Default presets can save you time and keep you focused on producing music rather than repetitious setup. Of all the suggestions in this article, the most important is simply that you customize your default presets to be tailored to your unique workflow. The particulars are somewhat arbitrary and rather dependent on how you use the devices, but I hope you'll find inspiration in the ideas and recommendations below. To be clear, none of these are "best settings" for any given effect - they are merely best starting points.
Below in this article, we detail the changes we've made to Live's default presets and our reasoning behind those changes for every Audio Effect. To make the process of updating your default presets to these even easier, we've put together a download of .adv settings for every device. Installation is simple:
- Open the folder that corresponds to your version of Live.
- Then, simply drag the “Audio Effects” folder onto the "Defaults (macOS)" shortcut or the "Defaults (PC)" shortcut.
- Alternatively, open the “Suggested Default Presets” Ableton Live set to view all default presets on one track. Right click and choose “Save as Default Preset” for any device you want.
That's all there is to it. Download our pack at the link below and read up on its contents in the rest of the article.
As we go through detailing our settings for each device, you can click on the images to toggle between Live's stock default preset (in grey) and our recommended one. Both provide a perspective on how you might want to set your defaults.
Not just for guitars, Amp is great for adding subtle distortion and crispness when used in small amounts via the Dry/Wet parameter, especially on vocals and synths. If you're looking to bring out air and presence in a sound, Amp's cleaner settings will often get you there. I tend to use it for these less obvious purposes, so I made my default preset a bit more conducive to this. Changing the Output default from mono to stereo won't change how it processes mono input signals, but it will keep you from accidentally destroying a stereo input signal's stereo image.
Live's initial default preset is shown in grey. Click the image to compare our suggestion.
Audio Effect Rack
There are lots of ways to use the Audio Effect Rack, of course, but we rarely drag it in from the Browser. It's far simpler and more intuitive to just group devices using [cmd + g], so this opens up the default "Audio Effect Rack" in the Browser for more specialized uses. I'm currently a fan of using it as a speedy dry/wet template - I can drop anything in the "Wet" chain and control its blend amount with the macro already set up. This is particularly helpful for quickly dialing back devices and VSTs lacking a dedicating dry/wet knob. Alternatively, you could use your default audio effect rack preset as a mid/side or multiband splitter if these are processors you reach for more often.
Like everyone, I prefer the sound-shaping qualities of the Moog ladder filter and the added saturation of the drive knob that comes along with it. So I set the Circuit Type to Ladder (PRD) and the Frequency and Resonance to more neutral starting points.
With Auto Pan, I often want to create some subtle spatial modulation and want it as quick as possible. This default preset is tailored to that idea with reasonable, slow movement and a bit of Amount already brought up.
Beat Repeat doesn't lend itself to widely applicable starting points, but turning the filter on by default is usually pretty useful. This is more of a personal taste thing, but I also like to have some Variation to the grid size. I also most often like the repeats triggered in the last bit of the bar, which was accomplished by increasing the Offset. Those aren't necessarily "better" than any other settings for a default, so consider adjusting these to align with how you use it.
Not the most essential of Live's devices, but fairly useful for adding dimension to a sound or mellowing out an overly harmonic signal (say, from a distorted amp). The main thing here is making the Output stereo, just to preserve any subtle width that might be flowing through the effect. It's also worth choosing a Speaker you most prefer.
Chorus has to be set pretty particularly according to the source material, but I prefer working from something a bit more subtle that doesn't scream "chorus!". Like reverb, chorus works best when it's not so obvious and instead feels like an organic part of the sound.
All the rules are thrown out the window when using Compressor as an effect, but as a straightforward dynamics controller there are a number of parameters we can set up ahead of time to help us along. A big one is changing the view to Activity View - a bit of a game-changer for conceptualizing what the Compressor is really doing. Setting a low Ratio, low Attack, and RMS detection mode offer a natural starting point. Keeping Release on Auto is appropriate for most compression applications, as it will adjust for fluctuations in the input signal's dynamics, something nearly impossible to automate. Additionally, I find Makeup Gain misleading because it would have you think compressors make sounds louder when in fact they make sounds quieter. Instead, I prefer to manually add output gain after compression if necessary.
If you use Corpus, you love Corpus, and that probably means you already have your own preferences. For me, this means the Pipe Resonance Type and the Filter on and focused on lower frequencies. I'll often want to input MIDI to control the pitch as well, so I have the sidechain section unfolded from the start.
Live 10's new Drum Buss is killer and manages to pack a ton of functions that used to be pulled from many different devices into a single package. I'm particularly excited by the transient shaper, and flattening them out just a little bit can with a negative Transients setting can really tighten up a drum loop. I also want Boom to start on a C, but you might consider changing this to whatever your most common key is.
Most of the logic behind this default involves putting more of the effect's features into play with fewer clicks to quickly access the coloration options. Don't forget to switch the device into hi-quality mode as well via the context menu.
Echo is one of the most robust effects Live now has to offer. I think the filters are critical to have up, the Dry/Wet best starts at a more reasonable 30%, and the noise and modulation should be working from the beginning. I also enjoy a bit of Reverb added no matter what, and wide Stereo in Mid/Side Channel Mode has an awesome spacial effect. As Echo is so deep, this is one default preset you should definitely edit to your own preferences when you've used it enough to know what they are!
Of all the changes to default settings listed here, I find these tweaks the most useful. I don't think Live's layout of frequencies and filter types is very logical - the filter order is far less likely to align with ascending frequency order since the first four filters already spread the frequency spectrum and the last four fall between them. I leave most of the filters off by default (so I can save CPU on each instance of eq I load), but leave the lowest filter to high pass unnecessary subs, a bell curve for general adjustments, and a high shelf ready to control the upper region. Filter 4 is particularly handy, as I find myself making a cut around 500 Hz all the time. You can learn more about the device in my article "8 Things You Didn't Know About EQ8".
EQ Three doesn't have as many processing applications as its older, octopodal sister, but they shouldn't be thought as interchangeable. EQ Three takes its cues from performance-oriented DJ mixers which are often treated as more of an effect rather than a subtle sound sweetener. In that sense, I like greater overlap via the 24 db/octave filter and slightly different crossover points, but this too will depend on your personal taste.
Erosion is a creative and focused means of adding extra harmonics to a signal, and it sounds particularly great on drums and percussion. "Wide Noise" is a stereo version of the "Noise" setting, so it's a no-brainer to have this set up on load.
External Audio Effect
If you use External Audio Effect a lot, you can set the Audio To and Audio From to the routing you use with your audio interface. Unfortunately, those aren't universal, so that's something you'll have to set up for yourself!
Filter Delay would be a lot more pleasant to use if it didn't come in like gangbusters. I've simplified my starting point quite a bit by turning off the extra filters until I need them and rebalancing the levels so that the Dry Input is highest to keep the delay tails from overshadowing the dry signal.
A good synced flanger can add a lot of tasty motion to a song (see Tame Impala). This preset offers a gentle ebb and flow across 4 bars and a slightly less overt "flanginess".
Though it has many uses, I most like Frequency Shifter for the tremolo function of its ring modulator when its Frequency isn't driven up into the atonal robot vibe of audio-rate frequencies. Having some unsynced, automated motion in a sound can be a great way to help break up an overly repetitive loop.
I usually want my gate to open as fast as possible, and I don't usually like the "chatter" that comes with low Hold. Since I always find myself making these kinds of changes, I saved them into the default preset. I also relaxed the settings of the Floor and Threshold to force myself to set these more deliberately. You can learn a lot more about how to properly use the humble gate in my animated guide to gates, by the way.