Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
Soundtrap alternatives abound. And while there isn’t anything exactly like Soundtrap, there are plenty of powerful DAWs you might be curious about and may even transition over to in due course.
Ableton Live is incredibly popular. According to some surveys, it has even eclipsed Pro Tools. And since we are firmly in the age of electronic music, it makes sense.
But how does Ableton Live compare to Soundtrap? What are the similarities and differences? Are the two DAWs comparable?
In this hands-on guide, we pit Soundtrap against Ableton Live and consider which is best.
Soundtrap is not a creation of Spotify’s, but rather an acquisition. Sensing good cultural fit, Spotify was probably wise to jump on what is quite possibly the best online music collaboration app out there. The only thing that seems to come close is BandLab.
Soundtrap, though, is more of a dedicated online music collaboration and content creation (podcasts) tool than anything else. It is not a social network or eCommerce platform, as other competitors are trying to be.
Interface / Recording Environment / Workflow
It seems like the developers knew what they were doing when they created Soundtrap, because you’d be hard pressed to find a DAW that’s as straightforward and powerful as this. And while it might be less graphically and visually stimulating than most, it seems they understand the advantages (such as less resource load) as well as Ableton does.
The interface is minimalistic, flat vector styled, but still attractive, and for the most part, unconfusing. Newbies can pick it up fast, experienced users can pick it up even faster. Whether you’re an artist, musician, beat maker, composer, or producer, there are use cases for each.
From recording audio or MIDI tracks, to using the piano roll to sequence parts for synths, to making beats with the built-in beat maker, to taking a combined and integrated approach to music production, Soundtrap is fluid and flexible.
And keep in mind – you can do all this with friends, collaborators, musicians, producers, and whoever you invite to work on your project, whether simultaneously or asynchronously.
Although we get into some of the features that make Soundtrap especially versatile a little later, there are thousands of loops, hundreds of thousands of sound effects, hundreds of virtual instruments, effects and more, all at the ready, easy to manipulate.
Another thing that’s relatively unique to Soundtrap is that virtual instruments often come pre-applied with effects and presets, near mix ready. GarageBand features similar functionality, with the rather significant difference that you can set up a complete effects chain in Soundtrap and tweak to your heart’s content. GarageBand is a more limited that way.
There’s also an automated mastering feature built into Soundtrap, and it’s applied the moment you save your projects.
Loops, Samples & Sounds
The exact count varies based on your subscription level, but with Soundtrap you can access as many as 19,540+ loops, 300 Splice loops, as well as 150,000+ sound effects from freesound.org.
Even some of the most popular DAWs, including GarageBand, don’t come with that many options.
Virtual Instruments & Effects
Soundtrap has over 880 virtual instruments and effects. I’m not sure if they left anything out! If they don’t have it, it’s possible no one else does.
With an internet connection, Soundtrap works on most operating systems, devices, and browsers. They have apps for Android and iOS too.
Soundtrap doesn’t play well (or as well) with certain browsers like Firefox, but aside from that, its compatibility is a thing of legend.
Soundtrap is an efficient, fast working environment that doesn’t take much getting used to. If you need a crash course, you can watch some of their tutorials, but if you have any kind of experience with DAWs, you will probably figure it out in no time at all. If you’re a newbie, the tutorials are certainly worthwhile.
Which means collaboration is also quite fluid. This is, after all, one of the main attractions to Soundtrap – the ability to work remotely with friends, band members, session musicians, composers, and so forth.
And while Soundtrap is not a bad DAW unto itself, it really shines in the online collaboration department.
Soundtrap Free is forever free, though you will likely be prompted to upgrade often, upon logging into the platform.
There is also a 30-day trial so you can get a feel for the whole thing, but you will obviously be prompted to upgrade after.
Aside from that, the subscription levels are as follows:
- Music Makers Premium. $9.99 monthly, $7.99 annually.
- Music Makers Supreme. $14.99 monthly, $11.99 annually.
- Storytellers. $14.99 monthly, $11.99 annually.
- Soundtrap and Spotify Premium Bundle. $19.99 monthly, $16.99 annually.
To see what you get at each subscription level and how they vary, it would be wise to refer to the Soundtrap website.
Pro Tools may well be the “industry standard.” But with the rise of electronic music, some surveys have it that Ableton Live is more popular than Avid’s monstrosity of a DAW. It probably doesn’t hurt that Ableton Live is also a music producing powerhouse, and it’s lovingly used by plenty of YouTubers and even Timbaland.
Ableton is a German music software company responsible for the Live DAW, various instruments, sample libraries, as well as their hardware controller, Push. To that extent, it would be good to remember that “Ableton” is a company name, even if it has become synonymous with their DAW. Their DAW is Live, which is what we’ll be covering here.
Interface / Recording Environment / Workflow
As I hinted at earlier, Ableton Live shares some things in common with Soundtrap, with one of the main similarities being that it has a rather minimal interface. But the reasoning is on point – the strain on your CPU is significantly reduced when it isn’t required to load up a graphically heavy user interface.
Firing up Live for the first time on your machine is a fun experience, denoting the joy that can be found within.
While I cannot speak for anyone else, I found the Live workflow unique to anything else I’d tried. I expected as much, though, and in a short amount of time, I started finding my way around. I still had to consult YouTube for some of the basics mind you.
As with most things, if you have prior experience, getting used to Live shouldn’t take too long. But it does have a specific kind of workflow, and it is kind of technical too. With practice, it would become intuitive, but I don’t think it’s as intuitive as Soundtrap.
There are also a ton of controls onscreen with Live. It’s less inviting than simpler DAWs, to be sure. It has a help window built into it, but it sort of has an “adapt to me or else” vibe to it, even if you can position elements how you want them to appear onscreen.
Loops, Samples & Sounds
Depending on what version of Ableton Live you choose, you can get up to 70+ GB worth of 5,000+ sounds. Only god knows why you’d want more than that installed on your hard drive.
Virtual Instruments & Effects
Again, it depends on what version of Ableton Live you purchase, but you can get up to 17 software instruments, 60 audio effects, and 16 MIDI effects.
You can’t exactly do a straight comparison with Soundtrap, given just how versatile Ableton Live’s instruments and effects are. Further, Ableton Live does support VST and other plugin types, which is a major plus.
That said, on the surface, Soundtrap does appear to have more.
Ableton Live works on Mac and Windows machines. There are some system requirements you’ll need to meet, as audio editing does require quite a bit of processing power, but if your computer was built or purchased in the last seven to eight years, you should be able to run Live no problem.
Ableton Live is not an online music collaboration SaaS app. It’s more of a fully-fledged DAW.
That said, with the sheer number of Ableton Live users out there, you could probably find plenty of people you could share your project files with and work together on a project asynchronously.
Although you can try Ableton Live 11 Suite for 90 days, if you intend to settle in for longer, you’ll want to purchase one of three packages:
- Intro: $99 (or $16.50 for six months). Gives you access to the essentials.
- Standard: $449 (or $74.85 for six months). Full features plus a few extras.
- Suite: $749 (or $124.85 for six months). This is the whole meal deal.
It would be wise to compare each option before purchase. For instance, with the Intro edition, you only get up to 16 audio and MIDI tracks per project. You can have as many as you want with the Standard and Suite editions.
While Soundtrap and Ableton Live aren’t the same, they have enough in common to warrant the comparison. They both feature a graphically minimal interface, are loaded with plenty of sounds, instruments, and effects, and they’re both well loved by their users.
That is, perhaps, where the similarities end. Soundtrap is better suited to online collaboration as well as audio recording, MIDI recording, or a combination thereof. Ableton Live is better suited to electronic music production in a professional capacity. You can still work with audio tracks with it – and why wouldn’t you? – but that isn’t its primary intended function.
As for workflow, it tends to be an individual, nuanced thing. But we do find Soundtrap’s a tad easier than Live’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with Live, just that it has a little more of a technical feel to it. Both will require getting used to, though, especially for newbies.
Feature wise, the two are harder to compare, and the same could be said for price point. One is a subscription, and the other is basically a onetime expense. Of course, if you stay with Soundtrap over the long haul, it’s going to end up costing you more than Live.
For ease of use, features, and online collaboration, Soundtrap is recommended. But for those who require a personal workstation, especially for professional electronic music production, Ableton Live is the recommended app.