Best Ableton Live Export Settings

In this tutorial, I shall take a deep dive into the best setting to export audio in Live for both PCM and MP3. If you have a look at my article that covers encoding options, you will learn about the different audio exporting options available in Ableton Live. These options are the lossless PCM and MP3 encoding options.

Encoding is simply saving/exporting data, and adding a suffix to a data file to allow your computer and computer software to open and read the file correctly. In audio, these suffixes are mainly the lossless .FLAC, .WAVE and .AIFF, and for compressed audio, .mp3 or .m4a. You can learn more about importing and exporting MP3 and MIDI, as well as consolidating clips in Ableton here!

Ableton Export Setting Parameters

There are only 2 settings that affect the quality of audio when you are exporting: Sample Rate and Bit Depth. I shall show you have to change these parameters, more information about what these parameters are, and why you need to change or switch between the different options

Ableton Sample Rate Export Settings

The most common sample rates in music are 44.1 kHz (optimal for CDs) and 48 kHz, better suited to synchronize with a video which is often 24 frames per second, the higher sample rates are suited for specialized audio needs. Some producers and engineers will swear on their careers to hear the difference between the different sample rates, while the common listener will often not hear it.

Tip! When you record your audio in 44.1kHz, exporting in 48kHz will not change or improve your audio quality. It is best to set your sample rate before you begin recording in Ableton. This is how you do it

Step 1: Go to Live preferences (Cmd + , on Mac, or Ctrl + , on Windows)

ableton live preferences

Step 2: Go to Audio, and under sample rate, you can change your in/out sample rate

ableton live sample rate

In the export menu, select the appropriate sample rate to match your recording sample rate, or the music distribution website requirements. Here is how you change your sample rate in the export menu:

Step 1: open the export menu by going to file, and selecting Export Audio/Video (Cmd + Shift + R on Mac or Ctrl + Shift + R on Windows)

export video audio ableton

Step 2: Choose your sample rate under rendering options

choosing sample rate ableton

This sample rate will affect both the PCM and MP3 encoding options. More of the different encoding options on Ableton live here.

More on Sample Rate

Sample Rate refers to the number of audio samples per second of an audio signal. This has to do with accuracy when it comes to recording or converting an analogue audio signal to a digital audio signal measured in discrete or digital steps. It is calculated as frequency (cycles per second) represented in Hertz (Hz). Music is an auditory experience and we make it in the auditory human hearing range measured to be between 20Hz – 20,000 Hz (20kHz).

One signal cycle sample rate

One signal cycle

According to the Nyquist theorem, to faithfully recreate an analogue signal, you must have a sample rate higher than the higher frequency of the signal. For example, if the highest frequency in your production is 18 kHz, then your sample rate should be 36 kHz to avoid aliasing – digital signal interference.

Sample Rate Nodes Ableton

Sample Rate Nodes

In the example above, you will see the audio was created with a 48kHz sample rate, and you will see once zoomed in the sample rate nodes. Ableton allows you to change the sample rate when recording and exporting between 22.05 kHz – 192 kHz.

Ableton Bit Depth Export Settings

This is another option when exporting audio in Live. Computers store information in 1 and 0 binary values: the higher the bit depth, the more the data storage space. During analogue to digital audio sampling, the data is converted to bits. Therefore, the higher the bit depth, the more data is stored. For audio, this results in higher resolution audio. Comparatively to video, a 144 p video is of much less resolution compared to a 4K video

The standard bit depths in audio are 16-bit to match 44.1kHz audio and 24-bit to match 48kHz audio. In 16-bit data packets you get 65,536 levels of data, while in 24-bit, you get 16,777,216 levels of data. Bit depths differences are much more audible than sample rates in this respect.

Unlike sample rate, bit depth can only be changed in the export menu, and only affects uncompressed lossless PCM encoded audio. Here is how you do it:

Step 1: open the export menu by going to file, and selecting Export Audio/Video (Cmd + Shift + R on Mac or Ctrl + Shift + R on Windows)

export audio video ableton

Step 2: Select the best bit depth for your project export requirements under PCM.

select bit depth

Final Thoughts

If you have a look at the article on exporting MP3 in Ableton here, I detail the different reasons you want to export your audio, and when to export with the lossless PCM or MP3. This extends also to when you are choosing your sample rate and bit depth settings. This will vary by, platform, use, and distribution website specifications, artists, producer, mix, master engineers, and personal preferences. This tutorial should give you a starting point to guide you on the best export settings in Ableton Live. Have Fun!

Collins K