to something free. My experience with free software is that sooner or later you hit the wall, and you might not discover the shortcomings immediately. Trying out a zillion different DAWs for research does not appeal to me, because I'd waste my time doing that, instead of actually making music. I already do too much searching for plugins, and I know I need to stop....

What I was curious about was whether Bitwig added significant benefit to my way of using Live, or whether all the benefits people talk about are only related to MIDI/electronic music production.

In fact, Ableton is rather sympathetic to the specifics of manually performed music, unlike what some people seem to think. Among other things, they have a feature which lets you adapt the time-grid to the actual timings of your recording (they call it tempo master), rather than the other way around (adapt/stretching your recording to the time-grid). This way you can cut-and-paste freely, and tighten up the interactions between tracks, while still keeping a human timing which can make it sound more groovy. And you have full control of which out-of-sync transients it should adapt to, and which it should not.
Old 3rd September 2018
  #4
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I just bought Bitwig but have been playing with the demo for a while before purchase. I also own Ableton. The arrange view in Bitwig is far superior to Ableton's imo. It also has the clip/session easily accessible while in the arrangement view so no need to keep flipping between the two like in Ableton which is extremely annoying to say the least. In-fact mode switching or opening multiple views is a dream in Bitwig in comparison. Ableton's built-in devices are better for the most part than Bitwig's especially the eq, compressor, etc.

I hate M4L. Its complicated, usually buggy and imo quite hack-y. Bitiwg's modulators are built right in and are super easy to use. However they do take time to get used to. Routing to a sidechain for example is not as easy as Ableton, but that could just be me.

There are auto-macros mapping for U-He instruments not sure if there are others which is nice.

Bitwig has more/better recording modes. One of the things I can't fathom why Ableton has never addressed is to be ablate just record 2/4/8 bars and stop recording once you reach the end but keep playing. In Ableton you would need to set these clips before hand in the session an overdub record instead. In Bitwig this is built-in and you also get other actions like create a new clip after reaching the end of the set bar so you can make variations easily without having to stop and create a new clip then record changes there etc. Found that to be really cool and something I've wanted out of Ableton for quite some time.

Right now Bitwig is only at version 2(2.4) I can imagine by the time they get to version 3 Bitwig will be a complete and utter beast of a DAW. Allowing you to do things easily that few other DAWs can.

Overall if it weren't for the weird pricing scheme and non-existent midi mapping/controller mapping features I'd rate Bitwig superior to Ableton in-terms of functionality alone. However there is a caveat. Bitwig is very young and I heard that it was quite buggy. Haven't run into any issues on the demo so I can't verify that.

I'm still waiting for the cross upgrade deal at Sweetwater to get approved before I can give Bitwig the full shakedown.
Old 4th September 2018
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thank you for a very helpful answer. Based on this, I will skip upgrading to Ableton 10, and wait to see how Bitwig develops.

Built-in devices are important to me, because I use them a lot. I mainly use basic effects like EQ, compressor etc, and these have to be great. I'm pretty sure this would be top priority for Bitwig to fix.

Regarding the upgrade plan I have seen so many complaints about it that they will probably address that in the future. To their advantage, Bitwig can be installed on as many computers as you like, Ableton only on two. If you have installed it on your laptop and on your desktop computer, then get a new computer, you have to ask permission from Ableton before you can activate it on the new computer.

Last edited by Balthazar; 4th September 2018 at 11:33 AM.. Reason: grammar
Old 4th September 2018
  #6
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I just took a look at their upgrade plan. It doesn't look quite as bad as people make it to be. The system we are used to, goes like this:

1) Buy the software.
2) Get minor updates for free.
3) Whenever there is a major update, you have to pay for it.

This is fine, except for one issue. What if you bought the software, or your major upgrade, a few months before another major upgrade? The money may feel wasted, because you'll either have outdated software, or have to spend extra cash. The way it works for Bitwig is like this:

1) Buy the software.
2) Get BOTH minor and major upgrades for free, within 12 months.
3) After 12 months, whenever you feel like upgrading, you buy an upgrade plan. There's no need to buy this upgrade plan before you actually need a new feature.
4) Get both minor and major upgrades for free, within the next 12 months.

This solves the problem mentioned before, but introduces a new one. Apparently, even minor things like bug fixes won't be covered after the 12 month period. Especially if the software is already buggy, this is a big deal! You may end up paying for an upgrade plan just to get a bug fix (EDIT: this turned out to be only partially true. See discussion below). You'd think it would be possible to combine the two models, and just say that major upgrades are covered within 12 months, and minor upgrades are always free. Then they could just call it an "upgrade", instead of the confusing "upgrade plan" which makes it look like a subscription. One possible reason they won't do this is in their FAQ:

"We will be able to release key features as they are ready - instead of holding them back for major releases. This enables us to offer you new feature and content updates more regularly."

Hmmmm.....

Last edited by Balthazar; 10th September 2018 at 11:11 AM.. Reason: typo, correct factual error
Old 5th September 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthazar View Post

"We will be able to release key features as they are ready - instead of holding them back for major releases. This enables us to offer you new feature and content updates more regularly."

Hmmmm.....
Yeah that's the same byline that Adobe and Autodesk sell to their customers to justify the sub model and I can tell you it's pretty much crap. Now I'm not sure about Bitwig but like you mentioned it really irks me to have paid for software that you now have to pay to update a year after you bought it just to get rugs fixed.

Other major DAWs like Studio One for example release major version updates 3-4 years in the lifetime of the daw and upgrade pricing is pretty much close to what you pay for an upgrade 12 months after you bought Bitwig (usually $199). So while Studio One released major features like a hybrid buffer (with 3.5) etc or Logic introduces major features every year for free, if you want to keep up with Bitwig you need to pay $168 bucks. Per year. Ableton does 25% off sales all the time and an upgrade license costs about $171 that's only 3 bucks more than the $168 Bitwig asks for per year. Ableton supports their DAW for 4 years at minimum with major features added to the DAW throughout it's lifetime.

Bitwig doesn't look like a great deal right now. It looks expensive and a potentially risky investment. Sure you don't have to upgrade every version, but with other DAWs this is not even an issue. You know that if you buy Studio One 4, Ableton 9, you will get updates for that software, including bug fixes as long as the software they are selling has the major version number in the title.

I just bought a license. I didn't realize that 2.4 was only in beta so I bought it when 2.3 is the main version. What does that mean when 2.5 comes out or 2.6?

Don't get me wrong. I get why Bitwig is doing it. Unlike Ableton which has probably. significantly boosted their revenue with the margins selling Push controllers, Bitwig is still a small time developer. Presonus is a hardware company and they make their revenue on hardware which helps fund their DAW. Logic is made/owned by Apple so any revenue from Logic is pennies to Apple. They make more money selling dongles for their devices. To keep going they need revenue. I just wish there were a better way of going about it.

There is another DAW that has the same pricing scheme Renoise so its not something that Bitwig is only doing. However their pricing is more reasonable and their upgrade policy give you bit more wiggle room imo.
Old 5th September 2018
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by apoclypse View Post
Now I'm not sure about Bitwig but like you mentioned it really irks me to have paid for software that you now have to pay to update a year after you bought it just to get rugs fixed.
I think I was wrong about that thing about the bugs. Their info is very ambiguous there. According to various members on other forum sites, you'll get bug fixes for free, just not new features. But none of these members are Bitwig reps. I posted a question on their Q&A about it, and sent an e-mail to costumer support as well. They haven't responded yet.

I figured out you can buy an upgrade plan whenever it's on sale, and only activate it when you actually want to upgrade. That means you'll get it a bit cheaper, if you can live with not having minor updates in the meanwhile... :-/

Still it sounds far from ideal.
Old 5th September 2018
  #9
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b0se's Avatar
I moved from Live 9 to Bitwig last year and have not looked back. Much prefer it.

People focus on the updates as if they're mandatory. As it stands, you can download 2.3.5 and it'll be all you need for years. The stuff they'll be adding to major updates will predominantly be additional instruments/effects for electronic producers.

The only thing I'm really wanting is better multicore support (to rival that of Reaper - no other DAW can touch it for CPU efficiency).
Old 7th September 2018
  #10
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Sorry for bumping the thread. I don't want anybody to find this thread via google or so and be misinformed. I got a response from Bitwig's costumer support confirming that you will always get bug fixes for free. You only need an upgrade plan whenever you want the latest features.
Old 7th September 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthazar View Post
Sorry for bumping the thread. I don't want anybody to find this thread via google or so and be misinformed. I got a response from Bitwig's costumer support confirming that you will always get bug fixes for free. You only need an upgrade plan whenever you want the latest features.

Well that's true and not true at the same time. It's true that if they release a bug fix release for the current version of the software you have that you would get the updates (2.3, 2.3.1, 2.3.3, etc). However once they release the next version (e.g. 2.4) they usually don't bother updating 2.3 anymore. It's not like you can update to 2.4 just to get the bugs they fixed in that version, you still need an upgrade plan because 2.4 has all the features and bug fixes rolled into the application.

If you don't believe me look at their release logs from say version 2.2 to version 2.3. Do you see any release for 2.2 after 2.3 was released? What about all those fixes that were in 2.3, those didn't make it to the 2.2 release at all. So its kind disingenuous for support to tell you that they release bug fixes for the application when you can clearly see that's not the case from their own release logs.

I'm sure if there was a application breaking bug they'd release something for existing user not on the upgrade plan.
Old 10th September 2018
  #12
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OK, it seems that the last number in the version code is what I've always thought of as part of the "minor version". I see now that this number refers to bug fixes, while the second number refers to new (minor) features. So, you get upgrades with last number increments for free, but not the middle number. I got it.
Old 10th September 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
Bitwig looks tempting, but has one fundamental fault that makes me not use it - you cannot have sample browser on the left-hand side like in Ableton. This destroys the workflow I am used to and despite my efforts to get used to the pop-up browser I just couldn't.
Old 10th September 2018
  #14
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So I started to give Bitiwg an earnest go over the weekend now that I can work on an actual song versus the demo.

It's really slick so far. I think the way the it thinks so it's a natural fit for me versus Ableton which I couldn't get into when I first bought that DAW.

I do have a few nitpicks.

1). Ableton, Studio One, etc let's you drag and drop audio from the arranger view into the sampler or drum app. So if I have a section of audio selected in Ableton I can just drag and drop that section into the drum rack, or in Studio One's case ImpactXL. That doesn't seem to work in Biting and I'm hugely disappointed that a such a simple imo crucial feature is missing.

2. By default dragging dropping samples into the drum machine rack won't put them in one-shot mode automatically, and key tracking is turned on. That's really annoying.

Things I liked:

1). The Polysynth is really nice, sounds great easy to use, and with modulators easy to manipulate.

2). The new Sampler in 2.4 is great. Easy to use for the most part and powerful.Just keep an eye out for the inspector window for more settings. Took me a while to realize that. Couldn't figure out how to setup mono.

3). Editing multiple clips etc is tier than Ableton. I still find S1's approach a bit better but they are equivalent so its not to bad.

4). The browser. Wow. I completely underestimated the browser as it looks overly complicated on first look. But once you start using it's probably one of the better browsers out there. Everything is categorized, easy to find, and search is smart. When you create a preset you will get asked what category and tag you want on the preset, which makes it easier to find.

5). Midi mapping: I found the midi mapping features. They are about on par with Ableton actually their are just a bit hidden unless you know where to go. So I have a non-supported keyboard and don't have the time nor inclination to start writing a script. All I need is transport controls anyway. I was able to map that with no issues once I figured out how.

Anyway. I like it so far. Don't really see myself going to back to Ableton anytime soon. Bitwig is what Ableton should have been 2 versions ago imo.
Old 14th September 2018
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Best thing about the Bitwig pop up Browser is you can auditon and edit fx, synths, presets samples etc without loading. If you like something you load it, if not press cancel and everything is back as before. Try a bunch of different compressors with being able to play with the parameters and then load the one you like.This is great instead of loading one trying it , removing and loading another one. Big time saver.

Oz
Old 16th September 2018
  #16
Gear Addict
 
channelite's Avatar
Another cool Bitwig feature, it runs on Linux. My 8 year old pc was given a new lease on life when I installed Linux Lite. Bitwig on Linux Lite OS runs much better faster then windows 10. I’m getting 2.9ms latency with my old m-audio 2496 pci card with Jack Audio. My pc is dual boot so I can run Windows and ableton when I need too.
Old 16th September 2018
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyboy5000 View Post
Another cool Bitwig feature, it runs on Linux.
Do any of your plugins work?
Old 16th September 2018
  #18
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channelite's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthazar View Post
Do any of your plugins work?
I’ve never really been into pluggins, had battery and some NI synths a while back, but recently I’ve been using hardware or my iPad. So pluggins aren’t an issue for me. But I’ve read some Linux users using Wine to run Windows pluggins on Linux.
Old 8th January 2019
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by apoclypse View Post
1). Ableton, Studio One, etc let's you drag and drop audio from the arranger view into the sampler or drum app. So if I have a section of audio selected in Ableton I can just drag and drop that section into the drum rack, or in Studio One's case ImpactXL. That doesn't seem to work in Biting and I'm hugely disappointed that a such a simple imo crucial feature is missing.
Check this out: they solved it, and gave it a clever twist.


Quote:
Originally Posted by apoclypse View Post
Anyway. I like it so far...
Same. I think it's better, since they have to compete with Ableton live, and they're sort of the underdog. They're busy little ants, all the time improving, adding new functions.
I also like that they're taking the non-linearity into all parts of the suite. Makes for a very quick and intuitive workflow when writing songs. Something that wasn't my strong point in Logic Pro. (as opposed to mixing, still prefer the traditional Logic Pro architecture for that)
Old 8th January 2019
  #20
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draig's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthazar View Post
OK, it seems that the last number in the version code is what I've always thought of as part of the "minor version". I see now that this number refers to bug fixes, while the second number refers to new (minor) features. So, you get upgrades with last number increments for free, but not the middle number. I got it.
If you are still reading this, the Bitwig system is working great IMO. The development pace is fast and it is up to the user when to upgrade. Also, Bitwig has a sale occasionally, and if you purchase the upgrade at the sale price, you receive a code which can be activated anytime you choose.
Old 18th January 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozinga View Post
Best thing about the Bitwig pop up Browser is you can auditon and edit fx, synths, presets samples etc without loading. If you like something you load it, if not press cancel and everything is back as before. Try a bunch of different compressors with being able to play with the parameters and then load the one you like.This is great instead of loading one trying it , removing and loading another one. Big time saver.

Oz
Just to add to this - all auditioning is 'in-place' for Bitwig native devices and effects. So if you are looking to replace the Kick drum in your Drum Machine while your track is playing, select a kick from the browser and you will hear it in the context of your track.

Also, you don't get locked into the browser window while it's open, you can click back on the main screen and adjust the loop markers or whatever.
Old 19th January 2019
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Yes best browser around
It is the best for sample replacing.
Also great with 3rd party.
For example Load Spire synth. Record some notes. Open up the browser from Spire Device Folder icon and select Avenger. It temporarily replaces Spire and you can select presets or edit one etc. All while hearing the recorded notes. If you do not like, press cancel and you are back to Spire. If you like something press OK and Avenger replaces Spire.
Or if you like what you hear but also want to keep Spire just drag Avenger from the browser to an empty place on Arrange Page.
Old 4th August 2019
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Bigwigs pricing model is a money grab. It’s expensive.
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