Ableton Operator

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Ableton Operator
Ableton Operator logo.png
Ableton Operator.png
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows, Mac OS X
TypeVirtual FM synth

Operator is a software synthesizer developed by Ableton. Initially released in 2005,[1] Operator runs within Ableton Live on Windows and Mac OS X.



Operator is included in the Suite version of Ableton Live. Lite- and Standard-edition users are able to purchase and use Operator within Ableton Live for a US$99 price tag.[2] Operator is usable only within Ableton Live, and is not currently available as a standalone program.


Operator is a hybrid synthesizer that combines frequency modulation (FM) with subtractive and additive synthesis. Operator utilizes oscillators with the ability to change waveforms and modulate each other's frequencies, allowing for complex timbres. These features include:

  • Four oscillators whose signals can be output directly or used to mix with other signals. This is determined through Operator's eleven built in algorithms that determine the way signals interact with each other.[3]
  • A fifth oscillator which can be used for ‘’’‘LFO Modulation’’’’. The LFO modulates the frequencies of other oscillators, and is able to switched on and off for each individual oscillator, as well as being able to be turned off completely. The intensity of the modulation and frequency of the LFO are able to be edited, along with the waveforms, which include: classic waveform choices, sample & hold, and noise.[4]
  • Seven envelopes to edit different parameters including: one for each oscillator, the filter, the pitch, and one for the LFO. Oscillators envelopes feature ADSR control, additionally the filter and pitch envelopes feature adjustable slopes.[5]
  • Multiple filters to modify the sounds created by the oscillators, allowing for subtractive synthesis. Operator offers fourteen different filter types including: lowpass, bandpass, highpass, and notch. These filters are offered in multiple forms and in 12db and 24db modes.[6]
  • A number of global controls including: volume controls, panning, voicing, as well as MIDI mapping. Other options that Operator features are polyphonic glide, which allows for pitch transitions between played notes, and spread, which creates a stereo chorus by using two detuned voices and panning them left and right.[7]

Post-Live 8[edit]

After the release of Live 8, Ableton revamped Operator to include new features while keeping the UI the same.[8] These features include:

  • User Drawn Wave Forms: Users are able to edit preset waves forms or draw their own by adjusting the oscillator’s harmonic frequency.
  • New modulation options: Improved envelopes: The LFO and Pitch envelopes can modulate any available destinations. The Algorithm selector can be modulated and MIDI mapped.
  • Additional filter types: The ladder and SVF filter options which allow for self oscillation at high resonances. The filter includes an integrated wave shaper. Alongside these changes, adjustable slopes were added to the filters.

Usability and Support[edit]

With its inclusion in the Suite version of Ableton Live, Operator is aimed at both amateurs and professionals alike. Within Ableton Live, there are tutorials included to learn Operator's functions and synthesis methods. Operator also includes various presets for users to edit to their liking, allowing for sounds to be created without a knowledge of synthesis. Users are able to pose questions on Ableton's official forum in regards to Operator. Ableton's official website also features their Live manual for references, including Operator's section, as well as featured tutorials to synthesize sounds within Operator. Other resources also available for users to learn how to utilize Operator can be found through various tutorials created by amateur and professional users.

Reviews and Notability[edit]

Since its inception, Ableton Operator has generally garnered positive reviews throughout its lifetime. These reviews tended to focus on Operator's ability to quickly and easily create many timbres as well as its many editable features. According to Future Music, “With all these fabulous parameters to tweak, you would think you need to have multiple arms like Shiva, but that's where Ableton's Everything Must Be Automated, philosophy really shines. Almost all parameter moves can be recorded and this allows for detailed sonic manipulation. This powerful facet makes Operator really shine and show be taken advantage of whenever possible.” [9] With all of its features Operator has found itself in many artists hands including the likes of Skrillex[10] and Monolake.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ableton Live 5". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  2. ^ "Feature Comparison". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  3. ^ "General Overview". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  4. ^ "LFO Section". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  5. ^ "Operator". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  6. ^ "Filter Section". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  7. ^ "Global Controls". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  8. ^ "Operator by Ableton". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  9. ^ "Test Drive: Ableton Operator". Future Music. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  10. ^ "Skrillex on Ableton Live Plugins Production and More". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  11. ^ "Robert Henke aka Monolake: Mono on Mono". Ableton. Retrieved 2014-11-13.