Ableton Live 9 Suite
Ableton Live 9 Suite

Live 9 Suite, General Sequencer from Ableton in the Live 9 series.

chromaticism 11/09/2014

Ableton Live 9 Suite : chromaticism's user review

« The Standard DAW For Electronic Music »

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Among all the digital audio workstations (DAWs) that I have tried in my long years of exploring music technology, only one of them has proven useful for live performance and improvisation: the aptly named Ableton Live. Many musicians, composers, and producers from all over the world attest to Live’s flexibility and ease of use. Having seen the success of many users of Live, I decided to take the latest version, Ableton Live 9 Suite, for a spin and see for myself why many people love it. I have been using this software for a few months now, on and off, and so by no means that I proclaim myself to be an expert. In this piece, I will talk about some of Ableton Live 9 Suite’s unique features along with my insights and comments.



One feature that separates Live 9 from all other DAWs is “Session View”. The Session View is very similar to the console view of other DAWs like Cakewalk Sonar or Logic Pro with a number of exceptions. The most notable of these is how one audio or MIDI track is divided into a number of cells called “scenes”. In every scene, a user can import or record a loop. By default, Live 9 has a total of 8 scenes per track but users can add more as needed. Each track has its own dedicated stop track button and each scene has its own play button. In Live 9, a user can play one scene per track at a time. Having such complete playback control over each track and each scene means that users can call up and play whatever tracks or scenes they want on the fly, enabling them to create unique performances every time with a set of assigned or recorded loops. Paired with a MIDI controller such as Ableton Push or Novation Launchpad, Ableton Live 9 can effectively use pre-recorded loops as well as loops recorded live in performance to create music in a huge variety of ways.


To take advantage of Live 9’s capabilities, it is important to use a MIDI controller with it. Preferred MIDI controllers for Live 9 are those that take advantage of the Session View. I mentioned a while ago two controllers namely Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad. These controllers usually look like an Akai MPC on steroids given the fact that they have a large matrix of pads that can be easily assigned to tracks and scenes in Live 9. Conventional keyboard-style MIDI controllers can also be used with Live such as the Akai MPK series, Samson Graphite, Korg Taktile, etc. As a personal preference, my ideal controller setup will involve a MIDI keyboard coupled with a pad controller like Ableton Push. If you don’t have any of those pad-style MIDI controllers, you can use an iPad instead with an app called Conductr to control Live 9 over a WiFi connection.

Assigning MIDI controls over different parameters is easy in Live 9. It only takes switching on its MIDI assign or learn function found at the top right screen, clicking the desired parameter, and then turning the desired knob, button, or slider on your MIDI controller. After turning off the MIDI assign button, you will notice that assigned parameters will be controllable using any MIDI controller.


There are three versions of Live 9: Intro, Standard, and Suite. Ableton Live 9 Suite (as its name would suggest) comes packaged with a huge array of software instruments, Live Packs (sample libraries), one-shot samples, and loops to get you making music right out of the box. Examples of Live Packs in Live 9 Suite are Puremagnetik’s Retro Synths, Orchestral Strings, and experimental sound from The Forge by Hecq. Another important addition that many experimental musicians will love in Live 9 Suite is Max for Live, a music-programming software that provides extra synths and more customization options such as the ability to create one’s own synths. As far as audio processing goes, Live 9 Suite comes with an assortment of all necessary effects such as compressors, modulation effects, and EQs as well as extras that can beef up the sound such as guitar amplifier emulation.


Ableton Live 9 Suite is clearly usable for both studio and live use. In double display computer systems, it’s even possible to use both the session and arrangement views simultaneously for better visual feedback. Although it can be very easy to start making music right away with Live 9, the depth of features in the Suite version will requires a considerable amount of time to learn how to use effectively, especially Max for Live. My only gripe about Ableton Live 9 Suite is that it lacks a score editor. Note-reading musicians find it easier to edit MIDI notes using a score view rather than a piano roll view. Given that Live 9 Suite comes with Orchestral Live Packs, orchestrators and film music composers will find great value in a score view, a thing that I think Ableton should consider adding in later versions. Other than that, I have no complaints.

- Session view and arrangement view can be utilized simultaneously in dual display computers.
- Learning curve is low.
- Easy MIDI control assignment. Automatic assignment for many controllers.
- Over 50GB of additional content including Live Packs, instruments, effects, etc.

- No score view.