Download and install Asio4All (Windows only)
If you are using Ableton on a Windows computer, you may want to use the audio driver Asio4All. It’s a free download.
Asio4All is a hardware-independent low-latency ASIO driver for WDM audio devices. Asio4All can be useful to those who experience driver issues and have tested their manufacturer drivers without success.
Using Asio4All is simple. Download it from http://www.asio4all.com/ and follow through the installation.
Then in Live, change your Driver to Asio4All:
Preferences >> Audio >> Driver Type.
Adjust Sample Rate & Buffer Size
Sample rate and buffer size are two items to consider that can significantly affect performance.
Sample rate refers to the number of audio samples carried per second. Sample rate is measured in Hz or kHz. In general, higher sample rates will deliver better sound quality – but also diminishing returns the higher you go above CD quality (16-bit at 44.1 kHz).
Ableton’s default sample rate is 44100Hz (Found under Preferences >> Audio >> Sample Rate). For many purposes, this is ideal, because it’s CD quality and many people have a tough time hearing improvements above this.
The downside to using higher sample rates is higher overhead.
So why would producers use any higher options?
48 kHz is the standard audio sampling rate for professional video. And 88.2 kHz and 96 kHz are high-end options, which double the sampling rates of the 44.1 kHz audio standard and the 48 kHz audio for video standard.
Some prefer to sample audio at the highest rate possible, in order to maximize audio quality. For example, if you stretch audio, you’re effectively spreading the samples out over a longer period of time and reducing the sample rate. So, using a higher sample rate with your source material may deliver better sounding results.
Ableton recommends, for best performance and audio quality, that you avoid mixing clips with different sample rates within a single set. Do your sample rate conversion ‘offline’, outside of Live, to make them consistent with the sample rate you’re working at in Live.
Buffer Size is another setting that may be useful to consider tweaking.
So you’re making a song and adding a ton of tracks to your project. All of the sudden you start to hear crackles and audio drop-outs. Adjusting the buffer size can fix this.
- The higher the buffer size you use, the fewer drop-outs and crackles you will hear, but the higher the latency, too.
- The lower the buffer size you use, the lower the latency, but the more likely you will hear drop-outs and crackles.
Generally, you will want to select the smallest buffer size that you can use with a Live Set, without getting drop-outs.
The usable buffer size will vary, based on the complexity of your Set.
Freezing and Flattening Tracks
Any virtual instruments and effects that you use in a track comes with a cost, in terms of CPU usage.
“Freezing” a track bounces it to audio in the background and takes away the CPU intensive activity. This frees up your CPU so that you can do things like run with a lower buffer rate or use more tracks.
To Freeze a track, right click it (or control-click it) and choose Freeze Track.
When you freeze a track, your effects are un-editable until you un-freeze the track. When a track is frozen, you can still adjust the volume, panning, and sends, but can’t adjust the instrument or effects. This can be super useful if you are not sure if you are satisfied with a certain element in your track but you want to save some CPU.
When you are ready to fully commit, there is a flattening option. The flattening option bounces the track straight to audio. At this point there is no un-freeze. Doing this can dramatically improve the performance of Ableton.
VST plugins and audio effects and very strenuous on your CPU. I love using the freeze function, because I know I can always go back and un-freeze the track to make changes.