Max 8 – and by extension the latest Max for Live – offers some serious powers to build your own sonic and visual stuff. So let’s tune in some videos to learn more.
The major revolution in Max 8 – and a reason to look again at Max even if you’ve lapsed for some years – is really MC. It’s “multichannel,” so it has significance in things like multichannel speaker arrays and spatial audio. But even that doesn’t do it justice. By transforming the architecture of how Max treats multiple, well, things, you get a freedom in sketching new sonic and instrumental ideas that’s unprecedented in almost any environment. (SuperCollider’s bus and instance system is capable of some feats, for example, but it isn’t as broad or intuitive as this.)
The best way to have a look at that is via a video from Ableton Loop, where the creators of the tech talk through how it works and why it’s significant.
In this presentation, Cycling ’74’s CEO and founder David Zicarelli and Content Specialist Tom Hall introduce us to MC – a new multi-channel audio programming system in Max 8.
MC unlocks immense sonic complexity with simple patching. David and Tom demonstrate techniques for generating rich and interesting soundscapes that they discovered during MC’s development. The video presentation touches on the psychoacoustics behind our recognition of multiple sources in an audio stream, and demonstrates how to use these insights in both musical and sound design work.
The patches aren’t all ready for download (hmm, some cleanup work being done?), but watch this space.
If that’s got you in the learning mood, there are now a number of great video tutorials up for Max 8 to get you started. (That said, I also recommend the newly expanded documentation in Max 8 for more at-your-own-pace learning, though this is nice for some feature highlights.)
dude837 has an aptly-titled “delicious” tutorial series covering both musical and visual techniques – and the dude abides, skipping directly to the coolest sound stuff and best eye candy.
Yes to all of these:
There’s a more step-by-step set of tutorials by dearjohnreed (including the basics of installation, so really hand-holding from step one):
Suffice to say that also could mean some interesting creations running inside Ableton Live.
It’s not a tutorial, but on the visual side, Vizzie is also a major breakthrough in the software:
That’s a lot of looking at screens, so let’s close out with some musical inspiration – and a reminder of why doing this learning can pay off later. Here’s Second Woman, favorite of mine, at LA’s excellent Bl__K Noise series:
Cycling ’74 has announced the release of Max 8, a major upgrade to the visual programming software. Max 8 includes MC, allowing for objects and patch cords to contain multiple audio channels by simply typing mc. before the name of any MSP object. It also comes with speed improvements of up to 2x on Mac […]
Max 8 is released today, as the latest version of the audiovisual development environment brings new tools, faster performance, multichannel patching, MIDI learn, and more.
MC multichannel patching.
It’s always been possible to do multichannel patching – and therefore support multichannel audio (as with spatial sound) – in Max and Pure Data. But Max’s new MC approach makes this far easier and more powerful.
Any sound object can be made into multiples, just by typing mc. in front of the object name.
A single patch cord can incorporate any number of channels.
You can edit multiple objects all at once.
So, yes, this is about multichannel audio output and spatial audio. But it’s also about way more than that – and it addresses one of the most significant limitations of the Max/Pd patching paradigm.
Synthesis approaches with loads of oscillators (like granular synthesis or complex additive synthesis)? MC.
MPE assignments (from controllers like the Linnstrument and ROLI Seaboard)? MC.
MC means the ability to use a small number of objects and cords to do a lot – from spatial sound to mass polyphony to anything else that involves multiples.
It’s just a much easier way to work with a lot of stuff at once. That was present in open code environment SuperCollider, for instance, if you were willing to put in some time learning SC’s code language. But it was never terribly easy in Max. (Pure Data, your move!)
Mappings lets you MIDI learn from controllers, keyboards, and whatnot, just by selecting a control, and moving your controller.
Computer keyboard mappings work the same way.
The whole implementation looks very much borrowed from Ableton Live, down to the list of mappings for keyboard and MIDI. It’s slightly disappointing they didn’t cover OSC messages with the same interface, though, given this is Max.
Max 8 has various performance optimizations, says Cycling ’74. But in particular, look for 2x (Mac) – 20x (Windows) faster launch times, 4x faster patching loading, and performance enhancements in the UI, Jitter, physics, and objects like coll.
Also, Max 8’s Vizzie library of video modules is now OpenGL-accelerated, which additionally means you can mix and match with Jitter OpenGL patching. (No word yet on what that means for OpenGL deprecation by Apple.)
There’s full NPM support, which is to say all the ability to share code via that package manager is now available inside Max.
Patching works better, and other stuff that will make you say “finally”
Actually, this may be the bit that a lot of long-time Max users find most exciting, even despite the banner features.
Patching is now significantly enhanced. You can patch and unpatch objects just by dragging them in and out of patch cords, instead of doing this in multiple steps. Group dragging and whatnot finally works the way it should, without accidentally selecting other objects. And you get real “probing” of data flowing through patch cords by hovering over the cords.
There’s also finally an “Operate While Unlocked” option so you can use controls without constantly locking and unlocking patches.
There’s also a refreshed console, color themes, and a search sidebar for quickly bringing up help.
And additionally, essential:
High definition and multitouch support on Windows
UI support for the latest Mac OS
And of course a ton of new improvements for Max objects and Jitter.
What about Max for Live?
Okay, Ableton and Cycling ’74 did talk about “lockstep” releases of Max and Max for Live. But… what’s happening is not what lockstep usually means. Maybe it’s better to say that the releases of the two will be better coordinated.
Max 8 today is ahead of the Max for Live that ships with Ableton Live. But we know Max for Live incorporated elements of Max 8, even before its release.
For their part, Cycling ’74 today say that “in the coming months, Max 8 will become the basis of Max for Live.”
Based on past conversations, that means that as much functionality as possibly can be practically delivered in Max for Live will be there. And with all these Max 8 improvements, that’s good news. I’ll try to get more clarity on this as information becomes available.
Max 8 now…
Ther’s a 30-day free trial. Upgrades are US$149; full version is US$399, plus subscription and academic discount options.
Full details on the new release are neatly laid out on Cycling’s website today:
Today, Cycling ’74 released version 8 of its Max interactive programming environment. The new version combines innovations and refinements with significant performance improvements. Max 8 enables the user to experience “a whole new level” of sonic exploration with the introduction of MC, adds optimizations and improvements for better performance, simplifies MIDI and keyboard control of… Read More Cycling ’74 Releases Max 8
Elli Records, an independent label focused on computer music, has released its first full-length album, “Spectra,” by Tom Hall. Founded in 2015 by Alessio Santini of K-Devices, Elli Records is an independent label focused on “music made by humans, for humans, with computers.” Santini explains: “Our goal is to promote artists that create computer media,… Read More Computer Music Label, Elli Records, Debuts First Full-Length Title
After weeks of watching Ableton’s trainers and testers have the fun, Live 10 is now the current version. Here’s what that means for you.
Live 10 is now the official release version of Ableton Live. If you didn’t jump on the discounted upgrade or preorder pricing, that’s done. Live reverts to its original pricing and retains the same editions Live 9 had (Suite, Standard, Intro).
What you get with Live 10: lots of new Devices including the Wavetable synth and Echo multi-engine delay, automatic Capture of your ideas before you hit record, improved editing of MIDI and audio especially in the Arrange view, lots of additional sounds, more Push integration, and a faster, more integrated Max for Live. It’s also much easier on the eyes, certainly on Retina displays, but across the board.
Now, in those intervening weeks, a lot of people have gotten their hands on the software. I’ve been using Live 10 betas since early fall. Here’s what I’ve found, comparing my own personal experience with other Live users, both advanced and novice.
Live 10’s highlights
Arrangement view finally feels fleshed out. Editing multiple MIDI clips in Arrange, being able to directly manipulate audio, and navigating Arrange more quickly is really essential. I really hope Ableton continue to develop this area – and that some day we even see the sort of hardware integration with Arrange that we do with Push and Session view.
You’re going to use Drum Buss a whole lot. Drum Buss sounds like a specific drum compressor. That’s even how Ableton markets it. In practice, its combination of dynamics processing and “crunch” turn out to be pretty useful all over the place, especially since its simplified controls can be used in a variety of ways to dial in very different results.
Echo and Wavetable are really beautiful. Do you need another delay and another synth? Well, maybe not. Do these add character to the release? Absolutely. Look, lots of DAWs use pack-in instruments and effects to try to earn your loyalty and upgrades. Ableton is arguably a little different in that some of these designs are so specific to the software maker as to make little sense elsewhere – think Operator or Simpler. For me, though – and your experience may be different – the new devices were an easy test. I had Live 9 on my MacBook and Live 10 on my Razer for quite a while. I was comfortable enough switching back to 9 to work on lots of projects. But it was the devices that often made me migrate over to 10 again.
Push is more useful for editing. The addition of the melodic step sequencing layout (which combines real-time entry and sequencing), the ability to work on MIDI patterns on Push, and new device support continue to make Push feel essential.
Groups inside Groups. There are a lot of usability improvements, but I think you could say this is the most important one. I can’t tell you why exactly subgroups make the whole use of groups more useful, but they do. I find myself using groups a lot more – and I know of all the usability improvements people asked for that appeared in Live 10, this was the most significant.
There are a lot of other improvement here that may require adapting a bit. Capture is something found in DAWs like Cubase, but oddly it’s easy to forget that you don’t have to hit record to grab ideas. The Arrange view’s new features require some investment of time learning shortcuts and the like – and that pays off. And you should invest some time in organizing your Library to exploit that nice new browser, for sure.
We’ve been talking to Ableton now for years about their ideas for better integrating the ideas of Cycling ’74, who make Max/MSP, and Ableton themselves, even before Ableton bought Cycling.
The big thing you’ll notice right away is that Max for Live is integrated with Live – that is, you won’t see a separate load screen. It’s “built in.”
But there’s more to it than just that, which CDM has confirmed with Ableton:
Max is better, faster, stronger, etc. Max itself has been optimized, improving device load time and CPU load, plus a lot of bug fixes.
Versions are in lockstep. Since Live and Max are integrated, you can’t accidentally run the “wrong” version of Max. This also means that a sound pack that supports a particular version of Live won’t run into a compatibility problem with an out-of-sync version of Max.
The future is surround. One easy-to-miss improvement is really an important one: Max for Live support for multichannel audio mixing opens up new possibilities for multichannel setups.
Max 8 is coming! When Max 8 ships, it’ll include the internal improvements found now in Max for Live, plus new Max 8 features for people making their own patches.
So, that’s the good news. Now, the bad news: while we’ve been promised more integration of Max and Live, they remain separate products. Standalone Max licenses may have features that don’t become available in Max for Live. And while eventually Max 8 features will come to Live 10, it sounds like there will be a lag while Ableton tests those features.
Ableton describe this as “lockstep” versions of Max and Live, but – if the versions come out at different times with different features and there’s a lag as they test integration, that’s obviously not lockstep in regards to Max. At least you have one installer and one version as far as Live and Max for Live.
We’ll keep talking to Ableton and Cycling as the Max 8 release gets closer to fully grasp how this is working, and how the closer partnership of the two companies would shape this over time. The reality here still seems to lag what we’ve been promised in terms of Max and Live being integrated and the two developers acting as one.
What might hold you back?
Live 10 doesn’t make any advances in allowing you to integrate custom hardware. As other software has added support for OSC and other protocols, or integrated native scripting, Ableton mostly keeps that kind of integration accessible to hardware vendors. (Hopefully with official support for polyphonic MIDI expression announced, Ableton will follow soon. That may be an edge case, but it’s an edge case that tends to use Live!)
That said, some quiet improvements to Max for Live regarding System Exclusive data support and custom control surface creation now became a lot more useful. MIDI-CI, a new technique for automatically configuring hardware, could combine with Max for Live in interesting ways. (My only concern there: native support would be better.)
Live is also at the pricier end of DAWs available today, for both new and existing users. Users are of course also weighing the price of this as they budget, and I know that’s been a disincentive for some of you for whom money is tight. I can’t personally say what software should cost, as unlike hardware, you can’t calculate what it costs to make. But if you don’t have the money for this, I feel your pain – been there.
By the way, if you preordered Live, you aren’t automatically charged. So you can still back out if you’re not in the financial state you thought you might be – check refund/return pricing and contact support if you need.
But I do think that Live 10 is among a handful of Live upgrades over the years that seem to make everyone happy once they take the plunge. If Live is what you use most of the time, if you’re productive in the Live workflow more than other DAWs, should you get the Live 10 upgrade? Yes. That’s an easy answer.
We’ll look a bit more at some of the devices in future and can discuss that – plus the state of other software. Stay tuned.
Electronic musicians have been living with the idea of Live 10 for a while. Now, the actual software is available in a public beta. Here’s how it works.
Who can join the public beta?
You need a registered copy of Ableton Live 9 Standard or Live 9 Suite. Earlier versions and entry level/bundled versions of the software don’t qualify.
How do I join in?
Ableton uses bug tracker Centercode to share current in-development testing builds of their software, and to collect data on how you’re using it. If you have one of those Live 9 serials, you can sign up directly:
Ableton say they use this stage of the process to collect data on how you’re using the software and how stable it is. So, they are actively looking for bugs.
Back in the day, that meant you had to write extensive reports for developers to know what wasn’t working in the software. Now, a lot of that process is automated (though if you encounter some very specific bug, for instance with a particular third-party setup, you may want to write some report to Ableton).
Is it stable?
Okay, officially, it’s beta software, so strictly speaking it isn’t as stable as a finished release.
But Ableton betas are unique, in that certified trainers, some members of the press (hi there), Ableton employees, and some artists have been using Live 10 since the fall. I’ve probably opened Live 9 only a couple of times since September, and have played with Live 10 onstage and finished tracks in it.
Just be advised that any really essential files you’ll want to keep in Live 9; once you save as a Live 10 file, you can’t go back. And you can keep Live 9 and Live 10 installed side-by-side on the same machine. I’ve done that on both my Mac and PC and intend to leave it that way until Live 10 ships (and maybe a few months after).
Plus Tom Cosm has an extensive video walkthrough at the bottom of that post, and a handy, printable quick reference guide to shortcuts and new features – which is great for getting more productive in the refreshed Arrange view!
I’ll do an updated round-up of videos next week, and you can expect more guides in words (because reading is cool) around the release.
What’s up with Max?
Live 10 also includes the new version of Cycling ’74 Max/MSP, Max 8. Cycling haven’t revealed all of the new features in Max 8, and in particular what hard-core Max users will get from the authoring tool, but a pre-release version of Max 8 is shipping with Live 10 – meaning Ableton and Cycling ’74 are testing the new generation of each of their products at the same time.
That’s one small step in the direction we confirmed Ableton and Cycling intended to take as the two companies merged efforts:
If your computer and a stompbox had a love child, MOD Duo would be it – a virtual effects environment that can load anything. And now, it does Max/MSP, too.
MOD Devices’ MOD Duo began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea – turn computer software into a robust piece of hardware – wasn’t itself so new. Past dedicated audio computer efforts have come and gone. But it is genuinely possible in this industry to succeed where others have failed, by getting your timing right, and executing better. And the MOD Duo is starting to look like it does just that.
What the MOD Duo gives you is essentially a virtualized pedalboard where you can add effects at will. Set up the effects you want on your computer screen (in a Web browser), and even add new ones by shopping for sounds in a store. But then, get the reliability and physical form factor of hardware, by uploading them to the MOD Duo hardware. You can add additional footswitches and pedals if you want additional control.
Watch how that works:
For end users, it can stop there. But DIYers can go deeper with this as an open box. Under the hood, it’s running LV2 plug-ins, an open, Linux-centered plug-in format. If you’re a developer, you can create your own effects. If you like tinkering with hardware, you can build your own controllers, using an Arduino shield they made especially for the job.
And then, this week, the folks at Cycling ’74 take us on a special tour of integration with Max/MSP. It represents something many software patchers have dreamed of for a long time. In short, you can “export” your patches to the hardware, and run them standalone without your computer.
This says a lot about the future, beyond just the MOD Duo. The technology that allows Max/MSP to support the MOD Duo is gen~ code, a more platform-agnostic, portable core inside Max. This hints at a future when Max runs in all sorts of places – not just mobile, but other hardware, too. And that future was of interest both to Cycling ’74 and the CEO of Ableton, as revealed in our interview with the two of them.
Even broader than that, though, this could be a way of looking at what electronic music looks like after the computer. A lot of people assume that ditching laptops means going backwards. And sure enough, there has been a renewed interest in instruments and interfaces that recall tech from the 70s and 80s. That’s great, but – it doesn’t have to stop there.
The truth is, form factors and physical interactions that worked well on dedicated hardware may start to have more of the openness, flexibility, intelligence, and broad sonic canvas that computers did. It means, basically, it’s not that you’re ditching your computer for a modular, a stompbox, or a keyboard. It’s that those things start to act more like your computer.
Anyway, why wait for that to happen? Here’s one way it can happen now.
Darwin Grosse has a great walk-through of the MOD Duo and how it works, followed by how to get started with