Ableton Live 12 Review

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by IDS Team

Ableton Live 12, the much anticipated update since Live 11.3, runs the gamut with new features, but some of them are not immediately obvious. At first, it looks like there isn’t that much – in fact, there are only two new plugins. These include Roar, a saturation plugin, and the Meld synth, which excels for electronic music. 

But look deeper under the surface and you will find that Ableton Live 12 is awash with features that make workflow easier. Yet it also contains those which have a significant effect in humanising tracks made on DAWs. Furthermore, there are several interface related updates that make this a smart DAW for the age of AI. So, read on for the details.

What are the best parts of Ableton Live 12? 

Hands down, some of the best parts of the update are actually the smallest and the most subtle. In fact, Live 12 boasts many small changes that may not seem like much at first but actually make a huge difference to workflow and the entire production process. These include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • Round robin sampling
  • Keyboard shortcuts are momentary 
  • Humanisation features 
  • ‘Sounds like’ search feature 

But what do these new features actually do?

Of the new plugins, the Ableton Live 12 Meld synth is MPE compatible and aimed at creating textural sounds that you can easily chop up, process, and experiment with. An exciting new feature for electronic musicians, it boasts patches from a nice variety of genres. It also works well with some of the new features such as the round robin sampler, which allows you to set groups of samples so that different ones play in a randomised sequence. 

Meanwhile the Roar saturation plugin is colorful and sounds particularly great on drums, lending a human, warm, and gritty flare to them. 

Lastly, the sounds like search feature is one of the biggest interface/workflow improvements that makes a powerful difference to the production process. This allows you to search for instruments that sound like a given instrument, helping you navigate the DAW’s dizzying variety of choice much more easily. This is also great for giving you extra inspiration on top. It’s an accurate and streamlined tool that makes Ableton a highly intelligent DAW, going well with it’s other smart features. In fact, it sits next to those such as modified AI abilities to generate beats, chord progressions, and more. 

Ableton has always been invested heavily in technologically progress. It seems like Live12 is really taking the DAW into unprecedented territory with AI this time. Yet, it still manages to pay homage to the features of manual music creation that purists demand, via it’s touches of humanisation. 

ableton live 12

Is it worth getting Ableton Live 12? 

Is it worth getting Ableton Live 12? It depends on your personal preferences, but if you like electronic music, the answer is a resounding yes. For first time producers, this update may make your DAW experience smoother than ever. What’s more, it can provide a fast way to get into audio production without hassle. 

The interface additions such as ‘sounds like’ and the momentary keyboard shortcuts make it extremely fluid and easy to work with. This also makes it great creatively as there are less technical barriers to jotting down ideas. 

Why you might not choose Live 12?

However, what about those who might not initially enjoy the electronic music focussed DAW? In fact, there are some reasons you should give it another consideration. One of the most powerful features of the update are the humanisation qualities, which include the ability to now strum notes. All in all, this makes programmed notes sound more realistic than ever. 

Furthermore, the MPE capacities – and the ability to use compatible hardware that is attached to control Ableton’s inbuilt MPE synths – mean that there are actually lots of options here. This is great for musicians who are more used to working with real live instruments than programming beats. Are you hoping to cross genres and want a DAW that can stand up to a real instrument or live recording session? Then, it’s definitely worth considering if you were on the fence. 

Is there anything bad about it? 

There isn’t actually much bad about Ableton Live 12 and it’s a pretty well thought out update. There’s clearly a lot of love and care that has gone into the smaller modifications to the workflow, too. 

There are potentially a few reasons you may not want to get it. These tend to come down to preference of the interface, workflow, and formatting, of other DAWs. But there are no major pitfalls with the update and in fact with the new workflow modifications there are bigger things it has achieved. Ableton 12 has done what it seems to have always set out to do, democratising the process of music creation. As a result, it’s easy to get involved even with very little experience. 

What’s more, these modifications seem small but actually make a big difference. The one thing that Live 12 is lacking is any major new gear. There is the Roar saturation plugin, but that’s about it. Therefore, some longstanding fans of the DAW may find the update slightly underwhelming if already ok with the workflow process. You could say that Live 12 has fixed a lot of things that weren’t really broken in the first place. But at the nitty gritty level, there are quite a lot of positives to all the updates. 

Ableton Live 12 Price

Ableton Live 12 comes in three different versions – intro (99 USD), standard (439 USD), and suite (749 USD). Live 12 intro contains 5 GB of sounds whilst standard and suite contain 38 and 71 respectively. Apart from that, the major differences are in the amount of tracks.

Additionally, it’s possible to upgrade if you already own Ableton Live 11.3 – the upgrade is reported at 173 USD for standard regardless of what version of Ableton you are upgrading from. Otherwise, you find find Live 12 here.

Final Thoughts

Live 12 is a powerful update that focusses mostly on the technical as opposed to the creative side. This firmly cements Live as a fully functioning professional and high quality DAW from it’’s humble beginnings focussing on loops. With these updates, it has created a more powerful and streamlined interface with a lot of attention to detail. In short, it’s one that makes music creation mesmerisingly realistic. 

It’s not big on the addition of new creative elements but rather more subtle. In fact its main goal is refining the elements that were already in place, to put some sparkle and polish on them. Yet, we would recommend it as a change that has given an already popular DAW an exciting edge.

If you like Ableton gear but want to know your other options, we have some great Ableton Push alternatives here. And, if you love software reviews, we have a whole section here.