Ableton Live: Mac or PC?
Ableton Live runs on both Windows and OSX – but which one runs Live the best? Here’s some of the pros and cons of using Live on each platform, along with some interesting performance stats.
Here we go again, the infamous debate: Mac vs PC…
Firstly, I used Ableton Live on my old Windows PC for the best part of a year or two, before getting a MacBook Pro. That doesn’t mean I’m biased towards Macs – in fact, Ableton Live ran perfectly well on Windows. After using Live on both platforms, here’s some of the main differences I’ve noticed (by no means a complete list, if you’ve got more then share below!)
The actual application itself is very much alike on both platforms. There are some very slight differences, for example the Windows version exports mixes as .wav files, whereas the OSX version exports as .aif (with the option to export as .wav). Also, the Mac version supports Audio Units as well as VST instruments. No biggies here – there are no major features that are left out of Live on either platform.
If you’re using Windows and running the default sound drivers, don’t – download ASIO4ALL and your latency will drastically decrease. If you’re using an external sound card though, you should be fine (these have their own drivers). If you’re running OSX then no need to worry, CoreAudio is pretty good in terms of latency.
So in terms of sound drivers, Windows takes slightly more effort to set up (if you need ASIO4ALL) but once everything’s running smoothly then there’s no advantage either way.
Windows: Start Live, and then plug in a MIDI interface. It won’t be recognized until you restart Live.
Mac: Start Live, and the plug in a MIDI interface. It should work straight away.
There is a much bigger range of VSTs (and free VSTs) available for Windows, so PC owners are the winners here. If it’s a popular commercial VST though, it will probably be available for Mac too.
When it comes to using a computer/laptop for performing, then the actual hardware should be almost ‘transparent’. What I mean by transparent: it shouldn’t get in the way of the performance or cause any problems – instead, it should sit there reliably, letting you create music without thinking about the hardware/set up in between.
My MacBook Pro does exactly that – I’ve never had a single glitch performing with it, so I can just make music without caring about the technical side of things while playing. I can’t say that for my old laptop however: a few times the CPU randomly was throttled back to 1/4 speed while performing – I still don’t know why, it used to randomly do that occasionally – but that’s really not cool in a live situation.
As far as I’ve experienced, Macs seem to be reliable for the most part. When it comes to PCs, it really depends what you get – if you pick the right model, there’s no reason why it can’t be just as reliable (or more reliable) than a Mac.
So what does Live actually run best on? Thanks to everyone over at the Ableton Forum, there’s a pretty in depth list of stats for different computers. Results are found by running a standard test inside Ableton Live – here’s the link, it’s worth a look!
Mac: runs Ableton Live well, reliably and relatively little set up required.
PC: depends what computer you have and how well it is set up for Live. There’s absolutely no reason why Live can’t run reliably and well if you have a good PC and set it up well for audio.