The short answer is, if you’re using Ableton Live, you’ll want to wait to upgrade to Windows Vista, period. The long answer is, there are some specific incompatibilities in Live that Ableton will address in a future release. Today, Ableton posted official information on their forum:

In principle, the latest Live 6 version (6.0.3) works on Windows Vista. But there are some limitations:

  1. Starting Live 6.0.3 will temporarily disable the AERO Glass
  2. The drawing of the status bar in the Splash screen does not work properly
  3. First time decoding an MP3 (or similar) file requires administrator rights

We are currently working to eliminate these limitations and hope to address them within bug-fix updates as soon as possible.

Recommendation: Because of the known (and unknown) problems, our limited Vista experience, and the current lack of Audio & MIDI drivers, we strongly recommend testing Live and your setup before you completely switch to Windows Vista.

If you are currently using Live on Windows XP, we recommend waiting before upgrading to Vista.

Support of native Vista features: Windows Vista provides several new technologies that could be useful for Live – for instance, a new audio I/O architecture. We are planning to support such native Vista features within this year.

In other words, Vista support for Ableton Live — and, I suspect, some other music applications — will come in two phases. First, Ableton will address outright incompatibilities. Next, they’ll add support for new audio features. The former could still be enough to warrant an upgrade, though; with proper drivers, you should theoretically get equivalent performance on Vista as on XP.

It is a little unnerving that you need admin rights to play an MP3, but this sounds like something that can be resolved; I’ve played MP3s elsewhere in Vista without problems. (Just wanted to step on that before someone starts freaking out about Vista and DRM; this appears unrelated.)

I’ve only tested Live under Vista on one machine (I should eventually be able to test on three), but my own experience suggests incompatibilities are more significant than the relatively cosmetic ones listed here. I experienced a number of crashes just performing normal Live operations, for instance. I will say, audio performance of some software does not seem to be impacted by Vista — I’ve been getting great performance out of Max/MSP and several standalone synths without any issues, and I’m using unreleased, non-ASIO drivers for the internal Realtek audio card in my laptop. So, if these bugs get fixed, Vista could quickly become the ideal PC-based OS for Live.

I expect some readers will say this in comments, but I’ll say it first: Ableton, I hope you can step up Vista testing. The simple truth is, Windows is a huge platform for Live users and musicians in general, and many computer makers are — for better or worse — shipping Vista by default or even eliminating XP options altogether. That situation is only likely to get worse in the next few months. Ableton says, “We have tested Live 6.0.3 on only a few Vista systems so far so there may be other problems as well.” That’s disappointing, given how quickly Ableton supported Intel Macs last year.

That said, Live has consistently been hands-down the most reliable host on both Windows and Mac for me — something I’ve heard from many plug-in developers, as well — so I do expect we’ll have a solid, Vista-ready release in the future.

Live 6.0.3 on Windows Vista [Ableton Forums]

Vista Launch Day: What’s Compatible for Musicians?
Full CDM Vista coverage

  • Live 6 works fine for me in Vista, but I'm a long ways from a power user when it comes to Live. Specific notes from my experience:

    1. The very first thing I did when I started Vista for the first time was turn off the Aero nonsense. So that error doesn't appear for me.

    2. The very second thing I did was turn off the User Account Access crap so I wouldn't have to "allow" every single little thing. So MP3 access is unhindered in Live for me. (If one uses their PC for web surfing or IRC or in a high-risk environment, this is a Bad Idea. I don't, so it's not for me.)

    3. I would submit that crashes in Live in Vista are largely due to the graphics subsystem. I would even wager that the computer Peter experienced problems on has an Nvidia graphics card. Nvidia and Microsoft aren't getting along this week. Using Microsoft's provided drivers instead of the (ostensibly better, but in actual fact far worse) Nvidia ones would probably solve this problem.

    All that said, I agree with Ableton: if Live is your main vehicle, stay far away from Vista for the next several months. For what it's worth, other than minor graphics hiccups, Nuendo 3 is running like a champ in Vista for me. I've experienced no problems worth calling such with Nuendo or any of my plug-ins.

  • Actually, good point, Chris. I STILL don't have final drivers from NVIDIA. So the crashes were most likely incompatibilities between (ironically enough) the NVIDIA card and the Vista "compatibility" mode.

    Also, turning off Aero may well result in a different graphics mode than allowing Vista to turn off Aero for you. (It looks different. It's unclear to me what's going on under the hood.)

    Of course, this makes me wonder what went so catastrophically wrong between Microsoft and NVIDIA that they'd completely miss being in sync at launch. Having audio drivers not work at launch you expect. Having at least one of the biggest graphics vendors drop the ball I still say is a little unnerving.

  • I have the mothership of Nvidia graphics cards, a Quadro FX, in my PC. I went to load the Nvidia Vista drivers, and the installer informed me that I don't have an Nvidia card in my computer. Now, if a problem like that exists at such a basic level with their workstation products, I don't even want to imagine what their home and gaming card drivers are like.

    Nvidia is quite simply lying outright at this point. There is a class-action lawsuit in the works, based around the fact that they've been advertising for months that their main line of products (including, specifically, my incredibly expensive card) are "Vista-Ready." I can't even load the not-yet-out-of-beta drivers to see how bad they are.

    However, that said, the provided Vista Nvidia driver is working fine. I can't access a lot of the heavy lifting features of my video card (accelerated OpenGL, hardware rendering, et al) but I'm able to run both monitors at my desired res. I'm just sitting tight at this point until they get things sorted out.

    This is the first, last, and only time I'll say this, but today, right now, ATI has the upper hand on Nvidia, because their drivers are done and working.

  • I think the class action is going a bit overboard, but yes, they effectively lied. You'd think SOMEWHERE along the line you might post detailed compatibility information or at least, if not turning off the giant "you want NVIDIA for Vista because we're so compatible" banners, linking to the support details.

    The mobile situation is even worse; without drivers I actually CAN'T run at the right resolution.

  • Willing and Able

    Oh lovely! I TOLD the guys on my forum about this…check back with me in a year, and then I'll see about Vista. Right now…it's crap! Give it 3-6 months to get proper drivers.

    But wait! Shouldn't there have been enough time to get proper drivers design for Vista already? What is Microsoft DOING? Sigh…

  • to keep it simple :

    Same SHit , different OS 😉

  • RichardL

    I personally haven't had any permission problems with MP3s in Live 6.03 under Vista. (I've got problems with MP3s under Live 6 on XP and Vista, but that's different.)

  • Thanks, Richard. It's possible your mileage may vary. I'd say the resulting pattern is enough for Ableton users to at least dual-boot here, though. That said, note that some of the "native technologies" — like WaveRT audio — could be non-issues for some users. (In the case of WaveRT, for instance, that's PCI-only, so USB/FireWire users won't care.) So, with a couple of bug fixes, this could be fine.

    Worth mentioning, though, as unlike with the Intel Mac transition's Universal Binary, there's not a single up or down status for apps.

  • RichardL

    Yea, definitely mileage varies. The MP3 thing probably has something to do with file permissions on some folder. My Vista install was an upgrade from the Vista beta, so who knows?

    Apparently the brand new live 6.05 no longer disables Aero glass on Vista. Haven't tried it yet.

  • Oooh, Richard, think you're onto something … it probably has to do with where Live stores its internal MP3s — i.e., in something Vista considers a system folder.

    I'll check out 6.0.5. To be personally frank, I've pared down my Windows setup. Max is already running beautifully on Vista. If I get Live, I'm ready to make the jump. It's mostly the audio apps that are a big issue; the other apps are mostly fine.

    Windows Media Player does seem to find new and creative ways of refusing to play DVDs now, but that's about it. (Waiting on Vista-ready VLC.)

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  • john s

    I just started using live 6.01 on xp and it seemed to work fine then I got a vista laptop and the audio haas alot of pops latency and the impulse is sluggish I set up all the audio buffers and settings but still got bad performance I will have to go back to xp

  • Nuno

    Hi there.

    Its been almost a year since the last negative comments on Vista-Ableton performance. That should be good news for me, cause I just bought a pc with Vista.

    Also M-audio products have sufered with the OS change (I use a Firewire 410).

    After buying a new pc (with Vista) I went to install my sound card to get things started. Well,.. it just didnt work…at all. So I went to M-audio web site and got the drivers for it (the drivers are there to download). Now it works fine, no problem at all, it just works in a different way. In XP the reproduced sound would get to the sound card via input 1/2, and now the sound gets there via SP DIF, although audio signal still travels through the firewire cable. It probably was designed that way (still, Ill ask them) and it seems to work fine (seems – havent realy tested it intensively).

    About Ableton Live, well, it doesnt work properly (Im still using Live 5.2, yes I know, its too old).

    Im upgrading to live 7 this week and hope it works fine, just as my M-audio sound card does now.

    Can anyone tell me about Live 7 performance under Vista? Anything I should or shouldnt do to get a solid working station?

    Just a word on Microsoft.

    No wonder the guy is the richest man on the planet. This is a massive twist in every industry world wide.

    Every company (sound, graphics, etc.) has to spend time and money developing drivers, when they could spend that time and that money developing and improving their own software. Professional users would thank that.

    So, instead, what we have is a draw back while every company in the world sits down to solve some problem (lots of problems) Microsoft came up with.

    All this costs money, to me to you and to M-audio or Ableton.

    So next time I buy a computer, I dont think it will be a Windows OS based workstation. Why should I give any more money to a company that gives trouble instead of giving you solutions. This is not moving forward.

    Millions will follow, for sure.

  • vista sucks

    well i have just tried my ableton 7 with the numark dj IO and i must say it is terrible. the cpu goes to a hundred percent frequently leaving me with lots of sound stutter. f*** vista i am going back to xp.

  • jupiter8

    Just installed my copy of version 7 on my laptop running windows vista plus sp1. The zoom function in the sample display window is completely non-functioning! very frustrating. clicking and dragging in this wndow results in the cursor leaping up and to the left and no zoom… anyone else had this problem?

  • Max

    Just installed Ableton 7 and when I import music clips to Dj (reason I bought it) it sounds like a mobile phone conversation when you're losing signal – stttttuuuuutttteeeeerrrrring.

    Annoying – Goodbye PC hello Mac.