Dirty and minimal – that’s how I’d describe first impressions of Amp, the just-announced Ableton amp modeling add-on for Live, available a la carte or free with Live Suite. It appears at first glance to be just what you’d expect: it’s a radically simplified user interface for modeling amplifiers (“Amp”) and cabinets (“Cabinet”). (Hey, shouldn’t that have been Amp and Cab, or does that make people think of wine and taxis?)

Or, as Ableton’s press release puts it, the aim is to “get good dirt, fast.” What you get in the add-on:

  • Live-styled, minimal UIs, emphasizing essential parameters
  • Inserts you can use to dirty up guitar tracks, clips, drums, synths – anything.
  • 7 amp models, covering “Clean,” “Boost” (think tremolo British), “Blues,” “Rock,” “Lead,” “Heavy,” and “Bass.” Names have been changed to protect the innocent… trademarks.
  • Cabinet, which instead of offering lots of mic positioning choices and the lot chooses the “optimized” positions for you you’re most likely to use.
  • A Live Lesson to get you started.
  • Integrated goodness, with Instrument Racks, Effect Racks, Live Clips, and 400 presets.

As with previous recent add-ons, Ableton chose a collaborator to bring in expertise. The developers are Swedish outfit Softube, who have done development work for the likes of Abbey Road Studios, TC Electronic, and even work on Marshall’s new JMD:1 hardware/software guitar amp. Their specialty is modeling vintage analog circuitry.

I asked Ableton’s Daniel Büttner, Sound Product Manager for Amp, to explain why we should care. “It’s fully integrated in Live,” he responds, “it’s extremely simple to use and you can get results quickly, and (a subjective observation – ) it sounds wonderful.”

And, says Daniel, Amp is built to be part of the Suite. “Amp greatly enhances the existing Suite instruments. Check out the preset “Bass-Mosh Pit Bass” for example – it is a rather thin sounding Tension preset run through Amp. The result is amazing.”

What Amp isn’t, it seems, is direct competition for guitar packages like IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube and NI’s Guitar Rig. Instead of tons and tons of tweaking and different models, it focuses on the basics. As such, I can certainly see it appealing to people who are deep into the Ableton way of doing things. And with clips and racks and such, while guitarists may insist upon more extensive toolsets in dedicated packages, this appears to be a more producer-friendly option for those who find the big guitar suites overwhelming.

US$129 as the add-on, but it seems more likely as a way of sweetening Suite; once you have Suite, it’s a free download. That means, Suite users, you can go grab it right now with 8.2.


  • aidan

    129?! Renoise got this for free in 2.5…

  • really nice from ableton to have made this update free for Suite owners !

  • Amp is exactly what I've been dreaming for. I personally tried or owned almost every software amp simulation but honestly, I don't care about having millions of differents simulations. Give me a few ones that sound good and keep the UI basic. The fact that Amp is integrated with Live is a plus. And yes, Softube is among the best for realistic amp simulation.

  • Putting myself in other shoes… yeah, I'm not sure I'd buy the add-on. On the other hand, if it popped up in Suite, I'd definitely use it. 😉

    I do actually love the effects in Record and Renoise, though. Just because you're an Ableton fan doesn't mean you have to do all your processing in Live. (I think that underlines that it's a missed opportunity that Propellerhead still haven't added ReWire hosting to Record, because a lot of Live users might use Record for mixing, processing, and mastering.)

  • toupeira

    Looks like it comes free with the new 8.2 update for Ableton Suite, nice!

  • grimley

    Peter, only problem is that Live doesn't support third party plugins in rewire client mode.

  • Yeah, that's true… so you can bounce anyway.

    But yes, for staying in Live, some great advantages — and this in combination with the AAS instruments could sound amazing. I think the Suite has gradually rounded out and become worth the money.

  • Tosh

    Hey can anyone tell me: what kind of processing is typically involved in this kind of simulation-device? Something like impulse-responce… FFT?

  • josquin2000

    "something like impulse-responce… FFT?"
    well, one can use 'fft'/convolution for this, but a more direct approach, one that provide better results over full parameter ranges would use non-linear look-ups, simple filter designs,delays, etc. ; all modeling the *actual* analog design. The best analog emulations take this approach: the application of a single 'color' snapshot of a piece of analog processing by FFT analysis is great, but models only a single set of parameters/settings/sizes. If you can tweak all the knobs/parmaeters simply, and it sounds good throughout, it is probably an analog circuit model, is my understanding.

  • oh! how dirty!

  • Ben Rosser

    @josquin2000 I do DSP and plugin development as a job so I can confirm that the approach you've described is typically the one used for the best results. I typically stay away from lookups though, and simply do the processing the raw way as I find that even with interpolation and low pass filtering based techniques used on the lookups you still tend to get aliasing or stepping issues, typically made even more noticeable when using non-linear tables. Also when using SSE or SIMD based processing for the DSP I tend to find the raw approach more efficient on most CPU/DSP architectures.
    This approach also tends to waste a lot less CPU than FFT/Convolution based approaches.

  • J. Phoenix

    I think the factor that's put me off a lot of "guitar amp modeling" plugin's has been a feeling more effort is being put into making the plugin's GUI look like a well-known brand name amp than making the plugin sound less like a square wave with a reverb.

    On the other hand, I've gotten great use out of guitar amp modelers for everything but simulating a guitar amp & cabinet.

    Maybe I could actually use this on my guitar!

  • @J. Phoenix: I've been impressed with the time I've spent with IK and NI modeling-wise. I do know they do the work, and a great job of it. Yes, they also put a lot into the graphics… so I appreciate the minimal look of the Ableton, for sure. Have to give this a listen, as the Swedes they hired do know what they're doing.

    Of course, if you want amp-like effects on things that aren't guitars, though, I then wonder if you really need an exact model of an amp all the time. It seems there are all kinds of distortion / gain / coloring you could potentially add, nice as the amp models can sound. But it's still good to have in your arsenal as a choice, at least.

  • Glass

    Now the only thing that's missing from Live is a nice built-in Convolution Verb. I'm addicted to RedWirez and Recabinet impulses, that's the only way for me to record good guitars with a computer now.

    A convolution verb with Live's interface it would kick ass, dragging and dropping aiff/wav impulses from the browser into the reverb would be the best workflow ever…

  • cms

    big fan of Ableton. like @glass, now I'm only missing a good, convolution reverb with Live minimal interface

  • @Glass:
    The only thing about which I'd have any doubt is what it'd be called. Let's see…

    I propose:

    Impul– oh, wait, nope, that's taken

    Other takers? Anyone want to set odds for these names? 😉

  • Now we just need Robert Henke to say "No one needs a convolution reverb."

  • Robert Henke

    No one needs a convolution reverb.

  • griotspeak


  • griotspeak

    let's try that again

    {obligatory complaint about Ableton not doing exactly as I wish}



  • Other than a couple vst synths, I use native ableton stuff exclusively. Basically this fills a big gap I've had in my setup for a long time now. Lovely work.

  • richard

    lol Robert.

  • That wasn't the real Robert Henke, FYI. But I'll let you imagine that it was anyway.


  • metasymbol

    I've just tested the amps with my guitar and in the first moment I was disappointed. But then after some tuning I think – the amps and cabinets are ok for most genres but the hi gain sounds are poor. For me this amp simulation is generally OK in most cases and when I need more higain I can use the free Kuassa Amplification Lite with build in IR Loader and sell my GR4 licence. http://www.kuassa.com/products/amplifikation-lite

    But 99 Euros is an expensive joke – I mean, I have bought GR4 for 129 Euros (Upgrade offer)… stay on the stage of reality, Ableton, we are in 2010 and Amp Sims are nothing special today.

    But as a Suite User I'm happy about this nice small freebee.

  • +1 for ableton stories! i dont even care what they're about 😉

  • im glad its free.
    they sold us an unstable program.
    so now there smooshing tings up with a freebie.

    99 bucks? would opt for GR4 instead.

  • massimo

    @Peter Kirn "The only thing about which I’d have any doubt is what it’d be called. Let’s see…"

    Ping? 😉

  • Jack

    It really aught to be free for all live users. Just scabby of them I think

  • @Jack: That's their pricing policy for add-ons; always has been. And my understanding is, for some people, they might indeed just one this and not anything else, so even though I think it makes the most sense as part of the Suite, they wouldn't do this unless someone was buying…

    @massimo: Ping, I like.

  • josquin2000

    Speaking of convolution reverbs:
    It's expensive, but I have to say I love the sound of the MOTU Digital Performer plugins "MasterWorks":
    a flawless LA-2 limiter, a quite nice brit console eq, and a *very* nice IR processor/convolver/reverb.
    All sound *great* through my Event monitors, and i love the ease of readjusting response length in the "ProVerb". And it's easy dragN'drop acceptance of my large and bizarre collection of sound destroying impulse responses: since I rarely use it to add "reverb" to mixes,& prefer seeing "reverb&tail" as an individual instrument setting, but am constantly looking for cool sound manglers.
    & boy, convolution can certainly do that….

  • josquin2000

    @Ben Rosser:
    so given the faster math libs on modern processors, you feel that having all DSP math done as full float calculations is appropriate?
    are round errors/truncation using 16bit floats audible when played on 16bit conversion systems?
    and 32 bit doubles (when played on 16bit conversion systems? )
    and 64 bit doubles on new architecture? (when played on 16bit conversion systems? )
    Inquiring minds wanna know, and know why each generation of dsp software eats more and more of my faster and faster processors, ;-)?

    just kiddin', ymmv, pax, curious as to what a daily practitioner thinks.

  • One argument against convolution reverbs in Live would be that it goes a bit against Live's real-time tendencies. And there are a lot out there.

    The MasterWorks stuff does sound great, and in case people aren't aware of this, are now available as plug-ins. So you have plenty of choices.

    You could also do some convolution with Max for Live; that might get interesting.

  • an article that comes to mind… making digital distortion / amp sims sound better with narrow-Q notch filtering–


    As far as Live effects go, I've always seen them as simple alternatives than outright replacements for a great VST. Live's Chorus, Reverb, Phaser and Flanger have always sounded more "academic" than results-oriented, and I'm sure this new amp sim (like Live's Dynamic Tube, Saturator and Overdrive before it) won't outright replace NI Guitar Rig, but I'll probably be another convenient thing to reach for.

  • Tosh

    Thanks for valuable insights!
    Much is beyond my abilities, but I guess the reason why I wanted to know is because I'm also mostly interested in being able to process sound in any way possible (that might sound cool), and it's cool that you can achieve much simply by building racks of devices already at your disposal insid live – and maybe with a bit of MAX thrown in there if your still not satisfied (…and you have the time to experiment a lot.)
    I've been experimenting with "dirt" using a combination of overdrive, fitering, saturation and some small space reverb and similarly short feedback-delay. Voila: An other custom rack for the library.
    It can sound pretty cool: Maybe a little like some analog gear that will never exist outside a digital signal-chain.

  • cms

    convolution reverb + max for live sounds really interesting.
    the point with Live is that a lot of "traditional" plugins, like compressors or bit crushing effect, plays another role in Live, i see everything in Live much more open + creative. that's my point here: Ableton, some of us want Live convolution reverb, not another convolution reverb plugin.
    since max for live things got really excited with Live

  • Von Bekesy

    One thing I would really love to see in Ableton: a tuner.

    It seems like such a no brainer, especially for a "live" instrument.

    Why is there no tuner in Ableton?

  • Ben Rosser

    @josquin2000 Haha, curiosity is a good thing! Firstly I don't use math libs. I do all of my DSP by hand using assembly language as I am pedantic about not wasting clock cycles. When using a SIMD processing system such as the SSE family I can process either four 32bit singles or two 64bit doubles per clock cycle (for a lot of the maths). As a result the additional overhead of using processing over lookups tends to be quite minimal and I personally find the positives of the additional processing outweigh the negatives.
    My thesis at university was based around how audible the differences are between different DSP and mix engine formats and in the double-blind tests we undertook we managed to prove that 64bit processing is audibly nicer to listen to even after being put through 24bit or 16bit converters. This was even the case when the people listening had no concept or prior knowledge of engineering or production.
    The reason that a lot of new generation DSP software eats more CPU is that unfortunately a lot of developers I've met are of the mindset that "we have more CPU available to use, it doesn't matter if we waste a little bit of it". Personally I don't like this mindset at all, any clock cycles my plugins waste are clock cycles could be being used elsewhere to do a job.

  • 23fx

    Now we just need Robert Henke to say “No one needs third party stuff , much more needs that !:,;!_è-automation to session and OSc.”

  • Aaron Zilch

    @Renzu Perhaps the reason you find Live's effects to sound academic is because they don't tend to have a lot of the extra unmentioned sonic coloring a lot of plug ins have. For instance the EQ roll-offs that are generally built into distortions.

    Once you start adding EQs and compressors into the chain or indulging in the amazingly complex parallel routing you can accomplish with Racks (and Racks within Racks within Racks) the FX start to sound more like the 3rd party guys. The tradeoff for the delayed gratification is way deeper control and the ability to simplify that control to you own taste with macros.

    You might have to use way more devices to get the sound you want but I ask anyone to see how many native Live FX it takes to approach the CPU tax of say Amplitube.

  • Really enjoying the amp and cabinet. Just another spice to add to the rack. Video is great too. not one instance of a guitar at all. – throw anything you want through it. thats the way to do it.

  • I think, and this is just my opinion, ABLETON should give away AMP as a present for all ableton 8 user not just the suite ones.
    BECAUSE all the bugs and crashes people had in the last year.
    COME ON Ableton, it's time to give something back to your clients.
    Keep your fans happy.

  • @Aaron Zilch — Sometimes you just want to throw an effect on and have it sound good without trying to augment it all day. But yeah, most of the time when I'm using Ableton's effects is in some very large effects chain or as a subtle background element. It's when I need something simple and predictable (rather than full of built-in color/character/behavior) is when Live's "academic" effects come in handy.

  • Mal


    Best High Gain amp sims right now are the ones from LePou/Poulin – Lextac, Soloc etc, he also has a leCab simulation

    And also those from Nick Crow – does a great 6505 emulation

    With some good cab sims e.g Guitarhack or Catharis these sims easily smoke the commercial competition