The new Live: perhaps no one needs it, but I’ll bet a lot of people will want it.

Ableton’s site is now live with all the Live 8 information. But let’s cut straight to which bits are likely to be really significant in the new version of Live (aside from the new Akai controller and Max for Live support coming later this year, of course).

In no particular order, here are my top 8 new features:

1. Extract grooves: Take an audio or MIDI source. Extract a groove. Build a groove library, then apply it to anything you want, in real-time. Yeah, you can pretty much stop reading here. There’s also a built-in library of groove patterns for people who can’t figure out how to make their own. (Count on extensive third-party support here, too.)

2. Real-time, non-destructive, groove-ready quantize: This was a huge deficiency of Live since the beginning. Now it’s not.

3. A new Warp Drive: Finally, you can drag warp markers directly (far more intuitive), and slice by transient analysis, too. You’ll also find new warp modes (Enhanced Beats, Complex) for better-quality warping, meaning fewer trips to (ahem) other tools.

4. Looper: A lot of you have been waiting for this. There’s finally a tool that lets you record a loop, then set the tempo for your whole project based on the length based on that loop. The Looper has other nifty features, too, like drag-and-drop support, multiple Looper sync (like having various loop pedals going at once), overdubs, and remote operation with a footswitch.

5. Vocoder: With an adjustable number of bands, formant controls, and easy audio assignments, no less. What makes this even sweeter is, of course, the fact that Ableton’s co-founder told you you didn’t need one, got caught on tape, and got his own dance remix. I think it’ll really shine for synth and percussion timbres, and sound design has always been an attraction of the Live world.

6. More effects – included without buying the Suite: Not only do you get the Vocoder in Live, but a new Overdrive, brick-wall Limiter (which, admittedly, can be good for live performance), and a Frequency Shifter. The sleeper hit, though, may be Multiband Effects.

7. Real-time Arrangement Crossfades – and it looks like, finally, this same feature means you get real curves. If this supports the crossfade curves of Live’s Session View crossfades, it means you get nice curves without needing fancy curve editing tools – a very good thing.

8. Use Plug-ins Beyond the 128 Parameter Limit: Frequent plug-in users ran into big control and automation problems when they found Live choked on plug-ins with too many parameters. You still can’t access every parameter beyond a certain point, but you can choose whichever parameters you need, which is just as good if not better.

And there’s more. You can scrub and view waveforms from the Browser, which makes previewing them – well, actually practical. There’s a zoom option, though I’ll have to try it in practice to see if it’s really practical to glance at the screen from across the room (and I hope it’s possible to hide more stuff to make this work). You can group tracks, do step recording, use an insert marker, and select multiple parameters at once across different tracks. All those little things make a big difference, I know.

There’s also a “Share Live Set” feature that lets you collaborate on the Web with permission features, collaboration management tools, and “no issues with external plug-ins and instruments” (so presumably it incorporates some freezing where needed). More on this as we find out … more about it.

New in the Suite

  • The library has been reorganized. The library is easier to navigate, includes new sounds, and new tools. This almost deserves its own story – the sound library in the Suite was, to me, one of the weakest points in Live in terms of consistency, and it looks like Ableton is working really hard to make it quite the opposite. There’s also a Latin Percussion module.
  • There’s a new Collision instrument for physically-modeled percussion sounds. This is another creation of the good folks at AAS. I love Electric and Strike – they’re idiosyncratic, but can sound really organic, and their unpredictable nature makes them even more fun for sound designers. Expect some unusual-sounding drum tracks.
  • Operator has new filters, waveforms, modulation. All the things you wanted in Operator, you now get. You can draw waveforms directly for additive-style synthesis, which previously required a separate tool. You get modulation options for LFO and pitch envelope (something I asked for when I first reviewed it.) And you get the adjustable slopes for envelopes that Sampler has.

Also important: the price is lower. Live starts at US$449; the whole suite is now US$699. That helps make Live more competitive with stuff like Apple Logic Studio, which overshadowed the announcement of Suite by bundling everything at a relatively low price.

So, when do you get your hands on this? If you buy Live now, you’ll get a free upgrade – so that tells you something. Ableton promises second quarter, with a beta coming soon. (We’ll have it.)

Check out the videos and full feature descriptions at

Bonus! Today’s contradictory statement of the day: “Randomize audio and MIDI timing for a more human feel.” Okay, that’s not actually true since (for the most part) humans aren’t mathematically random (or at least not humans you’d want to play music with), but a little randomization is nice to have nonetheless.