max7collage

Being “software about nothing” isn’t easy.

Max has for years been a favored choice of musicians and artists wanting to make their own tools for their work. But it’s been on a journey over more recent years to make that environment ever more accessible to a wider audience of people.

The aim: for beginners and advanced users alike, work faster, producing tools that work better. Okay, those are easy goals to set – a bit like all of us declaring we’re going to “get in better shape” in a few weeks from now on New Year’s Eve. But Max 7 somehow brings together a range of plotlines from years of development and evolution.

This is very quickly looking like the visual toolkit for media that Max has always longed to be.

What’s new?

Too long/ didn’t read? Here’s the quick version:

  • Patch faster and prettier with a new UI, styles, new browser, and loads of shortcuts.
  • Elastic, pitch/tempo-independent audio everywhere, syncable everywhere.
  • Loads of pitch correction and harmonization and pitch effects, straight out of the box.
  • Use Max for Live patches directly – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Use video and audio media directly, without having to make your own player.
  • Use VST, AU plug-ins seamlessly, plus Max for Live patches – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Make video and 3D patches more quickly, with physics and easy playback, all taking advantage of hardware acceleration on your GPU.

And what’s new in detail, as well as why it matters:

There’s a new UI. You’ll notice this first – gray toolbars ring the window. Somehow, they do so without looking drab. Objects are on the top, where they’ve been since the beginning, but now media files (like audio) are on the left, view options are on the bottom, and the inspector and help and other contextual information is on the right. (That’s all customizable, but so far everyone I’ve talked to has been happy with the default.) Max also recalls your work environment, so you can pick up where you left off – and it recovers from crashes, too.

My favorite feature: you can theme UIs with consistent styles.

You can browse and collect files easily. Clearly inspired by browsers like the one in Ableton Live, there’s a file browser for quick access to your content, and you can collect files in folders and the like from anywhere and drop them in. This isn’t the first version of Max with such a feature, but it’s the first one that makes managing files effortless. And you can tag and search in detail.

Reuse your patches as snippets. Got a set of objects you reuse a lot – like, for instance, one that plays back audio or manages a list? Select it, save it as a snippet, and then find it in that new browser. There are lots of examples snippets, too, interestingly pulled directly from the Max help documentation – so no more will you need to head to the help documentation and recreate what’s there.

Elastic audio – manipulate audio in pitch and time, separately. The Max and Pd family has been able to manipulate pitch and audio independently as long as it has had audio capabilities – provided you do the patching to make that work yourself. What’s changed is that it’s built in. Audio objects now support these features out of the box without patching. There’s a new higher-quality “stretch~” object that sounds the way we expect software to sound out of the box. And all of this interacts with a global transport.

This is of course useful to those making Max for Live creations for Ableton Live, as it means you can build in audio manipulation and everything will sync to a Live set. But it means something else: you might wind up building your own performance tool without even touching Ableton Live.

There’s a bunch of modular stuff included. Can’t afford a big rack of modulars? No room for hardware and cables? The Beap modules are now included, which let you combine software modules in much the same way you would physical modules.

Then if you do use hardware modulars, you can output the same signal via a compatible audio interface and control that.

Use media. Media files now have their own players, with clip triggering and playlist creation. Making a VJ tool, for instance, should now be stunningly easy, and working with audio playback (in combination with elastic audio) ridiculously straightforward.

Use plug-ins. VST, AU, straight out of the box, with the ability to customize which parameters you see. Max is now a powerful plug-in host – made more so by its ability to save and recall patcher and plug-in parameters in “Snapshots.”

Use Max for Live devices directly. No copy-and-paste – you can now open Max for Live patches even without owning a copy of Ableton Live. That’s another reason patchers may wind up just building their own performance environment.

To get you started, a bunch of classic Max for Live devices are included (like Pluggo), plus a whole mess of pitch shifters and players, vocoders, and elastic audio instrument/effects.

AutoTune the patch. retune~ is an intonation / harmonization object – what’s known colloquially to the rest of the world as “AutoTuning” (apologies to Antares for abusing their trademark). T-Pain, Max/MSP edition? There’s also a correction/harmonization device for Max for Live.

Use the Web. You can now embed the open source Chromium browser inside your patches (the WebKit-based embedded browser engine that’s used in Google Chrome), and use data from the Internet.

This is the version of Max visual users have been waiting for. I’ve saved some of the best for last. Jitter has long been the somewhat ugly stepsister of the audio stuff in Max, and it’s lately been showing its age. No more. Max 7 looks like it’s worth the wait. This is at last a version of Max that’s fully hardware-accelerated for video and easy to use.

  • Video playback and capture are rendered directly to 3D hardware, rather than getting bottlenecked on the CPU – and you can decode on your GPU. (Mac only for now, but Windows support is coming.)
  • A single jit.world object consolidates the stuff you need to output to the display – complete with physics and OpenGL 3D/texture support.
  • Video input and output syncs automatically, rather than requiring separate metro objects.
  • Render shadows.
  • Make your own objects in gen.
  • Use a massively-enhanced collection of live video modules (which interface with those modular objects, too).

Patch faster. Keyboard shortcuts quickly create and connect objects (at last!), you can zoom around the cursor with the ‘z’ key, and quickly apply transforms to patches.

No more runtime. The unlicensed version of Max opens patches and edits them; it just doesn’t save.

Available now. 30-day free trial, upgrades are US$149, and you can now subscribe for $9.99 a month.

The only thing you’ll be waiting on for a little while is, unfortunately, full Ableton Live support; no timeline on when Ableton users will see Max 7. I know they’ll want it with all those elastic audio features.

Videos:

The competition?

I don’t think there’s any doubt: Max is now the patching environment to beat, by far. Nothing else is anywhere close to this broad, and now nothing comes anywhere close to being this usable.

That doesn’t mean I think other environments should try to be Max.

For most music users, the big rivals remain Native Instruments’ Reaktor and Max’s own cousin Pd, and there’s still room for them.

Reaktor may be a lot narrower than Max, but it’s also still a terrific tool if you just want to build an instrument or effect quickly. It also has some rather nice granular tools. It is looking long in the tooth, though, and I’d like to see Native Instruments treat this release more seriously. It’s hard to put work and time into Reaktor patching knowing that Native Instruments won’t provide you any sort of runtime to share your work – anyone wanting to use it has to go buy Reaktor or Komplete. And good as those instrument/effects tools are, Reaktor’s media management for samples is appallingly bad. In fact, until Reaktor fixes that area, it’s hard not to imagine some people jumping ship for Max – especially with built-in plug-in support.

Pure Data (Pd) is a different animal. Max 7 is another reminder of why we need Pd. Even though both originally leapt from the mind of Miller Puckette, they’ve evolved into radically distinct beasts. It’s a bit like coming back to Galapagos Island after twenty years and finding one of your turtles has evolved into a space dragon while the other one became a washer/dryer. It isn’t just that Pd is free and open source software, it’s that it’s engineered in such a way that makes that an advantage. Pd is tiny, even as Max is huge. That makes Pd well-suited to embedding in apps and games, mobile and desktop, software and hardware, when Max can do nothing of the sort. Max 7 is also, however, a painful reminder that Pd needs a new UI. Maybe it should also be minimal (a Web-powered UI would sure make sense). But the time is now. (And a desktop Pd really wants plug-in hosting, but that’s another story.) My dream at the moment would certainly be that each becomes effortless enough to use that I can spend some proper quality time in both.

There are, of course, many other ways to solve problems in code and patchers, so I won’t go into all of them. But there, we live in a wonderful time for DIY creative tools. It doesn’t have to be a time drain, it doesn’t have to painful.

It turns out that software about nothing can be for more or less anyone.

We’ll look more in detail at Max soon; I’ve got some interviews lined up for when I’m back around Berlin.

Happy patching, people.

https://cycling74.com/max7/

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  • Lee Huddleston

    Max 7 runs fine in M4L – not sure what the full Ableton Live support refers to?

    • gavspav

      I think it refers to a)It being officially supported and b)An Updated API which takes advantage of the new features eg. Get warp markers and apply them to the stretch~ object etc

  • Lee Huddleston

    Max 7 runs fine in M4L – not sure what the full Ableton Live support refers to?

    • gavspav

      I think it refers to a)It being officially supported and b)An Updated API which takes advantage of the new features eg. Get warp markers and apply them to the stretch~ object etc

  • Great to see the BEAP modules included by default. Looks like it’s time to start working on my BEAP-based patch ideas, since now they will be instantly usable without external dependencies.

  • Great to see the BEAP modules included by default. Looks like it’s time to start working on my BEAP-based patch ideas, since now they will be instantly usable without external dependencies.

  • DPrty

    Don’t shoot me if I am wrong but Max doesn’t exactly give you the perfect run-time distribution model does it? …. I mean no VST export or .exe export. After spending three years at least learning the environment then another two creating anything serious it would be nice to share or sell the invested time. I will stick with Flowstone http://www.dsprobotics.com/index.html It outputs .exe’s and Vst,s + with the new .DLL support and Ruby built it in I think its by far the better choice for future distribution … for that matter Synthmaker is headed for 64bit and at least it lets you output a vst, so I would choose it over Max Reaktor etc

    • Rowin Grunder

      Was hoping that cycling74 added some sort of .vst or .au export option with making midi or even audio plugins. Flowstone is a great tool, but I’m more an Max then Flowstone user. Hopefully they’ll add that kind of support later on.

    • David Butler

      You can export as an executable (both on Windows and OS X). I’ve sold many applications developed in Max, and there are even a few on the Mac App Store. Also Max has had a 64-bit version for a while now…

    • Lloyd Barrett

      I haven’t tested it in Max7 (because i’ve only just got it) but in Max6 you could create an executable app that could be run independent of Max.

  • DPrty

    Don’t shoot me if I am wrong but Max doesn’t exactly give you the perfect run-time distribution model does it? …. I mean no VST export or .exe export. After spending three years at least learning the environment then another two creating anything serious it would be nice to share or sell the invested time. I will stick with Flowstone http://www.dsprobotics.com/index.html It outputs .exe’s and Vst,s + with the new .DLL support and Ruby built it in I think its by far the better choice for future distribution … for that matter Synthmaker is headed for 64bit and at least it lets you output a vst, so I would choose it over Max Reaktor etc

    • Rowin Grunder

      Was hoping that cycling74 added some sort of .vst or .au export option with making midi or even audio plugins. Flowstone is a great tool, but I’m more an Max then Flowstone user. Hopefully they’ll add that kind of support later on.

    • David Butler

      You can export as an executable (both on Windows and OS X). I’ve sold many applications developed in Max, and there are even a few on the Mac App Store. Also Max has had a 64-bit version for a while now…

    • Lloyd Barrett

      I haven’t tested it in Max7 (because i’ve only just got it) but in Max6 you could create an executable app that could be run independent of Max.

  • Bynar

    I skipped version 6 of Max mostly because of Max 4 LIve. I am an Ableton user and it just made more sense to take advantage of Ableton’s daw features and focus on audio effects and instruments in Max 4 Live.

    With this newest version of Max I am tempted to update and go the other direction. With VST support and the new time stretching functionality it almost makes sense to use Max as sort of an open ended DAW. Does anyone know what Detonate looks like these days? As of version 5, I recall Detonate getting a face lift in the sequencing ui department. I would certainly need some midi sequencing functionality if I was going to work almost exclusively in Max.

    • wetterberg

      it looks like this:

      http://i.imgur.com/aAhuPWy.png

      also, remember that we also have live.step, live.grid and so on to work with midi-like data.

      I am currently moving *from* Live *to* max – have been for quite a while now – and for me, the glory of that move is to NOT have a piano roll anymore. Sequencing is so much more than that metaphor, to me.

      • Lloyd Barrett

        I’m with you on that @wetterberg:disqus – looking forward to using all the lovely Hyakken sequencers in Max. I am wondering how you access this piano roll. Detonate help hasn’t helped.

      • Bynar

        I feel the same way. Max can take the linear workflow out of your music (perfect for noise and drones). For sequencing, I am more of a step sequencer kind of guy. I forgot about live.step and live.grid. At least detonate got a nice touch up. I remember it being extremely clunky in Max 4.5.

  • Bynar

    I skipped version 6 of Max mostly because of Max 4 LIve. I am an Ableton user and it just made more sense to take advantage of Ableton’s daw features and focus on audio effects and instruments in Max 4 Live.

    With this newest version of Max I am tempted to update and go the other direction. With VST support and the new time stretching functionality it almost makes sense to use Max as sort of an open ended DAW. Does anyone know what Detonate looks like these days? As of version 5, I recall Detonate getting a face lift in the sequencing ui department. I would certainly need some midi sequencing functionality if I was going to work almost exclusively in Max.

    • wetterberg

      it looks like this:

      http://i.imgur.com/aAhuPWy.png

      also, remember that we also have live.step, live.grid and so on to work with midi-like data.

      I am currently moving *from* Live *to* max – have been for quite a while now – and for me, the glory of that move is to NOT have a piano roll anymore. Sequencing is so much more than that metaphor, to me.

      • Lloyd Barrett

        I’m with you on that @wetterberg:disqus – looking forward to using all the lovely Hyakken sequencers in Max. I am wondering how you access this piano roll. Detonate help hasn’t helped.

      • Bynar

        I feel the same way. Max can take the linear workflow out of your music (perfect for noise and drones). For sequencing, I am more of a step sequencer kind of guy. I forgot about live.step and live.grid. At least detonate got a nice touch up. I remember it being extremely clunky in Max 4.5.

  • itchy

    looks sweet, but as for ableton is there going to eventually be max for live 7?

  • itchy

    looks sweet, but as for ableton is there going to eventually be max for live 7?

  • “It’s a bit like coming back to Galapagos Island after twenty years and finding one of your turtles has evolved into a space dragon while the other one became a washer/dryer.”

    wtf Peter!?

    • Robin Parmar

      I was just going to repeat this exact bit. All I can say is… best… quote… ever!

  • “It’s a bit like coming back to Galapagos Island after twenty years and finding one of your turtles has evolved into a space dragon while the other one became a washer/dryer.”

    wtf Peter!?

    • Robin Parmar

      I was just going to repeat this exact bit. All I can say is… best… quote… ever!

  • Xebulon

    Excellent. This looks like it will add two of my most-wanted features to Ableton – a time-stretching sampler (like Kontact’s “Time-warp” mode) and built-in auto-tune. Though I’m curious how the audio quality of these will stand up to the more dedicated (and expensive) options like Melodyne.

  • Xebulon

    Excellent. This looks like it will add two of my most-wanted features to Ableton – a time-stretching sampler (like Kontact’s “Time-warp” mode) and built-in auto-tune. Though I’m curious how the audio quality of these will stand up to the more dedicated (and expensive) options like Melodyne.

  • LMNOP

    1. I love the evolution Max has taken, and I love that M4L gives it a home in the world of so many people who would have otherwise thought that Max wasn’t something they could have a use for.

    2. Peter, your writing is becoming really great lately. It was always compelling, but lately it seems like you are just writing on a different level. Great stuff. You had be at the gate with the Seifeld reference.

  • LMNOP

    1. I love the evolution Max has taken, and I love that M4L gives it a home in the world of so many people who would have otherwise thought that Max wasn’t something they could have a use for.

    2. Peter, your writing is becoming really great lately. It was always compelling, but lately it seems like you are just writing on a different level. Great stuff. You had be at the gate with the Seifeld reference.

  • WetBoy

    Still no native multi touch support then 🙁

    • Lee Huddleston

      Unfortunately not 🙁 Maybe when they’ve recovered the Mira dev cost…. 😉

  • WetBoy

    Still no native multi touch support then 🙁

    • Lee Huddleston

      Unfortunately not 🙁 Maybe when they’ve recovered the Mira dev cost…. 😉

  • Jesse

    Is this not a suitable gui replacement option for PD?

    http://forum.pdpatchrepo.info/topic/8555/gui-objects-and-color-scheme

    I haven’t tried it yet – but it seems pretty nice, easy, and flexible. And if you’re already a person using a patching environment – I doubt this kind of simple tweak would feel daunting.

  • Jesse

    Is this not a suitable gui replacement option for PD?

    http://forum.pdpatchrepo.info/topic/8555/gui-objects-and-color-scheme

    I haven’t tried it yet – but it seems pretty nice, easy, and flexible. And if you’re already a person using a patching environment – I doubt this kind of simple tweak would feel daunting.

  • Robin Parmar

    I should point out that your TL;DR section says “Use Max for Live patches directly – even without a copy of Ableton”, and then two lines later “plus Max for Live patches – even without a copy of Ableton”. But I agree, it is the best feature for those of us who regard Live as a poor tool and get annoying that 90% of all the good Max development now goes to M4L. Worth saying twice, then!

  • Robin Parmar

    I should point out that your TL;DR section says “Use Max for Live patches directly – even without a copy of Ableton”, and then two lines later “plus Max for Live patches – even without a copy of Ableton”. But I agree, it is the best feature for those of us who regard Live as a poor tool and get annoying that 90% of all the good Max development now goes to M4L. Worth saying twice, then!

  • c-phreaq

    wonder if they’ll be offering a max for live user crossgrade..

  • c-phreaq

    wonder if they’ll be offering a max for live user crossgrade..

  • I agree, if you want a patching environment that can do “everything”, Max is a clear winner. But I still think there is a good case for more focussed alternatives including Audio Mulch and Bidule, both of had VST/AU support for years. Not to mention Integra Live which happens to be free and lets you write your own modules in Pure Data.

  • I agree, if you want a patching environment that can do “everything”, Max is a clear winner. But I still think there is a good case for more focussed alternatives including Audio Mulch and Bidule, both of had VST/AU support for years. Not to mention Integra Live which happens to be free and lets you write your own modules in Pure Data.

  • paradiddle

    Wow, they’ve really outdone themselves! I’m clearly gonna crossgrade to this! Great article Peter! I really like that you stay objective.when you write about something.

  • paradiddle

    Wow, they’ve really outdone themselves! I’m clearly gonna crossgrade to this! Great article Peter! I really like that you stay objective.when you write about something.

  • pinta_vodki

    Dat video! I’m in love!

    “Suppose the sample of a fat 808 drumbeat represents the waning innocence of my adolescent childhood. See how this buffer shuffler Max for Live device erodes the socially constructed narrativity of the sample by rearranging the time slices”.

  • pinta_vodki

    Dat video! I’m in love!

    “Suppose the sample of a fat 808 drumbeat represents the waning innocence of my adolescent childhood. See how this buffer shuffler Max for Live device erodes the socially constructed narrativity of the sample by rearranging the time slices”.

  • gray

    can we talk about that price point $99 upfront for a year’s subscription? at 4 years that’s the full price aka more than enough and a nice way to support a great company/product.

  • gray

    can we talk about that price point $99 upfront for a year’s subscription? at 4 years that’s the full price aka more than enough and a nice way to support a great company/product.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Reaktor Player?

    • Krzysztof Cybulski

      it only allows you to play certain ensembles, certified by NI

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Only? Not user patches? Wtf!

        • Krzysztof Cybulski

          unfortunately. I spent thousands of hours with Reaktor and eventually switchet to pd. this was one of the main reasons.

          • Mutis Mayfield

            I believed it was like a runtime… Even spamming Peter to update the post. I feel dumb but worst, desolated.
            NI c’mon! It is not so difficult to implement this…

          • Mutis Mayfield

            totally mesh… almost the max7 approach seems follow the pd path.

          • Casin Noah

            what?

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Reaktor Player?

    • Krzysztof Cybulski

      it only allows you to play certain ensembles, certified by NI

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Only? Not user patches? Wtf!

        • Krzysztof Cybulski

          unfortunately. I spent thousands of hours with Reaktor and eventually switchet to pd. this was one of the main reasons.

          • Mutis Mayfield

            I believed it was like a runtime… Even spamming Peter to update the post. I feel dumb but worst, desolated.
            NI c’mon! It is not so difficult to implement this…

          • Mutis Mayfield

            totally mesh… almost the max7 approach seems follow the pd path.

          • Casin Noah

            what?

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Btw, is there any possibility of new Pd-extended coming any time soon? Does anybody know?

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Btw, is there any possibility of new Pd-extended coming any time soon? Does anybody know?

  • Gilberto

    About Pure Data needing a new GUI, you should give Pd-l2Ork a try if you are on Linux (although it may be released for Windows and OS X in the future). It is an amazing fork of Pure Data in which the developers are focused in solving these types of issues: patch cords are now curved, you can change the colour schemes, you can have infinite undos, a new “tidy up” algorithm is implemented, it’s possible to bring object to the front/back, home and end keys now do work properly when typing an object’s name, resizing GUI objects and GOP is done by simply dragging a rectangle, you can paste source code directly on it, and more. The developers are very active and bug fixes and new features are always coming along. I really recommend this distribution.

  • Gilberto

    About Pure Data needing a new GUI, you should give Pd-l2Ork a try if you are on Linux (although it may be released for Windows and OS X in the future). It is an amazing fork of Pure Data in which the developers are focused in solving these types of issues: patch cords are now curved, you can change the colour schemes, you can have infinite undos, a new “tidy up” algorithm is implemented, it’s possible to bring object to the front/back, home and end keys now do work properly when typing an object’s name, resizing GUI objects and GOP is done by simply dragging a rectangle, you can paste source code directly on it, and more. The developers are very active and bug fixes and new features are always coming along. I really recommend this distribution.

  • Blake Goodchap

    “It’s a bit like returning to Galapagos Isle after many decades and discovering one of your turtles has progressed into an area monster while the other one became a washer/dryer.”
    Die Abnehm Lösung

  • Blake Goodchap

    “It’s a bit like returning to Galapagos Isle after many decades and discovering one of your turtles has progressed into an area monster while the other one became a washer/dryer.”
    Die Abnehm Lösung