All About Ableton’s Gate—A Pragmatic Guide

I found some old notes i had taken (for my own reference) about the parameters of Ableton’s Gate audio effect plugin and figured others could use the info as well, so i’ve polished ’em up, expanded on them a bunch, and dropped them here for you.

I’ve found that getting to know exactly how each parameter works with gate plugins leads to attaining desired results exponentially easier, and in particular learning how the more exotic parameters such as lookahead and hysteresis work facilitates sophisticated gate optimization.

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Go-To Q Values

There are not many controls for digital plugins where i prefer stepped options as opposed to continuous values, but the Q factor of EQ slopes is one of those that generally i do. Not really sure why i prefer them that way; i suppose there are a few reasons.

Regardless, i made myself (and you!) up a nifty spreadsheet of “Go-To Q Values”, based on logarithmic steps between the basic Q value (0.70607) and the minimum or maximum ranges. These Q values are optimized for Ableton Live’s EQ Eight, but can be applied to most any parametric EQ, when you want no-brainer go-to Q values to fall back on.

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Faster Freezing + Less CPU Usage: Avoid Processing Silence

This workflow enhancer is really simple.

Just disable VST plugins during times in tracks when they are not being used.

Activation Automation

Automate the nifty device activator (aka “on/off switch) of a device (or a rack of devices) to shut off during times of silence. Set the automation to switch on a little bit before audio starts, and to turn back off a bit after the audio is completely silent again.

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Demystification: The Chain Fade Problem

So there’s this issue with fading between chains in a rack in Ableton Live which i haven’t heard much mention of. Perhaps you’ve noticed it?

Say you have a rack with two chains, let’s call them “A” and “B“.

1
Starting to Set Up our Chains

Using the Zone Editors in the Chain Selector Editor of the rack, we’ll place A on the left (full at 0), fading out the other direction. Vice versa for B, placing it on the right (full at 127) and fading out towards the left.

2
A … fades to B

Now let’s map the Chain Select Ruler to the first Macro.

3
Macro Control to Fade between A and B

Macro 1 will now give us a nifty fader knob between whatever processing we place on chain A versus whatever we place on chain B.

Nice …except for the problem.

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PerforModule Recommends: Ideal Peak Levels

Kind of like every human being has a height value, every audio clip has a peak level value. So what can we do with that information, beyond knowing that going above 0dB usually isn’t advised? In our eternal quest for ultimate audio quality, the inclination can be inherent to record loudly—as close to 0dB—as possible, and thereafter maintain that peak level. We fear that by mixing with track levels that are too quiet, we might be losing fidelity, some harmonic detail in the saturation floor or something.

While it is true that recording analog signals as loudly as possible without signal clipping to begin with will indeed minimize noise floor, the benefits reaped by maximizing peak level for individual tracks tapers off as you get closer to zero. At what peak level are audio sources louder than they really need to be? At what level are they too quiet, that they might need to be boosted excessively later? Using an algorithm based on the energy of how sounds stack together, i devised a set of go-to ranges for peak levels based on track counts. Since peak levels can vary fairly wildly based on content, you are given minimums and maximums (instead of single target values). Juicy details ahead… Continue reading

Optimizing a New Windows PC for Audio Production (w/Profanity)

Having recently acquired a new custom-built PC, various steps implemented to optimize its performance and usability were taken note of. While not an expert in such things, i figured to share these tips in case they may prove useful. Keep in mind that this guide is presuming that you already dabble in audio production and are upgrading to a new—from an existing—system.

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Ableton Live 10: New Feature Highlights

So i’ve been delving into the Ableton Live 10 Beta for a little bit now, did a couple of large mixes and some experimenting with it, and have accumulated a fair impression of how it differs from Live 9.

Ableton Live 10 ~ What’s to Like?

I’ll run over some of the things i’ve noticed in particular which stood out to me, while slipping in mentions of more minor program enhancements. Everything i explain below i will have confirmed personally with Live 9 and Live 10 side-by-side testing.
You’ll notice i completely ignore some new features. These are things i’ve either not tested yet, don’t care about, or would take too much time to dive into properly here. I not even touching on the new instrument or effects (yet…)
My overall impression of Live 10 is that they added in a lot of workflow improvements i didn’t know i wanted. Continue reading