Am I Happy With Live 9?

Am I happy with Live 9? ย This was a question that people were asking on the Ableton forum, and I thought I’d post my thoughts to the blog.

It’s a question I’ve gone back and forth on a lot since it was announced. When I first heard what the new features were going to be, I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. For how long it’s been since Live 8 came out, it just seemed like not much had really been done. I think a lot of users had been rather “meh” about the last few releases, and with the long delay since 8 was released, there was just this expectation that it was going to be something big hopefully.

But it wasn’t. At least, that’s how I felt at first.

Fast forward to the beta phase and actually getting my hands on it, and my views started to change. I don’t know what it is, but while everything is more or less the same as Live 8, it FEELS different. I don’t know how to put it in words, but using the app some things feel slightly quicker than they used to be, and some feel slower. So while I might have felt there weren’t a lot of new features, it still sort of felt like a new app to me. Or perhaps saying it felt a little more refined than I imagined it would be is more accurate.

The new features were interesting as well, though to be honest I personally don’t have much use for them for the way I use Live day to day. Audio to MIDI was more accurate than I expected it would be, though I know this seems to be a personal thing. Ironically the one time I had a need for it for my work (to extract a melody from a mixdown the client couldn’t go back to), it didn’t even get close to what the actual melody was. Works great every other time though, go figure.

M4L being included with Suite is great I guess, but I never really used it before, even when I had it with 8. I keep meaning to dive in and check out some of the new devices, but I haven’t really had a need yet. The Glue is nice sounding, but again not something I really find myself needing for my music (yet).

In contrast the new EQ8 and Compressor are amazing as far as I’m concerned, easily my favorites out of any DAW. Been doing a lot of mixdowns in Live 9 for clients and been finding that I rarely feel the need to reach for 3rd party options on this front. That saves me a ton of time and makes it easier to send the projects back to the clients if they want it, so hurray for that improvement.

I also like the way that using Session View to record audio seems to have a lot of subtle improvements. Things like Clip Looping being set automatically when you stop recording and snapping to the nearest measure. Just seems faster to sketch out quick ideas.

I hated the browser in Live 8, and I hate the browser in Live 9. They took a clunky way to interact with your files and data and made it clunkier. I rarely need it thank god, but when I do I can’t help but wonder WTF? Sorry, this is one of those things that makes no sense to me in terms of design in Live. For every change that made it better, there’s 2 that made it worse.

So at the end of the day and after a lot of hours of use, I’m mostly ambivalent about the upgrade from Live 8 to Live 9, leaning slightly to the positive side. I was really hoping for a more radical upgrade in terms of how Live looks and functions, but I think they’ve drawn the line in the sand with this release and are clearly aiming to refine rather than reinvent. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with fine-tuning an app to make it more functional, and I definitely think that for the vast majority of users they have probably done this.

For me, the changes that I don’t like are slightly outweighed by the ones I do, so I think overall it was worth the upgrade. Over the years I’ve learned that I can’t always work with just one DAW, so I look at Live as a tool that helps me achieve certain tasks. Anything related to quickly organizing looped audio or detailed time-stretching work that I need to do. And then about 50% of the time I end up just doing the whole track in Live once I’m done anyway.

Live 9 didn’t really change the way I look at the program and how I use it, so in a way I’m glad it didn’t change too much too I guess.


A lot of people have been asking me if I’m getting a Push. I want a Push, bad right now. Even though I know that most likely I will probably end up selling it after a few months anyway. I applaud Ableton for creating something new that is targeted as an instrument, but I also know that I just don’t like creating music that way. I still want to get my hands on one for some extended time to see if I can be swayed, but I have a feeling I’m too set in my ways on this front.

Still, I think it’s going to be very common to see people rocking these everywhere. They may have just created a whole new market with a demand other companies haven’t been able to quite achieve yet. The fact there’s such a long wait almost from the get go just shows how many people are interested in it. Will be interesting to see if a lot of these end up trading hands once more people get more time with one.

8 Replies to “Am I Happy With Live 9?”

  1. Hey man. Good review. I’m a (don’t laugh or sneer) reason user. V7 coming out has some fantastic new features that will make me more than likely drop Live. Have you used reason? I am we’ll aware of the scrutiny it gets on all the muso forums but I’ve long ago decided to ignore the perceptions and just make music. Wondered if you have tried it and your thoughts?

  2. I used to use Reason a lot prior to about version 4 I think. I think the main reason I don’t use it these days is tat as displays have increased in pixel count, the width of reasons racks has stayed the same. I find tweaking all the synths and effect very tiring on the eyes with such small controls. Version 7 looks great though, I was seriously considering giving it a go if the resolution issue had been fixed.

  3. That’s a very valid point that I had not even really considered. I am beta testing it now and don’t recall any changes to pixels or being able to make the rack bigger. The new functions are fantastic including the ability to export any Audio to a .REX file and do what you want. Kind of like a new session mode in a way. I still want to be able to use massive or FM8/Absynth which I was using live and logic to control but apparently with reason 7’s midi out you can control them now as well via a virtual audio host. Sorry I know this was a live post but wondered if you had ever used reason. Thanks for your thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Nice review. I’m feeling kinda indifferent about it myself. Live is my main production DAW and I’ve been using it for years so naturally I’ve developed my own work-flow and it works quite well for me. As much as I thought I wanted clip automation, I’ve gotten so used to just doing it all in arrangement after years w/o an upgrade that now it seems un-natural. In fact many of the “improvements” seem to just get in the way of my workflow but then again I guess I need to get used to them. The whole automation arm function really had me confused for a minute but I got it now. The browser I can live with but I must say I’m pretty pumped about M4L, and the EQ8 and Compressor Improvements. I think it’s nice and just tighter when I can use all native Live stuff. Feels good man! lol
    I was drooling over PUSH for months and I definitely still want it but everywhere I look it’s back ordered for at least 4 months so, on a whim, I bought a Maschine Mikro and I can’t believe how much I absolutely LOVE it!! In fact I’m upgrading to the full Maschine. But thats another story.

    I’m w/ you on PUSH in that I don’t exactly make music that way, but I still really want to check it out.
    Either way, Live’s still my go-to DAW so I’ll ADAPT and OVERCOME!

  5. Good points. I felt the same way UNTIL I got the Push. Now I realize why they added the things they did, and why they changed the Library into what it is. Also, M4L is a huge inclusion because the tools that come with it are really quite amazing, from the Reverb to many of the LFOs and other strange tools. I was meh about L9 at first, but now I realize what the real upgrade was, and I’m very happy about it. In addition, it is rock solid from the start, which is great.

  6. Thanks for the review, Tarekith. It seems to me that there’s been a general trend among DAWs for major point releases to be rather minimal in terms of significant changes. I suppose this is the to be expected when software applications reach a have been around for ,any years and have reached a certain level of maturity. I’d feel more content if the cost of the upgrades were more in line with the extent of the new features (i.e. less expensive) but I think we need to bear in mind that companies like Ableton are now big businesses and many of their software decisions are driven by financial goals to a much larger extent then they were several years ago.

    I’m with you re: the Ableton Browser. It’s an embarrassment, or at least it should be. I just don’t don’t understand how they don’t get how bad it is. And it still doesn’t support MP3 tags. Arrrrggg!

    FYI, since Reason 6, the Device Rack can be 2 devices wide. This doesn’t answer all the needs for a higher resolution, pixel density, etc. but it does make it easier to organize the Rack and cuts down the scrolling, etc. Also, the audio time stretching sounds exceptionally good. The inclusion of the ReCycle functionality in Reason 7 is most welcome, though long overdue.

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