Do you perform using Ableton Live and a modular synth? Hold on tight: Ableton has just announced CV Tools for Live, a suite of 10 Max for Live devices that let you control your modular synth from Live via CV – and vice versa! CV Tools is now in public beta, and will be a free update for all users of Ableton Live 10 Suite.
The CV Tools for Live are being developed in collaboration with Skinnerbox. They use a compatible, DC-coupled audio interface to send and receive CV and trigger signals to and from external analog gear, such as a modular synth. The idea isn’t new: MOTU’s Volta plug-in did it eight years ago (albeit only in one direction), and Bitwig Studio also has built-in CV capabilities. But it’s awesome to see Ableton Live catching up, given the DAW’s huge popularity among electronic live performers.
10 CV input and output modules
The CV Tools suite consists of ten modules, which can handle different communication and modulation tasks. The CV Instrument lets you control your modular synth using CV/Gate. It contains modulation generators such as two envelopes and a shaper. Then, there’s the CV Triggers module, which is designed to control drums using key-mapped, configurable triggers.
For modulation, CV Tools contains several interesting modules. The CV Utility module serves as a universal modulation tool. It lets you use Live’s automation to control a modular synth. You can also combine and mix/layer several control signals. Then, there’s a CV LFO and a module called CV Shaper, which essentially looks like a luxury LFO that lets you create complex modulation waveforms. The CV Envelope Follower module can create CV signals from audio events in Live.
Control Live from your modular synth
What’s great about the CV Tools is that they also let you control Live from a modular synth. That’s something that Volta couldn’t do. Two sync modules handle the task of controlling the modular’s tempo from Live, or using triggers from the modular to control Live’s tempo. The CV In module takes a control voltage from the modular, so you can use to modulate parameters in Live. Neat!
To use the new Ableton Live CV Tools, you’ll need an audio interface with DC-coupled inputs and outputs. I’m sure that Ableton will post some kind of list with compatible interfaces when CV Tools is officially released, and the user community will quickly figure out which interfaces can be used. The number of CV signals you’ll be able to send and receive will depend on the number of analog inputs and outputs of the interface.
Ableton CV Tools for Live is now in public beta. You can download it from Ableton’s site and try it using the Ableton Live 10.1 beta. After the testing period, CV Tools for Live will be free for owners of Live 10 Suite, or owners of Live 10 Standard who also have Max for Live.