Ableton Live, from a simple sequencer to a serious Digital Audio Workstation. Ableton Live 8 Suite, also known as the XL version, is the version of Live that comes with a huge amount of instruments and library of sounds. About no less then 1600 sounds divided among ten instruments. The GUI (graphic user interface) stands out against the GUI’s of the other well known DAW’s by its simplicity. Which in fact works easier and better.
Graphic User Interface
Live has two views, the Session View and the Arrangement View. You can easily switch between these two views by pressing the tab-key.
The Session View in Live is quite unique, I hadn’t seen this before and honestly, I love it. You can use this view to load several (audio) clips into channels (one clip per channel) and make a track. To produce a track you can create as many channels as you want. When starting a clip Live takes care of the timing, so you don’t to care about that. This makes the Session View perfect for live performances for example.
The Arrangement View will be more familiar to (other) DAW users. Here you can create a whole track or mix. The cool part is that you can drag an audio clip from the Session View into the Arrangement View wherever you need that clip.
Anything you record in the Session View will be placed in the Arrangement View, where you can alter or fix any timing issues (quantise).
Suite 8 contains 10 Ableton instruments including synths, a sampler, electric and acoustic drums, mallets, numerous sampled instruments and the new, reworked Operator.
Drum Rack, Instrument Rack, Analog, Collision, Electric, External Instrument, Impulse, Operator, Sampler, Simpler en Tension.
As the name says it is a rack where you can place your drums in. You will start with an empty rack, and then built up your drum rack with the drumsamples from the Live library. All the samples have their own parameters like Attack, Decay, Snappy, etc. You can bundle these parameters into a Macro which will be placed at the left side of your drum rack or your own samples.
This is a synthesizer emulating the sounds of analog synths, loaded with a ton of presets. However it didn’t gave us that sound you would get from a real hardware synth.
This is like a percussion generator within Live, this plugin creates like bells and other percussion instruments. Easiest is to start with a preset and then change it to your personal taste and liking. Personally it was one of my favorit tool to make some crazy but cool sounds.
This is a synth instrument that emulates the most that sound of the oldskool Wurlitzer and Rhodes keyboards. When using Electric, it most reminded me of some presets from Roland synths, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
This instrument/tool is more like an advanced Drum Rack. With Impulse you can alter a lot more parameters very easily like start time of the sample, pitch, and it has even a timestretch function. Built in is a filter as well. The only down side was the small amount of samples you get with Imulse. Plus the fact you can’t load the samples from Drum Rack into Impulse. This limits the instruments a bit too much.
Wow. This is a fantastic ‘do-it-all’ instrument (synth)! It has four tone generators. You can alter the routing yourself so you can create a Additive, Subtractive or a FM synth. Operator is loaded with a lot of great presets.
This is a guitar plugin. Tension can simulate each component of a stringed instrument. You can tweak everything from how the string is played, to the size and type of instrument body used. Without adding a reverb/overdrive FX, I found the sound of Tension a bit disappointing. So you need to tweak the presets if you want to get usable sounds.
– Auto Filter
An advaned filter plugin with a lot of settings. Several settings are available e.g. low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and band-cut filter, but next to these settings you can set your own parameters of course. Which can also be tempo-based, giving a real cool effect.
– Auto Pan
The words say it all. Automatic pan which can make a panoramic sound effect. Let it work its magic on the tempo of the music or just on a certain frequency (Hz). With this plugin you can alter the shape of your sample, to give it a rough or, the opposite, a flowing fade. If you set the phase to zero degrees you can use it as a cutter.
Actually not an effect, but very usable in any production for example when using vocals. The compressor of Live works very well. Better then I had expected.
– EQ Eight
This is an eight-band full parametric equaliser. This EQ works very easy, having eight bands with which you can alter the frequency, gain and Q-factor. Very cool is the fact that you can shape the curve with your mouse by dragging it in the shape you want.
– EQ Three
This is a three band equaliser, much like the EQs you see on DJ mixers. Ideal for making DJ mixes in Ableton. I surely used this plugin the most!
Also known as Bitcrusher. Playing around with this plugin made the most eary crush effects!
Very usefull with guitarsounds (for example combining it with Tension). It adds a ‘phatness’ to a sound.
A bit reducer. You can get a 16 bit (or more) old skool sound with this plugin. However, personally it found it all disappointing. All I got was a bit too much crackle and noise with this plugin.
Video demonstration of the Effects in Ableton
This is absolute my favorit plugin of Live. Vocode some vocals or just simple sounds around you (when using a microphone) and you get the coolest, phattest sounds by simply playing around with the vocode settings. Try it! You’ll be amazed….
A well known feature of Live is the warp tool. With Live 8 this great tool got even revamped and improved. Existing warp modes got enhanced and a new Complex Warp mode was added. Working with the warp tool made me think of the Flex tool in Logic Pro. It is like your audio is elastic and you can stretch it to fit your track perfectly.
Other audio effects in Live I want to mention are Beats (slicer function), Texture, Re-Pitch and Complex (also know as Master Tempo).
Warping in Live
Ableton is in my view a unique DAW. Not only in the way it looks, but also in the way you can use it. Live is an ideal tool for on and off stage! The program was inspiring to work with because of its simplicity and ease of use. When working with it and writing this review, I often found myself just ‘playing’ with Live and discovering new ‘sounds’ and, well…, just having a lot of fun. Live 8 Suite is priced at 549 Euro which to me is totally worth every penny!