Ableton Live 9 review

£338
Price when reviewed

Automation can now include curved envelopes, and it’s easier to adjust multiple points simultaneously. Automation was previously only possible in the Arrangement View, but now it can be saved as part of individual loops (known here as Clips) in the performance-orientated Session View. This allows evolving instrument and effect settings to become an integral part of the loop. It’s even possible to have different-length automation loops for each parameter, to create cross-rhythms or sounds that constantly evolve.

The Compressor and Gate effects have been revamped, with scrolling graphs to show how the current settings are interacting with the incoming audio. The eight-band EQ effect now uses a higher-quality algorithm and adds the ability to adjust multiple bands simultaneously. There’s a new effect, too. Glue Compressor is modelled on analogue hardware to give a more rounded tone than the standard Compressor effect. It also includes a Soft Clipping button to turn digital overloads into a more flattering analogue-like crunch.

Ableton Live 9

There’s no doubt that Live 9 has a huge amount going for it, and there are many valuable additions in this update for existing users. It isn’t cheap for new users, though. The Standard edition (£339 inc VAT) provides the full set of recording and editing features, but it comes with a relatively small collection of virtual instruments.

The Suite edition (£559) adds six excellent virtual instruments, including a sophisticated sampler, FM synthesis and four instruments that use physical modelling to emulate analogue synthesis, electric pianos, tuned percussion and stringed instruments. It also includes guitar-amp simulation effects and a much larger library of sampled instrument presets. This is a superb bundle, but it’s more expensive than the flagship versions of Cubase and Sonar.

There’s very little else we can find to criticise. One reservation is that the flat-packed interface and lack of support for dual monitors mean that MIDI editors and the Arrangement View can feel a little cramped. We also missed having Cubase and Sonar’s tools for handling multiple takes, and their vocal-tuning editors. The positives far outweigh the negatives, though. Ableton Live 9 is fast, flexible and extremely rewarding to use, all of which encourages creativity and experimentation. While Cubase is our top recommendation for recording live instruments, Ableton Live is the best choice for people who compose as they record.

Details

Software subcategory Audio production software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes
Other operating system support Windows 8

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