Ableton Simpler vs Sampler (Differences & Use Cases Explained)

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  • Learn the main differences between Ableton’s Simpler & Sampler
  • Is one better than the other for sampling?
  • We list the main features of both with detailed breakdowns
  • Also, check our post on Ableton stock plugins & if they’re worth it!

If you’re a fan or user of the Ableton Live Suite, you’ve probably used the Simpler and Sampler devices while making music.

You might also be wondering if the two devices are any different, and if so, what are these differences?

While these two devices may seem identical, some defining factors set them apart. 

We’ve put together this brief guide to understanding the differences between Simpler and Sampler within Ableton.

We’ll also take a closer look at each device’s primary functions and features to help you decide which device suits you best while composing or producing. 

Ableton Simpler vs Sampler: What Is The Difference?

Ableton Simpler and Sampler are both sampling devices available in Ableton Live’s Suite package.

The primary difference between these two devices is that the Simpler allows you to work with a single audio file at one time, whereas Sampler lets you work with multiple audio files simultaneously. 

By design, Simpler is a less complicated version of Sampler and offers users a more straightforward approach to sampling.

The Sampler device provides much more in-depth control in terms of audio editing. 

Simpler and Sampler both include features like ADSR control, pitch envelopes, and frequency modulation.

However, Sampler houses extended user functions and features like pre/post waveshaping and additional LFOs.

Sampler also allows you to import certain third-party formats that aren’t compatible with Simpler Akai, Kontakt, and EXS24. 

In short, Simpler is the less complex version of Sampler

Simpler is wonderful if you’re looking for a seamless sampling device to edit a single piece of audio while composing.

Sampler is more geared towards anyone that wants to do multisampling or requires a deeper level of control over their sample manipulation. 

Sampling Explained

Sampling is a music-production technique that dates back to the early 1940s. The process involves capturing and repurposing a piece of audio to be used as an instrument or as part of an arrangement.

Producers sample all types of recorded audio, from drum breaks and vocal hooks to radio ads and film dialogue. The capacity for audio that you can sample is really only limited by your imagination. 

The term sampling was originally coined in the 1970s to coincide with the release of the Fairlight CMI Sampler.

The technique gained enough popularity to convince Akai to release the first analog sampling unit in 1988, making sampling much more accessible to the general public. 

Since then, Sampling has remained a crucial part of many producers and composers’ toolkits and can be heard in various modern music styles like Hip-Hop, Pop, and EDM. 

Overview: Ableton Simpler

Simpler is an Ableton Live instrument that lets you import, manipulate, and then trigger a piece of audio using your keyboard or midi controller.

Simpler’s user interface is split up into two main tabs:

Sample

The Sample window in Simpler can perform all the primary edits to your imported sample.

Users can drag and drop their samples into this window for editing. Samples can be edited and warped in three modes: 

  • Classic – This mode is Simpler’s default warping setting and is polyphonic, so it’s best used for creating something harmonic or melodic. The classic mode includes full ADSR controls to adjust how the sample’s playback behaves once it’s triggered. 
  • One-Shot – Most producers use this mode to play their samples like a drum hit, and is commonly used with more percussive elements. In slice mode, a sample will only play for as long as you hold down the corresponding note. 
  • Slice – This mode is most commonly used over drum breaks or complex arrangements. Slice lets users cut up specific areas of a single piece of audio which can then be played back chromatically.

Controls

The Controls window in Simpler opens up an extended set of controls for the Device’s Filter, LFO and Envelope. The Filter offers all the essential filter types and can work at 12 or 24dB slopes.

Simpler’s envelopes include Amplitude, Filter Frequency, and Pitch Modulations, all of which can be independently adjusted to change your sample’s dynamic response. 

Simple also offers users a single LFO which can be used to alter the character of your sample. The LFO includes a handful of waveform options and can either be tempo-synced or set to run free. 

Simpler is available in all versions of Ableton, including Lite, Intro, Standard, and Suite. 

Overview: Ableton Sampler

Sampler can be considered an expanded version of Simpler, with added features and functions for more-in depth sound shaping options. 

Sampler’s primary difference to Simpler is that it is a multisampling instrument – allowing users to manipulate and then trigger several different audio files at one time using a keyboard or midi controller. 

The functions on the Sampler interface have been categorized into the following tabs:

Zone

The Zone panel is used to tweak and assign all your imported samples across a piano roll for use on a midi-controller.

Samples can be edited and mapped according to three ranges: Key, Velocity, and Sample Select Editors.

You can use the Zone window to assign samples to their appropriate note on a keyboard for playing in real time. 

Sample

The Sample window is used to edit various playback elements and parameters of your Sample. Users can drag and drop samples directly into this section for immediate editing.

You can then assign the root key, volume, loop length, and start and end points. 

Users have greater access to pitch controls through the Polarity settings and determine how they wish to map their sample over their keyboard using the Scale and Root controls.

This window makes up the majority of the sample warping and manipulation controls. 

Pitch/Oscillation

Sampler’s Pitch and Oscillation section consist of a modulation oscillator and pitch envelope.

The Modulation Oscillator can either modulate amplitude or frequency and comes with a healthy selection of waveforms and adjustable parameters. 

The Pitch Envelope lets users make changes to a sample’s pitch modulation, and these parameters can also be routed and applied to the Modulation Oscillator. 

Filter/ Global

This panel features an extended version of Simpler’s filter and offers a variety of filter types and adjustable parameters.

Users can also switch between filter types using the morphing filters, and the device also includes a basic saturator for adding warmth to your filtered sample. 

The Global Volume Envelope determines the mix and character of Sampler’s output and comes with basic ADSR controls. 

Modulation

The Modulation section is a big part of what sets Sampler apart from Simpler.

This tab features a loopable envelope and three LFOs, all of which can be independently controlled and routed to the frequency or amplitude of your sample.

Modulations can be applied to the trigger at the sample start point, at a fixed loop position, or for the entire loop length.

MIDI

Sampler is available as a stock instrument on Ableton Live Suite, but you can also download it as a device to add to Ableton Lite. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the fundamental differences between Simpler and Sampler can help to optimize your productivity and creativity while composing in Ableton Live.

While you can perform similar sampling functions in both devices, each one is catered to specific workflow requirements and offer a distinct set of benefits to users. 

Sampling is an incredibly powerful and effective tool to use when composing or making beats. You can use Simpler to learn the fundamentals of sampling or if you only wish to treat a single audio file. 

On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned sampling pro or need to work with multiple samples at one time, Sampler is the ideal device for you. 

FAQs

Can I Convert My Simpler Device Into Sampler?

Yes. You can convert the Simpler device into an instance of Sampler by right-clicking on the device’s toolbar and selecting ‘’Simpler>Sampler’’ in the dropdown menu.

You can also convert Sampler to Simpler using the same command. 

Do I Need Ableton Live Suite To Use Sampler?

No. If you prefer Ableton Lite but still wish to use Sampler, you can purchase and download the device separately from the Ableton Live website. 

Before you go, check out our guide to the 9 Best Music Production Course For Beginners!