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4 September 2005

Ableton Live 5 review — Computer Music

Filed under: Music software at 10:51 pm (no comments)

Computer Music magazine review Ableton Live 5 in their September issue. Everyone has been excited about this latest update, and with good reason — they give it an Editor’s Choice award, and also awards for Innovation and Performance. They have always championed Live — “In terms of technology, ergonomics, workflow and on-stage usability, Live stands alone, doing things that no other software can do in ways that are genuinely inspirational.” As for this new version, they simply say that “Live 5 is the most exciting and forward-thinking audio application on the market.”

The review runs through a few of the new features. “Live 5 introduces the brand-new Auto-Warp algorithm, designed to automatically and perfectly Warp absolutely anything you throw at it.” Warping is Live’s process for detecting tempo and beats in audio files, and the new Auto-Warp automates a process that had to be done manually in previous versions. Related to this, there’s also the Complex Warp Mode — “an amazing sounding frequency-domain algorithm for timestretching full pieces of music.” They say that Auto-Warp is an amazing piece of technology, and while it isn’t perfect, its ability to work an many styles of music is “a total triumph.”

They are also impressed with improvements in navigation interface. The Clip View transport system makes it easier to work with Clip Loops, which can now be defined more flexibly. The Arrangement View has similar improvements, and the Session View now has Nudge buttons for easy fine adjustments to track timing. All these new adjustments work in sync with the global quantise setting, so they’re good for live performance or quick and easy studio work. In general, they say, “shuttling and navigation in Live is far easier than it was in version 4.”

Live 5 also has a Track Freeze feature, which conserves CPU by pre-rendering a track (complete with instruments and effects) to an audio file. There’s also a new feature called Live Clips — dragging a clip from the Session View into any folder in the browser saves it as a Live Clip, which can be previewed and loaded into another Live Set. Live Device chains can also be saved and reloaded as presets, which they say “empowers” Live users to create their own libraries of effects.

Apart from these major features, they are also excited about a long-overdue feature — there are now contextual menus available throughout Live. We’re so used to using these in other applications that their absence in previous versions of Live was always a bit odd.

The only gripes in the review are the lack of fine control over global tempo (particularly important to live DJs) and editing in the Arrangement View. These aren’t new problems, and they are minor, but the reviewers feel that improvements here would make for an even better product. They would also like to see more improvements in overall DAW workflow, though this must depend on how you plan to use Live.

Their final rating is nine out of ten — I doubt they would ever give ten for such a large program. “Live 5 is an extremely well-realised update … it’s the sheer weight and ingenuity of the new features that impresses this time round.” If you’re thinking about upgrading, they say, “version 5 really is a must-have,” and for everyone else, “you simply have to check it out.”

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