In our latest Top 10 feature, we are looking at our favourite Max for Live devices to use within Ableton. Max for Live (or Max/MSP) is an application that comes bundled with the suite version of Ableton Live and allows users to create their own plugins plus use thousands of the user created plugins that are being made every day. From crazy modulation matrices to emulations of modular sequencers, hopefully there is something here that will inspire you to take your tracks to the next level.

Words: Callum Martinez

Image credit: Ableton


Dispatch – Cong Burn

NTS resident and record label owner John Howes, AKA Cong Burn, was kind enough to create the mother of all modulation devices. The Dispatch Max for Live Device is a 4×4 modulation matrix that can route complex modulation across four different sources. On top of this it can send CV to your eurorack and output MIDI data for generative patterns. If you love your sound design you would be crazy to not to have this in your arsenal.

Sequencer-Ki – killihu

This 16 track step sequencer has a whole ton of features packed into it and is perfect for drums or percussion pattern creation. With probability functions, velocity control, and a MIDI mapping functionality to add modulation to each drum hit from other Ableton Live plugins or effects make this one really fun device to play with. Perfect for those with no skill in live finger jamming.

MDD__Snake – maximedangles

Based off of the popular Make Noise Rene eurorack module, this incredibly fun to use sequencer is capable of creating an infinite number of patterns and is especially great for the techno producers out there. The device can create some complex melodies and is even better when used with other max for live devices such as Abelton’s LFO. Check out the video below to get a taste of what it can do.

Slink – Hypnus Records

This device from deep techno pioneers Hypnus Records is a morphing filter bank that can completely change the timbre of your sounds. Inspired by water the device is perfect for making the organic style sounds of Hypnus artists such as Ntogn. If you would like to know more about the Max for Live devices from Hypnus then check out our recent interview with founder Michel Isenland here.

Inspired by Nature – Dillon Bastan

Introduced with Live 11, the Inspired my Nature collection of Max for Live devices from Dillon Bastan is probably the best thing about the update. Many of the devices are based on physics and biology and include granular synthesizers, a MIDI note generator that uses bouncing balls to produce notes, a tree that can create organic soundscapes, and delays that use gravity and magnetism to control parameters.

Superberry – Fors

Superberry is a supersaw synth inspired by classic trance music which comes as a Max for Live device as well as a standalone plugin. The device looks fairly simple at first glance but it sounds incredible. With LFO modulation, flexible delays, and a polymetric, asymmetric sequencer, this synth is essential 3 max for live devices in one (all of which are sold separately on the Fors website) making it well worth it in our opinion.

Max MSP – Ableton/Cycling74

Okay, so this isn’t necessarily a max for live device, but it is the software that allows you to create them. Although seemingly complex at first, Max/MSP is actually a very powerful piece of software that can allow you to build everything from synthesisers to effects plugins and more.

Platus – Hacktive

This gorgeous plate reverb from Hacktive is based off of the popular plateau module in VCV rack. Now the hybrid reverb that already comes packaged with Ableton is also great, but if you are looking for a versatile replacement to try out this is a great option.

Chord Generator – Nordmann

If music theory isn’t your strongest suite, the Nordmann Chord Generator may be able to help you out. Adding this device to a MIDI track will allow you to turn a single note into a beautiful chord helping you spark musical ideas and build chord progressions easily. The video below from ELPHNT gives a brilliant illustration on how it can be used.

Euclidean Sequencer – Alkman

Euclidean sequencers are a great way to create some unique rhythms and creative patterns and this device is probably the best on the market. This thing is packed with features including pitch and velocity settings, as well as forwards and backwards playback settings for each of the four tracks.

If you liked the Max for Live devices in this list and would like to check out more then visit the website here and browse the thousands of user generated devices, most of which are free!

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