Ableton Live 7 was officially announced today. I’m here in an airport on a layover, but that gave me an idea: what does this mean, in plain English, without mentioning any specific features (with a couple of key exceptions), in a way you could explain to a friend in an elevator.

  • The core sound engine is improved, including higher-quality effects. Most noticably, the Compressor sounds fantastic.
  • Hardware lovers can now insert physical instruments as though they were plug-ins.
  • Time signature changes and tempo nudge should please live musicians and DJs.
  • A Drum Rack feature consolidates a whole bunch of workflows, from slicing up beats and assigning them to pads to easily creating complex chains of samples, synthesis, and effects on individual pads. This means remix artists, live performers, and DJs will all be able to more flexibly create beats.
  • In addition to the standard Live version, there’s now a Suite for a few hundred extra that bundles in more instruments.
  • You can also pick up new instruments a la carte, from a synth that models real-world instruments to sampled drums and an orchestral library. Ableton’s innovation here is reworking these instruments with their hallmark minimalist, consistent interface.

In short, Live 7 sounds better, is more flexible about rhythm and tempo, does the usual Ableton yearly release housecleaning, and introduces a simple but deep new method for working with virtual racks of drum pads.

Live Suite does for Abletonland what Logic’s instruments do for Logic Studio, but refined into a common set of interfaces and available a la carte (which could be good news or bad).

That’s the preview; more hands-on coming soon. Now, on to Australia, assuming my ground crew can fix my 747’s brakes. (Hmmm… you know what? I’ll wait rather patiently for that.)

Burning questions list: Okay, like 30 seconds after that was posted, someone already has a really good, technical question. So leave them here, and I’ll try to get to them over the coming weeks.