Our inbox is full of fun stuff Ableton lovers can download, so we’re pronouncing it “Ableton Goodies” day. Enjoy!

Open up a platform to making custom tools, and the user can become the upgrade. They can devise new ways of making music – small inventions to spark creativity. And that’s happened in the case of Max for Live, allowing Max patches to run easily inside Ableton Live.

Ableton hardly needs to release their own patches, or take much action at all. The Max community has been robust for over two decades now. Sites like maxforlive.com have rich collections of instruments, effects, and the like – that site even just added a bunch of new features, including zip file posting, the ability to tag patches for Ableton’s Push hardware, and User Profile pages so you can get to know creators:


That said, Ableton has selected four Max for Live patches that are really special. They’re releasing them as “Premium” packs, right through the Ableton website. The company has done Max for Live downloads before, but this is the first time they’re selling them, making themselves a storefront to some of the favorite creations from the community. And somehow, they do have a certain Ableton-y flair.

You can check out the creations in a nice video overview:

In short, you can choose from:

Spectrum Effects: two spectral devices, each of which works with the timbral color of a sound in rhythmic and frequency snapshots.

A randomized rhythm generator/modifier called AutoBeat.

A reactive video player called RokVid, for adding live video to a performance.

Micah Frank, long-time friend of the site, formerly founder of Puremagnetik, and now at Ableton, agreed to talk to us a bit about what these mean. These are Micah’s own thoughts as a veteran Max user and sound designer and Live user, and as our friend, not the official word of Ableton, but they provide some invoice into why these are worth your time above even other great M4L offerings.

For me, these devices demonstrate what M4L is capable of in the right hands, with the right resources. More specifically, they define a benchmark in our M4L development expectations. They meet all of our M4L specifications, integrate beautifully into Live 9 and have gone through the rigors of normal software releases (quality assurance, beta testing, UI guidelines etc).

I think we have a great mixed bag of developers. K-Devices is a very streamlined, product oriented operation whereas the other two – Maurizio Giri and Adam Rokhsar – are quite accomplished educators.

I would love to see more M4L product releases from such skilled developers and (while still keeping an open source spirit) watch a competitive ecosystem emerge that really leverages the technology’s inherent potential.

Read about the announcement on the Ableton blog:
Inspiring New Max for Live Devices

(Nice title, something to aspire to – better than my currently-unreleased series, “Messy Pd Patches That I Don’t Remember How They Work Or What They Do Or Is This Even The Right File?”)

  • Ed

    These look like fun, especially AutoBeat, which I can immediately see lots of neat uses for.

    However: there’s something I find profoundly uncomfortable about the business model Ableton are seemingly building around M4L.

    Initially, I didn’t like the way they pointed users towards it to cover missing functionality which really could or should have been in the main application (LFOs for example, or clip automation prior to Live 9, or proper access to the API).

    Now, it feels a bit like they’re creating a mini App Store for themselves, monetising content they rely on others to create. I don’t know about you, but the idea that Ableton “hardly needs to release their own patches, or take much action at all” in order to produce the content they’re selling feels a bit disappointing.

    Where’s the incentive for them to think deeply about bringing powerful, inventive and unique new features to Live in the future, if they can just farm that work out to a ready community of patch-builders, then sell those features back to their user base at a markup?

    • Robin

      Personally, I would rather have a large inventive community coming up with innovative ideas than one company declaring what will be…

    • http://facebook.com/sequadion Sequadion

      I don’t think that Ableton’s core competency lies in creating content, be that sample libraries or M4L devices. They wanted to create an ecosystem for third parties, and finally it’s starting to take off.
      As amazing as some free M4L devices are, they are sometimes a bit rough around the edges. Seeing some nicely polished, albeit paid, devices might inspire confidence in less technical users.

    • David

      You are ignoring that Ableton is getting presumably the industry standard 33% cut in this. As Ed points out, that’s no longer an ecosystem, it’s an app store.

      In my currency all the prices divide cleanly by three and if I mentally deduct a third, the prices appear much more in line with other current m4L payware prices.

    • http://facebook.com/sequadion Sequadion

      It’s likely that Ableton gets a cut from these particular sales, but why is this necessarily a bad thing? These developers will be able to reach a much bigger group of potential customers, so they clearly get some value out of this deal.
      Other M4L payware developers can still sell their products through other channels, and all the free devices are not going to go away either.

    • David

      It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it skewes the incentive away from being a development platform provider towards an app store provider.

      In other words, they now have an incentive to make all ‘decent’ m4L devices Ableton-published payware and also to add more and more things as payware m4L devices instead of native Live features. But we’ll see.

    • Benjamin Spencer

      An alternative scenario is that Ableton’s ‘Device Store’ becomes a kind of quality control process for all kinds of M4L devices and, as it starts to gain steam and sustain itself could open the way to free devices as well.

      There will always be developers who will release outside the store, on maxforlive.com or their own website, commercially as well. I doubt that Ableton plan to lock this down and exclusively allow devices from their own store like Apple do. They may cherry pick the best devices from the free market and shine them up a bit, we’ll have to see how they approach that and judge them on their actions at the time! I’d prefer them to leave the original version free and sell the ‘v2’ which they invested time and resources into. I’d also prefer that the devices are unlocked so we can learn from them – this may be less likely going by most commercially released M4L devices.

      In the end it’s just another choice for us, and will hopefully raise the standard of ‘polish’ on M4L devices in general and attract developers who hadn’t seen the potential of Max before but can make a real contribution to the community.

      As for Ableton’s focus, I agree that it should be on creating an environment in which we can create, be it music or devices (hopefully both 😉 and this move should be seen as a stimulus in that direction. Working together with these developers through the QC and UI compliance process will expose the dev team to new problems and ideas, hopefully inspiring new features in the core product.

    • Stuart

      I think you have to be realistic as to what is possible. If you consider the problems that Ableton 8 had and the length of time it took to release Live 9 along with their move into the hardware world you can imagine that they have a full plate.

      Development resource is always more limited that you want. IMO it’s Ableton’s role now to create a stable platform with incremental changes to improve it towards being the complete production environment rather than to go out and shake it up with new inventive unique features.

      They have cleverly built in a vehicle for allowing these crazy unique plugins – this is m4l. It’s entirely acceptable for Apple to build an app store to monetize their investment in IOS so why can’t ableton do a similar thing? With plugins such as the convolution reverb, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this in Live (not m4l) later on down the line, just as Apple now have a torch app built in.

  • Adam Rokhsar

    My name is Adam Rokhsar, and I made the RokVid device that Ableton just released. I just wanted to share some videos of it in action, the first made by me and the second by a youtube user named VintageXO79:


  • http://torley.com/ ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

    A few days in, and I’m already (please don’t let it be prematurely) convinced that AutoBeat is a star for the M4L platform (not unlike how Twisted Tools is for Reaktor). Overall, I’m finding AutoBeat to be a more integrated, elegant and capable solution than previous VST workarounds for generating inspiring rhythms. A lovely blend of control/order vs. surrender/chaos. I left a detailed review which includes more context about my workflow, you may find this helpful if you can relate: http://k-devices.com/shop/autobeat/#comment-8999

  • michaelmatos

    How does auto beat compare to the uncanny sequencer you featured before?

  • David

    If history has taught me anything it’s that I should invest as little as possible in closed platforms.

    For something that will only run in Ableton Live Suite, $40 a piece is pretty steep. I’d possibly pay twice that for a VST, but no more than half that for a m4L device, especially since there’s no way to try it out first.

    I agree with other comments that if this is an indication, m4L will soon be an app store tie-in, certainly for the non-programmer. In the early days they gave these devices out for free to sell you on m4L, now they’re giving out m4L for ‘free’ with Suite and charging for the devices. Clever move, but I’m not buying.

    • http://facebook.com/sequadion Sequadion

      Good point regarding the investment in closed platforms, people should definitely keep that in mind.
      Including M4L in Live Suite sounds like a good move to me, I think Ableton should have done this a lot sooner. Cycling ’74 already did it with the free Max Runtime, but being a niche company they could only reach a limited audience, so it never really took off. This is a second chance for them, we will see what happens.

    • http://dinside.no Øivind Idsø

      What part of history taught you that? I’m genuinely curious. All things come to an end. I just don’t understand why this particular business model should be more vulnerable than other, free ones. Oh, and free isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. Yes, sure, there are some excellent free software out there, but compared to what you can do with professional, sometimes “closed” systems (can you say Kyma?), most will look pretty unpolished, and may even be a nightmare to use. I know this site really loves the idea of “open” and “it really should be free” train of thought, but when I see what I have done with some of the stuff I have on my “closed” iPad the last few years, I really have very few objections.

      I also don’t mind people getting paid for what they do.

    • David

      I’m not voting for free at all. I’m saying that something you can carry over to another DAW is far more valuable than something that will only run in one single host.

      Will I still be using Live in five or ten years? I don’t know. But I do know I’ll still be using e.g. Reaktor, Alchemy etc.

      My only comment on ‘free or not’ is that starting to sell the higher quality stuff officially will fundamentally change the vibe of a community.

  • Chase Dobson

    I find this to be a good thing, I’ll likely buy the Spectral FX. Hopefully they’ll not be locked so I can hack them into franken-patches. At 40 dollars each they’re a bit of a no brainer (to me anyhow). I’ve certainly paid more for tools that DON’T integrate as well…

    As for the business model, I don’t see what the problem is. They developed a system in which savvy users can create the tools they want for making music. For those who don’t have the time/interest to develop tools they’ve made some choice ones available relatively inexpensively. Good move Ableton. (:

  • griotspeak

    Is the patching visible for these packs? Can I see how it was done or is that obscured somehow because these are ‘official’ and distributed by Ableton? Interesting either way.

    • Pantomime

      The patchwork is all there (at least for the spectrum effects)

    • Adam Rokhsar

      You can see the patching in RokVid if you hit the edit button on the device, but all of the video processing portion was created using Gen — so to look at that code, you would need to own Max and the Gen add-on.