Ableton has become the no. 1 choice of DAWs for many producers, especially electronic dance music producers. Most starters are attracted to purchasing Ableton Live Intro because it’s the cheapest alternative. But is Ableton Live Intro worth it? Or you should probably save up to get the Standard or Suite edition?
Ableton Live Intro is worth it if you are a complete beginner. For an experienced music producer, you will find it quite limiting. However, as a beginner producer, you don’t need all the complex features, samples, instruments, and effects in Ableton Live Standard or Suite. Ableton Live Intro is an excellent starting point to help you learn the workflow of the DAW and make some beats before you decide to upgrade.
Later in this article, we will discuss why Ableton Live Intro is suitable for beginners, make a head-to-head comparison between Ableton Live Lite and Intro, and talk about making the most out of Intro. Now let’s talk about the Intro.
What is Ableton Live Intro?
Ableton comes in three editions — Intro, Standard, and Suite. Intro is the entry-level edition of Ableton. There is also Ableton Live Lite, which is similar to Intro; we’ll talk about it later.
Just as I mentioned in the beginning, Ableton Live Intro is the cheapest edition of the DAW. The Standard edition is priced at $449, and the Suite costs a whopping $749. The Intro costs only $99.
Ableton Live Standard and Suite is quite pricey, and most people don’t want to make such an investment in a DAW they are not comfortable with. That was why Ableton made the Intro edition — to attract people who are still on the fences whether to use Ableton or not.
Ableton Live Intro, however, has a lot of limitations, and that is to be expected. It’s much more affordable compared to the other editions.
Let me walk you through some of the features and limitations of Ableton Live Intro.
1. Up to 16 Audio and MIDI Tracks
Ableton Live Intro gives you up to 16 Audio and MIDI tracks combined in a project. So you could have 10 audio tracks and 6 MIDI tracks, or perhaps 8 audio tracks and 8 MIDI tracks, or 16 audio tracks, whatever works for you and the project you’re working on.
Depending on the genre of music you produce, 16 tracks can be more than enough for you, or it could be a limiting factor. On the other hand, Ableton Live Standard and Suite gives you an unlimited number of tracks to work with. So the number of tracks is certainly a limitation of Ableton Live Intro.
2. 4 Instruments
The biggest limitation of Ableton Live Intro is the number of software instruments provided. It comes with only four software instruments. The Standard edition comes with five instruments, and the Suite edition has 15 instruments.
Here are the software instruments you get with the Intro:
Drum Rack: The drum rack is a powerful instrument made to program drums. You can load drum samples (or any sample), edit the samples, add audio effects to each sample, group multiple samples, and then trigger them with a MIDI controller.
The drum rack is an instrument you are probably going to use on every project. I love the fact that, with a drum rack, you can have all of your drums on one MIDI track and mix and master it.
Having all of your drums in one MIDI track means you have fifteen more tracks to add different sounds and samples in a project. To me, that’s more than enough tracks to finish a song.
Instrument Rack: This is an Ableton device that allows you to load multiple software instruments in a single track. This means you can layer multiple sounds from different software instruments, including third-party plugins, in one track.
Layering is important if you want to make a sound much fuller, and EDM producers use this a lot. With the instrument rack, you don’t have to load each instrument you want to layer in one track; you can put them all together in a single track.
You can also add effects to each instrument in an instrument rack separately or add effects to the entire instrument rack, which is very useful.
Impulse: Impulse is very similar to the Drum Rack. It allows you to load up to eight samples and give you tweakable controls that allow you to shape the sample’s sound. These controls give you quick access to effects such as Drive, Freq Cutoff and Resonance, Transpose to change the key of the sample, and much cool stuff.
Simpler: Simpler is an easy-to-use and “simple” sampler device. You can load a sample into a simpler using “drag and drop.” There are lots of things you can do with Simpler. One common feature of Simpler is to chop samples using the slice mode.
You can also make playable instruments from samples using the Simpler. There is a more advanced version of Simpler called Sampler. And this is available in Standard and Suite edition.
3. 21 Audio Effects
Ableton Live Intro comes with a handful of audio effects — 21 of them. They are more than enough audio effects to start off with.
Some of the essential effects you will often use are the Reverb, EQ Three, Compressor, Simple Delay, Limiter, and Utility.
The Standard edition comes with 34 audio effects, and the Suite comes with 55.
The only essential audio effect missing in the Intro edition is EQ Eight, a very useful EQ plugin. However, you can find an excellent third-party plugin to replace it. I’ll talk about that later.
4. 1500+ Sounds
Ableton Live Intro comes with over 1500 sounds. This includes samples, loops, pre-made instrument racks, MIDI clips and drum kits. This sums up to over 5Gb worth of download
The Standard edition comes 1800+ sounds, and sums up to over 10Gb of data
The Suite has the most sounds. It comes with 7000+ sounds, with a total of 70Gb of data.
Why is Ableton Live Intro Worth It for Beginners
As I mentioned initially, Ableton Live Intro is good enough for beginners who want to start producing music. Here is why.
1. It is cheap
The first thing that makes Ableton Live Intro worth it is the price. For just $99, you get a license for Ableton Live Intro.
If you don’t want to fully commit to Ableton Live, the Intro is a great way to get familiar with the DAW’s key features and workflow. This is a way for Ableton to get more user base and give new producers a way to start making music without spending so much on software.
2. 16 tracks are enough for beginner and intermediate producers
Ableton Live Intro limits you to up to 16 audio and MIDI tracks per project, which is not enough for expert producers. But for a beginner, 16 tracks is more than enough. Why do I say this?
As a beginner, you are yet to learn production concepts and techniques, music arrangement, basic mixing and mastering, and more. Because you don’t know music production, your first music productions will be much simpler.
You will be making simple beats and songs when you are starting, and that doesn’t require a lot of tracks.
Even for intermediate producers, 16 tracks is enough if you use it right. Let me explain.
With the Drum Rack, you can have all your drum and percussion samples in one track. This means you can have all of your drums and percussions programmed and mixed in just one track. This leaves you with 15 tracks to add more elements such as synths, guitars, keyboards, and vocals.
You can economize the use of tracks by using the Instrument Rack as well. Instead of loading each software instrument in a separate MIDI track, you can put the ones playing the same notes in an Instrument Rack.
For instance, for EDM producers, you can use a single track for making your leads by layering all the sounds in an Instrument Rack instead of loading each sound on a separate track. That will save you a lot of tracks.
You can also use the Chain Selector feature in Instrument Racks to switch between instruments. Meaning, you can change the sound in a different section of a song all within one track. This feature can save you a ton of tracks and can make Ableton Live Intro all you’ll ever need without upgrading.
However, this is an advanced feature and doesn’t make music production in Ableton as intuitive as it is.
3. The limitations can be in your favor
I know this seems counterintuitive, but the limitations of Live Intro may actually be in your favor as a beginner. Let me explain.
Ableton Live is a very capable DAW with many complex features, instruments, effects, and more.
Having access to all the software instruments, audio effects, and more Ableton has to offer can be quite overwhelming. Ableton Live Intro gives you a handful of features that you can learn and master in a short period. Once you master them, you can upgrade for more features and devices.
Ableton Live Intro vs. Lite
Another edition Ableton offers is the Ableton Live Lite. This is very similar to Ableton Live Intro, with a few differences.
While Ableton Live Intro is available as a license, you can purchase, Ableton Live Lite license is only obtained when you buy some third-party products.
Ableton Live Lite is not for sale. The license comes for free with some MIDI controllers, audio interfaces, apps, and more. Most Ableton-compatible licenses come with a free license of Ableton Live Lite.
Just as I talked about in my Ableton for Beginners blog post, I started with Ableton Live Lite when I purchased the Novation Impulse Midi Controller (Amazon). I upgraded later, once I got comfortable with the workflow and started noticing the limitations.
Perhaps you can do the same. Instead of purchasing an Ableton Live Intro, you can spend that money on a MIDI controller, audio interface, app, or anything that comes with a free license of Ableton Live Lite. That can save you some on an Ableton license. However, you should know it has a little bit more limitations than the Intro.
You can check out my recommended MIDI controllers for Ableton Live. Most of these controllers come with a free license of Ableton Live Lite, and you will definitely find something that fits your budget and needs.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (Amazon) also comes with a free license of Ableton Live Lite. If you have been reading this blog, then you know it’s definitely one of my favorite audio interfaces. First, for the price, and second, its performance.
But what are the key differences and similarities between Ableton Live Intro and Lite? Check the comparison table below.
|Ableton Live Intro||Ableton Live Lite|
|Tracks||16 Audio and MIDI Tracks||8 Audio and MIDI Tracks|
|Send and Return Tracks||2||2|
So, as you can already tell from the table comparison, Ableton Live Lite is even more limited. However, let me give you some tips on making the most out of Ableton Live Intro and Lite.
How to Make the Most Out of Ableton Live Intro and Lite
Here are some tips on how to make the most out of Live Intro (or Lite) to minimize its limitations.
1. Use Third-Party Plugins
As we can already tell, there are not many software instruments and audio effects included in the Intro. There is no dedicated software synthesizer, pianos, a better EQ, and stuff like that in the Intro and Lite edition.
However, there are lots of third-party software instruments and audio effect plugins, both free and paid, that you can use inside the software. That was what I did when I was using Ableton Live Lite, and I recommend you do the same.
An excellent EQ plugin that can replace Ableton’s EQ Eight is TDR’s Nova. This is a very capable EQ plugin with lots of features, and, in my opinion, a much better replacement to Ableton’s stock EQ. The great thing is, it’s completely free.
Spitfire Labs is another great instrument plugin you can get for free. This plugin contains some nice sounding sampled acoustic instrument sounds. You’ll get some pianos, strings, Wurlitzer, brass, synths, drum kits, and a whole lot more.
Obviously, there are a ton of free software synths and instrument plugins out there. I can’t make a lot of recommendations because that’s not the point of this post, and also, I don’t know what kind of genre you’ll be producing.
Essentially, you can find free and paid third-party tools to replace the software instruments and audio effects Ableton Live Intro and Lite are missing.
2. Make use of Racks
I think I’ve already explained this but let me rehash it. Make use of the Drum and Instrument Racks.
When you make good use of the Drum and Instrument Racks, the 8 or 16 track limitation will not be an issue to you as a beginner or intermediate producer.
For beginners, Ableton Live Intro is definitely worth it. It’s a great way to learn the workflow of Ableton at an affordable price. Once you become comfortable with the DAW, you can upgrade to the Standard or Suite edition.
While using Ableton Live Intro, it’s a good idea to use third party instrument and audio effect plugins to compensate for the limitations inside the Intro edition. Also, make good use of the Drum and the Instrument Rack. It will help minimize the number of tracks required to make a full song.