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Ableton Live 9

2012/10/27 No Comments »

 

Link: What’s new in Live 9?  OK, so Live 9 was announced this week, and now that I’ve had some time to let it all sink in, I’m getting excited. I can contain my excitement, but I’m still excited. As a Suite user, “downgrading” to regular Live 9 isn’t an option for me – even though I’d get to keep my current Suite content. So what will I be getting in Live 9? Quite a bit, actually, even though the features list doesn’t look overly impressive. There’s a lot between the lines this time.

 

 

  • One new effect unit – the Glue compressor, which is a collaboration with Cytomic. Modelled on a classic ’80s console bus compressor, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure it’s really great and all, but I feel that we’re already drowning in compressors. I’ll have an opinion on this particular one when I’ve actually tried it.
  • Some of the old units have received a bit of a makeover; EQ 8, the old compressor and Gate now have integrated displays with visual representations of the sound, and this is going to be great – especially on the EQ.
  • Audio to MIDI. This one is going to be huge! You can actually hum, whistle, sing or beatbox your ideas into an audio clip, and convert the audio to MIDI, so that you can have any instrument playing what you just hummed into your microphone. I’m SO excited about this one.
  • Session view automation. This is really one for existing users. Basically, it means that you can record automation directly into Live’s clips in the Session view. This has been a serious flaw in Live, and Ableton claimed a complete rewrite would be needed in order to have this implemented. You can also create automation curves now, resulting in much smoother automation.

And as far as NEW new features, that’s actually more or less it…

 

 

Other than this, the UI has apparently had a bit of an overhaul, even though it’s still the good, old, clean and minimal look that we all love. The browser has improved greatly – which was about time, if you ask me. The MIDI “toolbox” has been expanded, and we get some nice, new editing tools.
I guess it’s pertinent to quote Ableton at this point:

“We decided to focus on some of the most often wished features in Live 9, such as Session Automation recording, Automation curves, 64-bit support and a better MIDI editor. Some other features couldn’t be implemented at this point, but rest assured, we keep track of them in our internal wishlist.”

What I’ve mentioned so far, is what everyone’s getting. If you go Suite, though, you also get the Orchestral Instruments and Session Drums collections (they’ve obviously upped the ante, in order to compete with NI and their Komplete package) … and Max for Live. ; Max for Live is something I’ve shied away from until now. It’s been available as an optional add-on for three years, but I’m not ecstatic about the prospect of spending hours and days trying to create custom devices for Live. There is, however, a large library of included devices which I’m sure will prove useful. So because Max for Live is included with Suite, the ‘new features’ list just took a huge leap. I’m really looking forward to the LFO device, for instance, which you can hook up to more or less what you want in other devices. – NICE! ; “There is one more thing,” though. Ableton have again teamed up with AKAI, and have created the Push controller, which integrates perfectly with Live, with a really nice LCD screen below the ubiquitous eight knobs, really freeing you from looking at the computer monitor (a concept which, for some reason, a lot of people cherish). There’s also a huge grid of gorgeous multi-coloured LED buttons with pressure sensitivity and aftertouch and whatnot, plus parameters for moving around in Live’s interface and browsing the library – all without looking at your monitor. It looks fantastic.

 

 

So – can we pass any sort of judgement on Live 9, before even trying it? Judging by only what we’ve learnt the last week, through the official info and videos and some feedback from Ableton representatives on the Ableton forum, I’ll give Live 9 a slightly reserved thumbs up. The feature set – and, more importantly, the improvements they’ve implemented (some of which have been sorely missed and frequently requested the last years) are, more than anything, a solid step in the right direction. Live 9 does seem to first and foremost cater to existing users who’ve been actively reporting back on the Ableton forum, posting feature requests and communicating directly with Ableton in the beta forum. I don’t think Live 9 will be the version that wins over everybody else, but maybe the Push integration will be attractive to the same crowd that loves old school, hands on production, drum samplers and new school tools like Native Instrument’s Maschine. I feel that Ableton – ever since the many, many frustrating months with the initial bugfest that was Live 8, have worked hard to prove to their users that they take our concerns seriously, and this is further proof.

 

I’m still not ecstatic. They’ve given no mention of other top requests, like interface zooming without having to go through Live’s preferences, and multi-monitor support beyond simply dumping 3rd party VSTs onto a second monitor. I was really hoping that Ableton would introduce a truly fluid and modular approach, which would allow you to drag any part of the interface, like the MIDI editor, or the mixer or the session grid – anything – to where you wanted it, and scale it to your satisfaction. To me, this was the part that I was hoping the most for, and I’m disappointed that there’s been no change in this area. It’s obvious that Ableton adhere to the ‘one monitor approach,’ but to me, it’s a silly limitation. I did mention on the Ableton forum that I was hoping that – if Ableton have indeed remade Live from the ground – there would be some some serious 9.X updates, bringing new features as we go. I think this is the way to go nowadays. Users need incentives like this, and people are getting more and more accustomed to it, with apps on mobile devices and the like. Google and Mozilla have really effectively killed the (importance of the) “dotzero” upgrade, and I think that, in the world of music applications, the “dotzerow” should only be invoked when the programme gets a complete overhaul. Then the company can keep a running and open dialogue with its customers – particularly those involved in beta testing, resulting in frequent, minor updates that go beyond the scope of mere bugfixes, bringing actual new content – and FREE content, not counting add-ons that are defacto sample libraries (Live packs, in Ableton’s case). The AMP and CABINET add-ons are good examples of this (even though they were presented to Suite users as an apology for all the trouble Live 8 introduced for its users).

 

 

That’s the way forward, and I have a feeling that Ableton had to make an announcement at this point. Three years is a long time in this business, particularly when you’re being challenged so directly by a company like Bitwig (whose ‘Bitwig Studio’ may turn out to be vapourware, for all I know). So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Live 9 will give us a couple of “dotx updates”, where Ableton will implement stuff that users have been requesting, and also drop the occasional tidbit – you know: keep users interested and loyal. As for Push – it looks pretty much ideal, but at that price point, I’m going to pass. I’m drowning in controllers as it is. I have a feeling there will never be a one-in-all controller that can possibly cater to every user’s approach. The pads on the Push can launch clips, control parameters, play notes at various velocities, etc., so it may be as close as you can get, but thanks to Stray’s (NativeKontrol) hard work, I’ve already got a lot of this functionality in the Launchpad anyway (albeit in a much more rudimentary controller without the bells and whistles and velocity sensitivity etc.).


As an afterthought, I have to say that the Live 9 launch has all the makings of a PR disaster. The Ableton forum is brimming with negative response, and the top topics now discuss the look of Ableton’s website and the (upgrade) pricing for Live 9, rather than Live 9 itself. The website indeed looks horrible (IMO), and the fact that the upgrade prices were set “too low” when the new website was launched, and that users confronting Ableton with the inconsistency are merely met with a shrug and a “sorry, but that’s rock ‘n’ roll” really isn’t too conducive to customer loyalty. Pair this with the slip-up with the first video on Ableton’s YouTube channel which was made publicly available too soon – the whole thing seems really unprofessional.

 

 

Ableton will have to put the months ahead to good use in order to get back on track, so that focus is where it should be: on the software that we love.

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