Ableton Announce Ableton Live 9 and Push

After last week’s maybe-intentional-maybe-not leak/fumble, the inevitable announcement of Ableton Live 9 came today along with an unexpected extra…

Lots of the time, people in positions like mine (usually like mine but with slightly fewer fried egg stains on their t-shirt) hear wind of new things in hushed tones a while before they happen, and often a little bit more on top as long as they’ve signed a non disclosure agreement. The best thing about NDAs is you can be pretty elusive about what you’ve been privy to after the fact and gain some mystique points in the process, but I’m going to come right out and say that today’s Live 9 announcement took me a little by surprise.

Not Live 9, of course – that’s sort of been inevitable for a while and most of the features are very much obvious, logical steps forward. I’m a little surprised by Push, a new controller engineered by Akai. Let’s look at Push and Ableton Live 9 – what we know, what we think, cost, availability, and videos:

  • €499
  • Includes Ableton Live 9 Intro
  • 64 RGB colour Velocity & Pressure sensitive pads
  • 16 RGB multicolour buttons
  • Touch strip
  • 11 encoders, lots of buttons
  • 2 Footswitch inputs
  • Four line text screen
  • USB Bus powered
Live 9 Prices
  • Ableton Live 9 Intro – €79
  • Standard – €349
  • Suite – €599
Available: ‘soon’ (both).

Push: the Ultimate Ableton Live Controller?

Just as we thought it would be Akai and Native Instruments battling out the hybrid market with MPC and Maschine, Ableton throw their cap into the ring with Push.

This really does have me curious, because Akai’s Renaissance and forthcoming Studio controllers might not be in direct, box ticking, feature set competition with Ableton Live but it certainly seems that there’s enough crossover to put Akai into competition with themselves (oh, wait, now I get it!). Now, Akai are legendary for their pads and save for a little misstep with their early controllers (which weren’t as bad as a lot of people made out, they just weren’t great), which has been firmly put behind them with the MAX49′s excellent new design, this is a good sign for Push. Similarly, MPC Renaissance is very well built, and with Push’s €499 price tag I’m sure everyone’s bringing their A game.

The 64 full RGB pads look stunning (along with two rows of thinner, but still multicolour, on/off buttons) and if they have the response necessary for expressive playing I don’t think their slightly smaller-than-usual-for-a-pad-controller will be much of an issue. They’re certainly not tiny, as Push itself is a big, almost imposing unit.

Eschewing the full screen dot matrix display route, Ableton have plumped for an ASCII screen that will show control names and values as well as, it looks like, allow menu switching and navigation. Combined with the new browser in Ableton Live 9, this will allow you to browse and load sounds into tracks from the controller itself – there are things that keyboard and mouse are good for, but quickly switching through sounds whilst playing isn’t one of them so this is a huge deal for Ableton Live fans who wish there was a little more of a classic hardware feel to Live.

Along with the browsing, playing, navigation, and step sequencing can all be done with Push. This kind of thing has been done before with previous Ableton collaborations (Akai’s APC20 and APC40, and Novation’s LaunchPad), but multi coloured pads and new capabilities in Ableton Live 9 mean that I would be extremely surprised if this isn’t the most tightly integrated Ableton Live controller ever made. 

Ableton Live 9 – Detailed MIDI Information from Audio

Slice to New MIDI Track has been expanded upon, and now not only timing information but also pitch can be guessed from an audio source. Beatbox a drum loop and Ableton Live 9 will automatically pull it apart, guessing your kick, hat, and snare sounds. Hum a melody and Ableton Live 9 will transcribe it to MIDI notes. Ableton aren’t the first people to include functionality like this direct into the DAW but (and I could be wrong about this) it strikes me that more users that would want to regularly use this will be using Ableton Live anyway because of other features and workflows that very much go hand in hand with it. 

Ableton Live 9 - Improved MIDI Transcription and Integration

Ableton Live’s journey into the land of MIDI is still maturing, and this update gives us some power user features for editing MIDI, like transposition, invert and reverse, double and half speed, legato, and so on. Automation in session clips is now possible, automation is warped along with audio, MIDI notes in general can be ‘warped’ with the new MIDI note stretch feature, there’s true curved automation envelopes,and no doubt a few more things here and there. Combine these features with the audio to MIDI analysis of Ableton Live 9 and it looks like even the most demanding MIDI users will be catered to.

Improved MIDI Mapping?

For most users, Ableton Live’s MIDI learning is just fine. There are some annoying bits though, and when you start to get to intermediate and advanced usage, especially for setting up a studio control surface or a live performance set that relies on a lot of complicated pairings, its limitations start to become apparent. Now, this is pure speculation at the moment but three very interesting words popped up in the debut video: MIDI Transform Tools. Those three words are sat atop a MIDI interface, and my inference is that there’s going to be a much more advanced translation/transformation layer between Ableton Live 9′s engine and its MIDI ports – something along the lines of Bome’s MIDI Translator would be amazing, but MidiPipe or MidiOX level tools would be very exciting too. Take this with a pinch of salt for now – but if we’re bang on remember where you heard it first!

Ableton Live 9 - New and Improved Effects and Instruments

Without listening and playing around it’s tough to speak on the new Glue Compressor effect, but it’s encouraging that Ableton have looked at their EQ Eight, Compressor, and Gate effect and tightened them up. It’d be great if they’d look at a few more things – true transparency in Auto filter, for instance, would have been nice – but it’s good that ‘core’ effects that Ableton Live 9 standard edition users will get have been upgraded.  

I don’t know whether Ableton are still paying off the R&D for Sampler or not, but I’m a little bit surprised to see that it’s not included in Live 9 standard edition. Perhaps some of the frustrating light feature set in Simpler (one shot mode and time stretch are two features Simpler lacks off the top of my head) has finally been added to, or perhaps the workflow of most people just doesn’t call for anything more than Simpler’s very simplistic functionality.

Other than that, nothing’s a big shock when it comes to the tiering of Ableton Live 9 Intro, Ableton Live 9, and Ableton Live 9Suite. Everything’s more or less as it’s always… wait. Max for Live is now in Ableton Live 9 Suite? This is a big one. There’s never been a problem with Max for Live per se, but I think it’s been hindered by its pricing as it’s essentially only really enticing to people who want to get under the bonnet of Live themselves, not people who just want to get into the Max community as a user. Ableton Live 9 Suite might have a generous stock of instruments out of the box, but Max for Live compatibility extends that a gazillion-fold (and with Bitwig’s promise that direct in app framework editing of Bigwig Studio is on their roadmap, it’s certainly a box ticker for feature comparisons… not that you can feature compare two pieces of software that aren’t out yet).

Ableton Live 9

The Look… and the Price

Everybody seems to be refreshing their image lately, and Ableton’s swanky new website and general ID is much more refined and classy. The same goes for Live 9 too; a tweak here and there makes, on top of the practical changes, Ableton Live 9 a prettier DAW. It’s subtle, but it’s there. I wonder whether the new engine will support user definable colour schemes, although it’s probably not at the top of many peoples’ lists and rightly so. It’s really nice to see Max for Live absorbed into Ableton Live 9 Suite without it bumping up the cost, and is it just me or is Ableton Live 9 Intro cheaper than Ableton Live 8 Intro? I forget.

As for Push? Well, it’s pretty gorgeous if you ask me. It’s bound to be extremely well built, as Ableton will be keen to make a good impression. The price is pretty eye watering, but bear in mind there are 64 multi coloured, velocity and pressure sensitive pads, a four line, 72 character display, a touch strip, and more than a handful of buttons. Let’s put it this way: I’m looking forward to having a play.

We’re looking forward to the next few months of playing and finding out what the future has in store – head on over to Ableton’s website now to see their official information!
  • Chrispop Christian Beermann

    the audio to midi thing is THE standout feature for me (if it works as well as i hope). looking forward to play around with a demo or at least see a video of it in action soon…

    • Lion

      That does look freakin’ sweet. How it works in the real world awaits to be scene but the prospect is better than what I thought I’d be.

  • VHS

    I’m excited about this news! I really hope that some of those nice looking encoders can be used for sample trimming and such. This is probably my most sought after item now, amongst the lot of proprietary software controllers.

    I’m equally excited about the developments in Live 9.

    • Lion

      With Maschine, Spark and now MPC Renaissance line out, it would be a bad move for them not to do that.

      • VHS

        Indeed. While I don’t find it slow to use a mouse for such things, one of the main joys when working with dedicated controllers is, well, dedicated controls. It looks very much like it’s possible but hopefully the resolution of the encoders will work out or they will provided a means to zoom to approximate finer resolution, if not. I have no problem looking at the computer screen for waveforms and adjustments (I actually prefer larger screens to small, low character displays) but it’s a workflow killer to try to work with the tactile surface and switch back and forth to a mouse for such frequent but superfluous tasks like sample trimming. Volleying back and forth for other less frequent or more mouse intuitive tasks, for me, is totally tolerable however. Sample trimming doesn’t seem like one of them.

        Generally though, I’m really excited about Push. I think it falls comfortably into the type of product I’ve been hoping for from Ableton. I won’t get rid of my Maschine though, as I think despite the overlap that I would ideally like to use both being that I already get by fine using Live with Maschine.

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  • Project Tempo

    live 9 looks amazing, but the upgrade path is horrific… 250euros for a current live 8 suite user if i want to remain on 9 suite? Massively disappointed with that.

    • VHS

      From Ableton’s Forum:

      “Existing Suite 8 owners will be offered an exclusive introductory discount on upgrades to Live 9 Suite, to be made available upon release. This introductory discount is not yet shown on the website, as Live 9 Suite is not yet available. We apologize for any confusion or frustration from our oversight in not making this discount clear on, and ask for your patience as we iron out the kinks in our new site”.


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