It’s nice to get what you ask for. More than any recent release I can recall, Ableton Live 9.2 feels like it’s ticking off a task list of user requests. The software enters (a very stable, in my experience) public beta this week. There’s nothing earth-shaking, but I know CDM has enough Ableton users that this will matter.
To get there, though, be forewarned: Ableton is dropping support for some older Mac and Windows operating systems. (10.6 and earlier / Vista and earlier, respectively.)
If you make the cut, though, you’ll likely find some welcome changes in this free update for Live 9. See if these complaints sound familiar to you – as now they get addressed:
You want to warp techno and house without headaches. This one was especially maddening: you drop a completely regular, four on the floor, 125 bpm track into Live, and get … a whole bunch of complicated warp markers and tempo changes? Uh, that’s note right. Ableton says they’ve improved Auto-Warp and downbeat detection to better recognize fixed tempos. No more “four scattered on the walls, ceiling, and your face.” Back on the floor. Good.
You wish warped tracks sounded better. Ableton promises improved Complex and Complex Pro warp modes with “punchier transients, even at extreme settings.” So far, the difference is subtle, but sounds good – think clearer rendition of sharp, percussive sounds.
You want better latency compensation. The big development here, and one we’ve waited for, is that automation is fully latency-compensated. Previously, adding automation could through off latency compensation for devices. Also, Ableton says they’ve improved latency performance with Max for Live and third-party plug-ins.
Some more details on the latency compensation improvement, from Ableton: “Latency-compensated automation refers to applying delay compensation to automation events. Previously, clip contents were compensated but automation breakpoints were not. This meant that in Sets with latency-inducing plug-ins, automation might occur before the corresponding events in clips. This doesn’t happen anymore.”
You play an instrument, and forgot a tuner. There’s now a Tuner built-in. Yep, I think we had a whole article about this, so thanks!
You want to play pads on your whole Push, not a little corner of it. Here’s the thing: Ableton’s Push hardware isn’t an MPC. So a 16-pad grid is a small corner of the controller. In Push’s Drum Rack mode, that allows the use of a step sequencer with the extra pads. But maybe you’d prefer to wail away on all 64 pads. Now, you can switch between these two modes. (Novation has actually made the lack of a step sequencer on their Launchpad Pro a selling point for this very reason. If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, though, Push’s ability to choose may be ideal.)
They’ve also released a new video showing that off – below.
In preferences, you can now toggle “Start Transport with Tap Tempo” to tap tempo your way into playback. (Sing along: “Uno! Dos! Tres! Catorce!”)
You can right-click clips and choose “Warp Selection as x-Bar Loop” — I really like this one.
Thank you for this one, too. (I think if you can understand what this combination of words means, you were annoyed by this just like me!) “Modifying the Arrangement loop brace with mouse or keys will not affect the current track selection, while previously all tracks were selected as soon as the braces where adjusted with the mouse.”
But it also breaks backwards compatibility. Live 9.1x brought a lot of bug fixes. It’s a stable release. And if you’re running Windows XP, Windows Vista, OS X 10.5, or OS X 10.6, you’ll need to stick with it, because 9.2 drops those operating systems. I think this is mainly an issue on the Mac side; Windows users, the recent Windows updates have been really solid and appear to run everything. I know there are some Mac users, though, who can’t upgrade their OS on their hardware. My advice: consider that system one that you maintain with the current combination of OSes, drivers, and applications. If you want the new stuff, do that on a new system.
Plus a bunch of hardware controller fixes. One thing I think people don’t realize about Ableton is that they actually take responsibility for modifying a lot of the remote scripts supplied to third-party hardware controllers; there isn’t a major controller on the market that isn’t in some sense a collaboration between the maker and Ableton. It’s worth looking through the changelog here to see if there’s anything for the hardware you use.
Push is vastly improved in a lot of little ways. Speaking of controller support, Ableton has lavished attention on their flagship controller.
Finally: better aftertouch, the ability to use the ribbon as a mod wheel, and more control over parameters with the encoders.
I’m going to paste this stuff here, as it’s all pretty significant:
Added 64 Pad Drum Rack mode for Push. The Note button now toggles between the Drum Rack three section layout and the 64 Pad Mode.
Improved Aftertouch response and added an Aftertouch Threshold setting in the Push User Preferences
Added Modwheel functionality for the Push Ribbon Controller. Tapping the Ribbon Controller while holding “Select” toggles between Pitch Bend and Modwheel function.
Holding “Delete” and tapping an encoder on Push resets the respective parameter to the default setting.
Holding “Shift” while turning an encoder on Push changes the respective parameter with finer resolution.
Improved buttons readability on Push. The Repeat and Metronome buttons now blink if active.
When recording using Repeat on Push, the MIDI notes would be recorded with a negative offset with respect to the grid if the option “Reduced Latency when Monitoring” was on. This caused the very first note in the Clip not to be played back at all.
Using “Shift” + “Add Effect” or “Add Track” while in Scales mode would cause the display to show the Note Layout options even after releasing the Shift button.
When selecting a Drum Rack Pad set to Multisample mode with Push, pressing “Device In” with Push would automatically select the first device in the Chain list, and it would not be possible to go back to the enclosing Instrument Rack device.
— on top of a lot of stuff for Mac users with newer toys. If you hadn’t upgraded to 9.1.7, you should definitely grab the latest stable version, too if you a) run OS X 10.10 Yosemite or b) use a Retina Display. There are loads of improvements for those two groups.
Beta release notes:
Beta download (sign-up required):
Here’s noted controllerist Mad Zach in a performance produced by Ableton with Push. And yes, you’ll notice he’s using all 64 pads even with a Drum Rack.
Having spent years covering the monome phenomenon, I think it’s also worth noting how different this sounds from a monome performance, because of the addition of velocity and continuous pressure. Players of the monome (starting, notably, with Daedelus) developed styles built around the sort of flatness of the controller grid. Sometimes, that led to edgy, in-your-face beats, and sometimes it simply allowed subtlety to come from varying volume levels in a chopped up samples.
But here, Zach is able to play fairly aggressively, but with swells that come from his actual playing. You can close your eyes and listen to this and somehow know it’s not a monome – at least in my opinion. (No double-blind test to try that out.) As such, it also sounds a lot more like an MPC performance.
He’s — really good with the technical facility in his fingers. I still have some personal resistance to playing Push myself, I think because I grew up playing the piano, but it can work.
Speaking of Zach, here’s his new music video, as premiered on VICE. “Haunting, grimy bass” with “twisted beats” – yep, VICE nails it. And Zach flies in the face of the belief that Americans in Berlin just make sound-alike dark techno.
Check out his EP.
Nice to remember again, as always, that all these little fixes and tweaks and software updates do eventually serve the purpose of making music. We are all of us in a dance between engineering and art.