Developer Ableton has announced Live 10, the next version of its popular music production software. Live 9, Ableton’s last major upgrade to the title, came out in 2013 alongside the debut of Push, a hardware controller for Live with 64 pads designed to play and program beats.
There’s a lot of new, notable changes to Live in version 10. Ableton is introducing four new plugins — the tools used for everything from sound creation to signal processing — that will come standard with the software: Wavetable, a synth that promises “deep, flexible modulation,” Echo, a multi-purpose delay unit for adding texture, Drum Buss, an all-in-one drum sculpting tool, and Pedal, which delivers overdrive and warm distortion. Some previous plugins have been given a refresh: Utility now has an improved gain range and the ability to mono bass separately, and EQ Eight and Split Stereo Pan have extended low frequency slopes for finer control. You can also look forward to a new library of sounds.
One of the more exciting new features in Live 10 might be initially glossed over by many: Collections. Ableton describes Collections as a way to organize favorite or most-used plugins, sounds, and more, but really, it’s a customizable tagging system. It’s literally something I pined for in a tweet earlier this year.
Man how cool would it be if Ableton let you organize your sample library with assigned tags instead of a traditional folder structure— Dani Deahl (@danideahl) June 30, 2017
Ableton’s Collections don’t quite work the way I had envisioned (which was more akin to Soundbase tags), but they’re still super useful. A Collection is essentially a tag, marked by a title and designated color. They appear in the program’s left hand navigation, and items can be tagged to appear in multiple Collections. In the example below, the Glue Compressor is marked by green, purple, and gray squares as it’s been tagged for the “Favourite Effects,” “Mixing,” and “Mastering” Collections.
How Collections are organized and named is up to the user. Maybe more straightforward Collections like “Favorite Vocals” make sense for you. Or, you could create Collections based around types of sounds, like “Pop” or “Grime.” The system’s not quite perfect — Collections are only top-level tags. I couldn’t, say, search for a sound tagged both “Kick Drum” and “Distorted” (which was my dream situation) — I’d have to create a separate Collection for “Distorted Kick Drums.” That said, Collections should still prove a practical(ish) way to categorize and easily access frequently used elements.
Other workflow changes for Live 10 include the introduction of groups within groups, the ability to rename Live’s inputs and outputs, multiple MIDI clip editing, which allows for the content of two or more clips to be displayed in one view, a multitude of new keyboard shortcuts and clip interactions, and at last, the option to export audio as .MP3. Live 10 will also support note chasing, which is the ability to trigger and play a MIDI note even if playback is started in the middle. Other Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Logic and Pro Tools already have note chasing, but currently in Live 9, MIDI has to be frozen (bounced to audio in the background) in order to initiate playback from the middle of a MIDI note.
There’s also a new feature called Capture, which is a mechanism always running in the background that’s listening for and temporarily cacheing MIDI input. Capture can recall MIDI notes previously played in a session, even if they weren’t recorded. Say you’re messing around on a keyboard and stumble upon the perfect chord or melody — Ableton will remember it, even if you can’t. Simply click Capture, and the MIDI is recalled, available to place in your project. It even guesses the tempo, and assigns the notes accordingly.
One change you won’t see but will help with your CPU load: Max for Live is now fully built into Live 10. A programming environment that allows users to build their own instruments and effects, Max for Live was previously supported as an add-on product for purchase but will now come already integrated in the software itself. This means Max for Live devices should be more stable, load faster, and use less CPU.
The graphics in Live’s interface have been touched up, and are now sharper, with a thinner font used for clip and channel titling. There’s also some small color changes and a range of new skins, all of which Ableton says will make the program easier to read across different displays and in a variety of environments, from dark clubs to brighter workspaces. If the screenshots of Live 10 are anything to go by, it is crisper than how Live 9 currently looks on my MacBook.
Push, Ableton’s hardware component for Live, has a few updates of its own. Notes in a clip are now displayed directly on Push, the interfaces for several devices — like Wavetable and EQ Eight — can now be displayed on Push’s screen, and a new step sequencing layout allows for note sequencing and real time playing to happen concurrently.
Ableton Live 10 will be available in early 2018 for purchase at Ableton.com and various retailers. The download version of Ableton Live 10 will cost $99 for Live Intro, $449 for Live Standard, and $749 for Live Suite. The box version of Ableton Live 10 will cost $99 for Live Intro, $499 for Live Standard, and $799 for Live Suite. Check out the full list of new features in Live 10 on Ableton’s website.