- Confused about the best Ableton Live export settings?
- Learn how to set the correct file export length
- Learn how to change the quality of your exported files.
- Also, check out our 5-step guide to pitch correction in Ableton
It’s easy to overlook the process of actually rendering your song, or whatever you happen to be working on in Ableton Live. As long as you can hear everything well enough, does it really matter?
Maybe if you’re just listening to demos, but if you’re preparing a final bounce or files for a mixing or mastering engineer, using the right export settings is crucial.
In this article, we’ll show you the best Ableton Live export settings for your mixes.
In general, you’ll want to maintain the highest bit depth and sample rate possible, while exporting a lossless stereo file.
At the same time, you don’t want to deviate too much from the settings you are mixing with.
What’s The Purpose?
Before you can decide on the proper settings, you will need to first need to determine what the mixdown will be used for.
Your exported audio mix is probably going to one of the 4 general destinations listed below.
- Listening – If you are simply sending the mix to someone else to listen to for feedback you’ll want a smaller file size that’s easy to share. A high-quality MP3 will be decent enough for this purpose.
- Mixing – You will be exporting stems for a mixing engineer to work with. Alternatively, you will be exporting stems for artists to remix. In either case, you can select “All Individual Tracks” as an export option.
- Mastering – If you’re sending the mix to a mastering engineer for further sonic adjustments, the engineer will probably have a list of requirements on their website. Generally, they will want the file settings to remain the same as your current Live Set and will want the highest quality stereo mixdown to work with.
- Distribution – If you will be uploading your mix directly to its final distribution platform (like SoundCloud or Bandcamp) or to a digital distributor (like CD Baby, Tunecore, or LANDR) you should check their website for the recommended file types and their uploading procedure. From Bandcamp’s website: “Your audio files must be at least 16-bit, 44.1 kHz lossless files (WAV, AIFF, or FLAC), in stereo”. We’ll go over all of these terms later in the next sections.
Preparing your Mix for Export
If you are generally happy with your mix levels and you are ready to export, then it’s a good idea to double-check that everything is going to render as expected.
So we need to ensure that:
- The tracks you wish to hear are turned on and their levels are balanced.
- The tracks you don’t wish to hear in your mix are muted.
- The master level is near the top (but not clipping) during the loudest parts of the song.
- The beginning and end of the mix start and stop the way you want them to. Leave a little bit of room at the beginning and fade out the ending if necessary.
Ableton Live Export Settings Explained
Under the File menu choose “Export Audio/Video”. There are 5 sections in this popup window.
You can also hit Ctrl + Shift + R to export audio (Cmd + Shift + R for Mac).
Now we’re going to look at the categories that appear in the Export Audio/Video window…
The first section covers the selection source and length.
The source is selected in the “Rendered Track” dropdown menu.
Leave it set to the default of “Master” unless you are specifically rendering one track. If you are exporting stems or anything other than the stereo output of the master mixdown, this is where you can select those options.
Next up is the render length. There are 3 ways to select the song length of your mix export in Ableton Live.
- Do nothing. In this case, the length of the export will be the same as the whole timeline in arrangement view. This method is not recommended because it doesn’t allow for clean song intros and outros.
- Use the Loop Brace (Command+L) or just highlight an area to select the length of the export. Make sure you select an area that leaves enough room for the song to start and end properly.
- Manually enter the bars and beats of your preferred start and end points in the Export Audio/Video window.
The 2nd section in the “Export Audio/Video” popup window gives you some rendering options.
This title of this section is somewhat redundant, but it mostly consists of switches that either enable a setting or bypass it completely.
- Include Return and Master Effects. This only applies when you are exporting individual tracks and will be greyed out by default.
- Render as Loop. This setting makes seamless loops for samples. This can be left at its default OFF setting.
- Convert to Mono. Unless you specifically need a mono mix this can be left at its default OFF setting.
- Normalize. This setting can be used to increase the overall level of the mix but you will probably have better results with some gentle limiting on your master. This can be left at its default OFF setting.
- Create Analysis File. This will create a .asd file. This is only helpful if you plan to bring the file back into Live. This can either be set to OFF or left ON.
- Sample Rate. This is the most important setting in this section. Do not render at a different sample rate to the one you’re working in. Most people work at 44100 or 48000 Hz sample rates.
This stands for Pulse Code Modulation, essentially referring to just a raw, high-quality waveform. This should be turned on unless you just want to send off a quick reference MP3 for listening purposes.
There are different file types that use PCM wave data, in this case, WAV, AIFF, and FLAC.
There’s really not much difference between WAV and AIFF except that AIFF has more metadata storage options for artwork and meta-tags.
FLAC is half the size of AIFF and WAV. Mastering engineers will typically want WAV or AIFF and distributors will usually accept any of the 3 options.
This is the resolution of each sample in the waveform.
Only change this to 16-bit if your digital distributor requires it, or if you’re preparing tracks for a CD.
Mastering engineers will always want a 24-bit waveform as this will result in the best dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio.
Dither is noise added to a signal when reducing the bit depth. Unless you are rendering it as a 16-bit waveform, just leave it off.
If you are changing the bit depth, you can leave it on the default “Triangular” option.
This section gives you the option to create a 320kbps MP3 file. Lossy files are perfectly fine for listening but they lack the quality required for a digital distributor upload or a mastering engineer.
Turn this on to create a file that’s only for listening, or if you’re curious to see how it sounds compared to a PCM file.
If you don’t have a video track in your Live set then these options will be greyed out. If you are exporting a video file, you can adjust the video file type and settings here.
File Name and Export Location
When you are ready to export, press the “Export” button and you will be prompted to name your file and choose a location on your hard drive to save the file.
You may want to save it in the same folder that holds the Ableton Live set or directly on your desktop. Keep in mind that your desktop will clutter up quickly if you pick this option.
How do I export high-quality audio from Ableton?
Keep the sample rate setting the same as your original Live set, and export a lossless stereo file type like WAV or AIFF.
Make sure the bit depth is set to 24 or higher.
What sample rate should I export at Ableton?
The most common sample rates are 48 kHz and 44.1 kHz. You should only export at the rate you are working at, however.
You will see a speaker icon in the Sample Rate dropdown menu indicating the current project sample rate.
We recommend all producers work at 48 kHz. To find out why, check out What Sample Rate Should You Use? (+Myths & Misconceptions).
What is the best bit depth for exporting Ableton?
24-bit is typically a perfect bit depth for most destinations. 32-bit is also fine however there is no perceivable quality difference between 24 and 32-bit audio.
16-bit renders are fine for demos or for tracks you are burning to a CD (in which case the sample rate should be set to 44100 Hz).
Should I normalize export Ableton?
Normalizing is fine if you at least have a limiter on the master performing some very light peak reduction.
Otherwise, the final volume of your track is at the mercy of its loudest peak (which is more or less completely random).
What dither should I use in Ableton?
Dithering is somewhat antiquated and should be avoided.
You only need it if you’re rendering to 16-bit audio, and even then it should only be used at the very final stage (for masters or demos).
The default setting of “Triangular” will work fine if you really need it.
Why do my tracks sound better inside Ableton than exported?
They should not sound dramatically different, but if anything the rendered track should sound better than the mix inside Ableton Live.
For starters, many plugins have a “render mode” which increases the quality only during exports.
This may involve extra upsampling in oscillators and filters, or the use of more accurate calculations for reverb reflections that would be too taxing in real-time.
If your song sounds dramatically different on export, then a plugin could be the culprit. Ensure you are rendering at the same sample rate as your project.
There are some great threads dedicated to this topic on the Ableton Forum.
Is 16-bit or 24-bit better?
24-bit has more detail, less noise, and a greater dynamic range. 16-bit audio is still high quality, and it results in smaller file sizes, but 24-bit audio is undoubtedly better.