Reason vs Ableton vs Bitwig

A couple of years ago, attempting to inspire myself with a change of tools, I sold my Ableton licence and Push to buy Reason 10. The plan didn’t quite work, though. I adore Reason 10 for its modularity and sound design capability (by gawd the sound design is so good), but I just can’t get to grips with the workflow for making an actual – you know – track. The complete separation of rack and song view is kinda jarring. And mixing/eq didn’t feel as natural as Live.

Ableton Live’s workflow was a lot better for me, and the Session View was brilliant for getting ideas down and jamming stuff, but tended to leave me stuck in an 8/16 bar loop. I had a few methods for turning that into tracks, but that first step of breaking out was always the hardest.

And now Bitwig has caught my eye. From what I can tell, it looks like it takes the cleanness of Ableton’s interface, while giving easy access to the kind of modulation you can get in Reason if you’re prepared to badger about with CV routing and signal splitters. Plus it’s stable and has a great sound engine?

So I guess my question is, are my impressions of Bitwig 3 correct? I can download the demo and have a play around myself, but I’d value the opinions of people who’re familiar with it. Does it successfully combine Live’s elegance with Reason’s ability to… tinker, tweak and modulate?

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Yes, get BW. I own versions of all three DAWs and like BW best by far. The only reasons I’m still using Live are:

  • I’m used to it and have many projects, User library files and so on.
  • The capture function is the only function i really miss in BW (and maybe the Live options to change grid size)

Yes, it does.

Also, I just wrote about it yesterday at another place, it just works much better in many regards, for instance:

  • no plugin GUI update issues like in Ableton (some plugins don’t update the GUIs in Live in good frequency when active)
  • full MPE support (you need to use workarounds in Live)
  • no latency issues destroying all your timing across all plugins

Well now reason 11 is a vst. So you can get your pick of daw and still use the sound design piece from the reason rack! I also hated the sequencer part of reason and always used it rewired into my DAW.
But push is fucking great, it’s a shame you got rid of yours imo.

If you can live without Max, you might be able to make a fairly simple transition. The last time I used Bitwig, I had to wonder if people comparing it to Live were either crazy or pretending to use Live. It reminded me of those PS alternatives that aren’t photoshop; I guess for some peoples’ needs a large piece of software can just be replaced, but they’re never really the same. You’re missing so much stuff.

Bitwig 3 felt exactly the same. If someone challenges me though I’m going to have to boot up the demo again and take notes because I can’t name all of the things it was missing offhand. It was bad.

Reason and FL Studio were definitely meant to be the best VSTs in existence, IMO. DAWs, not so much.

No idea what you are talking about. Have been using Live, FL and Reason before and nowadays mostly using BW regularly… Might even sell some other DAWs in a while…

Well Propellerhead finally figured that out too!

I frickin’ know, man. Not gonna lie. I miss it. It was so damn easy to crank out something great sounding in minutes.

But I’m a better sound designer than musician, anyway. And my favourite sound design work came when I was using earlier versions of Reason.

This is true. If I decide to upgrade Reason, I could pick up a DAW with a better sequencer.

Having tinkered with Bitwig in Demo mode over the last few days, and Reason 10 as well, I have to say I still really love the reason rack. And I forgot how good Europa and Grain are. And Bitwig’s sequencer didn’t feel nearly as nice as Live’s.

All in all, it didn’t feel worth selling one license in favour of another.

I think I’m gonna stick with Reason for now and learn to love the sequencer.

I kinda understand the love for Reason, I really liked it years ago when coming from FL. But I think Bitwig is much easier to handle for more complicated sound design projects, especially when you already like the Live workflow. Did you try playing around with The Grid in Bitwig?

My first contact with Bitwig was for MPE, since all the nice new controllers still don’t work correctly in Live, but I think since the introduction of The Grid Bitwig is a really cool pretty complete DAW. I’m not saying it doesn’t have any problems, but Live gives me trouble more often relatively speaking, and I keep using BW for more and more projects.

Good luck with that, I couldn’t do it, but I’m sure they made improvements since the last version I got (Reason 6).

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Definite improvements since then.

Thing is, I can tinker in Reason for 5 minutes and have a pad that sounds fantastic. After a couple of hours with The Grid, I had something I thought was… okay.

Obviously most/all of that is familiarity, and I really do like the way the Grid works. I’m certain I’d master it and love Bitwig, but since this is mostly just a bit of fun for me, I can’t really justify laying out the money for Bitwig at this time.

I could see it happening in the future, if I save a bit of spare capital.

Yeah, I don’t think there is any real reason for switching if you are kinda ok with the rack and sequencer systems (at least if you are not using or planning to use MPE controllers). Reason already was powerful when I used it back then and I might get back into it at some point. I remember how much I missed some modules such as the Scream distortion when switching to Live…

Yes! Scream was the one I missed the most. Live Suite has great capabilities and loads of great effects, but every now and then I love whacking Scream on something and mashing the hell outta it just to see what happens.

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I love Live, and I have no intention of every leaving it as my primary DAW, but I have thought about getting a copy of Reason to play with. If it’s true that you can now use the rack as a VST, that’s a definite reason for me to do that… Seriously!

I also kind of want a copy of FL Studio (and maybe also Bitwig at some point but definitely not soon). I feel like different DAWs lead to different workflows/creativity, and I’m curious what would happen. I’ve tinkered around with Reason and FL Studio a little in the past, but I’ve loved Live since I transitioned over from Logic… The workflow was flowing. My thoughts were that “Live is a playground.”

Then I acquired a Push, and it was another level of fun :slight_smile:


Yes. I really do miss the Push. :stuck_out_tongue:

Y’all should just get protools, midi editing has never been more engaging

I think it even comes bundled with Falcon nowadays which just got a nice additive osc and has full MPE support - but does Protools still need a workaround fort MPE? I was kinda surprised when I read that a while ago. If that’s still the case, MIDI recording with Falcon in Protools with any MPE controller even with a full workaround and Falcon as a great MPE synth would probably spread the notes of one track over multiple channels as is usually the case for non-MPE workarounds for polyphonic expression, such as in Ableton Live, making it harder to edit…

Clarification: pro tools has terrible midi editing, I was makeing a funee


Lol I didn’t get that at all obviously, I think it is still stuck in my head that protools is great, hearing from some more experienced people years ago… never tried it myself… ^^

I came from FL, I hated FL’s workflow. You had to select which tracks to record, select a range of the track, click on some menu, and bounce the selection to an audio track. It would appear right at the bottom, not grouped with the track you were recording. It actually put me off bouncing sounds because it was such a pain. In Reason, right click on a clip, bounce, and bam, there it is right underneath the track from which it was recorded.

I recently upgraded to Reason 11 (from 10), and they’ve made some decent changes. I agree the sequencer isn’t ideal, but once you’re used it, it is actually quite powerful. Version 11 now has cross-fading audio clips on the same track. But it is still missing some kind of playback speed automation. There is an official rack extension that allows real-time, automatable, pitch-shifting +/- 2 octaves, though. However, Reason also has the ability to stretch/compress audio clips and keep pitch. Depending on the sound, it usually sounds very good. But if there are a lot of frequencies going on, it’s going to struggle.

Reason 10’s last major update patch massively increased efficiency. That was a major problem for me in FL, it was limiting my tack complexity because of performance issues. I dreaded the process of bouncing stuff, and disabling all of the mixer channel effects to speed it up. This is on an overclocked i7 7700k, too.

A big part of that I think is that many of the plugins in FL were 32-bit, and had to be bridged in order to communicate with 64-bit FL. Perhaps they’ve fixed that now. I recently wanted to use Gross-beat, and just on the off-chance searched for a 64-bit version, and lo and behold, I downloaded it from their website, and it just worked straight out the box in reason. No license or trial. I wonder if that’s a bug or intentional. Either way, that made me happy.

I can literally use thousands of effects and it never start lagging out The only time it lags out is when you enable automation on some knob, or add a new track. I think there’s some algorithm that runs in linear time that has to iterate the tracks and do something or other internally. But when using anything that’s already initialised, it is scaleable smooth operation. My rack has grown so big at times that scrolling up and down it takes ages with the mouse-wheel. I don’t have to bounce a single sound unless I need to, like when the sound is dependent on it’s horizontal position in the sequencer, and I want to move some stuff about but preserve the sound it had.

Another thought about the Reason sequencer, I think it benefits progressive/non-repetitive music best. In FL each clip copy is a proxy to the same midi sequence. That’s great for very pattern based music, but a fucking pain in the arse of constantly evolving music.

And, if you think about what Reason is trying to achieve, then the way it positions the rack, the mixer and the sequencer, is perfect for that purpose. It is trying to emulate the experience of hardware, including hardware’s idiosyncrasies. It makes it easy to work out how to use it without referring to a manual (have never had to do it), because everything that is meant to be connected is correlated in some tangible, obvious way. Like a wire. The most disconnected and abstract you get is a label that is the same wherever any aspect of the thing it is representing is.

I don’t actually use Reason’s mixer shelf anyway. I prefer adding an actual EQ and compressor to each mix channel’s effects slot. Like how it used to be in the days of Reason 5, as I do prefer all mutually relevant aspects of a sound to be grouped together as much as is practical.

Reason 11 also have a the master bus compressor and channel EQ’s as rack plugins now. I don’t know whether it is placebo, but it seems to do a better job. I guess the thing that can differ between compressors is the shape of curve if you were to graph out the change in gain according to the settings on the compressor. Perhaps that curve actually matters a lot, and is what differs between them. I don’t know purely speculating now. It also has a new phaser/flanger plugin which sounds REALLY nice and clean. There are a bunch of new plugins within, now.

But anywho, there’s my stream of disconnected thoughts about Reason and FL. I’ve really not used Ableton or Bitwig enough to really say anything of value about them.


Pro tools is great for linear recording stuff, that’s basically the « standard » for recording studios. Although I am sure other daws are as capable or even better, pro tools still has the fact that it is so wide spread in that way.

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Quite a review!
For me, reason was frustrating because it didn’t have punch in and out recording and I only have 1 screen and hated going back and forth between the 3 views. But I am keen on trying out the reason rack as a vst!

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