Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

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invol
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Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by invol » Sun May 15, 2011 4:44 am

There is always a lot of talk about which DAW sounds better. A very subjective discussion for sure. Since I get this question all of the time, I finally decided to do my own test. I know it is not perfect, as it is almost impossible to account for every variable. Though, I think the test is very sound. I used the 3 that I know best and teach - Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Logic. Since I did this test based on electronic music production, the conclusions give results from MIDI sequencing and virtual instruments. For all audio projects, I realize that the results may be different.

Audio Engine Comparisons
Live 8 (VST), Pro Tools 9 (RTAS), and Logic 9 (AU)

Conclusions:

They are all good, but SLIGHTLY different. Seriously, I'm have great monitors and 10 years experience as a mastering engineer, and they are all very close.
  • Ableton Live is the most neutral and accurate. (see footnote *)
  • Logic is a bit "hotter," leading to slightly louder results by default.
  • Pro Tools is somewhere in the middle of the two.
Setup:

All three projects use the same MIDI parts to trigger Drums, Synth Bass, Strings, and Rhodes samples in NI Maschine and Kontakt 4. All sounds are straight from the libraries of each. I routed Kick, Snares, Hats, and Crashes to their own tracks out of Maschine, and routed the Strings and Rhodes onto their own tracks out of Kontakt.

All sounds and processing use third-party plug-ins, so each DAW's project resembles the other as much as possible. I used only high quality plug-ins, and did enough routing to create multiple summing points.

All bounces were 24bit 44.1kHz
Included in the download are FLAC and 320k AAC files.

For details on the routing and setup of each project, you can download a folder with the sessions, presets, MIDI files, and text doc with a list of what I did. Before asking me a bunch of questions, and complaining about what I missed, or why I came to my conclusions, please have a look at the files I've provided for you.

Download Files Here 38.5MB

Cheers,
Brian Jackson

P.s. I wrote the parts in about 5 minutes, and did not do any mixing other than setting some levels and pan, so go easy on my "song writing."

* At AES 2009 in NYC, The designer of the Prism Orpheus told me he thinks Live is the most neutral - what goes in is what goes out - and that he uses it to test his Firewire interface. Prism only makes top-of-the-line converters.
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fx23
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by fx23 » Sun May 15, 2011 4:55 am

now someone made atlast a valid test. thanks a lot for that. dl asap.

with blind test, ive chosen C as the most pleasant to my ears, but differences are really reall subtle anyway (at least for my poor ears) and it was more a random choice than perceived choice.

however doing the same test with high latency plugins showing each daw latency compensation
abilities would have given a totally different result...

anyway, for me i conclude that live engine is globally totally correct, at least in Y axis.
now we need properly working compensation, the rest is ultra subblte only golden ears can
hear imo.

LeifonMars
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by LeifonMars » Sun May 15, 2011 5:57 am

invol wrote:Logic is a bit "hotter," leading to slightly louder results by default.
And this is what people hear when they claim Logic sounds considerably better? Are DAWs going to be engaged in loudness wars too? :P
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invol
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by invol » Sun May 15, 2011 6:04 am

LeifonMars wrote:
invol wrote:Logic is a bit "hotter," leading to slightly louder results by default.
And this is what people hear when they claim Logic sounds considerably better? Are DAWs going to be engaged in loudness wars too? :P
I would guess that Logic being a tiny bit hotter, leads people to think it sounds "better". Anything good sounds better if turned up a bit (I don't mean compressed, just turned up).

Again, it is really subtle, I don't think it has anything to do with the loudness wars.
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fx23
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by fx23 » Sun May 15, 2011 6:46 am

the differences in summing are certainly minor. it's just plain mathematical 64bit precision float addition in each daw,
or fixed 48 in some cases, but anyone hearing drastic differences is a super hero imo.

however i daily hear my basses phases are messed as soon as chain changes due to pdc. No need to be hi qualified
mastering engineer to hear that. Ableton bad sound rumor in Y axis is a pure rumor, but in X awis it is not.

a complex mix has more chance to be quick out of sync and phased,especially with high latency 3rd party,
with automations, modulation and sync timing drifts due to dpc behaviour in ableton.
this is not a legend, is fairly reproductible and daily experienced by mainy and as a huge impact on final 'quality',
much more than any potential float rounding.

users reports logic and Pt are tighter and more accurate relating compensation. i cannot confirm as i don't own logic or pt,
but i wouldn't be surprised most might prefer logic or pt sound cause of this.

at least this has been proven logic compensate midi clock timing info. live don't.

edit: if you have time for a secon test, i would love to see a PDC comparaison between the 3 daws.
_take a very high latency plug (ie Fabfilter ProQ in linear phase mode is a very good challenger).
_add a new vst after it, ie simple gain stage.
then automate this gain placed after the vst, and try to modulate something in sync (ie cut volume of 1rst and 3rd beat,
by cutting in sync with reference grid.
_post the 3 result files.

i might be wrong, but im pretty sure the difference will be much, much more noticeable..
Last edited by fx23 on Sun May 15, 2011 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

julienb
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by julienb » Sun May 15, 2011 7:10 am

test & benchmark are nice.
but they always forget subjectivity & ear-friendly approach of sound that are, for my opinion, the most important result.

LeifonMars
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by LeifonMars » Sun May 15, 2011 8:08 am

invol wrote:I don't think it has anything to do with the loudness wars.
Well, that part sir, was marked as humor.
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dorsch
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different ...

Post by dorsch » Sun May 15, 2011 10:43 am

hey

since i dont´t know if the whole discussion about sound qualitiy in daw´s has led to anything,
i have to notice, that the three audio files posted by invol (thanks by the way) do not contain the same
material.

every track is slightly different - not regarding quality, but musical content.

listen to the bar, where the rhodes comes in:

file A: Rhodes starts exactly on the first beat of the bar
file B: the Rhodes starts like a sixteenth note later
file C: Rhodes starts not exactly on the first beat

listen to the ending (around 50 sec.):
the synth plays a different interval on top of the chord
file A: major third
files B & C: octave

maybe you find more ... if you listen
now, it might not mean something

regards
dorsch
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julienb
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by julienb » Sun May 15, 2011 10:57 am

btw, it is interesting :p

3phase
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by 3phase » Sun May 15, 2011 11:06 am

invol wrote:There is always a lot of talk about which DAW sounds better. A very subjective discussion for sure. Since I get this question all of the time, I finally decided to do my own test. I know it is not perfect, as it is almost impossible to account for every variable. Though, I think the test is very sound. I used the 3 that I know best and teach - Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Logic. Since I did this test based on electronic music production, the conclusions give results from MIDI sequencing and virtual instruments. For all audio projects, I realize that the results may be different.

Audio Engine Comparisons
Live 8 (VST), Pro Tools 9 (RTAS), and Logic 9 (AU)

Conclusions:

They are all good, but SLIGHTLY different. Seriously, I'm have great monitors and 10 years experience as a mastering engineer, and they are all very close.
  • Ableton Live is the most neutral and accurate. (see footnote *)
  • Logic is a bit "hotter," leading to slightly louder results by default.
  • Pro Tools is somewhere in the middle of the two.
Setup:

All three projects use the same MIDI parts to trigger Drums, Synth Bass, Strings, and Rhodes samples in NI Maschine and Kontakt 4. All sounds are straight from the libraries of each. I routed Kick, Snares, Hats, and Crashes to their own tracks out of Maschine, and routed the Strings and Rhodes onto their own tracks out of Kontakt.

All sounds and processing use third-party plug-ins, so each DAW's project resembles the other as much as possible. I used only high quality plug-ins, and did enough routing to create multiple summing points.

All bounces were 24bit 44.1kHz
Included in the download are FLAC and 320k AAC files.

For details on the routing and setup of each project, you can download a folder with the sessions, presets, MIDI files, and text doc with a list of what I did. Before asking me a bunch of questions, and complaining about what I missed, or why I came to my conclusions, please have a look at the files I've provided for you.

Download Files Here 38.5MB

Cheers,
Brian Jackson

P.s. I wrote the parts in about 5 minutes, and did not do any mixing other than setting some levels and pan, so go easy on my "song writing."

* At AES 2009 in NYC, The designer of the Prism Orpheus told me he thinks Live is the most neutral - what goes in is what goes out - and that he uses it to test his Firewire interface. Prism only makes top-of-the-line converters.

i dont see a test valid that works with virtual sample instruments.. that what is eaten away in lives mixing process are details in the room information of the tracks.. therefor with sampleinstruments that dont hold such information there cant get anything lost.

Such a test with a classical multritrack recording of a string quarted for example .. or a jazz combo would be more valid..


But also with any stereostem of ready mixed material that contains room info. or justrecordings of richly modulated analog modulars.

in any case it need to be audio files.. with plug in stuff just differences in the internal miditiming will alter the sound...and the plug ins internal resolution is usually worse than what the audioengine can do anyway...

And no renderings are allowed to take place.. we dont want to know how good a daw renders.. we want to know how good it sounds.

so the output of this daws needs to recorded from an external recorder unsynced free running with highend converters..

Than you go to a mastering program like steinbergs wavelab.. and check the differences


Or you put the files into the daws again.. compensate for level differences and judge which files sound best from within each involved daw.. interesting to note that you wont hear differences between the stems from within ableton live while played from within the other daws different daw outputs sound different again..
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3phase
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by 3phase » Sun May 15, 2011 2:35 pm

LeifonMars wrote:
invol wrote:Logic is a bit "hotter," leading to slightly louder results by default.
And this is what people hear when they claim Logic sounds considerably better? Are DAWs going to be engaged in loudness wars too? :P
what a bullshit statement.. logic is a bit hotter.. pfff

zero db gain are exactly zero db gain in logic.. please dont get fooled by rectivied rainers with pseudo tests..

when ableton would be up for a real test they would have initiated one long ago to get rid of their inferior sound image..
Its ableton that had the problem..not the others...

Just that this has never happened shows pretty much that they are not ready yet for that shoot out.. also read the manual carefully.. between the lines they state that their daw is not 100% bit transparent.. quite funny that the lynx guy thinks it is..

however.. a waste of time ..people that dont like the ableton sound take it as a dusty sounding degeneration.. people that like it take it as.... what was it? more neutral... so the less sparkel is more neutral now..

and the other daw´s add something to the sound to appear better.. so its the other way around now.. live has the only true sounding audio engine and the others alter the signal to apear better to your ears than the original files actually are..

Is that what th Op wants to suggest?

But does´nt that say that the others sound better but live is more neutral?
And how can you check that it sounds more neutral when the soundsource are plug in samplers? There is no refference to an original sound when using a plug in sampler... Sorry guys ..this test stinks big time..



However.. the others state that they are bittransparent.. ableton states that they are allmost bittransparent.. but that theire error is unaudible..
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Tarekith
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by Tarekith » Sun May 15, 2011 2:39 pm

Edit
Last edited by Tarekith on Sun May 15, 2011 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Palmer Eldritch
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by Palmer Eldritch » Sun May 15, 2011 2:53 pm

fx23 wrote: users reports logic and Pt are tighter and more accurate relating compensation. i cannot confirm as i don't own logic or pt, but i wouldn't be surprised most might prefer logic or pt sound cause of this.
After a first blind hearing I also tend to b (Logic) for a slightly pleasing sound in this test scenario (a little more "Glued" together - Hello 3phase :wink: - and thicker.)
Pro-Tools and live are sounding very similar in my ears (as invol stated, Live seems to be a very very little more transparent but therefore a very very little more colder - but this also might due to the wrong level of the crash in Live -see later this post).
Very interesting is the fact that the drums cancel out very good between Pro-Tools and Live (except the crash - one reason is that it is mixed 2 dB louder in Live - as we also can see in the screenshots). But if you try to cancel Pro-Tools or Live with Logic, then they are phasing in a modulated manner. Seems that machine did not run very tight inside Logic. Also in Logic the first basedrum is faded and (as dorsch has stated) the rhodes is late at the first time it comes in (or also faded). I think Logic tries to switch on the plug-ins only when they are needed to prevent consuming to much cpu power (unfortunately not very accurate).
Conclusion: If you want a "Logic Style" sound try to use Lives Groove Engine with random timing values above 0%. 8)
fx23 wrote: edit: if you have time for a second test, i would love to see a PDC comparaison between the 3 daws.
Think about that (the very new) Pro-Tools LE version 9 is the first LE version which features plug-in delay compensation in general.

cheers, palmer
Live 8_3_4 + 4b7_32+64 -Suite- Max4Live 5_1_9 _ core2DuoMacBook 2*2,16 Ghz + external FW HD _ OSX 10.6.8 _ 3G RAM _ M.H. MIO 2882 + 5.4d208 Driver _ Faderfox LV1 _ Akai MPK25 _ Logitec wheel mouse _______ PeacE will be the SOLution of LIVE

fx23
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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by fx23 » Sun May 15, 2011 3:07 pm

yes, so i just wonder about logic PDC vs live now.

if you make 3 mix where on first the beat is perfecly in sync with bass, on second is 25ms late and on 3rd it's completly out of sync, man won't bother ask wich one is colder, hotter or more transparent at all.

this is the real daily quality question imo, not few bytes, rounding or pan laws here or here.

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Re: Audio Engine Test - Live Versus Pro Tools Versus Logic

Post by 3phase » Sun May 15, 2011 3:11 pm

Tarekith wrote:Logic uses a different pan law, so it IS louder by default.
and therfore the mixes get a better seperation and a better sense of depth?
maybe one should interest some muic magazin guys for a real shoot out..problem might be that they dont like to interfear with theire advertizing activity.. while ableton is advertizing in all of them apple and steinberg only do it rarely...

however..not realy worth the hazzle..people should trust their ears and use what they like..
When they get the sound that pleases them why doing measurements with rhode and schwarz spectrum analyzers worth over 50k.- and listening tests on similar priced speakers in acoustical treated rooms..
Wont make a difference anyway..the fanboys belive that they have the most neutal sounding daw and the others think its ok for stage use but sucks in the mixdown..
Measurements and subjektiv listening tests wont change much here. Maybe a ban for mastering use..but elsewise no big change in the sales figures.

Just funny that live managed to constantly sound a little bit better during the last major releases while stating that everything is perfect since L3 times..
Will L9 sound better again? Or are they this time to involved to rewrite the whole thing that there is no time for audio quality improvements?

Why not an option to change the panlaws? or to dither realtime outputs? when this is all that seperates live from the others why not adding this extra options?

And a mode that locks clips to the samplerate.. to guaranty brown henke dither free operation.. that could come together with the long missing function to lock events to the timeline...

But why should they do this when everything is perfect as it is?
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