Ableton Live 7 was officially announced today. I’m here in an airport on a layover, but that gave me an idea: what does this mean, in plain English, without mentioning any specific features (with a couple of key exceptions), in a way you could explain to a friend in an elevator.

  • The core sound engine is improved, including higher-quality effects. Most noticably, the Compressor sounds fantastic.
  • Hardware lovers can now insert physical instruments as though they were plug-ins.
  • Time signature changes and tempo nudge should please live musicians and DJs.
  • A Drum Rack feature consolidates a whole bunch of workflows, from slicing up beats and assigning them to pads to easily creating complex chains of samples, synthesis, and effects on individual pads. This means remix artists, live performers, and DJs will all be able to more flexibly create beats.
  • In addition to the standard Live version, there’s now a Suite for a few hundred extra that bundles in more instruments.
  • You can also pick up new instruments a la carte, from a synth that models real-world instruments to sampled drums and an orchestral library. Ableton’s innovation here is reworking these instruments with their hallmark minimalist, consistent interface.

In short, Live 7 sounds better, is more flexible about rhythm and tempo, does the usual Ableton yearly release housecleaning, and introduces a simple but deep new method for working with virtual racks of drum pads.

Live Suite does for Abletonland what Logic’s instruments do for Logic Studio, but refined into a common set of interfaces and available a la carte (which could be good news or bad).

That’s the preview; more hands-on coming soon. Now, on to Australia, assuming my ground crew can fix my 747′s brakes. (Hmmm… you know what? I’ll wait rather patiently for that.)

Burning questions list: Okay, like 30 seconds after that was posted, someone already has a really good, technical question. So leave them here, and I’ll try to get to them over the coming weeks.

  • http://raymond.rnamusic.com octatone

    Can you give us the low down on how the new memory management improves the use of sample-based plugins, e.g. kontakt, GPO, et. al.? The fact sheet makes a mention, but I'd like someone's impressions. I've always been bugged by 6's memory spikes.

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    Firstly… nice work posting whilst on your journey over here, and probably by now i should say welcome to Australia!

    Second… i was going to hold out on upgrading but i cant. I just cant. To my bandmate (who reads CDM religiously), sorry mate, looks like you're upgrading too :P Nudge and Drum Rack are the sellers, but any quantifiable improvement in sound quality over all is equally as awesome.

  • fly

    I would just like to know if the Ableton have sorted out their jitter and spike issues adherent in V6 ? …this was highlighted quite a few times on the forum yet never fully addressed or sorted out by the Ableton support team. (and this is after I personally mailed them a few times as well)

    For me, this is the most important need to upgrade from 6.10 to 7. If they have sorted out this issue i'll quite happily move to the next version no question.

    My guess itll be trial by fire though. :o /

  • http://at1987.com AT1987

    This version is great. I love the Drum Rack because it gives me the freedom to edit my drum sound.

    I also like the piano patch for Tension plugin. It's sound great in my opinion.

  • Nat601

    Still no way to automate any more of the first 127 parameters of a softsynth though…

  • a u r i s

    Midi is what I'm concerned with. I have a great deal of timing issues with live… hopefully sorted out. The external instruments sounds interesting. I'm certainly interested in seeing how that would improve work flow. I couldn't care less about all the bundled softsynths and sound sets since I rarely use software instruments.

  • Little Pig

    I am happy. The new stuff in live seems good and I was thinking of buying some AAS synths so now I get them for an upgrade price.

  • john farbringer

    Why is everyone being so uncritical of this release? The list of differences between this and the last version is extremely small – not really enough to warrant a new number. Tempo nudge – should have been in version one. Time signatures – should have been in version 1. REX support – should have been in version 1. Slicing – the implementation is awful. Live will still not cut up a beat depending on its transients and lay out the audio slices for you.

    Basically what we have with Ableton is a subscription based product, that's their business model. You pay your 99 euros every year to keep on using it. Well OK then, but please don't patronise me and anyone else with half a brain by bigging up what amounts to a very meagre upgrade.

  • Angstrom

    the new factsheets about the updated midi and the updated audio engine are here:

    http://www.ableton.com/_common/downloads/manuals/

    http://www.ableton.com/_common/downloads/manuals/

  • rich

    john farbinger: you realise that the purchasing of an upgrade is not mandatory? and that previous versions do not cease to function on release of a new one?

  • ian s mcdonald

    What I'm curious to know is how it improves midi editing. It seems strange that that ableton's now selling a mid range orchestral library while midi editing of that nature.

    I use Live for orchestrating with the VSL – but would dearly love better editing tools, Live's strengths of course being elsewhere.

    How much dos the enhanced envelope editing enhancements improve this kind of workflow?

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    i, too, was a little bummed to discover that the drum rack/loop-slicing function isn't transient-based. (i'll rescind my previous statement that the drum rack may be a "guru killer." it's not there, yet.) regardless, the drum rack is a great tool. i bet transient slicing is on ableton's short list of things to do. it better be.

    loving the automation lanes and side chaining, too. great upgrade, imo.

  • llamastorm

    For someone using mostly 3rd-party effects/VSTs/hardware, I'm not sure this upgrade is super compelling. Still, I like Ableton's interface a lot, so I have no major complaints with 6.

    My two imaginary features for 7 would have been to be able to better record automation changes with the clips (which seems a bit hard in Live 6), as well as to have LFOs/modulation built in for control parameters so fun could be had playing with it "Live" as well as in production — having two hands on a keyboard doesn't leave a lot of room for tweaking controls in real time. The arp stuff in Ableton seems ok, but how about a programmable step sequencer?

    The new instruments are definitely neat, but also a bit thin sounding IMHO. Maybe that's just a sign they all need compression, effects, and the like, I'm not sure. Those are things I observed in Lounge Lizard also… so maybe it's just how those modelled instruments sound. Another thing I noticed with those programs (and I'm not sure it applies to Live), was that you couldn't change the physical properties of the instrument in the middle of a note. How cool would that be, to have a piano that is physically changing size in the middle of a chord? Again though, with these things having a gazillion parameters, some more modulation options in the GUI would be nice.

    Anyhow, I like Ableton's product a lot… but this seems mainly to be an instrument release for those that just want to use the stock Ableton instruments. Yes?

  • samu

    The drums! Oh, the drums!

    If I, for the sake of simplicity, can ditch Battery 3 and play Ableton Suite from my Yamaha electronic kit, I'll be a happy, happy bunny.

    Might have to upgrade this internal hard drive to a bigger, faster model, though…

  • http://jeff.com jeff

    yeah I really love Battery 3, but the way the new drum racks integrate makes it really hard to use anything but Ableton anymore.

  • http://www.musicmasterstudios.com/inspirationalorchestralmusic.html Daniel E. Friedman

    The more drum samples, the better. Thank for bringing Ableton Live 7 to my attention.

  • http://www.chromedecay.com J. Schnable

    Ok, so this "feature," which, read in a certain context, could lead one to imagine something entirely different:

    "Hardware lovers can now insert physical instruments as though they were plug-ins."

    Um, sort of. After reading that, I imagined some sort of elegant modular editor or something that worked with a variety of real-life hardware, traded SYSEX stuff, managed patch settings, etc.

    Tall order, yes. But when I think of "hardware like a plug-in" – that's the first thing that comes to mind. That, or, you know, something like what Access has going on with their synths.

    But REALLY what it means is just more sensible routing of audio and MIDI information to your hardware components. Coupled with better audio and MIDI performance, this is still great news for those who still use physical instruments, but not, as I had fantasized, truly making my hardware like a plug-in.

    And, this is not to criticize Peter's writing – I think it has more to do with Ableton working as hard as possible to make all the minor improvements seem a bit more grandiose than they are.

    Along those lines – not thrilled with the new instruments Ableton is introducing. The non-sample based ones stem directly from Applied Acoustics Systems's technology, so, if you're like me and not that into their Rhodes sound, this doesn't really add a new option to what's already out there. And the "Drum Machine" sampled instrument – interesting way of integrating functionality, but, when it comes down to it, who *doesn't* have these samples already?

    Ok, last criticism and then I'll stop – IMHO, if there were serious timing/memory allocation/jitter and spike issues, I dunno, I kinda think these sorts of "upgrades" should rather be bug fixes. I don't experience them myself, but it seems kinda lame to be like "hey, guess what – all those problems you're having with your current version can be solved for only another $100" (or whatever). The annual upgrade *IS* getting tiresome.

  • samu

    Meh. I'm happy to keep paying. What, their programmers are supposed to eat our music?

  • http://www.thesimulatedcity.com Chris Blundell

    looks great, and overall looks like Live 7 is still going to be a major contender in the battle of the DAWs.

    The drum rack tool looks fantastic, to be able to make a kick in Vstation, a snare from BFD, effects from FM7, all in one interface, with individual effects? sounds good to me. I'm personally looking forward to it. If the naysayers done want to upgrade, fine. I will.

  • http://waxdj.com/djs/86/ Erik_Hz

    For my purposes, this is really the first version of Live that is worth the money.

    SLICE TO MIDI, what once was for me a major work-flow bottleneck,is now a one click wonder tool. If you're into MPC style remixing or production without the MPC, get it now.

    Whenever I resent the cost of upgrading, I just take a look at the cost of doing the same thing with hardware. The consume is getting a great deal more, for a great deal less these days, no matter how you slice it.

  • http://perhapsidid.wordpress.com kyleklip

    llamastorm, if you want a programmable step sequencer for Live, try Covert Operators' rack-based solution Covert Seq. http://thecovertoperators.org/

    This is not an ad, just a solution. You could probably build your own too.

  • http://www.chromedecay.com J. Schnable

    "Meh. I’m happy to keep paying. What, their programmers are supposed to eat our music?"

    Perhaps I should have been a little more explicit in the point I was trying to make. For the past number of years now, Live has been releasing new versions annually.

    The upside is that new features get integrated into the product faster. Customers have been waiting for a reworking of the audio engine for some time now (you know, to get farther away from that 'Ableton' sound that's present when working in Live), bringing it closer to other DAWs in terms of quality.

    So that's cool. But, then you've got this other stuff to deal with- like, what problems might I encounter with the new version? Are all my old tracks, customized presets for things, sample libraries, etc going to play nice with the upgrade? Will I need new hardware to run it? Are there any changes to workflow, key commands, or other things that I was used to in the old version that aren't going to work now? Are there going to be new bugs that I encounter with this version? Ableton seems to really be on top of the bug squashing, but I get the impression that a *lot* of code was rewritten/revised for the audio and midi improvements, and memory allocation stuff. Those kinds of changes are a lot more intense than adding a few new instruments or something.

    My point to that is – if Live is going to be "a major contender in the battle of the DAWs" – they're going to have to deal with a totally different type of customer there. Live users, in my opinion, tend to be pretty tweaky and willing to spend the time of dealing with upgrading and figuring all the new stuff out. And, doing that annually, is probably not a huge deal.

    BUT, if you run a busy studio, and basically just need stuff that works and don't have that tweaky approach…. well, that's sort of where the annual upgrade path is tricky. Heck, even when the big DAWs upgrade, it's usually some form of a PITA.

    I've been using Live since 1.0, and there have def. been issues before. Like, new release had a major bug, and was quickly fixed, but any new files made with previous new buggy version didn't open in fixed new bugless version. So, three new tracks that I started before the bug messed things up had to be started from scratch once I had installed the fixed version.

  • http://www.angstrom.timeshard.com Angstrom

    there's been a bit of grumbling about it being a non-spectacular upgrade, and I felt the same way at first. But when I consider that for £70 I get a new compressor, a modular drum instrument to replace the very tired Impulse, an improved EQ and other effects (upgraded to 64bit), multilane automation, time sig changes.

    All of those items are welcome. For me to get a compressor and a drum player of equivalent quality (which I was shopping for) would be more money than £70

    The oft stated "this is merely a bug fix and should have been in version 1" always strikes me as a little bizarre.

    Take a look at Live version 1, a program that many people were happy with. Where exactly would arrangement time sig changes or multi-lane automation have fit in verson 1? It had no arrangement timeline!

    Things develop over time, that's how life is. I wish that when I was 14 I possessed my current irresistible sex-appeal, but some things take time to develop. That's life.

  • synthburn

    "Live will still not cut up a beat depending on its transients"

    is this true?

    thats kind of difficult to believe!

    almost as stupid as dr. rex within reason, not having the ability to chop breaks without using ancient ass recycle and exporting.

  • format.k

    “Live will still not cut up a beat depending on its transients”

    Just upgraded, but I think you can choose to either cut on a variable grid, or via warp markers. Via warp markers probably means you set up the transients as you would usually warp.

  • Angstrom

    “Live will still not cut up a beat depending on its transients”

    missing word is : "automatically"

    IE: you have to put the markers on the beats you want it to slice on.

  • evan

    130 dollars for a bunch of crap that no one really needs. I guess most people are just impressed by new shinning things.

  • http://www.myspace.com/pax lost

    Evan: yes of course Live 7 is much shinier then Live 6. What else do you think Ableton's been doing for a year? Wax on, wax off.

    Anyway, Those midi improvements will be quite welcome, as well as Drum Racks and that sexy sexy compressor. Quite the wax job indeed.

  • john farbringer

    Angstrom:

    first, what if you want to use a breakbeat that is played by a human, and want to retain that feel? If you set the warp markers to each transient, you get the beat played back robot style. I love ultra-quantised music, however it's not always what is needed. Secondly, once a beat has been sliced, it is available as hits on a virtual drum machine played by a MIDI clip. This may be good for some people, and it's fine that this method is available for those that want it, but it is somewhat convoluted. How about simply slicing a beat into seperate audio files? Because the time stretching in Live sounds like siht. That's one thing they haven't bothered to upgrade in at least 2 revisions.

  • http://raymond.rnamusic.com octatone

    I'm guessing evan missed the whole bit about the audio engine under the hood being reworked and 64 bit all mix points. Cause you know, know one will pay for performance boosts – nor needs them.

    Troll on, good buddy, troll on.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Okay, running list of answers, as far as ones I do know.

    Memory management: I have no idea. I'll ask Ableton on that.

    Jitter / MIDI timing issues: this was specifically fixed, yes, so no worries there. Now we just have to sort out why some people are having MIDI timing issues with Windows Vista, irrespective of host.

    Spike issue — I *think* that's worked out, yes, if I'm understanding which issue you're referring to.

    127+ automation parameters: no — they're clearly aware of this but it looks like it didn't make the cut. I wouldn't be surprised it you saw it in a maintenance update or something; I think it may just be technically difficult to do.

    "Should have been in version 1" I think could be applied to any feature in any software. That's why development and design is difficult. I got to talk to Gerhard from Ableton about just this, and it's interesting to hear his take on this. I will say, though, while there are many things about Ableton that are unique, a lot of what they describe isn't that different than what you hear from other developers. I think their solutions are unique, and whether you like them or not will determine whether you choose to use their products.

    I do think that, if waiting every OTHER year or whatever works for you makes sense, you should be bold and do that and not listen to anyone else. No one needs to defend what works for them, so long as it works for them.

    @llamastorm: 3rd-party effects are deeply impacted I think by the Drum Rack, in that you can chain lots of effects into pads. And yes, dry physical models do sound thin — but you get this fantastic variation in the sound from them. So you can sort of think of them as a more organic oscillator and add from there. Try feeding Tension into Guitar Rig, etc. and see what happens. ;)

    @J. Schnable: you're right on the physical hardware integration, but … well, I discovered as Ableton has that it's hard to say in a few words. This question of how to really effective integrate hardware, though, is an ongoing issue — beyond just Ableton Live — and one we should look at. I really like, for instance, the Roland SH-201 plug-in that ships with that keyboard; that really is a plug-in and handy, maybe not a perfect solution but suggestive of what's possible.

    @Angstrom: for the record, I wanted time signature changes in Live 1 in Session View. But we had other things to ask for first, like more flexible loops. It's funny, actually, in that I think some of us who have used Live since the very beginning have shared a bit of the developer's experience as we've watched the software evolve. With something that began as minimally as Live did, that's been unusually interesting.

    PS — the brake on my plane worked. Further evidence that bug fixes are as important as features.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah! sidechaining! Forgot to mention that.

    It's funny, we're currently in a sort of pro-minimalism swing. See, for instance, Get Real, which I've been reading and loving:
    http://www.37signals.com/getreal/

    But, at the same time, adding features really is often good. And it often seems, on the surface, like a list of random or even small features. So it is somehow about balance. And clearly there's more than one formula, and each may appeal to different users, hence you may prefer Renoise or Project5 or FL Studio or Max/MSP or a hardware step sequencer or something you wrote yourself to Live. In other words: go right on disagreeing.

  • ilo

    For me, Drum Racks is it. Tastier than any sliced white bread before it. I think "it's gonna be the biggest thing to hit these little kids. Bigger than Jesus. Bigger than breast implants."

  • http://www.wiretotheear.com/ Oliver Chesler

    Another great release. I installed it on my Macbook Pro and it's running great. The new slice drum feature is superb. Perfect for grabbing found audio and loops with Wire Tap Studio and getting them useful in my project within seconds. I would have paid the upgrade price for this one feature. Everything else is icing.

  • samu

    J. Schnable – thanks for the elaboration; I get your point now. But can't the issues you raise be addressed by waiting before upgrading (as one would (or in my case, should have done…) before installing Leopard), using different versions in parallel, or skipping releases? There's no compulsion, at least from Ableton, to always use the most recent release.

    I'm not going to pretend, though, that I have any experience of running a pro studio and having to attract customers; I can imagine that, for instance, customer pressure for the newest and shiniest might impact the solutions above.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    For the record, you can absolutely run versions of Live in parallel, though you may want to point the Library in different places. That is an issue for compatibility, though, depending on how much you need to share files.

    As an individual, of course, the decision to upgrade is personal.

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    i spent all of last night playing with live7 and putting the new features to test. great great great. but more than anything, i came away impressed by the *user manual.*

    that's fascinatingly boring, i know.. but let's give credit where credit is due. fine job on the manual, abletonians.

  • Angstrom

    @john farbringer

    Angstrom:

    first, what if you want to use a breakbeat that is played by a human, and want to retain that feel? If you set the warp markers to each transient, you get the beat played back robot style. I love ultra-quantised music, however it’s not always what is needed.

    well this is where you are wrong, because it does keep the groove. The output midi part is 'swung' or 'grooved' in the same way that the original was. The beats are not on beat or robotic. I think you ought to try it out before commenting as pretty much all of your observations are not correct.

  • Furlano

    What I would really like is a tool that allows multiple takes of a part. (a la cubase's "takes" tool). This could either be applied on the sequencer screen, or the arranger (record from one clip to the next without pause, and looping the rest of the track)

  • john farbringer

    Angstrom: yes you're quite right about the groove, thanks for the info! I still think the slicing procedure is over-fiddly though.

  • http://m00nchildblog.blogspot.com m00nchild

    Where are the bezier curves for automation? I've been waiting and waiting for this. I spend so much time applying break point after break point so that I can simulate natural curves. This feature has been reusted ad nauseum by many people in the Ableton forums. I just don't understand why it hasn't been implemented.

  • http://www.soundclick.com/benhodgson poorsod

    Well, I got Ableton 7 the day before yesterday (so I'm not in that deep yet) but so far I am mega-pleased. I've been experimenting with some of the bundled Drum Rack presets and they work like a charm. Also the new compressor is actually easy to use (something Compressors I and II weren't), the sidechaining is fantastic and the revised EQ 8 is a lot simpler too.

  • http://amoebafunk.com amoeba

    @ poorsod

    where are the DR presets? i didn't find any…

    man, i really dig the drumracks stuff. that, and the new compressor alone made the update worth it to me.

    haven't had the band together yet to test midi timing improvements, but i hope those are noticeable as well.

    multiple automation views are great too.

    my wish – allow for track groupings the same way DR handles it!

  • Sami
  • bantri

    DAM IT!!!!!! Not again!!!!!!

    7 version attempts for this BS and STILL no bezier curves????????

    HELLOOOOOOOO MORONS….. Where are the bezier curves???? (They were invented in 1970 and you still don´t know them?)

    How many versions will be necessary for you to implement this, i dont want to spend hours drawing lines, this is a program for music, not drawing.

    Is this software made by real musicians?

    Have you tried to edit automation parameters only using straight lines?

    Do you know how hard and boring is to reproduce real, nice curves using straight lines?

    Do you know how hard is draw a curve using hundreds of tiny straight segments?

    Do you know how hard is to later adjust a curve if it was made with segments instead of 4 control points?

    It´s a REAL HELL to edit automation curves just using lines, the main objective is to HEAR the sound, and NOT to improve your mouse drawing skills….

    Music without automation CURVES (I SAID CURVES YOU IDIOTS!!!!!!, NOT STRAIGHT LINES!!!!!) sounds mechanical and robotic…

    For people tired waiting 7 version attempts for bezier curves, my advice: use 90$ podium sequencer from Zinewave, it DOES the job….

  • bantri

    Tsk, tsk tsk… There´s more… I´m very sad to notice that stupidity has not only affected ableton programmers but people that advertises it too…

    PROOF: On their own page they mention the term "automation CURVES" presenting an image of several straight segments (i wonder if they think i´ve got a problem with my vision):

    http://www.ableton.com/r1/pages/live_7/tour/for_s

    go there and check it… here´s the link:
    http://www.ableton.com/live-for-sound-designers
    This IS the proof that they can´t tell the difference between a CURVE and a LINE.

    Look for the topic "draw inspiration", but i´m not sure if it´s inspiration you´ll get when trying to draw a real CURVE in automation.

    If you use the drawing tool (pencil) what you´ll really get will be a horrible and fully 90 degree jagged line that creates zipper sounding effect, so you´ll have to erase it and "get inspired" editing a multisegmented line manually to make it a curve, and the line editing process is horrible, amongst other things is that if you select a group of dots and move them up or down, if they pass the upper and lower limits they flatten out destroying the curved characteristic.

    and now… with the multiple automation track views you´ll see LOTS of multi-segmented automation LINES.

    The reason that i´m being public for this is that it, is a good product, but this is a severe flaw, so i hope that by exposing that flaw is the best way to give a butt kick on their programmers and make it and acceptable sequencer, other sequencers have lots of automation curve types (steps, multiline segments, log curves, S curves, sine and cosine curves, integrating and diferentiating curves, assimptotic and beziers) because there are hunderds of knobs to be controled in every VSTI and having a perfect collection of curves on the sequencer for smoothly controling these knobs IS very important. Having just step and multisegment lines in a sequencer is, to me, enough criteria to condemn it. (too much work/time dedicated for drawing, instead of making music)

  • PLP

    bantri: I agree that curves would be nice, but really just enter the data with a rotory controller and not the pencil tool and you should be able to nicely estimate whatever kind of curve you want. You can even delete it and re-do it until it sounds just right.