Setting up an Audio Interface

An audio interface allows you to connect microphones, instruments and other sources to your computer, so that you can record them into Ableton Live. Audio interfaces generally improve sound quality, allow you to achieve less latency, and offer options like multiple inputs and outputs and direct monitoring.

How to set up an audio interface

Most external audio interfaces use either USB, Thunderbolt or Firewire to connect to your computer. A USB interface is used for this example.

  1. Download and install any available software drivers for your audio interface, making sure they are up to date and supported on your operating system. On macOS, some interfaces do not require additional software. On Windows, choosing an ASIO driver is recommended. Windows users may also to install the freeware universal audio driver ASIO4ALL.
  2. Connect the interface to your computer, directly if possible, rather than via USB hub. A powered USB hub is recommended if the necessary port is not available.
  3. Open Live's preferences to the Audio tab.
  4. Click on Driver Type and select CoreAudio (Mac) or ASIO (Windows):
  5. On macOS, you can choose separate devices for both input and output, or you can choose to deactivate one of them (set to "No Device"):
  6. Input and Output Config lets you activate the inputs and outputs that you need. If you have a basic audio interface with 2 inputs and 2 outputs, these will be automatically selected in Live. Only activate the ones you need, to save CPU. In Live 10 you can rename all inputs and outputs for convenience: 
  7. The default In/out sample rate is set to 44100 Hz. Using the chooser menu the quality can be increased to higher settings if needed:
  8. The buffer size can be set in powers of two starting at 32 samples. The lower the buffer size, the less latency, however the CPU load also increases. We recommend 256 or 512 as a good compromise. Find out more about how to reduce latency in this article. 
  9. On Windows, you might have to open the control panel of audio interface to adjust this, by clicking Hardware Setup. You can learn more about this here.

Connecting headphones and speakers to your audio interface

Before using audio cables to connect powered monitor speakers to your audio interface, make sure the monitors are switched off. Connect the inputs on your speakers to the outputs on your interface. If your interface has a volume dial, turn this down to minimum. 

Next, plug your headphones into your interface’s headphone port. Finally, turn on your monitor speakers, then you can increase the volume dial on your interface until you can comfortably hear your audio.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: