Many Bothans died to bring us this information. (Or, erm, David at Ableton gmailed me.) Admiral Ackbar, please.

We’ve got some specific screenshot that reveal more details of how new features in Live 6 will work. Here are some of the specifics I’m particularly eager to try out:

Racks: Like to combine different instruments and effects for performance? The new rack/macro configuration looks just fantastic. It looks to combine everything I loved about the Combinator in Reason 3 (powerful and easy layers, splits, and effects chains, savable as custom presets) with Ableton-style ease of use, the ability to use plug-ins, and eight knobs instead of Combinator’s inexplicable four. Not sure if you’ll be able to toggle effects and such as easily as in Combinator, though; will be interested to try that. Incidentally, Ableton, I’d love to know what this particular chain sounds like. Operator + Absynth + tube? Mmmmmm.

In other news, look out, KORE, because Ableton users may find this less-ambitious but more approachable means of creating layered instruments more friendly and functional.

Meters: Meters are vastly improved in a revision most current users will welcome. This is clearly part of Ableton’s push to get Live some respect as a full-fledged DAW (which it is). They’re both more readable and more accurate; check out those numeric readouts and clipping meters.

Note length: Remember the dark days when Live’s quantization lacked note length quantize? Now, Live 6 will add real-time note length filtering to the existing quantize setting. The results are something I haven’t seen before; this is more like a key-scaled gate and should actually have some creative applications.

Impulse samples: Ableton’s teasing us with something here. It looks as though you’ll be able to link samples in the Impulse drum machine with sounds in the browser pane, so you can substitute sounds in an Impulse drum kit quickly, just like the interface for switching presets now. (Non-Live users, I’m sure you’re lost at this point, but Live users probably know what I mean.)

Sampler Features

Okay, I’m going to make this a little easier. First, the features in Sampler that won’t look so different from other samplers, but do demonstrate how Ableton has managed to integrate some more sophisticated multisampler features into their spartan, minimalist but elegant Live interface:

Filters and pitch envelopes: This takes an approach similar to Operator, though I’m glad parameters are a little more out in the open since some of them get a little lost in Operator. As usual, there’s a lot of power in not a lot of screen real estate. (Helps when you don’t add all those silly, shiny, 3D controls.) Note that the envelope handles are straight out of Operator, as in the pitch envelope. It’s funny, because while SONAR, Logic, Reason, Cubase, MOTU DP, and others all include lots of instruments, none of them really have a consistent interface. Of course, love them or not, Ableton is all about consistency.

Keymaps: Nothing earthshaking, but again, nice to see this looking very Ableton-y, just as you’d imagine it. Note the “vel” switch for velocity cross-switching. This shot raises more questions than answers, like how much control we’ll really have over the multisamples. I doubt Ableton will be able to compete with NI’s Kontakt, with scripting and surround-sound envelopes and reverbs, not that that’s really the point. But this will be an area to watch.

Now You’re Talking: Here’s what Sampler is all about for me. Check out the modulation section, particularly the “filter morph” option. I imagine I’ll be diving into Sampler for real sound design and sample mangling purposes, one of the reasons a lot of us use Live in the first place. (Plus, since this is built into Live, you’ll have access to this in ReWire mode inside other DAWs, too.) MIDI routing is just as exciting, for the same reason: check out all those options. This should be huge for chopping up samples in live performance, particularly with the MIDI to Loop Start option. Scratching/stuttering, right in Sampler? Sign me up.

Simpler Sampler: Or is that a Sampler Simpler? The draw for many will be that Sampler reproduces the drag-and-drop ease of Simpler, but with multisamples. I always found Simpler very useful, but limiting because it could only do one sample at a time. It’s a big relief to have that obstacle removed. Can’t wait to try it myself and see if it lives up to its handsome screen grabs (and, importantly, hear how the multisampling algorithms sound).

Included Effects

Sampler costs extra, but not these effects. Again, not earthshaking, but these will be really useful for sound design and modifying the built-in synths, which lacked some of these sound-shaping effects:

That’s got to hurt: This one is going to … distort … just a little. Still-missing information: the full list of waveshapers available. That’s the key.

Tubes: Also known as what the Internet is made of. (It’s not a truck!) The controls look nice, but I want to know what this sounds like. Ableton is known more for digital crunch than warmth. Here, they’re promising both, which sounds great on paper, anyway. We’ll know soon.

Scoring Questions:

Cycling ’74 Jitter Cat, Escaped?: (Sorry, inside joke.) This image of the cat doesn’t tell us much … how well will Ableton Live work for serious film scoring? Managing markers becomes a big deal in film scoring, and Live currently lacks any overview of markers. I’ll be interested to see if they’ve addressed that. Regardless, though, having video will be nice.

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  • Adrian Anders

    Bothans? Damn that's an obscure Star Wars reference. Tres geek Peter!

  • kokorozashi

    How is that these meters exceed 0 dBFS?

  • BassTooth

    kokorozashi: anytghing above 0db becomes digital distortion. i think. right?

    also, i hope theres better support for on the fly meter changes and any in the master control/automation section this time around. i want to change time signatures like its nothing!

  • Mies van der Robot

    I have to agree with you wholeheartedly about the consistency. One may not 100% love Abelton's particular UI aesthetic, but the consistency is a huge boon for live applications.

    I love the Logic instruments, but having to reorient myself every time I switch from ES2 to Sculpture to Ultrabeat is not an instantaneous process.

    And the Racks feature looks like it will enable the same consistency to be applied to 3rd-party instruments and effects. Map the parameters you want to control to those 8 knobs, and you have an interface for every instrument chain that's as consistent as you choose to make it.

    Interesting developments over at Ableton HQ. The one thing I'm really itching to know, though, is how the performance will be on a dual-core Intel Mac. The multi-core/multi-processor stuff is likely to be the sexiest feature for many Mac users. Live has never been a terrible performer on Mac, but it's never been a screamer either….this release may finally change that.

  • signals above 0dBFS only matter if they end up being routed to an analog-to-digital converter.

    in any modern audio software, you can manage signal levels massively over 0dBFS with just a little loss of fidelity. its only when you have to generate an actual analog signal that a problem arises.

  • DJDC

    from Dave Moulton on Izotope's Website….

    "…With digital audio, then, the game has changed. We no longer have a safe and sane analog output level specification that has any correlation to perceived loudness, but rather a digital clipping specification: 0 dBFS, which is detected by a peak meter that gives no indication of perceived loudness and which lacks correlation to any VU or RMS sort of amplitude measurement (which does correlate well with perceived loudness). Interestingly, digital console manufacturers have acknowledged and standardized this, so that engineering practice has evolved into pushing the peak levels right up to 0 dBFS and treating that level as a "nominal overload level." "Hot" mixes may cruise along at levels as loud as +22 dBu (10 volts RMS, 30 volts peak-to-peak)! To drive the point home even further, manufacturers have replaced the VU meter and its RMS-based brothers with a "peak" meter, which indicates ONLY the peak levels. Such levels are usually 6 to 20 dB hotter than VU levels, except for steady state tones, and there is no reasonable correlation between them, or with what we hear. In a nutshell, we're now obsessing about peak levels instead of good levels, and ignoring our perceived loudness levels into the bargain…"

  • richardl

    > The one thing Iâ€ââ€ΕΎÂ¢m really itching to know, though, is how the performance will be on a dual-core Intel Mac.

    One of the alpha testers on the Ableton Forum reported a Live5PerformanceTest benchmark on a MacBook Pro:

    Live 5 – 40%, without the .kext fix

    Live 5 – 30%, with .kext fix

    Live 6 Alpha – 25% without the fix

    Live 6 Alpha – 18% with the fix

    (.kext fix is a system software tweak to turn off CPU throttling. It should not be necessary for operation with Live 6 because the system will stop throttling the CPU once you rev up the CPU past a certain level. And the throttling should improve general battery performance.)

    (Note: on my comparable Windows Core Duo laptop I get 25% with Live 5.2.)

    Users of other systems like dual G5 are reporting similar 40% performance increases with the Live 6 alpha.

    Of course, this is still alpha so who knows what it will look like when it ships?

  • richardl

    The other thing the Alpha testers have said is that they can push Live 6 much harder (i.e. much more CPU load) before the software becomes overloaded.

  • Paul is right, of course, and I suspect as well that meters are calibrated more to what we expect from an analog mixer (i.e., with some headroom above 0 dB) so that 0 dB on the fader doesn't actually represent a digital 0 dB signal. I'm sure Ableton could give us an even more specific answer on the exact summing and level modeling in Live, though, so I'll ask. What I've been told in the past is that it's not any different than other DAWs (like Logic, for instance), but I'd be interested to know the specifics.

  • Also, regarding swithing in Racks – early talk from the alpha testers is that it's fairly simple to set up racks as switchable/fadable effects and instrument chains. Load up a series of device groups or other racks into a Rack and set one of the macros to switch between them – This almost sounds too good to be true!

    Peter, not sure if you saw it, but they also say that the Remote SL works even better with 6 and it's new parameter pick up and value scaling modes…

  • Mies van der Robot

    Thanks for the feedback, Richard! Those are very encouraging stats for an alpha build. If they can ship with that kind of performance (or perhaps even better than that), I'm sold.

  • Digiballoon

    Look at the last screenshot! It looks like the first track has multiple movie files. Combine this with the fact that the movies can be displayed on second (full) screen, and voila, i dont have to lug two laptops around for my live shows!!! Live feeds both audio and video, directly in one app, totally synced, no more loading or rewire or midi or whatever!!

    oh please please please they have done something to make tempo and master track/changes more convenient!! thats horrible to do in 5

    maybe you can put movie files in a clip (scene) in session view? *i faint dramatically*

  • kokorozashi

    When I asked about meters exceeding 0 dBFS, I was (stupidly) thinking only of driver input and the definition of dBFS. But of course Live is free to do its internal processing however it likes, and there are plenty of ways to get a signal hotter than any driver input. So my mistake was in assuming the meters show dBFS when in fact by definition they cannot be doing that. It would be interesting to know what these meters are in fact showing, how that correlates to dBFS, and what happens when the signal is pushed back down to a driver. It's not like I suspect Ableton of having botched this; I'm just curious.

  • Nice stuff, but I wish they'd add a decent recording take and comping system. It's really annoying to do any serious recording inside of Live.

  • I'm hoping that we will also get a counter that measures in seconds and minutes rather than just beats/bars. Also the ability to be able to measure a selection by highlighting it, as in Pro Tools.

    In my opinion this is pretty important for Ableton to be a real contender.

    Aside from this I find Live to be the most creative inspiring software I have used, especially for music and sound design. It is just missing a few things that are pretty important in a professional production tool.

  • I don't know if this has been addressed, but the one feature that would really make Live 6 even better for DJ use would be the ability to read in or sync with iTunes playlists. Final Scratch and Serato have this ability and is of their best features for organizing tracks. If this is going to be (or already is) implemented and I haven't heard about it then I'm sorry for wasting y'allz time. If it hasn't been brought up before, well, c'mon then!

  • I compared Live to Fl Studio .. You may say there's no comparison, and while I think the audio quality of Live is above and beyond FL / Orion, I felt quite frustrated that I would only be using about 10% of the capability of Live @ 2.5 times the price I paid for Fl and the features in that regard are quite comparable.

    Arrh!!! I should just buy it! It's sneaking it past the Mrs. that's the issue…

  • Also, a note to Ade, if possible..

    Are you aware of ASIO4all?

    It's a universal ASIO driver that allows people to use their stock sound card or non ASIO sound card with ASIO capabilities. Check it out if you haven't. That would bode quite well with your "budget setups" that you keep pushing!

    I use it on my laptop. When I'm not at home with my kit, I bring along a set of studio monitor headphones, and switch over to the ASIO4All driver. Works great..:)

  • TJ

    After spending a year looking for a new DAW, I would very much have *liked* to go with Live. But hard as it was, I decided to turn elsewhere for a sequencer because editing just seemed too … claustrophobic.

    Finding editing features was just too hard. Too … fiddly. No doubt that, in part, that's of a decade of sequencing with more conventional software. Once I was unable to convince myself that it had flexible MIDI capabilities, I gave up on it.

  • Santiago Leon

    Yes i agree in a sense that ableton is a respected DAW and does is very smart, but, I was wondering if 6 will have a nudge feature like logics or cubases and will the copying of drawn automation still consist the audio files behind the automation lines. Logic and cubase keep theirs seperate, i feel with this done ableton will be complete.

  • Wow I'm really impressed with this feature set. The "racks" looks like it's really going to simplify instrument layering, and the other control macros is something I've been searching for. Supposedly midi ox could work, but having this built into ableton's easy midi assignment system is nice!