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Ableton vs Garageband – A Comparison

An audio workstation can undoubtedly help you better your music. The problem is that when you search for an audio workstation, you will come across numerous options.

It is not possible to try out multiple such audio workstations to find the right one. That will take a lot of time and effort.

When you search for one, you will often come across names like Ableton and Garageband. I will today compare ableton vs garageband to help you understand which one you should choose among these.

Not only that, I will compare them on multiple parameters to help you make the decision.

Tracks Limit

Ableton live intro plan allows 16 Audio and MIDI tracks. For the introductory plan, it might be good enough.

However, if you regularly produce music or use such an audio workstation, you will have to go for a more advanced plan. Some genres of music like EDM also deal in more tracks. For them, this plan will not work.

In case you’re just starting to use a workstation, it is more than enough for you. It will not seem limited or hamper your creativity.

Garageband offers a whooping 55 tracks. The advantage of so many different tracks is that you can easily experiment with your music. Moreover, you need not bother about upgrading to a higher plan as well. With so many tracks available, you will never run out of the track slots.

Moreover, whether you want to experiment with tracks or make a complete song, this audio workstation will certainly not disappoint you.

Whether using drum sounds, keyboard input, guitar, or any other instrument, with so many tracks on offer, you will not have to worry about dealing with orchestra tracks as well.

In this department, GarageBand certainly has a huge advantage.

Stock Instruments

An audio workstation can provide you with access to various stock sounds as well as plug-ins. The more the inventory of stock instruments, the better it is. It means that without playing those instruments, you can introduce the sounds which you need.

Now, I will compare both the audio workstations on this parameter.

The introductory plan by Ableton offers you a drum rack, impulse, instrument track, and a sampler. The drum track and instrument regard the most useful ones of these 4. You can use these for live performance as well as music editing.

Both these allow you to layer different audio tracks as well. That is why you can modify your music significantly according to your requirement.

Among these, the introductory plan offers you 1500 songs. These include instrument tracks, audio effects, loops, and so on. Thus, even though it offers four such software instruments but the overall number of sounds is enormous. To give you an idea, that is 1.5 GB of soundtracks.

Garageband, on the other hand, offers over 100 different instruments. It not only includes various types of instruments but also variations among the instrument type as well. For example, it offers vintage EPS.

Additionally, it offers orchestra instruments, organs, getters, synthesizers. All of this without paying anything extra.

You will have to download them on your computer. The overall size of these files is 25 GB. Only if you have decent Internet speed can you download all these to use them.

In terms of the stock instruments on offer, GarageBand certainly has an advantage. So, there is no confusion regarding which audio workstation is the winner in this department.


MIDI composition is pretty essential for every music producer. When you’re comparing ableton vs garageband audio workstations, it is necessary to look at MIDI before deciding.

For Ableton, MIDI integration and compatibility with most controllers is pretty great. Once you plug in the controller, you need not worry about manually synchronizing it. The automatic mapping ensures that you can start producing music and modifying it without any worry.

The introductory plan has eight effects on offer. Some of them include Note length, pitch, velocity, and so on. You can combine multiple of these effects to get the output you want. It means that you will not have to worry about modifying the same track repeatedly to introduce a new effect.

There is another feature that goes by the name of Capture MIDI. This feature offers consistent recording when using the MIDI controller. It means that you can experiment with the tracks and not worry about skipping the recording part. You will always have a backup to retrieve the track which you want.

Garageband, unfortunately, does not any MIDI effect. You can add a controller. The problem starts with the manual mapping. Mapping each and everything manually will take a lot of time.

Not only that, the chances of making a mistake are on the higher side as well. That is why, in case of an error, you will have to map it once again. This is a real disadvantage.

With the help of a feature known as musical typing, you can play or record MIDI notes.

In terms of MIDI usage, Ableton certainly has an advantage. The reason for the same is that it offers automatic mapping and has different effects on the introductory offer itself. It means that you have to do very little manually when using this audio workstation.


Another important parameter on which you can compare any audio workstation is its recording capability. Ideally, it should allow you to record everything. Only when that is the case can you experiment with music without any worry.

Ableton makes it very simple for you to record any audio which you feed into it. The record button will start recording right away. It will activate in a jiffy once you click it.

You need to understand that you are allowed to record only 16 audio tracks in the introductory plan. This again is a limitation which you need to accept if you’re on the introductory plan.

The only disadvantage with this workstation is that it is not easy to record multiple tracks if you want to record multiple tracks.

Garageband, on the other hand, makes it easy for you to record audio from multiple sources. Also, since it offers 55 tracks, recording the audio is not going to be a problem.

Moreover, this workstation allows you to record multiple tracks as well. You need not make any extra effort from the same. You can combine those recordings of multiple tracks to create the kind of music you want.

While Ableton allows you to do the same, but there is an elaborate procedure for the same.

When it comes to recording, GarageBand definitely has an advantage.

Audio Manipulation

Audio manipulation is a necessity when using the audio workstation. It is one of the reasons why you might use one in the 1st place.

When comparing any audio workstation, it is essential to look at its audio manipulation capabilities and then choose one.

Ableton scores very high when it comes to audio manipulation and editing practices. The interface is such that whether you record the audio or import the audio, editing it is undoubtedly easy.

Also, you can zoom the part of the audio which you want and delete it as well. The selection and deletion process is equally easy.

Want to clean a sample?

If so, you can do that easily with the help of this workstation.

It has a time stretching algorithm as well. That will allow you to control the tempo of the music as you want. The good news is that you can do so without introducing any noise.

An inbuilt algorithm helps you slow down the music or accelerate it without introducing any noise. Such an algorithm is missing in many of the other audio workstations which you will come across.

Ableton also offers something known as warping. The feature allows you to zoom into smaller audio durations without impacting the entire track. It comes in handy when you want to stretch some of the notes in the track.

Garageband facilitates manipulation as well. It allows you to zoom into the track, delete it, cut it, and so on. Time stretching is also possible, and you can modify the tempo as well.

You need to understand that Garageband does not have an algorithm that minimizes noise introduction when stretching the audio. That is why; the quality of the track might not be the same as Ableton.

The warping feature is absent in Garageband. It means that if you want to stretch out the smaller portions, that is not a possibility. For the same, you will have to use a third-party plug-in inside Garageband.

When it comes to audio manipulation, Ableton is a clear winner. If you’re going to choose an audio workstation based on this factor alone, or if it matters to you a lot, you should go with everything.


The main reason why you might use a digital workstation is to automate the process of music composition. While you cannot automate it from start to end, even if you can automate certain sequences, music composition can become easy.

Now, I will compare the digital workstations on this parameter.

Ableton allows you to turn on and off the automation process. Garageband also allows you the same. Both provide you with a shortcut that helps you in turning on and off the entire process.

Once you activate the automation after that, you have to click on a parameter in the track. After that, the software itself will show you the automated sequence which you can activate. While this might require some learning curve but once you know how automation operates in Ableton, it is pretty easy.

Not only that, Ableton has macros as well. Macros are present in audio effects, instrument tracks, and drum tracks. Using macros, you can create a sequence of parameters and actions. Once you activate the macro, it will execute the same.

Garageband also provides you the option to automate various parameters. It offers you a list of the functions which you can automate in a drop-down menu.

Once you select that parameter, it will highlight the functions of that parameter which you can automate. After that, you can easily create the sequence and execute the same.

In terms of automation, both the digital audio workstations are almost equal. It is one such factor that does not have a clear winner.


Mixing is one of the core functions of any digital audio workstation. Without taking into account the mixing capability of the audio workstation, choosing one is a mistake.

I will go into the details of the mixing capability of both of these audio workstations.

The introductory plan by Ableton provides you with 14 audio effects. These include some of the most popular ones like chorus, simple delay, reverb, auto filter, etc. It means that the necessary audio effects which you need are present in the introductory plan.

Moreover, you get a wide selection of plug-ins that you can use as well. With the help of these plug-ins, it will become easier for you to produce professional music.

The equalizer plug-in alone is worth using. The equalizer effect allows you to customize the music or the tracks as per your requirement.

Garageband offers you numerous audio effects. These include audio effects, which I have highlighted above as well.

It has different categories of audio effects like distortion, modulation, and so on. Under each category, you will find numerous audio effects. That is why finding the right audio effect is not going to be a problem when using Garageband.

Moreover, the Garageband allows you to add as many third-party plug-ins as you want. There is no limitation to the same. Couple this with the audio effects, and you know why it is so powerful when mixing.

When you add more effects and use third-party plug-ins, it will need more resources to operate seamlessly. Only when you have a powerful CPU can you use it to its full potential.

There is, however, a disadvantage of Garageband which you need to keep in mind. You cannot mix multiple tracks at once. You will have to deal with a single track at a time. If you’re okay with that, Garageband is also a good choice.

Once again, on this parameter, there is no clear winner. Ableton might sound good, but the GarageBand also has quite a few audio effects you can choose from. Considering these factors, no clear winner can be judged on this parameter.

Resource Usage

A digital audio workstation can have the best features, but if it is a resource, you can use it easily. For the same, you might have to buy a separate machine. This is not a feasible solution in most cases.

This brings us to the essential comparison of resource usage. Only when you’re clear about the same can you opt for a digital audio workstation.

Ableton’s introductory plan uses very little CPU power. The minimalistic design ensures that you will not have to deal with graphics. The flat design also means that whether you’re pressing buttons or moving the notes, you can do so without consuming many resources.

There is a free strap feature as well, which ensures that you can reduce the resource usage when converting the clips. This means that Ableton’s introductory plan is certainly not heavy on your machine in terms of resource usage.

When it comes to the audio functions, Garageband is pretty minimalistic. The same cannot be said because of the instrument’s graphics which it has. These graphics certainly require some processing power.

In terms of processing power, Ableton is certainly a winner. It has a consistent minimalistic design which is why it is a good choice.


Many times, you need to use an audio workstation on a specific machine. However, if the digital audio workstation is not compatible with that machine, you will have to change your machine. That is why looking at the operating system compatibility of both the digital audio workstations is pretty essential.

Ableton works with Mac OS as well as Windows operating systems. It works with multiple versions of both these operating systems. It means that you will not have to worry about the operating system compatibility when you’re going with a built-in.

On the other hand, Garageband works with Mac operating system, iOS devices,, and iPad OS. It means that if you have any Apple device, you can undoubtedly go with it. Apple sells it.

The disadvantage of Garageband is that if you’re using a Windows machine, you will not be able to use Garageband.

Thus, it is essential to look at the compatibility of both these digital audio workstations. After that only, you can make a call.


Whether you go with Ableton or Garageband depends on the type of music which you produce. For example, if you make EDM and have many tracks to deal with, Garageband is a good choice. If you’re in the hip-hop genre, you can certainly go with Ableton.

A lot depends on the type of third-party audio effects which you need. Once you take that into account, you can choose the digital audio workstation accordingly.

Finally, you cannot ignore the operating system compatibility of Ableton vs Garageband as well. Only once you take these few parameters into account can you choose the right one.

Unfortunately, in between these, there is no clear winner. It all depends on the kind of usage you have.

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