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