Ableton Live 9.2 Review

MusicTech and Ableton Live expert Martin Delaney gives us his quick verdict on the free 9.2 update…

Ableton Live 9.2

Details
Price: Free for Ableton Live 9/9.1 users
Contact: Ableton +49 302 887 630
Web:www.ableton.com

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It always feels like a treat when a ‘point’ update for your favourite DAW includes new features alongside the necessary bug fixes. Apple did it recently with Logic Pro X, and, after what felt like a long public beta phase, Ableton have done it their way with the release of Live 9.2.

This update philosophy expands out from the software itself to Ableton’s Push hardware, which has also received a few nice little tweaks. Let’s begin with the new stuff in Live. There’s a new command called ‘Warp Selection as x-Bar Loop’, which warps a selected area of a sample to an exact bar length, and will be useful for isolating sections of longer samples/songs quickly.

I’ve long been critical of Live’s poor provision for guitarists (with the horrible Amp presets), which advocating it’s potential for the same crowd, and I’m happy to finally see a Tuner device located under Audio Effects. Not only does this make guitarists – and other instrumentalists – feel a bit more welcome, it can come in handy for checking the pitch of samples. The Core library 808 and 909 kicks and snares have been improved, and there are new 606 and 808 Impulse presets – it’s good to see Impulse getting some attention.

In Preferences you’ll find a switch to toggle Start Playback with Tap Tempo. There’s more, like Serato Bridge compatibility; Scrum and RAM Mode are exposed in the Python API, which I hear is good for developers, although I have no idea what they are. For Suite users, Max for Live now includes the updated Max 7, while on a more negative note, Windows XP and Vista, and OS X 10.5 and 10.6 are no longer compatible. I guess it had to happen eventually, but somebody’s always left hanging.

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Push Off
Push users get a helping of ‘new’ as well. Most publicised is the option to flip between using either 16 or all 64 of the pads to play drums – in fact, Ableton have released a free Live Pack from Mad Zach to demonstrate the possibilities. Finally, the touch strip can now be used for either mod or pitch wheel control – all you have to do is tap the strip and hold Select to toggle them.

In a similar vein, aftertouch response has been improved, and there’s an aftertouch threshold setting in Push User Preferences. There are some nice little tweaks, like how if you hold Delete and tap an encoder it resets the current parameter to the default setting, like when you tap delete on the computer keyboard. Holding Shift while turning an encoder provides higher resolution.

Overall, Push is giving a bit more visual feedback, the button text is easier to read – the backlights are brighter, and the Repeat and Metronome buttons now blink when active. Anything that helps with readability is good, I’ve had issues reading the text on those Push buttons since day one, so that’s a good one for me.

On the improvement and fix front, a huge one is latency compensation for automation – that’s been the top wish list item for many users for a long time. Alongside that, latency compensation has also been improved for third party plug ins and Max for Live; there are also latency fixes for specific devices, including Redux and Saturator.

Warp Speed
Warping is claimed to sound better in Complex and Complex Pro modes, with punchier transients, and downbeat detection is said to be improved, with an overall increase in warping accuracy. That’s not the exhaustive list of fixes by any means, you should go to www.ableton.com to see the full Live 9.2 release notes, and to download the update – or use ‘Check for Updates…’ in Live’s Help menu.

This is a great update, and of course it’ll be things like the warping and latency changes that’ll most impact on our daily Live experience. 9.2 shows that Ableton aren’t afraid to add new features in point updates instead of waiting for the next pay revision.

It also shows – again – how Push benefits from being developed by the same people who make the software; it’s impossible for any other hardware company to build a controller that could integrate with Live to the same degree.

So all in all you get a surprising amount in what could be considered ‘just’ a point update and while it’s hard to review a free update, consider this an update review to our main Live 9 review here (which scored a whopping 10/10) and that the software is still as essential as it ever has been.

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