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Ableton Live Audio & Loop Sequencing Software
For Mac and Windows

Ableton Live 1.5 "Excellent performance features in a Loop Sequencer"

Beat Mode gives Ableton Live a 9 out of 10 star rating!

New! Latest Ableton Live Version 5 is a smoking monster!

Ableton Live 1.52 is a revolutionary new twist on audio sequencing software and is a must have program that earns a spot in our Top 10 Desert Island Software Programs. I'd be at a loss to not be able to utilize the many benefits this software offers and have come to rely upon it for quickly and easily fleshing out song arrangements. That's not to say this program is perfect - far from it - in fact I have assembled a substantial list of negatives that can occasionally make working with Ableton Live somewhat clunky and difficult. Despite the drawbacks, few programs have gained my admiration as much as Ableton Live has.

What exactly is Ableton Live??? Live is a performance oriented audio and looping composition tool. Live is not your classic midi sequencer with audio capabilities. It is not just another looping tool. And it is not a clone of Sonic Foundry Acid. But to say it is loop jamming software or a DJ tool misses much of what Live is all about.

LIVE has changed the way I work composing music. LIVE is one of those rare applications that despite having it's share of negatives, remains an incredible must have program. Granted, much more will be tweaked down the road as this program matures, and it already offers so much functionality these negatives can be easily overlooked. I can at least!

With Live, you can:

Play and record samples
Process unrestrained chains of effects
Browse and pre-listen to samples
Post-edit your performances in full detail
Time-warp sounds live
Integrate into studio or stage environment

click for screenshot
click for full arrange window screenshot

Live allows you to bring together audio material from various sources. All the samples used are adjusted to the tempo of the song in real time and without changing the pitch. Even long pieces with tempo variations play in perfect sync.

Samples can be played back and new ones can be recorded using the mouse, computer keyboard or MIDI Notes. Drag-and-drop can be used to put together any sequences of effects for sound editing - all this while the music continues to play.

Everything you do during the session is recorded and can be post-edited in detail, including all the automation of the mixer and effects.

Since loading Live onto my P4 Windows 98 SE computer, I have adopted a whole new way of creating compositions. That's not to say I no longer utilize programs like Acid, Fruity Loops, Sonar or Cubase etc., but more and more I find myself first powering up Live and testing combinations of loops and getting lost in the jam. It's an addictive process.

I have to admit, Ableton Live was one of the more eagerly anticipated pieces of software for me in recent times. I rarely load DEMOS but did install the version 1 DEMO and was blown away. I could not wait to get my hands on the full version. By the time I got it, an all new and improved version 1.5 was available, and many of the issues users had and were complaining about were already resolved. For instance Rewire support was added, as well as other features and improvements, not to mention bug fixes.

Audio Experiments at Toxic Sound Lab

Ableton Live is much more of a program than initially meets the eye. I was expecting primarily a loop sequencer that had some performance capability with effects and such, but didn't realize just how important of a composition tool it could be in song creation. Now, with it's Rewire implementation LIVE integrates super easily within Cubase, Sonar and other Rewire capable programs opening up a world of composition options.

LIVE is a great tool working with Rewire in Cubase to flesh out arrangements and compose tunes. It's super easy to open it up and load in a few loops and then play along with them using fave VST Instruments or outboard synths. A big complaint I have often heard about live is the lack of VSTi integration - but I say SO WHAT! Who needs that feature when you can open up a host like Cubase or Reason using Live as a Rewire slave and you have every tool the host offers. Side by side, Cubase and Live are the ultimate dream team.

In the last couple of years I have found myself recording more and more of my own original loops. Short 2, 4, 8, 16 or even 32 bar snippets of audio I create in programs like Reaktor, Fruity Loops, Orion and even Cubase utilizing VST Instruments. I've assembled a large library of these custom loops, and until the arrival of LIVE I used to open up Acid and import and then draw in different combinations of loops. That is still a great way of creating tunes but nothing beats jamming with a fresh batch of loops in LIVE. Or I'd fire up Cubase and import a loop and compose over it. But that often seemed restrictive. Not much of a jam session.

But now, I often open up LIVE and from the explorer load in big batches of loops of all different kinds and experiment by "jamming" in LIVE. By jamming, what I mean is playing and layering different loops together in LIVE and on the fly switching and adding new ones, regardless of the original tempo of the various loops.

So in a sense LIVE is kind of a LOOP COMPOSTION TOOL but with performance oriented features that add an improvisational atmosphere and turn static loop construction into a jam session. Along with VST Instruments in a Rewire host a new world of loop composition awaits you!

Well, I said there are negatives... so here is my list for the programmers at Ableton! Please fix these things!

Track Names - too small width - not adjustable - cuts off end of file name - should be able to grab and stretch columns to reveal full names - would be nice to be able to rename in track so as to differentiate files with similar names.

If you are only using a couple of tracks why not be able to widen them???

Track columns - height - should be adjustable - i.e. hide levels if desired. Can then see all tracks much easier if needed.

HI-Q - tedious to manually one by one assign hi-q quality setting for each file. Should be global setting as well to set ALL files HI-Q.

Export problem in Cubase - takes multiple tries. Yes, it may be a Cubase thang.

Should have Scissors tool etc. and be able to copy and paste by dragging.

Snap to grid problems. Not intuitive to set snap to.

Should list most recent files played.

Should have right click mouse settings - copy, cut etc.

Well, that said... Ableton LIVE is one hell of a program. I'd hate to be without it! Whether just jamming for fun, or trying out combinations of loops for compositions, LIVE is a must have program! It works well with Rewire and is easy to use.

If you ever dabble with loops, you will definitely be pleased to have Ableton Live in your toolbox.

Ableton Live 1.5 gets a 9 out 10 star Beat Mode rating.
"INDISPENSABLE - must have - the cream of the crop!"

Beat Mode Ableton Live Links

Ableton Web Site with LIVE product info and tutorials

M-Audio Product page for Ableton Live review of Ableton Live

Mix review of Ableton Live 1.0

Monolake presents Live - skins and more

Streamworks review of Ableton Live

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