Ableton Live offers several different versions for various needs and purposes. The option you choose depends mainly on how much money you want to spend and what features and functions you need or want, among other factors.
|Ableton Live Lite
|Anyone who purchases equipment with a download code
|Beginner DJs, producers, musicians, or anyone on a budget.
|Professional level option for anyone who wants near full capabilities.
|Professionals who want the complete package.
|Solid version to explore for anyone new to the DAW
|Basic version of Ableton with a handful of tools and features.
|256 inputs, plenty of audio instruments, not as many limitations.
|Full range of features here without any limitations.
|Not available as stand-alone. Need to purchase equipment to get it.
|Limited in functionality with 8 inputs and 2 sends.
|Not quite full access to all of Ableton’s packs and instruments.
|Somewhat expensive, not great for anyone on a budget.
|Free with purchase of qualifying equipment.
My name is Donovan, and I’m an experienced musician and audio engineer. I’ve spent some time exploring and using several different versions of Ableton Live to know what each offers and why you might want one versus another.
This post will compare and contrast all the available versions of Ableton Live. I’ll provide you with a good look at Ableton Lite, Intro, Standard, and Suite to help you understand which version best suits your needs.
Let’s get started.
Which Version of Ableton Should You Buy?
Ableton is an excellent DAW, especially if you are a DJ or like working with beats and samples. It’s not as much of a dedicated recording DAW, but in my experience, that doesn’t hold back what you’re capable of doing much.
I think that Ableton is a worthwhile investment for any live or recording DJ who wants a good tool to make musical creations. If you plan on just recording live instruments and vocals, you might want to go with a different DAW like Logic Pro X or Pro Tools.
Ultimately, the DAW you use is just a tool, and you as a producer are the most critical aspect of getting amazing music tracked out. Ableton Live is definitely a high-level production platform with many features and functions to take advantage of.
But since there are several different versions of Ableton to choose from, I wanted to break things down here to give you a better idea of which option you should get.
I’ll break each version of Ableton Live down in the sections below. Read through all of them to better understand what you can do with each, how much it costs, and the limitations you can expect.
I’ll also provide my thoughts on who I think that particular version is best suited for. This is my recommendation based on personal experience and is intended to help clarify things for anyone on the fence about any specific version.
Ableton Live Lite
- Quick Summary: Limited version of Ableton Live capped at 8 tracks and 2 send/return tracks.
- Cost: Free if you buy a piece of hardware that comes with a download code. Not available for regular purchase otherwise.
- Who Should Get It: Anyone who purchases hardware that includes Ableton Live Lite. Not worth buying hardware just to get it.
Ableton Live Lite is first on the list here, and just as its name implies, this is a light version of the DAW. It will give you a good taste of what Ableton can do but is limited in scope and designed more as a trial run than anything else.
Live Lite is also somewhat unique because it’s not really available for purchase at all. The only way to get it is if you buy some type of hardware (audio interface, MIDI controller, etc.) that includes Live Lite as a bonus perk.
That means that you can’t just go out and buy Live Lite on its own. It also means that even though there isn’t an additional cost for this version, you technically still need to buy it because you have to buy some type of equipment.
The main limitation of Live Lite is that you are limited in the number of tracks you have access to. You can only record 8 tracks in a single session and are limited to 2 send/return tracks as well.
Now, that’s enough to do some basic recordings, but you aren’t going to be able to dive into huge projects with dozens of tracks. That keeps things more in the amateur than professional area for this version of Ableton.
You do still get access to a good number of software instruments, samples, plugins, and other features, though. So you can get a lot done and explore what the full capabilities of Ableton are. You just can’t lay down as many tracks.
I don’t recommend anyone get Live Lite just to get it. But if you purchase a piece of gear and the download code comes with it, then it’s worth exploring if you don’t already have another version of Ableton.
- Quick Summary: The entry-level paid version of Ableton Live. Limited in its key features but still pretty functional and definitely affordable.
- Cost: $79
- Who Should Get It: Anyone looking to try Ableton Live for the first time who can’t afford the higher-end versions or doesn’t need all the features and functions.
Ableton Intro is the basic entry-level version of Live. It’s an affordable option that should entice anyone who wants to use the DAW for the first time but doesn’t want to dish out a ton of money while they’re at it.
You get a good amount of features and functions at a discount price, but you are definitely limited in what you can do compared to Standard and Suite. It’s still a capable version, but it’s not a professional-level option, in my opinion.
The main limitation with Intro is that you only get 4 software instruments and 8 MIDI effects. That’s not a lot to work with if you are making your own samples or aren’t a live musician.
Some other limitations here are that you only get 8 tracks to work with and 2 send/return tracks, which is the same as Live Lite.
But you still get over 1500 sounds and 21 audio effects, which is plenty for a beginner producer who just wants to get some hands-on experience and start making music or Live Sets.
I recommend Ableton Intro for anyone on a budget or complete beginners who want to explore using this as their DAW of choice. I don’t recommend it for experienced producers or professionals.
- Quick Summary: A full version of the DAW with a large amount of features and functions, but still not the complete version.
- Cost: $349
- Who Should Get It: Suite is a good option for most people looking to have full access to what Ableton can do. It can work for professionals on a budget or more hobby producers and DJs who want more features/functions.
Ableton Standard is a much more capable version than Lite or Intro. It provides you with nearly everything you’ll need or want to unlock the full potential of the DAW. Plus, it still has a pretty friendly price point for a professional-level option.
The biggest upside of going with Standard compared to the entry-level options is that you get many more tracks to work with. Things go up to 256 input/output tracks and 12 send/return tracks. That’s full studio/professional level, which is great.
You also get unlimited audio/MIDI tracks in your projects, meaning you can make them as large as you want without any hiccups. And you get access to more software instruments and packs here, though still not as many as with the full version.
I think that Standard is a good option for most people. It hits all the marks for giving you nearly full access to everything Ableton Live can do while still not breaking the bank with how much it costs.
It will work well for professionals on a budget who still need plenty of features and functions at their disposal. It can also work for producers and DJs with less experience looking to learn and grow their skills with fewer limitations in the long run.
- Quick Summary: The complete full version of Ableton Live, with an expansion set of features and functions. High-level DAW that’s pretty impressive.
- Cost: $599
- Who Should Get It: Professional DJs, producers, and audio engineers who want full access to everything Ableton Live can do. Also a good option for anyone not worried about spending top dollar.
Ableton Suite is the total package. This is the full version of the DAW, and it comes packed with features, instruments, packs, and functions that unlock a ton of potential for DJs, producers, and anyone else who wants to dive in.
You get hooked up with a lot right away here with this version, like 17 software instruments, 5000 sounds, 60 audio effects, and 16 MIDI effects. That’s a ton of stuff to work with that can come in useful no matter what type of project you are diving into.
And just like with Standard, you get unlimited audio and MIDI tracks plus 256 input/output tracks. That’s what you’d expect with a professional-level DAW, and that’s everything and more you need to get rolling with whatever project you have in the mix.
Another awesome feature of Suite is the number of Packs you get included. These can help you create samples, songs and provide all sorts of other creative direction and input. And you get over double the amount compared to the Standard version.
The only real downside to Ableton Suite is that it’s the most expensive option. It’s not a budget choice. But it’s still relatively affordable compared to other commonly used professional-level DAWs.
Suite is the best option for working DJs and producers who need the best of the best with lots of tools and features close at hand. The price might keep it out of range for amateurs, but it’s well worth choosing if you can afford it.
Ableton Live is a solid DAW, no matter which version you go with. But choosing the best option to meet your needs as a DJ, producer, or musician will help you have the most creative tools at your disposal.
Remember that you can also give Ableton Live a trial run for 30 days if you are on the fence about purchasing it. You don’t get full access with this free version, but you get many features that will give you a good feel for how it works and the tools it offers.
What version of Ableton Live do you have and why did you choose it? Let me know in the comments below.