Battle of the DAWs


A just-4-fun thread since I updated Bitwig instead of Ableton this Black Friday and saw some entertaining Live vs. BW wars at other forums. I thought there was a thread like this already but I couldn’t find it with a 2 second forum search, so…

Which DAWs do you hate/love compared to others and why?

A few words about my own experiences:

I started playing around with Fruity Loops (v4 or v5 IIRC) at a friend’s home decades ago, then spent some quality time with Reason (v6 was the last update I got) and I loved the modularity and modules, but hated the huge rack and the arrangement view. Then I switched to Ableton (v8 or v9 I think) and then got Bitwig (v3) because of the modulation options and The Grid, but just recently updated it to v5 and just made my first track in v5.

So here is my short comparison of Live 11 and Bitwig 5, maybe it’s helpful for someone starting out or thinking about switching:

Pro Ableton:

  • Audio handling, especially warp markers
  • huge range of avaiable Max 4 Live devices
  • some really good native devices (and some good M4L stuff)

Pro Bitwig

  • modulation: add any modulator (including expressivity, macros, LFOs and randomization) to anything (including the levels of groups and the whole project) in a matter of seconds
  • General stability and plugin sandboxing - oh, thank you, it’s so good, not a single crash so far in a project with many plugins (Live doesn’t even open multiple project files anymore which I made less than a year ago - I’m sure it’s because of malfunctioning plugins, but still…)
  • I also think the performance is much better than in Live, much less need to bounce anything for me, no matter what plugins I threw into the project - just my impression atm though, I haven’t really tested that 1:1
  • The Grid: awesome completely integrated modular environment
  • handling of multiple windows (it has a selection of different modes with regard to what it displays in which window that you can change quickly - that really works great for me)

Roughly similar:

  • many basic functions
  • especially Piano roll / MIDI editing

Differences in workflow one has to get accustomed to:

  • the biggest thing for me so far is that the browsers are very different, whicch took me a while to get really comfy with. Live sees the subfolders of your plugin folders, in Bitwig you have to use collections to make categories (which is ok, too, I just wish they would display the categories in multiple adaptable rows)

Might update the comparison if I come across other notable aspects.

Let us know how you like different DAWs and let’s maybe start a few DAW Wars :laughing:


I use / have used a lot of shit, so it might depend on what’s considered a DAW and what isn’t. Also subject to some updates when I think of them:

Reason Pros - Complex-1, Parsec, Algoritm, Strictly using it as a VST
Reason Cons - Everything else

Ableton Pros - Ingenuity, M4L, M4L devices
Ableton Cons - Bitwig is now way better

FL Pros - Piano roll scripting, Patcher, VST Rewire, Granulizer, Formula Controller (maybe)
FL Cons - Terrible macro handling, terrible audio handling, limited native plugin support, shitty playlist feature, pretty much everything else imaginable

Renoise Pros - Interesting workflow, inspiring ‘jamming’, Lua API, Redux VST
Renoise Cons - Limited scope, but still can’t really blame it for what it is

Bitwig Pros - Basically did ‘Ableton’ better than Ableton, Grid, Modulation
Bitwig Cons - Quirky interface issues, but mainly small gripes. Also, browser still sucks

There are some outliers like Bespoke, VCV, VM, Sonic Pi, Tidal Cycles and Audiomulch, but since I don’t really see them as traditional DAWs they’re probably a topic for another day. Renoise might even technically fall into the outliers group as well, but enough people use it to actually talk about it


Damn, I don’t even know those Reason modules… Might update it at some point to use it as a plugin, too… what I still remember very very fondly all these years later is the Scream distortion unit combined with matrix modulation… I loved to use those for all kinds of sounds…

Apart from Renoise which I never really used I can relate to all those points…


Algoritm is a modular FM (pretty powerful, too), Complex-1 is a semimodular (kind of like a Bazille lite) and Parsec is an additive / spectral synth. Honestly I feel like I’m missing one from that list, too, but it’ll come to me eventually


Man, my Bitwig is still v2, and I haven’t opened it in forever. I should probably upgrade, but…time, lazy, easily distracted…that kinda stuff. Just looking through the latest release, it seems like it’s got so many features. I don’t know how many I’d actually use, but hey, more features. Digital GAS.

I’ve been using Ableton since v2, around 2002 (I remember because I got it specifically for triggering samples live, back when I was still doing that sort of thing). At this point it just feels like it’s in my blood, I don’t really think about how to do stuff and that’s nice. It’s still near the top of the heap for audio manipulation as far as I can tell, and that’s really what I need out of it besides the usual shit that any DAW can do. The native plugins are usable, some of them actually interesting. Max/M4L is super awesome and I don’t know if I could give up my bevy of homemade madness for another DAW at this point. Maybe Bitwig could change my mind.

I used FL back when it was still Fruity Loops and made cool sounds with it. I never didn’t like it, but I sort of grew away from it for whatever reason. I think I was never really comfortable with the workflow and when I clicked in with primarily using Ableton it sort of fell by the wayside. I remember the effects and synths were really snazzy.

I don’t know if you guys do this, but I lump DAWs into the “it looks like ProTools/recreate a physical studio” group (PT, Cubase, Cakewalk, Reaper, Studio One) and the…I dunno…digital playgrounds? Reason, Ableton, FL, Bitwig, Renoise, probably some more that I’m forgetting. Basically the ones that went off the reservation of just being a bunch of audio tracks you could apply effects to and came up with new or modified workflows. I know that’s an unfair oversimplification these days, but it’s sort of locked in my brain that way. I’ve got a copy of Reaper I use sometimes, just to remember why I don’t really enjoy those sorts of DAWs anymore.

I think ProTools is the only DAW I ever really hated. I was mind blowing the first time I saw it, but every single time I’ve used it, it feels like I’m getting in a fistfight with a computer. It’s just got dumb ways of doing everything from routing to MIDI and there’s a million options buried under the hood in menus and it feels like it’s set up to make you learn their way instead of trying to work with you to make music. And it’s ugly, so there.

At the end of the day, I don’t think I’m that particular. Just tools and all that. If you took away my Ableton and made me use something else, I’d cry for a bit and come up with a new workflow.

Fun fact, I’ve never in all my years of making music used Logic. I’m probably missing out.

Sorry, rambling. Don’t drink and type, kids.


I’ve been on FL primarily for a decade now. I have messed around with Ableton a few times at points throughout that decade, but I could never make the change. While Slime called out hating the playlist, I can’t move to anything else because of the playlist. Want to drop a midi pattern in? Easy. Drop audio onto the same track as MIDI? No problem. Drop 3 different automation lanes into one playlist track? You can do that. And I DO all of that. I group stuff by function, so say chords. If my chord sound changes througout the track, or if I need to render a reverse section or something, I can do that and keep it all on one chords playlist channel. On Ableton, that would be at least 2-3 audio channels. And I can see all of this stuff and where all of this stuff comes from (the patterns you make over in the channel rack) all at the same time.

I can’t keep track of it in Ableton where I have to remember what midi clip I’m in and what instrument I’m editing, and trust that all those versions exist somewhere. In FL, I can always look over and see the list of all my midi patterns, audio clips, or automation clips and select to drop in copies or edit any of them at any time - that’s huge for helping me get ideas out of my head as I have them, whatever order they come to me in.

I have had plenty of problems with FL over the years (it took me 3 years to come up with a satisfactory workflow for adding swing with good results!), but I’ve ultimately come up with ways of working that get me the results I’m after.

I don’t think I’d get along with Bitwig because adding a modular sandbox on top of Ableton wouldn’t fix the problems I have with Ableton. The only other DAW I think I could seriously consider is Reaper, and that depends on someone else’s ability to program Reaper and make it act like FL :stuck_out_tongue:


The most sophisticated synth during my time in Reason was Thor IIRC :smiley:


The Grid which they added in v3 is pretty awesome! But yeah, I bought too much stuff for features I rarely or never used ^^

I never spent much time with any of those DAWs in the pro group hehe… a couple of hours in Cubase when working togehter with others was the most IIRC… Apart from that just checking some of these DAWs out for a few minutes and then jumping back to Reason or Ableton quickly lol…


mind blown I don’t remember any of that from my Fruity days. Not sure if it was added later or if I was just happy enough with playing around with the piano roll and some effects :laughing:

That reminds me of another thing I really like in Ableton for similar reasons: the zoom function. I often zoom out so I can barely see any details without getting closer to my screen just so I can keep a good overview of the project lol… Bitwig doesn’t have zoom (or I haven’t found it yet) and I really miss it.


I’ve used a few DAWs over the years. Here’s a quick list:

Acid Pro 4–the first I ever used, I knew absolutely nothing at the time and didn’t stick with it very long. Looking back now it just felt like a primitive Garageband (which also sucks)

FL Studio–the first DAW I really sunk my teeth into.
Pros: Step sequencer layout, piano roll functionality
Cons: built in fx/sounds.

ProTools–I hate it. I was forced to learn it completely though because I use it professionally.
Pros: AMAZING audio editing!
Cons: Everything else.

Logic Pro–I haven’t really made anything on it since 9. So I can’t really judge it on all the new functionality. I still use it to Master my tracks though.
Pros: Incredible built in FX/plugins
Cons: trying to hook up external synths was confusing.

Digital Performer–I tried learning it for a gig. I turned down that gig. What an absolute dogshit DAW.
Pros: NONE

Ableton–My daily DAW for almost a decade now.
Pros: I’m comfortable with it, I’ve gotten use to it’s limitations.
Cons: Built in sounds aren’t as good as Logic. Audio editing isn’t as good as Pro Tools.

I know there are other smaller ones that I’ve used (audiomulch, vcv) but I never really dug deep enough.


Gets 10 family size boxes of fruit loops…

Dumps cereal all over studio space…


Some daws are cross compatible…reason can function in fl…with rewire


I remember Acid but just from the name, was also long ago…

Modular environments like VCV or Metasounds def are on topic, but I only made short 2-8 bar loops in those so far…


I used Acid (the program :stuck_out_tongue: ) a bit back in the late 90s. I remember it being similar everything else I’d used back then, with a couple of added tricks. I think the problem is I had very little experience to compare it to, and it’s been 30 years, so the old noggin is a little spotty. I seem to remember it being super popular with the techno crowd for some reason, and vaguely remember it was one of the few DAWs of the time that could independently time stretch/speed individual tracks, though I may be misremembering.

The fact that nobody mentions Acid except as a historical footnote suggests to me that whatever magic it had quickly got duplicated in more popular or useful DAWs.

I’d guess that Reaktor is my most used VST/environment over the years. So much work done in it and there’s always more to explore. There are some things Max does better, but Reaktor is like Ableton to me, just a comfy friend who I know well and can do just about anything I ask of it.

Reaktor, Max and VCV are basically why I’m not super pumped about The Grid - I’m sure it’s great, but I can have that same sort of functionality in any DAW - VCV for the quick and easy just want to hook stuff up and play, Reaktor Core for when I want to test out weird things and build ideas from the ground up, Max if I want to go full nutjob with MIDI manipulation and algorithms.

As far as I can tell, The Grid is just what you get with it, and while it looks feature complete, the inability to add new modules yourself or tool around with the DSP under the hood makes it look like a built-in VCV, and you’re at the mercy of Bitwig if you want to do anything else. I’d love to hear a rundown of what all it does or how people are using it, just as a point of comparison until I get off my lazy butt and upgrade.

I know @Slime had another modular program he was using at one point, but I don’t really know what all’s out there. I’d love to hear people’s pros and cons on those sorts of setups.


Yeah, @Slime has more experience with BW, but from my perspective, viewing the Grid as a built-in VCV makes sense. It’s great that it’s completely integrated into the DAW, but imho if you like working with Reaktor and VCV and making your own stuff in Max you don’t really need it…


Grid actually has some pretty useful internals that aren’t strictly related to just modular synthesis, which is pretty crazy. If you browse around and find the FX scanner and similar devices (the Polarity ones are all like this, because he’s a Grid madman), you’ll see what I mean. There’s also the Note Grid, which can technically be supplemented by things like Voltage Modular and Cardinal with the right setup (a few of us did some shenanigans in one of the euclidean challenge threads with VCV and FL) , but it’s just a million times more convenient to have a note breakout grid inside the DAW like this.

Plus, Grid is really lightweight. Building FX in there (mod delay reverbs are some of my favorites) is really slick, and you can even kind of automate parts of it because macros and things will stay put when you duplicate modules. I don’t even know all that much about Grid itself, either, so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Also, I think the newest update has some strings that allow you to control other devices (or groups, macro-style), so I think it’s essentially possible to build your own modulator devices inside of Grid that will just control things like the mixer, send buses and pretty much everything you can imagine. At that point it’s probably more sound-design territory than music-making territory, but the sheer power underneath keeps getting crazier.

I’d also love to nerd out on all of the other modulars that exist. Where’s that modular battle thread? :smiley:


Acid was the first one I used too, sometimes in 2001 or 2002. Seems like lifetimes ago now, considering the technological leaps forward (thankfully!). I had one of the first Cakewalk back in the late 90’s (before it became Sonar) but never really used it because my PC couldn’t handle it. Laughing about it now but it made me sad then


Anyone here use Synapse Audio Orion back in the day? That was my first DAW circa 2003-2008. It’s pretty basic but I made a few tracks I love in that DAW.

Moved onto Logic Pro when I bought a MBP, then Reaper on my next PC. Played around with Ableton briefly before realizing the workflow doesn’t really jive with me. I prefer a more traditional method. My brother was using Studio One when we started jamming together so it made sense that I make the move to S1. Been using it ever since and I really love it! I don’t hear many people talking about S1 at all which is odd to me since it’s a fantastic workstation.

I also bought Bitwig for the purposes of using the Poly Grid and it’s flexible FX/mix routing capabilities, but haven’t dug deep into it as yet. Edit: I should say that on initial play I wasn’t very impressed with the sound quality of the Grid. It gave me Yamaha Reface CS vibes.


Damn, I forgot about this thread. Good bump!

Got a few holiday pickups:

  • Rytmik Studio
  • Rytmik Ultimate (still trying to tell the difference between the two)
  • FL ‘Producer’ upgrade
  • Deflemask
  • Korg Gadget (admittedly a Switch toy, but so much fun)

While this sounds excessive as fuck (don’t worry, it is), I’ve been using both varieties of Rytmik and FL to generate my fake ‘breakbeats’ so I can blast them through Renoise and Falcon to make breakcore jams with them. It’s actually pretty cool to stop relying on copyrighted breaks and just make the loops myself, even though it obviously loses some of that ‘organic’ quality. Both are stocked with cleared hits though, and it’s so easy to bang out like 50 loops for resampling material so I consider it to be a worthwhile expense.

I don’t know if anyone uses these less-capable DAWs, but I guess I’m the type to find a hell of a lot of value in the bargain bin (or is it a dumpster fire?). Plus, Gadget is kind of great when you want to turn your brain off but still want to make music with some heavy limits imposed. Would recommend


Just a thought since I often use very strict drums without much or any swing especially for DNB, but maybe try to play around more with swing, microshifting hits and velocity changes (a drummer friend of mine always stresses the impact of velocity variation) - if people use a short organic break all the organic feel is baked into the break and gets repeated in a monotonous fashion anyways…


That’s a really good idea! De-quantizing a bit could really help with this!

Hilariously enough, I’ve been drumming since the age of 7 so I should probably be putting my actual playing into it more often than relying on drawing in notes. The only real downside is having to post-process a little more, but that could really put a cool spin on things