2001 – present
You’ll have to give us the benefit of the doubt on this one. We haven’t completely lost our minds; there’s a very convincing argument that one of the most important samplers ever made is actually a DAW. OK, we’re stretching the definition of ‘sampler’ to its limits here, but no discussion of sampling in dance music could be complete without paying dues to Ableton for their redefinition of the DAW and the unprecedented impact it had on the advancement and democratisation of sampling technology.
When Ableton Live was first launched way back in 2001 it was a very different piece of software to the DAW we know and love today – there were no MIDI sequencing options and no support for virtual instruments. The fundamental difference between Ableton and other DAWs lies in its overall philosophy when it comes to audio, which stems from the focus of the first three versions (Live 4.0 introduced MIDI and virtual instruments). No other DAW offers such seamless integration of time-stretching and pitch-shifting options. All the major DAWs now include a sampler plugin (Live has a few of those too) but no other DAW makes it as easy to work with samples. With Live, the entire DAW is a sampler.
no other DAW makes it as easy to work with samples. With Live, the entire DAW is a sampler.
Since those early versions, Live has evolved into one of the best all-round DAWs on the market – arguably the best choice for producing dance music – but its sampling capabilities remain as powerful as ever. If Ableton Live only offered the sampling features, it would easily be one the best software samplers ever made. It just so happens it’s also a complete DAW in its own right. Live has made it easier than ever for producers to work with loops and samples. Add Push into the equation and it’s even more convenient. You can hear the results spread across a large proportion of the dance music made in the last decade.