Live: A Few Questions

So I’ve gotten a few questions about my Ableton Live “series,” some of which I’ll answer eventually but here are a few I probably should have touched on:

Will my [so-and-so] computer work for this?

Chances are—yes? Currently I use a 2011 Macbook Pro, with a quad-core i7 and 16GB of RAM. It’s getting a little wheezy now, but at the time it was hot potatoes and I’ve never had an issue with my Live setup. For years before that I used a 2006 Macbook with a duo core and 4GB and never had any issues, either. If you’re having CPU issues, there are a bunch of things you can try to reduce the load.

I’ve got a [so-and-so] interface, will that work?

Chances are—yes? My opinion on interfaces is that they all sound good these days. I mean, it’s really hard to buy a bad sounding interface. If you’ve got something that’s working for you and sounds good and gets along with your computer, by all means stick with it. It’s easy to buy a crappy interface with bad drivers, though, so if you don’t own anything yet it’s worth researching reviews from people with the same computer you have.

Why aren’t you using USB MIDI?

USB MIDI is pretty awesome, really; MIDI isn’t that resource heavy and a USB bus is more than enough for it. (And you get bus power too!) The main reasons I shy away from it are:

  1. I use the Roland SPD-SX as my primary MIDI controller, and at the time I bought it the USB drivers were a little screwy. I’ve used its USB bus since then but I stick with MIDI, just in case.
  2. I need more than one input, so to have enough ports I’d need to run a USB hub, which is more tiny little cables with delicate connectors than I feel like dealing with.
  3. USB spec only allows for runs of ten feet, anything longer than that needs a powered repeater cable or a powered hub in between.

Basically, it’s mostly a matter of personal convenience, and a little peace of mind. If you’ve only got one or two controllers and they’re all fairly close to you, or if your interface doesn’t have standard MIDI ports, USB is the way to go.