Latency is neither an issue with Renoise not Ableton to be a matter of concern. Things like your soundcard drivers, OS and configuration are things that matter more on this regard.
Ableton is stable enough and has a very minimal UI which some might not appreciate but it does keep fluff out of the way. Bitwig looks way more thought out on this front. Ableton offers inbuilt FX which are developed by a team and hence it goes an extra mile in providing a professional experience. They have a successful company with employees and all that and hence they have to maintain their stance with sales being the primary way of getting money it. It’s become a bit of a bloat ware in my opinion though. Abelton wave batch export feature is still buggy and it has a certain algorithmic tinge to all the sounds it emits meaning you can quite tell if something was done in Ableton or not. However it works very well for loop based and live performance. It’s like a looper on steroids and being primarily waveform and midi data (piano roll) based it does it’s job admirably indeed. No latency issues either, I have been using it for a number of years since version 4 to 9 and it works even in a PIII 800 MHz PC routed to Reason via Rewire.
Renoise is however a very different beast that gets to the same destination-make music.
It’s tracker UI is world class literally, no other comparison. Maybe in future by sustained interest in the production community we could see some noteworthy competitors that offer an alternative to Renoise of this standard. But for a long time enough now it’s the best in class. Using the ‘best of’ anything means you are getting the premium experience of engaging with it, be it a hotel, a car or a piece of software. It’s a thing that you can’t really say in an overcrowded DAW market. Sure you have some major competition but which one is the ‘best’(?). It’s like beauty, mostly in the eyes of the beholder. Different producers have different needs and genres to speak of so their setup changes accordingly and evolves with time as well. Some like all hardware, some go full software some both. Some do scoring, some beat making , some rock tracking and mostly audio work, some are totally midi based and so on. You really can’t generalize the software scene like that. The bulk of classical and jazz was invented and written down and performed without the aid of any electronics whatsoever so we are mostly discussing the concerns of the 21st century composers and producers and since the invention of electronic music technology which is about 100 years now, and in that subset the software industry which is about 60 years old now. So it’s relatively a young timeline.
How Renoise avoids being a bloatware? It curates and adds features one by one with a very unique mindset approach that caters to the tracker scene, the DAW scene and the samplist scenes respectively. It does tracking exceptionally well going above and beyond any tracker on the market, a key point to note here is the particular use of the computer keyboard to control 90 percent of the software from data entry to song file export and everything in between. That feature alone is worth its weight in gold, since it eliminates the use of an added peripheral like the mouse and makes music production an expressive and super fast process becos you are not fighting the UI or going down the clicking quicksand, when you say writing music you can literally and figuratively say that you are doing it with Renoise on your computer keyboard. No one writes a book using a mouse (never heard of such a thing).
Once that goal is achieved, it hits the sampling target really well with a superbly integrated sampling engine and workflow that is totally reminiscent of hardware beat production units like MPC. Some more algorithms are on the pipeline to be included like inbuilt timestreching but overall the EFFICIENCY in software domain for sampling does not get any better than Renoise, it’s truly that good (and fast).
The remaining paradigm is the DAW. It does cater very well for this too if you can understand the quirks in both the workflow and the UI and finally the feature set in Renoise. You have to however understand that the inspiration of Renoise comes from trackers and not tape recorder impersonators (however great they may be). So everything from the transport direction to the visual feedbacks have to be calibrated accordingly when you go about using Renoise versus a ‘regular’ DAW. Simple things like having no forward and rewind in Renoise can totally put out any sense of convenience and comfort for a regular DAW user. He will search the manual looking for the words forward and rewind and find it strange to see nothing that makes sense. You use the arrow keys and keyshortcuts like F9 to F12 or the mousewheel for instance and that is totally weird to someone using Logic or Ableton. It’s a whole mental shift in both workflow and requires some careful investment of time from the user. It’s not meant for casual box openers who want to make music but clicking on ‘play’ and ‘record’. Maybe it should in the long run to attract more users but technically speaking it’s workflow is perfect. The amount of programming and thought that went to its design is really very professional. FX is there here too but for the price and the amount of time invested in a software of this scale and complexity especially when FX plugins are dime a dozen is something you can always be kind about. You can’t find any replacement for Renoise, but for a compressor or a delay plugin, seriously? Like 10000 of those in the overcrowded plugin market both for free and fee. So VST and AU is well supported opening doors to anyone wishing to use those plugin formats.
That leaves us with things like audio tracks visualisation and editing in place (like a standard DAW), horizontal waveform for convenience unlike Renoise’s vertical approach to things, piano roll and other bells and whistles. A looper unit like in Ableton or a Geist like performance record to pattern feature might be good additions in future. It’s like a mixed bag of features that are inspired or taken by convention formhere and there. So at this point it’s a subjective thing really. For a user like me I find this perfect already and so not need any other feature. For other however they might like the above DAW-ish features to be added.
Now here is a point, more does not mean merrier all the time. If that is a case then why do traffic jams fail to entertain us? Similarly, in software it’s very easy to get into feature creep and turn into bloatware or try to do everything at once or try to be like everyone and fail at everything precisely because it’s spread too thin.
It’s unlikely that adding a sheet music engine in Renoise will add any more value to what it already is. Most sheet music folks don’t do tracking anyways and their engraving pursuits and featurset will honestly require a dedicated software whereas Renoise will surely distract them from the word go. However when using a scoring program you never hear someone complaining that it does not do sampling or does not have timestretching like Ableton and similar issues. It’s because scoring packages have a niche that they fulfill without trying to be everyone at once. It’s a recipe for disaster for anyone. It’s like trying to find the unified theory of physics. Maybe in future it could be possible for a music software to be amorphous like a putty and people can transform a software UI and feature set based on their wishful thinking, but as of yet it’s an exercise in futility for obvious reasons, from business reasons like time spent versus profit obtained, to keeping a legacy and tradition alive versus watering down to something no one like in the end, to being overambitous and failing badly and so on. Software engineering is a complicated field and requires lots of maintenance and things keep changing fast enough. Having a stable core keeps things simple and nimble and fast.
You don’t expect your microwave to be your washing machine and TV and fridge all at once, even if it’s possible, I would never buy that abomination!
Renoise is unique and does what it does exceptionally well and has already covers a lot of arenas to be very useful in anyones arsenal. There are certain algorithms and features that will surely enhance its usability but we must be careful not to go over board.