Collaborating using different devices and applications has always been something of a hit-and-miss affair, with technologies like WIST over Bluetooth meeting with mixed success despite the support of some big names. Ableton has taken the bold step of making the SDK for its new Link technology free so that any developer can build in support. Elastic Drums is one of the first available and you can see some videos of the technology in action below.
Ableton Link would seem to be the holy grail of musical collaboration over a local wireless network. It works by synchronising beat, phase and timing information between Live and Link-enabled iOS apps wirelessly. The idea is that you can stop and start your parts while other people keep playing, and anyone can adjust a project’s tempo without messing up the session as a whole. Crucially, Ableton reckons that you don’t actually need Live in your setup to use Link, although presumably there will be specific features that only work if you do have Live running. The notion of just connecting Link-enabled iOS apps together is pretty cool though, and presumably there’s some kind of clever stuff going on to keep everything synchronised.
Korg seems to be quite invested in the new tech, with iElectribe, iKaossilator and Gadget all compatible already, and other big names like iMPC Pro, Fugue Machine and Patterning are on board too, with more to surely follow soon. From the demo videos it seems like all the sync is MIDI-based at the moment and you still have to run audio out of every device into a mixer or amp to be able to hear it, so it’s not exactly as hassle-free as you might ideally want. Streaming audio over a wireless network from a bunch of devices can end up using a lot more bandwidth so it’s not surprising that it’s not here yet, though don’t rule out seeing true wireless audio collaboration appear at some point in the future.
Read more about Ableton Link at https://www.ableton.com/en/link/
Ableton Link session with 7 devices and 8 apps:
Elastic Drums Ableton Link demo with 9 devices in sync: