Are Ableton Stock Plugins ACTUALLY Good? (An Honest Take)

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Assembling A Toolkit

Though some might say that “only a poor craftsperson blames their tools,” good tools never hurt in the world of music production.

A newcomer to the world of music production is immediately inundated with advice about the plugins they should add to their burgeoning toolkit but rarely do we hear voices advocating for the freebies that come with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

That said, many award-winning musicians and producers, including household names like The Chainsmokers, Skrillex, and Disclosure, have released entire albums using mostly stock plugins.

Ableton Live Suite is a DAW that comes with a pretty comprehensive toolkit of plugins: the question is, are these stock plugins worth using?

The short answer is yes, most definitely, but read on for more details as to why.

Ableton Live Suite Stock Plugins: The Pros

Easy To Use

One of the difficulties of getting started in music production, or even getting started using new plugins as a seasoned producer, is learning new plugin workflows.

Ableton has made it incredibly easy to navigate its stock plugins by standardizing its user interfaces and controls.

The DAW features a message window in the user interface that tells users the function of the device they are using, along with some quick user tips.

Ableton also comes pre-loaded with tutorial sessions to help users learn the ropes of their stock plugins.

Third-party plugins often lack a comprehensive user manual or include something so poorly written that users shy away from exploring their full capabilities. 

Wondering about pitch correction in Ableton? Here are 5 steps to success!

Simple Look and Feel

The user interfaces of Ableton’s stock plugins are intentionally simple and uniform.

Every Ableton stock plugin carries the same aesthetic design, and this can make it easier to master multiple devices within the DAW.

Third-party plugins that trade on over-the-top GUIs and recognizable imagery are at a disadvantage when it comes to usability, as space on the screen is at a premium, especially among bedroom producers working on a laptop or otherwise small screen.

The Ableton stock plugins are everything you need and nothing you don’t when it comes to screen real estate.


It should be no surprise that Ableton stock plugins integrate seamlessly with Ableton Live. The smooth interoperability of the built-in plugins affords significant bang for your buck regarding CPU load.

Different computers will vary, of course, but for the bedroom producer running on a tight CPU budget, using stock plugins within an Ableton Live session will require a fraction of the CPU that would be gobbled up by the same session running third-party versions of the same signal chain.

This factor alone gives Ableton plugins a slight edge over third-party plugins, which may require more CPU load to run inside the DAW.

Not every producer can afford to buy a high-performance computer, so it should come as some relief to know that you can still do a lot of work using Ableton Live stock plugins exclusively. 

Ableton Live Suite Stock Plugins: The Cons


The same qualities that make Ableton plugins efficient workhorses are a bit of a turnoff for some producers. The look of the interfaces, though functional, is not particularly glamorous.

There are no hardware emulations in the user interfaces, no fancy lights, few dials to turn, and little visual feedback.

The visuals and the substance of the plugins themselves are fairly straight-laced. They are button-up shirt-wearing, 9-to-5 job working, meat and potatoes plugins, whereas some of the less-dependable but cool-looking plugins are the cool uncles.

It is probably worth having a little bit of both around when it comes to Ableton effects and life in general.

Dull Stock Sounds

Though Ableton plugins are powerful enough to produce world-class sonic productions, the stock sounds could do with some improvement.

Many of the stock sounds that are found in instruments like Operator and Impulse consist of somewhat generic-sounding samples, and this can discourage producers from using them.

That said, these plugins, along with Drum Rack and others, are compatible with outside samples, so feel free to replace the generics with folders from Splice, or wherever fine (and more exciting) samples are sold.

A lot of producers use presets as starting points for inspiring ideas, and this is where Ableton stock presets have the potential to do more harm than good.

This need not be a dead end, though, as users can easily save their own generated sounds and setting configurations as user presets for quick access later.

Hidden Features

Some Ableton stock plugins come with extended dropdown menus that many producers tend to avoid. One example of this is the sidechain menu in the stock compressor.

This menu is labeled with a small triangle symbol on the toolbar of the compressor’s interface.

A lot of creative possibilities may go undiscovered by new producers due to this design consideration.

Top Ableton Stock Plugins: Instruments


Many would consider Wavetable to be Ableton’s premium synth device, and rightfully so.

Wavetable is a fairly new Ableton stock instrument and allows users to run up to two oscillators simultaneously to generate sound.

Each oscillator can be independently shaped, modulated, and mixed with various onboard user controls.

Wavetable is both rich-sounding and user-friendly and is an excellent tool for producers to master the fundamentals of synthesis. 


The Sampler device in Ableton does a lot more than basic slicing and stretching and is a deceptively versatile Ableton stock instrument.

Users can morph their sampled audio into various sustain and release modes, adjust the end and start times, and adjust elements like the playback speed and pitch.

Additionally, users can layer up to 3 independent LFOs into their samples, as well as introduce modulations. 

Drum Rack

Ableton’s Drum Rack covers every user function needed to build drum and sample-based loops on-the-fly.

The device allows users to load up to 128 samples in one instrument, and each sample can be separately treated through a sampling window in the device.

The Drum Rack in Ableton also comes with a master bus with a basic but crucial mix and color controls to treat all your loaded samples like a single drum rack. 

Top Ableton Stock Plugins: Effects

Drum Buss

Ableton’s drum buss was first introduced with version 10 of the DAW.

The device is a powerful all-in-one drum processor that allows users to instantly add some Drive, Boom, and Crunch to their drum loops using device chains or racks.

The drum buss even comes with a small onboard compressor, and each parameter can be pushed to generate some very aggressive-sounding drum mixes. 

EQ Eight

EQ Eight is possibly the most commonly used device in the Ableton stock plugin library. EQ Eight is a parametric EQ with an extremely tactile user interface.

Users can place up to eight bands on their audio signal (hence the Eight in EQ Eight), and the built-in visualizer makes it extremely easy to dial EQ.

Special features include different EQ modes (Left/Right, Mid/Side, Stereo) and a solo mode that lets users pick out specific frequencies to listen to exclusively.

EQ Eight and Ableton Live’s stock compressor, in the hands of a skilled producer, might very well be all that is needed to mix and master a piece of music successfully.


Of all the spatial effects in the Ableton stock library, Echo might be the most fun to play with.

The device provides a substantial selection of echo types, timing variations, and a gorgeous visualizer for real-time feedback .

Echo also features modulation and character panels that allow users to layer some extra color and motion to their echoes, and these can be pushed to create some dizzying results.

Echo even comes with an onboard reverb dial that adds considerable size and depth to the effect with little load on the CPU. 

Wrapping Up

While some producers may believe that you can only achieve top-class productions with third-party plugins, this is simply not the case.

If the Ableton stock plugins were re-packaged and sold as third-party plugins, I suspect they would have a different reputation.

The Ableton stock plugins provide users with the fundamental tools they need to create impressive productions.

The Ableton stock effects and instruments are generally quite easy to use and powerful and dynamic enough to compete with many third-party plugins. 

Check out our guide to The Best Ableton Live Export Settings (For Each Type Of Project)!