Ableton Live 11.3 hits public beta today, with more MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) throughout – including a new MPE-compatible synth, Drift. And Drift is available even in Live Lite.

This release is all about expression:

New expressive tweaks, updated MPE Control and other devices.
  • MPE support has been added to Analog, Collision, Electric, and Tension – so all the AAS-powered, physical modeling-based devices, which should be great with this kind of control.
  • MPE Control device is updated with new UI, some extra features, and reduced CPU load
  • Note Echo now supports MPE – so what you get is per-dimension feedback controls, meaning different notes can have different echo/feedback.
  • Core Library is updated

And then there’s a new synth called Drift, which surprisingly is available not just for the usual Standard and Suite editions of Live, but Ableton Live Lite, too. If you’ve got some version of Live 11, you now get Drift for free.

Drift is a lovely instrument in the Ableton mold – minimalistic, and somewhere between vintage hardware and contemporary digital design. And it’s also MPE-capable, though that isn’t the only reason to use it. Ableton describes it somewhat enigmatically as “inspired by classic hardware but borrowing heavily from modern synths and Eurorack modules.” But that isn’t wrong, obviously.

It’s really Live’s missing bread-and-butter synth – simple in a way that will encourage you to use its easily accessible modulation controls and (of course) expression of some kind. Sometimes less is more.

The fact that they’re giving this away for free with Lite does make me think they might have some MPE-capable hardware coming. But for now, tons to play with so let’s not worry about that.

Let us know what you think of Live 11 and Drift and – if you’ve got it, which MPE-capable controller you might be playing. (I have an overdue update scheduled this week on Linnstrument, so stay tuned.)

Live 11.3 is Now in Public Beta [Ableton blog]