The new Ableton Live Lite: Revolution for schools?

I love Ableton and all their products.  They make the world a better place.  But not everyone could afford the software, until today.  The question remains – is the free version Soundcloud offers good enough, or do you really have to buy at least Live Intro to do any real work?

It turns out to be a tough question to answer.

Now that Soundcloud users are getting Live Lite for free, of what remaining value is their entry level product, Live Intro?  It’s difficult to compare these two products – for one, Live Lite up until today was only bundled with select hardware devices, and probably has a pretty small user base considering lots of people buy that gear and just throw out the discs that come with it.  Live Intro is pitched as a similar solution to Live Lite, but what’s the difference between these two?

There isn’t a direct comparison chart on ableton.com.  This is what is posted on their site:

Live Lite vs Live 8

Live Intro vs Live 8

Well lucky you, dear readers – I saved you the trouble of lining these two up.  Here’s a chart I made putting the two cheap versions side-by-side with the full version, showing advantages in green:

This ignores any of the add-on content from the boxed version of Intro as well, which may or may not matter to you.

The differences between the free Live Lite and the $99 Live Intro are quite subtle, and now that there is no hardware to buy for Live Lite, one should consider if they really need the paid version.   The key difference seems to be the 64 audio tracks, which would give the ability to make a long DJ set, played in arrangement mode, feasible.  Having 2 extra scenes in Session mode is nice.  But still, those are only a couple things.

In the EDU market, this gets even trickier.  The Live Intro site license runs slightly north of $1000 for a school.  Do I buy Live Intro for $1000 or use the slightly-less-capable-but-close-enough-and-also-free Live Lite?  Live Lite is free, and there doesn’t seem to be any knockout feature that Intro brings to the table other than slight spec bumps.  I say if you’re not sure, Live Lite for free is an excellent way of doing modern-style music writing in your classroom.

Conclusion: This leads me to believe that either a) Ableton intentionally obfuscates this information for marketing purposes or b) Live Intro is about to get a big upgrade.

Here’s hoping for option b!  Either way, lots of people will be downloading the free Live Lite, and getting introduced to this great software – hopefully lots of schools will notice this!

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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