DAW Reliability Poll -The Results And Why One Group Has A Reason To Be Cheerful

07-30-2014 02:12 PM

We recently ran a series of polls asking the Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton and Reason Expert communities to let us know how reliable their DAW was. For each DAW we chose the latest version, Pro Tools 11, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live 9 and Reason 7.
The poll asked how often workflow was affected by crashes and broke these answers down into hours, days, weeks and months.
We first asked the Pro Tools community how reliable they felt Pro Tools 11 was, however one of the factors affecting reliability is third party plug-ins, some felt it was unfair to single out Pro Tools because of this. So we decided to throw the net wider to other DAWs that also host third party plug-ins to see if this was a factor in DAW reliability.
Pro Tools uses the AAX format, Logic Pro the AU format, Ableton both AU and VST and Reason the Rack Extensions format.
DAW Reliability - The Results

There were a number of questions that covered how often crashes occurred in each DAW. Combining the results of these answers that broke the frequency of crashes down into hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. This gave us some indication of how likely it was that a DAW would crash. Here is how the four DAWs come out. These results were correct at the time of publication.

  1. Around 70% of Logic Pro X users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (32%) occurring about once a month.
  2. Around 68% of Pro Tools 11 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (23%) occurring about once a week.
  3. Around 68% of Ableton Live 9 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (37%) occurring about once a month.
  4. Around 11% of Reason 7 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (7%) occurring about once a month.

As you can see, Logic Pro X came out worst in our poll by a tiny margin, although crashes were most likely to happen around once a month. Pro Tools 11 was marginally better in terms of total amount of those affected by crashes, it scored exactly the same as Ableton Live 9 but Pro Tools 11 crashes were most likely to occur on a weekly basis, whereas Ableton Live 9 crashes were most likely to occur around once a month. Just 11% of Reason 7 users (about 1 in 10) reported some kind of crash with the majority of that group saying it happened around once a month.
The answer “It is rock solid and no crashes or bugs have occurred.”

  1. Reason 7 - 89%
  2. Logic Pro X - 27%
  3. Ableton Live 9 - 26%
  4. Pro Tools 11 - 15%

In terms of confidence Reason 7 users (around 9 in 10) reported their system to be rock solid. Around a quarter of Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 9 users are able to report this. Sadly only around 15% of Pro Tools 11 users were able to say their system is rock solid.

The answer “I have delayed upgrading because of reliability reports.”

  1. Pro Tools 11 - 11%
  2. Logic Pro X - 3%
  3. Ableton Live 9 - 3%
  4. Reason 7 - 0%

Around 11% of Pro Tools users have delayed upgrading to Pro Tools 11 because of reliability reports. Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 9 have a negligible score from those delaying purchase. Reason 7 users scored zero, Reason’s reputation for rock solid performance is a message that is getting through.
The answer “It is so bad I have gone back to an earlier version.”

  1. Pro Tools 11 - 5%
  2. Logic Pro X - 0%
  3. Ableton Live 9 - 0%
  4. Reason 7 - 0%

Only Pro Tools users said that their experience was so bad they had taken the advantage of going back to an earlier version. This proves that Avid offering a co-install of both Pro Tools 11 and 10 was a wise move.
In Conclusion

One thing that came up in discussion when we first looked at the Pro Tools 11 poll results was that third party plug-ins and computer set-ups had an effect on the performance of any DAW. This is of course a fair point to make, but still raises other questions to consider.
Let’s start with Logic Pro X, Apple make the computers, OS and the software, they also manage the installation process via the App Store. They do not have multiple OS platforms or infinitely variable computer builds to have to account for, so Logic Pro X should be the most stable DAW on the planet and yet in our poll it came out, albeit marginally, as the least stable. This too may have something to do with the third party plug-in implementation argument, but again Logic only has Apple’s Audio Units plug-in format to deal with.
Secondly, Ableton Live 9. Ableton have less control over the process than Apple, so although the poll scores were similar, Ableton have multiple OS platforms, almost infinite computer build permutations and also both VST and AU plug-in formats, so there is more to go wrong.
Thirdly, Pro Tools 11. With 68% of those polled reporting crashes and bugs and many of them at least once a week, Avid have a lot of work to do to reduce this lack of stability. In some ways Avid have more at stake being perceived and touted as the choice of the professional, then Pro Tools 11 should be the most, not least ‘rock solid’ DAW on the market. Avid do have multiple OS platforms and computer builds to contend with but they don’t have an open plug-in architecture instead having their own AAX format. One of the things that AAX is meant to do is to give Avid control over plug-in quality, it would seem that AAX is not delivering on this fully right now. Although not all Pro Tools 11 crashes and bugs can be left at the door of third party plug-in manufacturers, some of the large issues and bugs in Pro Tools can only be fixed by Avid, latency bugs, step input and poor video performance are three examples that immediately come to mind. Whatever reason it is, Avid have control over both their internal code and the AAX architecture and so should be working hard to deliver a better experience for Pro Tools users.
Finally, Reason 7 proves that there is such a thing as a reliable DAW. With 89% of users reporting rock solid performance that’s impressive in the world of software. Propellerhead’s pride itself on the rock solid performance of Reason and rightly so, our poll seems to confirm that claim. Propellerhead’s have achieved this by creating a closed system and opting to create the Rack Extensions format. This allow third party developers into the eco-system but in a tightly controlled way and ensure a consistent user experience. It doesn’t always allow developers to be able to do direct ports of their plug-ins and can be somewhat feature limiting, but it seems that the Rack Extensions format is protecting Reason users from any possible issues from errant third party plug-ins. Avid take note, closed systems can protect DAW users from plug-in problems - Propellerhead have proved it, we are not sure if the same can be said of AAX.
No sane person on the planet would ever suggest that software is ever going to be without its issues, but Propellerhead have shown that even if we can’t have perfection we can get pretty close.