Ableton Live 8 Inverness

There are many tasks, and people in Inverness, for whom Ableton Live 8 is perfect, however. Its aptitude for live performance remains peerless, and online videos of the Akai APC40, a hardware controller designed specifically for Live, look fantastic.

Mac North
0870 0636336
160, Miller St, Inverness
Inverness
 
ITP SOLUTIONS
01463 245 600|
4, Walker Rd, Inverness
Inverness
 
Lambda Research Consultancy Ltd
01463 732541
Kintail House, Beechwood Park, Inverness
Inverness
 
Jaid Technology
01463 715295
80, Hawthorne Drive, Inverness
Inverness
 
Equal Systems Ltd
01463 250724
10, Bellfield Park, Inverness
Inverness
 
Albasoft Ltd
01463 667356
The Green House, Beechwood Park North, Inverness
Inverness
 
iTek Solutions Ltd
01463 725999
1, Cromwell Rd, Inverness
Inverness
 
Laing PC Support
07912 938019
3, Eastfield Avenue, Drakies, Inverness
Inverness
 
Geeks2you
0845 2004335
19, Harbour Rd, Inverness
Inverness
 
Sutherland Systems & Services
01463 234007
36, Tomnahurich St, Inverness
Inverness
 

Ableton Live 8

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It takes a lot to convince musicians to switch recording software, but more than anything else Ableton Live deserves to win over a few defectors. While many of its competitors are pretty similar, Live is packed with features that are truly unique. Its operational simplicity and enormous scope of experimental production techniques, plus the fantastic bundle of instruments in Ableton Suite 7 is an alluring combination.

Live 8 and Suite 8 continue to take great strides, with innovative features that are both friendlier and smarter than those of its rivals. A prime example is Group Tracks. This is based on an idea found in analogue mixers, where certain channels, such as all the drum microphones, are sent to a group channel before going to the master output. This provides a way to adjust the overall drum level with a single fader and to apply effects to the drum submix.

Live's flexible mix architecture already allowed any channel to be used as a group, but the Group Track is more explicit and much neater. Rather than locating group tracks together at the far end of the mixer, as hardware mixers and other software mixers do, a Group Track creates a nest around the channels assigned to it. The group can be collapsed to hide the individual channels, making big projects easier to navigate. Best of all, Group Tracks include buttons to trigger multiple loops at once, enhancing the power of Live's improvisation-oriented Session View.

The most ambitious feature is the groove quantise engine. Similar features have been available in rival packages for years, but Ableton has rewarded its customers' patience here with the best implementation yet. The concept is simple: take the rhythmical nuances of one loop and apply it to other loops and recordings, giving performances a natural feel but keeping all the sounds locked in tight synchronisation.

Live's Groove Pool isn't as straightforward as it could be, and we had to refer to the manual before we could get to grips with it. Its ability to extract and match the timing and volume nuances of both MIDI and audio clips goes way beyond most software, however, and trumps even Sony Acid Pro's excellent Groove Mapping feature. It's built on a audio-warping engine that also makes it easier to re-time audio clips manually, but we found this wasn't as successful as previous versions at automatically clocking long sections of audio to the master tempo.

There's a healthy dose of effects, including a vocoder, a guitar pedal-style overdrive and a ring modulator. The limiter and multiband compression effects are particularly useful for processing complete mixes. Other features include the ability to magnify the interface for use on stage, and to share projects online.

Ableton Suite 8 bolsters the main application with nine virtual instruments. Seven of these are unchanged since version 7, while Operator, an FM synth, has been given a major overhaul. The addition, Collision, is our favourite to date. It specialises in tuned percussion such as glockenspiels and marimbas, but also covers various unpitched percussion and abstract sounds. It's wonderfully rich and vibrant, and because it's based on mathematical models rather than pre-recorded samples, the scope for sonic tinkering is vast. The downside is that you need a very powerful machine to run it successfully. With some presets, our 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo PC only managed a few simultaneous notes before audio glitches began to appear.

Suite 8 is a big application, consuming 45GB disk space and taking hours to install. This procedure really should be more automatic than it is; we found some components were still missing after we'd manually worked through scores of installation files. At around £550, it's also more expensive than the flagship versions of Cubase 5 and Sonar 8, but the quality of its virtual instruments means it's not overpriced. The cost of Live by itself continues to creep up, though, as does its upgrade price.

And for all its strengths, Live isn't yet ready to dislodge Cubase for conventional multi-track studio recording. Despite the ability to crossfade audio clips, our attempts to edit a multitrack drum session or to combine multiple vocal takes into a single best-of performance revealed that Live still lacks many of the subtle niceties that make these tasks so much easier in Cubase.

There are many tasks, and people, for whom Ableton Live 8 is perfect, however. Its aptitude for live performance remains peerless, and online videos of the Akai APC40, a hardware controller designed specifically for Live, look fantastic. Live isn't just a niche performance tool, though. Its aptitude for loop manipulation and the Suite's fantastic instrument bundle make it the best choice for electronic music production. Meanwhile, the Session View's non-linear approach to arrangement means it's a superb choice for anyone who composes as they record, regardless of the genre they're working in.

System Specifications

Reqirements: Windows XP / Vista (32-bit only) / Mac OS X 10.4.8 (10.5 recommended). Distributor: Focusrite 01494 462246

Verdict

Ableton's flair for innovation shows no sign of diminishing. This is the best version of Live yet, and in many respects, the best music-production software available

Author: Ben Pitt

Ableton Live 8