Ableton Announces the New Live 9 and Push Instrument/Controller

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After three long years of development, Ableton has finally announced the new version of their flagship product: Live 9. The Berlin-based company also introduced a unique grid-style instrument/controller called Push. If you’re unfamiliar with Ableton Live, the hottest new feature in Live 9 likely may not seem too significant, but read more. In Live 9, it’s now possible to record automation into “Clips,” as well as add curves to automation. I’ll explain why this is important, below. Live 9 is a 64-bit application, but Ableton has been beta testing a 64-bit version of Live 8 for some time now, so this was expected. When Live 9 arrives in the first quarter of 2013, it will feature 32- and 64-bit installers.


Ableton Live 9

In addition to the automation features, there’s a great deal of cool new stuff in Live 9. It’s now possible to convert audio into MIDI. It’s been possible to instantly convert MIDI clips into audio for a long time with Live, and this new feature now makes the opposite possible as well. For example, if you have an audio drum loop that you really like, you can now instantly convert it into MIDI and take it where you want to go. This feature also works with melodic and harmonic audio, in addition to rhythmic. The Browser in Live has been greatly improved, the EQ Eight effect has been completely rebuilt with better-sounding filters and a graphical feedback display, and a new bus-compression effect called Glue Compressor is included. Live 9 comes with more than 3,000 sounds and there are multiple  improvements and enhancements throughout the program.   

In order to understand importance of this new ability to write automation into clips, you need to understand a little bit about what makes Live special. There’s a unique component of Ableton Live called “Session View.” This is a grid into which you can drop audio and MIDI clips. Once in Session View, you can play or record into your Clips. It’s similar to a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. Any Clips that are in a row can be launched together as a “Scene.” You can easily arrange different parts of songs into these Scenes. You can have Scenes that represent the intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Live makes it easy to create totally new songs working in this manner. Users really like how they can quickly experiment with the arrangement of songs, playing their parts in different orders, swapping out elements of each part of the song, etc. Session View encourages playfulness and experimentation, and it’s likely the most popular feature of Live. In addition to Session View, Live has a traditional timeline based composition area, like you find in every other DAW.

Hardcore users of Ableton Live have wanted the ability to write automation into Clips for many years, and that day is on its way. Making what are called “Dummy Clips” was previously a workaround for this function, but this is no longer necessary with Live 9. Clips can now be used in both the Arrangement View and Session View of Live, and the automation that you write into them will stay with them, no matter which view you decide to use.

Push

Push is a hardware instrument/controller that was designed by Ableton and built by Akai Professional, makers of the popular APC40 controller for Live. Push has 64 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads that are backlit with multi-colored RGB LEDs. There are also 11 touch sensitive endless encoders and one large ribbon controller. The basic idea of this controller is not only to give you complete control over Session View, but to make the entire process of writing and performing easier, more focused on hardware and less focused on your computer’s monitor.

The main grid of glowing pads on Push can be used in many different ways. One of the templates for Push breaks the grid up by dedicating the 16 pads to the bottom left as traditional trigger pads, the 16 pads next to them on the right are used for navigating Live, and all of the pads above them are used for controlling a multi-layer step sequencer. The pads are also used to launch and control clips, and they’re used for playing melodic instruments—think of the large square grid of buttons as a 64-note piano keyboard that you might find onboard a UFO. The designers at Ableton have taken a decade to decide what the ultimate controller for Ableton Live would be and it appears that they finally made up their minds and had it built. As a Live user myself, I can’t wait to check this thing out.

Even though there are so many illuminated pads and buttons on Push, and it has a generously sized LCD screen, the device is bus powered from a single USB port. A universal AC adapter is included, and when used, the lights and the display get brighter. Push is only a controller, there is no soundcard. It cannot be used as an audio interface. That’s not an issue, however, because most Live users who need an audio interface likely already have one.

Live 9 and Push are expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2013.

Live 9
Audio & MIDI Tracks Unlimited (16 in Live Intro)
Scenes Unlimited (8 in Live Intro)
Send & Return Tracks 12 (2 in Live Intro)
Audio Inputs 128 (2 in Live Intro)
Audio Outputs 128 (2 in Live Intro)
Complex Warp Modes Yes
Audio Slicing Yes, slice to a Drum Rack or a Sampler instance
Audio to MIDI Yes
REX File Support Yes, supports ReCycle/Reason audio files
Video Import/Export Yes
Serato Scratch Integration Yes, The Bridge is a DJ tool that syncs a Live Set with Searto Scratch Live
Groove Pool & Extract Groove Yes, templates for timing and "feel" of sequences
Software Instruments (for Live 9 Standard and Suite) Analog, Collision, Electric, Operator, Sampler, Tension, External Instrument, Drum Rack, Impulse, Simpler
Audio Effects Amp, Cabinet, Corpus, Dynamic Tube, EQ Eight, External Audio Effect, Filet Delay, Frequency Shifter, Glue, Multiband Dynamics, Overdrive, Resonators, Spectrum, Vinyl Distortion, Vocoder, Auto Filter, Auto Pan, Beat Repeat, Chorus, Compressor, EQ Three, Erosion, Flanger, Gate, Grain Delay, Limiter, Looper, Phaser, Ping Pong Delay, Redux, Reverb, Saturator, Simple Delay, Utility
MIDI Effects Arpeggiator, Chord, Note Length, Pitch, Random, Scale, Velocity
Compatibility Mac and Windows compatible, OS versions not yet specified
Mac System Requirements Intel Mac with OS X v10.5 or later
Windows System Requirements PC with Windows XP or above
Additional System Requirements Multicore processor, 2GB RAM, 1024 x 768 display, DVD drive or broadband Internet for installation, 3GB free disk space
Required disk space for included sounds Live 9 Suite: 55GB
Live 9 Standard: 12GB
Live 9 Intro: 6GB
Push
Pads 64 RGB backlit velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
Encoders 11 touch sensitive endless encoders
Touchstrip 12 cm touchstrip for pitch, bend and scrolling
LEDs 24 LEDs for navigation
Display Four line LCD alpha-numeric display
Footswitch Inputs Yes, 2
Connectivity USB
Power Supply Universal power supply, 100-240VAC, 50/60 Hz with interchangeable heads for North/Central America and Japan, Europe and UK (Type A,C,G)
USB Bus Power Yes
Dimensions 14.57 x 11.54 x 1.81" (370 x 293 x 46mm)
Weight 6.6 lb (3 kg)