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In the pantheon of music-creation software, Live has always presented an original and truly innovative approach to making music in the studio and onstage. In this latest release, Ableton has delivered a very strong balance of new features and interface tweaks, which will definitely please existing Ableton fans and likely turn the heads of folks more accustomed to using audio software like Apple’s Logic and Digidesign’s Pro Tools.
The overall workflow found in Live hasn’t changed in any radical way since the program’s inception, but new features give users a new set of musical tools. The new Groove Patterns offer a truly innovative way to completely change the overall timing and “feel” of both sampled audio segments and MIDI recordings. Ever want to take a song recorded with a straight dance-style beat, and try swing, bossa nova, and Latin variations? In Live 8, it’s as simple as choosing from myriad groove styles in any of the many provided categories and applying them to a selected track or an entire composition, with surprisingly gratifying results. We’ve really never seen--or heard--anything quite like this, and you can even extract groove information from existing music files to reuse on other tracks, which is some heavy-duty automated magic.
The numerous major--and minor--additions to Live put it into a class of its own, and for those looking to expand their creative potential in both live and studio music production, you'd be hard pressed to find a more expressive and potent musical tool.
Live 8 offers up some hot new effects, including one of the best Mr. Roboto vocoders in the Mac audio universe.
Because it was primarily designed for live performance work, Live has always had some industrial-strength time-shifting abilities. The upgraded audio-warping engine delivers truly superior audio quality and the ability to grab audio and directly stretch it in the time line to fit the tempo of your project, with much better algorithms for warping rhythmic music, as well as complex, layered audio. We also fell totally in love with the new Looper effect, which surpasses the real-time looping capabilities of dedicated hardware that costs as much as the Live software. And Looper does it all with a minimum of effort. Use any basic MIDI hardware footswitch to turn the Looper recorder on, play a riff on your guitar or keyboard (or voice, for that matter), hit stop, and the Looper automatically detects the speed of your playing, and lets you record layer after layer of accompaniment. It’s heady stuff--insanely cool for live performance work, and it’s one of those features that will likely tip longtime users to pay for the upgrade.
The new Vocoder effect is perhaps the most capable we’ve ever seen in any program, perfect for whipping up bizarre robotic voices or morphing a drum beat with a heavy guitar rhythm. There’s a crunchy new Overdrive effect for adding raunch to cleanly recorded guitar solos, and for those who want to wrangle the absolute top-quality audio results from Live, the Multiband Dynamic and Limiter plugs do an absolutely stellar job, comparable to standalone audio products costing hundreds of dollars. And all of the many workflow enhancements left us smiling in pure agreement and synchronicity.
Live 8 also features a new Collision instrument for modeling all sorts of cool percussion sounds and a vast library of Latin percussion sampled instruments. We also really love the newly updated Operator synthesizer that comes bundled with the awesomely full-featured Suite version of Live. That said, we’re still a little surprised that the overall cost of the Suite is north of $800, which is still a bit pricey in a world where Apple’s Logic Studio is $499.