Ableton Live 10.1 is Coming – What's Inside?

Thoughts and reactions to the tweaks and introductions
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Just over a year after Ableton Live 10 hit the virtual shelves, its full point update has been announced. With the news dropping shortly after the bombshell of Bitwig Studio 3 and 'The Grid', could this be sway anyone looking for a Session View-style clip-launching workflow who's currently on the fence?

Among the new features are user wavetables, VST3, two new effects devices, automation shapes and more. So how big a deal is 10.1, and what can we expect it to do for the way we make music?

Live version 10 introduced a new synthesizer, Wavetable, and 10.1 adds the ability to load your own wavetables into its oscillators. Done via import of any sample, this is something of a no-brainer when compared to third-party wavetable synths such as Serum, which actually goes further, allowing PNG import of wavetables. This was very likely a popular user request received by Ableton, although that doesn't mean this particular feature wasn't already on the roadmap

The Channel EQ provides a slightly simpler EQ device in comparison to EQ Eight, offering Low, Mid and High bands as well as an 80Hz high-pass filter to engage. This may be a slightly more straightforward thing to pull up for quick EQ jobs, but with EQ Three already available to Live users, I'm questioning how much I'll call this one up myself. One positive for Channel EQ is its 'responsive' filter design – presumably employing proportional Q.

Meanwhile, Delay – the no-nonsense name for 10.1's second new device – combines the existing Ping Pong Delay and Simple Delay. Ableton say that "Ping pong behavior, as well as Jump, Fade-In and Pitch controls from those devices are all accessed from the front panel."

Automation is made easier for version 10.1 as well. The primary change is the ability to automatically draw shapes – say, a sine or triangle wave – rather than tedious programming them in yourself. This is an excellent feature that every DAW should have implemented long ago. The ability to automate a parameter in a logical, modulation-style way is brilliant, and the ability to do this or not do this at any point in the timeline you choose strikes me as especially useful.

Elsewhere in automation, jaggedly-drawn curves can be smoothed out, and Live is said to "detect curved movements inside automation and can merge multiple breakpoints into C- and S-shapes." Add in the ability to enter exact breakpoint values, using the numerical keypad, and Live's automation feels especially appropriate for the modern DAW landscape.

Live 10.1 will also be able to freeze tracks with sidechain inputs, and should be able to allow multiple sidechains sent from the same channel. VST3 plugins will also be accepted, too. I'd say "better late than never", but this is especially late to be added into Live, and has been a reason for me choosing other DAWs in the past.

Finally, zooming and scrolling has been improved, with the ability to expand the arrangement overview, and – actually the most significant update for me personally – pinch zooming "on compatible computers". Huzzah!

This seems to be an update that's very much led by user requests. These small additions to Ableton Live strike me as exactly the sorts of things that users would be pushing for, thanks to their relatively small footprint but comparatively huge impact. This goes to show that no longer are we living for the full-version update, and modern DAWs have plenty to offer in terms of upgrades for existing users.

James Russell

As well as being an Editor At Large for Electronic Musician, James also dispenses software news and views as the co-host of Appetite For Production Podcast, and tweets on Twitter as rusty_jam. You can find his 'collected works' at his website, XoverFreq.