Ableton has been busy, and it looks like Live users could be very happy indeed when the beta starts, coming soon. (I expected we might see the beta at NAMM, but I’d rather wait if it means a more stable version.)

Here are a few of the key features in the new release:

  1. New Sampler: Called … wait for it … Sampler! Imagine the simplicity of the, ahem, Simpler, but with some really nice Ableton-y features. Aside from much-needed multisampling and the ability to import a wide variety of multisample formats, think excellent sound-shaping capabilities like filter morphing, MIDI-modulated playback and granular modulation, and of course Simpler-style Live integration. While I was skeptical at first, it does sound like we may want another multisampler, especially at a time when a lot of multisamplers have gotten needlessly complex for the way a lot of us use them. The only bad news: as with Operator, you’ll have to pay extra (US$199) to run Sampler. Once we get our hands on it during the beta, though, we should quickly see whether it’ll be worth it.

  2. Multicore and Multi-processor Support: As I’ve been saying all year, the one feature of Live 6 you may appreciate most is invisible. Better multi-threading and multi-processor support should benefit AMD Athlon x2, Dual G5, Pentium D, and Core Duo users alike, whether you have multiple cores or multiple processors. (This should continue to be important as more quad machines ship next year.) Live is an application perfectly-suited to multithreading because of its deeply real-time, performative nature, so I can’t wait to benchmark the new version.
  3. Deep Freeze: Multicore support is great, but to keep you from having to buy a new computer because your project got too complex, Deep Freeze will make it possible to edit a lot of the details of frozen tracks.
  4. Movie Import: It’s been a long time coming, but finally you’ll be able to score video/film in Live. And Ableton looks like they intend to leverage Live’s major advantages, so you can warp directly to picture.
  5. Instrument/Effects Racks: Combining things is big at the moment (see Reason’s Combinator and Kore’s KoreSounds), but Live has done this in a very elegant way. A rack looks like a very simple but potentially powerful way of combining instruments and effects into layers and chains. The most exciting part for me is that the eight knobs at the top of the rack can control multiple parameters. (And thank you, Ableton, for choosing eight knobs, which is a useful arrangement and available on almost every MIDI device I own — I’m still trying to figure out why Reason’s Combinator opted for four.)

  6. Project Management Tools: These group together all your presets and settings in useful packs, which should be really nice for moving from a desktop studio machine to a mobile machine or for collaborating. Now if they’d just let us switch projects easily onstage …
  7. Eight-band EQ: Yep. We needed this. Now we have it. Not much else to say here.
  8. Warmth and Dirt: New effects include an analog-style saturator, 24dB filters in Operator, new Operator FM algorithms (though I’m still busy with the old ones), and a Dynamic Tube. And, as usual, Ableton understands that we like to take their software and do stuff we’re not supposed to. Here’s what they have to say about the new Dynamic Tube processor: blah, blah, vacuum tubes, blah blah “it’s also possible to push the tube characteristics to never-before-heard extremes.” Oh, I’ll be pushing, as usual.

  9. More Control Surface Support: One of my favorite features in Reason 3 was its ability to deal intelligently with a variety of control surfaces and keyboards. Now Live 6 also plans many automatic mappings, too. Speaking as a ReMOTE SL user, I’m particularly happy about this, because support for the SL Automap feature should be enhanced in Live 6 based on previous word from Novation and Ableton.
  10. Warp Multitrack Projects: This is buried in the “other” category of new Live 6 features, but if I’m reading this right, it sounds pretty interesting to me.

The only disappointment I’ve head is that many Live users I know were hoping Live 6 would address the challenges of switching between sets live onstage. I’ve been working on some interesting ways of doing this via AppleSript, in the meantime, however, as well as some PC-based solutions, so if you’re willing to do some hacking, there are some techniques to try. Updated: Logickal notes that the new version does include set merging, which for some people may be a helpful solution. (I still prefer to keep projects in different sets, but this feature could have a number of uses.)

Otherwise, this looks like another fantastic Christmas-in-July release from Berlin. It looks great in the videos and on paper, and while there’s no one banner feature, there are probably more individual features than I’ve ever seen in a whole-number Ableton release. Now, we just need the beta to see what it’s like in reality.

From Ableton:
New in Live 6
The New Ableton Sampler

For another set of impressions on this, reader Logickal points us to his extensive entry on his blog FlightDynamics:
Live 6 Official