What is it?
Ableton's DAW has been improving incrementally over time, rather than being radically altered. This is a tradition that Ableton has had for a while. Live 11 follows this tradition and features many improvements and changes.
They can be divided into three broad categories: improved tracking capabilities, new tools that are primarily used in live performance contexts, and upgrades to Live’s sound generation, processing, and sequencing capabilities.
The Suite edition of Live 11 contains four new effects: PitchLoop89, a pitchshifting effect based on a primitive digital pitch-shifter called the Publison DHM 89 b2), Hybrid Reverb (a dual algorithmic/convolution reverb that can be used for standard and sound design-esque reverbs), Spectral Resonator (which creates resonant comb filter-like effects and granular delay effects) and Spectral Time.
The Live 11 Suite includes three new instruments with great sound that were created with Spitfire Audio (Upright Piano and Brass Quartet), three new sound pack (Voice Box and Mood Reel), six 'Inspired by Nature’ chance-based instruments and effects, and three new instruments (Ball Quartet, String Quartet, and String Quartet).
Although they don't feel as full as the previous meatier Live additions, Echo and Wavetable, these are still of decent quality. Their quirky nature makes them a great complement to 11's chance-based features.
Additionally, some existing effects were upgraded: Redux, Chorus, and Phaser are now more fully-featured. Flanger and Phaser have been combined into one more powerful effect, much like Simple Delay or Ping Pong Delay in the Live 10 update.
Live now supports MIDI Polyphonic Expression, which allows for more precise control of compatible instruments. MPE allows you to pitchbend individual notes and also provides individual Slide or Pressure parameters that can be used as modulation sources. Each note can have its own discrete value.
MPE also has release velocity. This works in the same way as the familiar 'attack velocity' but is applied to the ends of the notes. MPE can also be used with a compatible hardware controller and can be programmed directly in the Expressions tab, next to the Notes or Envelopes tabs of the MIDI clip editor. You can also use polyphonic aftertouch on Live's Push devices.
Performance and verdict
The new comping and linked tracks capabilities for Live will be a great addition. Comping works as follows: Record audio or MIDI on a looped section and the data will still go to a single clip. However, each cycle will be recorded on a different take lane. You can view take lanes by right-clicking on track headers and selecting Show Take Lanes. They are displayed under the main lanes in a similar fashion to multiple automation lanes.
To comp the recorded material, select the desired track lane and press the enter key to place it in the main lane. You can also use draw mode - drag over a portion of the clip to place it on the main track lane. This is a simple solution to a long-awaited feature that will delight all who are eagerly waiting.
Similar to linked tracks, they work in an easy way. Select multiple tracks and right-click one of the track headers to select "Link Tracks". Tracks can be linked so that any selections made on one track will reflect on the other. This allows you to edit audio on multiple tracks simultaneously.
This can be useful for working with multiple copies of the same material. It will also prove valuable to people who deal with multi-track vocal or drum recordings. However, its functionality is limited to the ability to affect clips at the same position.
You can adjust the relative fade times of clips that are playing at the same clip on different tracks but not the fade times for multiple clips on the track at once.
It is still a powerful feature that can be used with track lanes. This allows you to quickly create and edit multitrack layers. You can even use warping to correct multitrack elements.
Live has the ability to choose an audio input channel to control Live's internal pace. It is easy to set this up. Simply select an audio input channel from Live's Preferences>> Link/Tempo/MIDI panel and then change the Show Tempo Follower toggle to Show. A 'Follow’ button will appear just to the left side of the familiar Tap button in the upper left-hand corner. This will activate Live's audio input analysis and adjust the project's tempo accordingly.
Live follow along with recordings and audio inputs was not easy. It feels like this feature is not ready for prime time.
Live performer has new capabilities for follow action: Follow actions can now be linked with a clip's duration, scenes can now have follow activities, and Jump is a new follow-action that allows you to jump to a specific clip. The sessions view now has an Enable Follow Actions Globally option.
A probability lane, which controls how likely a note will play in a live setting, is another feature that can be very useful. You can also set the velocity level of a note to make it sound more natural when you play live.
Macros also get a boost with the ability to store between one and 16 macros per rack. Macro snapshots allow you to create and recall multiple setups and can even be randomly generated for sonic inspiration.
Some changes may take some getting used to for veteran users (audio effects now reside in folders that also contain Max for Live modulators and the MIDI/Audio clips views have been updated), but Ableton has once again managed to improve Live's capabilities without adding bloat or complexity to its already efficient workflow.
Live's glitch with plugin delay compensation remains in effect. This means that transport-syncing plugins like Cableguys Shaperbox and Xfer Records LFO Tool can be de-synced if they are placed after effects which introduce latency.
This DAW is still a great live performance tool and DAW. Some enhancements may not be for you if your style is strictly in the box, but they are great for anyone else.
HitInstall verdict - Although Live 11 is not an upgrade that everyone needs, the new additions have been well implemented. It is still at the forefront of DAW technology.
Track linking and comping are excellently executed. Advanced users will appreciate MPE.
Suite Edition: New effects and instruments
This adds many new features to the package without making it too complicated.
It is not as important as the previous versions.
Some effects still require plugin delay compensation.
OS X 10.13 and Windows 10 (Build 1909 or later), 8GB RAM, Intel Core i5/AMD multi-core processor, 3 GB disk space on system drive for basic installation (8 GB recommended), up to 76 GB for additional sound content
Other versions: Live 11 Standard Intro and Live 11 Standard