I had to make a post about this since it drove me nuts for weeks and didn’t find any info about it until I dug deep in Ableton’s forums.
Short story – setting your songs to complex pro warp mode will totally fuck up your live sets.
Long story: I still had barely scratched the surface with what I can do with Ableton 7 LE, but one limitation that really stood out was the warp modes. For warping entire songs for live DJ sets, none of the ones available in 7 LE worked for me. I suppose ‘pitch’ would have been the best but I wanted my songs at their original pitch even when I drastically changed the BPM. Beats mode caused too many stutters. Tones didn’t sound right. Texture seemed a happy medium but that can give you nasty phase effects even when you barely adjust the BPMs.
So I upgrade to Live 8 – the full version and first I started setting everything to Complex. I was worried that Complex Pro would be too much for the processor on this old laptop. Complex seemed cool at first, until I started to listen to it closely. I was warping a simple drum track I recorded from vinyl and there was so much squeaky artifact noise in it that I thought there must have been interference when I recorded it. No, it was just Complex mode doing it’s thing. Listen for yourself (sorry – they are short clips but they are WAVs – for this little demo, I didn’t want to degrade them in the slightest by making them MP3s.)
Original – not warped.
Same track using Complex warp mode
So then I tried Complex Pro. Oh yeah – it sounded perfect. No stutters, no phase effects, no artifacts. The songs sounded great even when you totally jacked around with the BPMs. And my processor meter was sitting pretty at 15-20 percent. So I changed all my tracks to Complex Pro and used that for my sets on Infinity Tunes. And every week, 15-20 minutes into the set – disaster. I’d start a new song and all audio would stop for about a quarter of a second. And it would do that every time I started or stopped a track. And every time, the delay would get just a little longer. Yeah, it’s 2011 and I’m getting full second gaps in my live DJ sets. Not fucking cool.
So why was this happening? Complex Pro. I haven’t found a good technical explanation (besides the obvious – it’s a huge bug!) of why this happens but even though two or three tracks playing at once only uses up 20 percent or so of processor power, starting (or even stopping) a track warped with Complex Pro will cause your processor usage to spike – to such a great degree that all audio needs to stop for a bit to allow the CPU to catch up.
I would cut the Ableton devs some slack and say – ok, Complex Pro needs a lot of CPU power, I need to deal with it. But then it should do that from the very first track – and it doesn’t. My sets would be fine for at least 10 minutes – then things would collapse.
So I’m back to Texture mode for playing live. I can record the sets and change everything to Complex Pro later and export the audio then. It’s a crappy solution but it’s the best one I have right now. So if you’re listening to me live and it sounds good, but not great – wait for the download. It will sound much better.