Ableton announces Live 12: major update brings a new synth, MIDI tools and interface tweaks to the feature-packed DAW

Ableton has unveiled the latest version of Live, its flagship digital audio workstation. Live 12 is a major update that brings a host of new devices, MIDI tools and workflow tweaks aimed at helping you "spark musical creativity". 

There's a lot to dig into in Live's latest upgrade, but perhaps the most exciting additions are two new devices called Meld and Roar. Meld is a bi-timbral synth that's MPE-compatible, so it'll play nice with the next generation of MIDI controllers (including Push 3) and suit those looking to experiment with expressive live performances. 

Billed as an "experimental" synth designed for deep sound-shaping, Meld is based on a dual architecture that creates new sounds by layering two timbres together. The synth's two oscillators are equipped with a variety of waveforms, including complex waveshapes geared towards producing highly textural sounds. Each oscillator is equipped with two handy macros for quick adjustments, and those looking to go deeper will be rewarded by its extensive modulation and routing capabilities. 

ableton live 12

Ableton's Roar and Meld devices (Image credit: Ableton)

The second new device is Roar, a colouring and saturation effect that looks set to become a classic in Ableton's lineup of stock plugins. Capable of everything from subtle warmth and flavour to full-on sonic destruction, Roar's three saturation stages can operate in series, parallel, mid/side or multiband configurations and the device's modulation matrix and feedback routing make this a seriously powerful effects processor. 

Another new instrument in Live 12 is an upgrade to the Granulator, a widely-used Max for Live device designed by Ableton cofounder Robert Henke. Like its predecessors, Granulator III is a granular sampler capable of isolating, repeating and processing tiny grains of audio, but the third version boasts a redesigned UI, makes it possible to record audio into the plugin in real time and adds MPE control over parameters such as vibrato, glissando and note bend.


Live's MIDI Tools let you transform existing MIDI patterns or generate new ones (Image credit: Ableton)

Alongside the new devices, Live 12 features an array of new MIDI tools aimed at making it easier to come up with new melodic and harmonic ideas. A handful of these are generative, meaning that Live will automatically generate melodies, rhythms and chord sequences based on a set of musical rules specified by the user. Live's MIDI Editor has also been improved, making it easier to stretch, split, chop or join notes and reshuffle melodies and rhythms into new forms.

Ableton has also made some handy adjustments to Live's UI: a redesigned browser and tagging system makes discovering and categorizing sounds much easier than before, while the new Stacked Detail Views let you see the Clip Editor above the Device View, providing an instant overview of everything that's happening inside a single track. What's more, Live's Mixer can now be viewed in Arrangement View, a tweak that's long overdue.


Live's Mixer can now be used in Arrangement View (Image credit: Ableton)

Another interesting feature in Live 12 is the Sound Similarity Search. This helps you find samples and presets in your library that sound similar to any sample that you're particularly fond of: specify your favourite sound and Live will scan all of the timbres in your library to offer up similar candidates. Samples in devices like Drum Rack can be swapped out for similar alternatives at the touch of a button, making it easy to quickly audition new sounds that fall within a particular niche.

All in all, Live 12 is a serious update that brings some fascinating additions to this already feature-packed DAW. We've covered most of the big developments here, but we'll dive into Live 12 in more detail over the coming days, so keep an eye out for further coverage as the week continues.

Ableton Live 12 will be officially released in early 2024 but owners of Live 9, 10 and 11 Standard and Suite can try out the public Live 12 Beta right now.

Live 12 is priced at €79/$99 for Live Intro, €279/$439 for Live Standard and €599/$749 for Live Suite. Existing users will be able to upgrade for a discounted price.

Find out more on Ableton's website.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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