Ableton released a public beta version of Live 8.4 last week. The big announcement is that Live is now a 64-bit application. This has been a while coming and seems like great news for all users but there are a few things worth knowing before you take the plunge.
64-bit - What does it mean?
Running a 64-bit host will affect the amount of RAM that is usable by the application. 32-bit programs can access up to four gigabytes of RAM. A 64-bit application can access almost limitless RAM (actually the limit is around 16 exabytes or 17,179,869,184 gigabytes!). This is great news for anyone using large Live projects or sample libraries.
Can I run the 64-bit beta?
The beta can be run by anyone with a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, or Mac OS 10.5 or higher on an Intel-based Mac.
There are a few limitations, and these are important to consider before installing Live 8.4:
1. Max For Live will not work. Projects will load but any Max For Live devices will behave as if bypassed.
2. Video is currently not working. Projects will load but any video clips will behave as if the video source file is missing.
3. The Bridge is not working. It is not possible to use Serato Scratch Live for real-time control of a Live set. Serato mixes in .als format will load however and playback as expected.
Ableton say they are working to resolve these issues, but if any of the above points are critical to your work in Live, then you will need to wait until the 64-bit version supports that feature.
What about my plugins?
In short, you can use any VST or AU plugins that is 64-bit. 32-bit plugins will not load in Live 64-bit. This may come as a surprise, given that a lot of other hosts supply what's called a bridge, a piece of software that allows 32-bit plugins to load in a 64-bit host. Ableton have not included a bridge and so plugins which have not yet had a 64-bit update are out in the cold.
There is a 3rd party bridge known as jBridge. Ableton themselves are suggesting it as a workaround, and there seems to be positive feedback on the beta forums from people who have installed and used it. Your mileage may vary though.
If you are in doubt as to whether your plugins are 64-bit compatible, you'll need to contact the plugin's manufacturer. Most of the big name plugin companies have already made the necessary 64-bit updates available, but if you are using older plugins you will need to check.
So should I install?
Well, if you've read so far and are confident that there are no showstoppers, then by all means go for it. You might also want to read the Ableton 64-bit vs 32-bit FAQ before installing the Beta. Remember that Live 8.4 is still officially in beta. This means there could be unresolved or as yet undetected bugs.
After a period of quiet from Ableton, it's nice to see updates like this keeping us up to date. 64-bit functionality is very welcome, especially in a free 8.x update.