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Anyone Mixing and Mastering in Ableton

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  • Anyone Mixing and Mastering in Ableton

    I'm a Pro Tools guy and started using Ableton for my live shows. Great way to create songs in the studio and loop/create live tracks on stage. I figure that I'm going to have to bump out the tracks and mix them in PT. Although I see that my plugins can be used in Ableton. Anyone mix/master in Ableton vs. PT? If so, what are the pros and cons?

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    I have a copy of Ableton Live which came with a unit I recently purchased. It works as well as any other DAW does. Mine a lite version but I think I have a fully copy disk too.

    The differences are all about finding out where the menus are and how different DAW makers coin different terms for their tools. Once you get past the navigation, most DAW's do identical jobs with minor variations, and GUI differences.

    I can do the same jobs using any of the DAW programs I have so it comes down to what is comfortable for me. I've used Cakewalk/Sonar the longest, because its got a few things which make using it ultra simple especially when recording yourself with a live band.

    For example, the older copy of Cubase I own, is about as simple as cakewalk, but it requires you to wait for the wave files to finish rendering after you hit stop recording. This can be a real pain in the ass when you have a band waiting to play its next song. With sonar you can save the project instantly. File cleanup is another issue in Cubase. In sonar you delete the picture icon for the project. Then you scan the drive and it finds all the individual wave files that make up the project for you automatically and you can delete them with a single mouse click.

    The files saved have readable titles too. If I want to import a particular track from another project, I can click on the track and its not only named by project and track number but its got a simple number say 1~200 if you have 200 files on that drive. I can go to my wave file drive and sort the wave files and find the track I need to import instantly, or close to it. In Cubase they have cryptic file names which are very long so you have to write them down to remember them.

    Resizing the windows was another feature which was important. I need to be able to see the record and save buttons for a good distance across the room using a wireless mouse and keyboard and my eyes haven't been getting any better with age.

    These are the kind of small things that can make a difference using different DAW's. There are many things in Sonar I don't like but there are many other small things that save me time in other areas which I do like so its all about putting up with some things that are a hassle and weighing them against the good things it does.

    I realize this doesn't give you much incite on how well Ableton works but it really takes a good year of use to know all those finer details before you can make direct comparisons and weigh your needs against them to decide what suits your needs. The audio itself really isn't impacted that mush unless you're comparing stock plugins, or maybe midi capabilities. For audio I like Sonar, but Midi its definitely Cubase because its much more plug and play.

    In all cases I don't even attempt to master in a DAW program. They aren't designed for mastering because most DAW meters read peak levels and what you need is a highly accurate wave view that has grid lines and both peak and RMS level detection. I use an Audio editor for mastering instead.

    If I tried to use a DAW for mastering I'd be peaking the meters off scale trying to set my commercial loudness levels. I first use a program like Har Bal which is a stand alone only mastering tool for fixing loudness and EQ levels.

    Its not a cheap program but its worth every dime I paid for it. Its exceptional in doing many things that cant be done within a daw. It creates a static sample of the songs frequency response then the wave itself is used to adjust the sound like an EQ. You could brick wall it most effectively from the program too but I usually do my EQ adjustments in there then use my old copy of Cool edit for running my waves plugins. I can see exactly how much I need to brickwall limit just looking at the wave view grid lines. I can also tell if the recording has unbalanced bass most of the time too when the thickness of the wave is fatter or thinner on the left then right files.

    From there I apply my plugins one at a time. If I don't get specific results based on experience after each plugin is rendered, I undo the rendering and readjust the plugin till I get the results needed for a good master. Some of this is knowing what to listen for and some of it can be done mathematically or automatically. Here's the general outline. The actual tools you use can vary and sometimes they aren't always needed.