Ableton Live 9 Review

Ableton Live 9 Standard at a Glance
Ableton Live 9 Yes No
Price $449
Free Trial x
Third Party FX x
Film Scoring x
OSx x
PC x
iOS x
Android x

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Ableton Live 9 is a very intriguing program because it was designed with the intention that it be used as an instrument/integral part of a live performer’s setup, while also maintaining the capacity to function as a fully operational and highly capable DAW in the studio as well. Ableton Live 1 was initially released commercially in October 2001 and has since been providing a segue, merging DAW and stage. As a pioneer in its niche, it has naturally attracted performers whose genres rely heavily on spontaneity in their productions, allowing them to seamlessly create, on the spot ,in front of an audience; bands like Caribou have been featured on Ableton’s home page, touting Live as a staple in their live show. Here are some fast facts about this platform:

1. The Price Point

There are three levels to Ableton Live 9, Intro, Standard and Suite, which naturally all ascend in price with the latter being most expensive. The Intro version starts at a not too shabby, $99, but is limited in editing/production/and input options. Standard, the most commonly used version available weighs in at pretty hefty $449, and is accompanied by all the features necessary for most users to operate at full capacity. Finally, the big fella, Live 9 Suite, is available to you at a whopping $749, is fully loaded, and is obviously the most extensive version in the Live 9 collection. Before you decide you’re ready to pull the trigger, Ableton gives you the opportunity to test drive it for 30 days, no harm, no foul.

2. Capabilities and Features

Live 9 certainly isn’t a beauty queen in terms of aesthetics, but what it lacks in curb appeal it more than compensates for in functionality. It’s features range from recording workhorse to performance powerhouse, its only real restriction being you, the creator, and how much you’re willing to explore what it offers. For the purpose of this review, we’re going to focus on Standard.

Ableton Live 9 Standard can be broken down into two main areas, referred to as views, Arrangement and Session: Arrangement view works similarly to other DAWs, where it lays out audio files in a linear fashion, allowing you to edit and mix in a traditional way. Session view allows you to create in a very fluid manner by freeing the user to drag and move song ideas and structures, samples and loops around, giving way for a more inventive approach to performing live.

Should you decide to go middle of the road with this program by choosing the Standard version, you’ll have at your fingertips a whole host of tools, functions and samples to travel through:

  • Over 1,100 loops, samples and sounds to create with
  • 38 FX plug-ins
  • 3 instruments: Drum Rack; Simpler(sampling); Impulse (a basic drum machine)
  • Sophisticated automation controls that free you to use them while building a song or performing live
  • Link, an online community of Live 9 users made for jamming with people all over the world

If you plan to make this platform part of your live rig, you might consider purchasing Ableton’s Push controller. It has been engineered to function as the perfect auxiliary to Live 9, allowing the performer to focus on just that, performing, and not messing with a laptop in the middle of their set. You can find a used first generation Push controller for around $300. Rather than buy used, you also have the choice to purchase a brand new Push 2 (the second generation) directly from Ableton.com, bundled with Live 9 Standard for $1149. The coolest part, if and when your buyer’s remorse sets in and you realize how many more lawns you’re going to need to mow to compensate that hit to your bank account, they offer a 30 day return policy!

A few other parting things you may want to know:

  • You can create a song with Live 9 start to finish: record, edit, mix and master
  • Runs on Mac OS X 10.7 or later, or PC with Windows 7 or later
  • Standard requires 12G of free space to install
  • Upgrading from a previous version, generations 1-8, to 9 costs $159

3. What Sets It Apart

There are some really amazing new features in Live 9, the most impressive and useful being the power to record a vocal beatbox, guitar, or a single toned instrument like a vibraphone into the software and have it transposed in MIDI format. At this step, you’re then able to choose from multiple options to have the audio played back as a drum beat, polyphonic or monophonic audio. One example of how this can be made very useful is through beatboxing. You record yourself beatboxing while in the Session view, it is then converted to MIDI. From there you could select to have it converted to a drum beat by triggering a drum sample pack you had previously selected. At this point Live 9’s algorithm would recognize the patterns of you beatboxing and analyze where to place the kick, snare, hihats, toms, etc. This concept can be applied to vocals or any instrument you decide to throw at it, allowing unfettered possibilities.

Conclusion

Full disclosure, I’d never used Ableton Live before, so having always been a ProTools, REAPER, Cubase and Presonus Studio One user, it took a bit of time to get used to before getting the hang of the work flow. Nonetheless, it offers a ton of really amazing tools that allow you to create interesting tones and sounds. If you’re in a creative rut and/or suffering writer’s block, or you just want to explore a new software that takes a different approach to recording, Ableton Live 9 might be your answer