Live 9: The Top 3 New Features
It's quite hard to get excited about minor workflow improvements, but the combined result is that Live 9 makes it easier to make music.
A free version of Cytomic's excellent plugin, which retails at $99. One of the best SSL compressor emulations around. What's not to love about that?
Max Goes Live
Previously a paid option, Max For Live is now part of the premium Live 9 Suite package. Includes loads of new devices to play with.
For all the improvements in Live 9, there are still areas which have been overlooked. Our single biggest frustration – and we know that it’s a long-term gripe shared by countless other Live users – is that the known issues with plugin delay compensation still haven’t been addressed.
It’s a classic case of end users demanding what appears to be a simple improvement without realising that it’s much more complex to program and implement than it appears; realistically, there must be thousands of hours of coding necessary to fix the issue. But that’s still not really a good enough excuse. Fool-proof automatic PDC should be taken for granted by now. This is a known problem which users in their thousands have been flagging up to Ableton support. It’s been four years since the last major update of Live – wasn’t that long enough to fix it?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like being resolved any time soon. Software developers Cableguys even go so far as to include an apologetic note on their FAQ page explaining that their otherwise excellent VolumeShaper tool doesn’t work properly in Live because the DAW reports incorrect timing information to the plugin. Fingers crossed for Live 10…
Live 9 feels like a less significant upgrade than Live 8 did over version 7, but that’s certainly not to say it’s not impressive. Sticking to Ableton’s tradition of incremental updates, the new features all improve on what was already a great DAW without really changing the winning formula.
There are still obvious omissions and weaknesses with Live. There’s still no multi-screen support or proper plugin delay compensation. The former will only affect a relatively small number of users, while the latter is potentially more problematic. Nevertheless, Live 9 is the most user-friendly, most complete version of Ableton’s groundbreaking software to date.
For newcomers, Live is even more appealing than ever. If you’re an existing Live user, the decision on whether to upgrade will largely depend on how much you rely on automation and whether you want to dig into the Max For Live devices. Upgrade prices vary according to which version of Live you own, when you bought it and what star sign you are, beginning at around £109. There’s also a discount for existing owners of The Glue.
Ultimately, Live 9 is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Getting excited about workflow improvements seems a little perverse, like focusing on the fact a new Lamborghini has better fuel economy than the previous model, but the truth is that all those minor improvements to browsing, automation, MIDI editing and bread-and-butter devices like EQ Eight and the compressors add up to a more enjoyable, more efficient way of making music. And that’s ultimately what really matters. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for those long-term gripes to be solved eventually, but for now Live remains one of the best options on the market for dance music production.
Price: £509 (Suite); £299 (Standard); £69 (Intro) or upgrades starting from £109
Purchase: Ableton Live 9
The Final Word
Incremental updates make one of the best DAWs just that little bit better.