Ableton Live 8 Review

Back in the early 2000s, Live was made popular by DJs and live musicians looking for simple but professional loop-based music creation software for composing tracks for live performance.

The basic graphical user interface and lack of traditional DAW features attracted many DJs but made it a hard-sell for traditional DAW users. However, once these users realized how smoothly Live worked as a ReWire client alongside Pro Tools and Cubase, the true potential of the Live DAW became apparent to a much larger audience.

The eighth and latest version of Live continues the onward and upward trend for Ableton’s once-humble loop-based DAW.

What’s New in Ableton Live 8?

Unlike the latest releases of Pro Tools or Apple Logic Pro, the user interface in Live has not undergone a major facelift. On the contrary, it is the collection of behind-the-scenes improvements that has made Live 8 such a significant update.

There are three versions of the Live software. Live LE is the inexpensive entry-level version with only the basic feature set and sound content. The other two versions (Live and Live Suite) are exactly the same except that the more expensive Live Suite includes a massive sound library and robust selection of virtual instruments.

Revamped Audio Warping in Ableton Live 8

The audio file warp engine has undergone some massive changes in the new version of Live. Automatic transient detection is now a possibility. Furthermore, Live 8 users can attach markers directly to waveforms rather than to Live’s time ruler.

Essentially, Live 8 can quantize and manipulate audio similar to MIDI data – all directly within the Live 8 DAW. Although some extreme settings may tax older CPUs, the new audio warping feature sounds smoother and more transparent than on previous versions of Live.

New Plug-Ins Additions to Ableton Live 8

Live 8 comes with six new effects plug-ins. Enhanced dynamics have been address with the addition of a mulitband compressor and a limiter. Ableton has also added a new overdrive and a ring modulator to its plug-in arsenal.

But for many Live 8 users, the most appealing plug-in additions are the Vocoder and a cool phrase looper simply called Looper.

Traditional DAW Features New to Live 8

While Live has always excelled at loop-based composition, features common to traditional linear DAW programs have been slow to appear in Live. But with Live 8 Ableton has clearly made an effort to address some of the most important ‘traditional’ features absent in previous versions.

For example, users can now create basic audio crossfades in the Arrangement View. As well, Ableton has finally made it possible to group audio tracks together.

Further Developments by the Ableton Live Team

Besides the improvements to the Live environment and feature set, Ableton has introduced some other interesting Live-related projects.

  • Live Share – Live users can now upload Live sets to the Ableton servers for collaboration with other artists using the Live 8 DAW.
  • Max for Live – Live users can now create and share audio and MIDI plug-ins for use in Ableton Live.
  • Akai Ableton Performance Controller (APC40) – in conjunction with Akai Pro, Ableton Live users now have access to a powerful dedicated hardware MIDI controller.

The Live DAW Continues to Improve

Artists and producers who are more interested in music creation and live performance than traditional linear recording/mixing will often find benefits to working in Ableton Live. The folks at Ableton realize this and consequently allow users new and old to download a 14-day demo version of Live 8 for free.

From humble beginnings, it is quite clear that Ableton Live has evolved into a powerful and professional digital audio workstation. Version 8 is another significant upgrade for this popular loop-based DAW.

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