In this article
If you have Max standalone and Ableton Live installed on your computer, you may wonder whether this means you can connect the two to achieve the same goals as Max for Live -- or you may be curious what Max for Live could add to the pair.
The key is in how you want to engage with Max for Live devices, which are Max patchers that are specially packed to integrate nicely in Live as plugins. They are not VSTs or AUs, but are a special filetype that allows them to be freely opened and edited using Max or Max for Live.
Some terms we'll use in this article...
- "Max standalone": the Max application which you can download directly from Cycling '74
- "Max for Live": the special build of Max that operates inside of Ableton Live, bundled with Live Suite or separately purchased as an add-on for Live Lite or Standard from Ableton
- ".amxd": a Max for Live device that can be opened in both Max standalone and within Ableton Live through Max for Live
What do I need to know?
- If you have Ableton Live Suite, you do have Max for Live.
- Max for Live and Max standalone are two different products.
- If you have Max standalone + Ableton Live Lite / Standard installed, you do not have Max for Live unless you purchased the Max for Live add-on.
- You can open Max for Live devices inside of Max standalone, without having to own any version of Live.
Opening .amxd's / Max for Live devices
If you'd simply like to explore the thousands of Max for Live devices available on maxforlive.com and are already comfortable with Max standalone, you don't need Max for Live to open an .amxd -- you can just drag + drop any .amxd into an empty patcher and it'll automatically open in the [amxd~] wrapper-object.
This is a great way to roll your own modular-style music environment! Each device will have its own inlets and outlets, depending on the device type (MIDI Effect, Audio Effect, or Instrument), which can integrate cleanly into any Max standalone patcher.
Using Max for Live devices inside of Live
Though you can open an .amxd inside of Max standalone, you might not feel comfortable building an environment from scratch -- as a fully-fledged Digital Audio Workstation, Live has a very clear structure for quick music-making.
If you'd like to integrate a Max for Live device into your Live Sets, just like any other VST or AU, you'll need Max for Live. Max for Live seamlessly incorporates the power of Max into Live's signal flow. Without Max for Live, either bundled with Live Suite or purchased as an add-on, you wouldn't be able to achieve that level of seamlessness between Max standalone and Live.
The case for both
If you already have Max standalone and Live Lite or Standard, you likely see very little distinction between programming and composition. Max for Live can be a fantastic way to bridge your music-making worlds. Cleaning up a sprawling patcher into a neat, terse UI helps bring linearity and structure to your Max programming. Similarly, arming a Live session with Max's unique "if you can think it, you can make it" power can help push you into new territory without completely throwing out the guardrails.
For a full breakdown of the benefits of having standalone Max, see our crossgrade details.