There’s nothing worse than sitting down ready to start recording and not being able to hear anything.
Luckily in this article, I will provide simple solutions to help you, so you can get back to creating instead of wondering, “Why can’t I hear playback in Ableton?”
Step 1: Check your output settings
Check your output settings by going to Options (1), then Preferences (2), then Audio (3).
If the Driver Type selector says No Audio, there’s your problem.
Step 2: Select a driver
This part depends on your setup.
If you are using the soundcard built into your computer, select the MME/DirectX (1) driver.
At this point, you will notice that Audio Input Device (2) and an Audio Output Device (3) options appear.
If there is nothing selected for the Audio Output Device, there will be no sound.
Go ahead and choose one of the speaker’s options from the dropdown list.
Hey presto, you should have Audio.
Step 3: Using ASIO
Of course, it is not usually ideal to use your inbuilt soundcard. Often, a computer’s inbuilt soundcard is not optimized for music production.
Instead, it is best to install ASIO 4ALL, which is a free Windows low-latency sound driver.
If you have this installed, select ASIO (1) as your Driver Type and ASIO 4ALL V2 (2) as the Audio Device.
Often this is all you need to do to have your Live set playback smoothly and clearly, without latency or glitches.
However, if there is no sound when you playback, do the following.
Step 4: Channel Configuration
Select the Hardware Setup (1) option on the Preferences panel.
You will notice a control panel pops up with devices listed. You want to make sure that the output device is selected.
To do that, select the little power icon next to the output device’s name (2).
Typically, there should only be one output device listed.
Once you have turned the output device on, close the control panel and playback your live set.
There should now be audio.
Step 5: Configuring your audio interface
If you have an audio interface (i.e., an external soundcard device) connected to your computer, you will need to select it as your audio output device.
To do that, make sure that ASIO is chosen as your Driver Type.
Then select the Audio Interface from the Audio Device dropdown menu.
If you have followed these steps correctly, you should be able to hear playback in Ableton.
FAQ – Why can’t I hear playback in Ableton?
How do you mute an instrument in Ableton?
To mute an instrument, select the yellow Track Activator button on the track with that instrument. If you want to only mute a section of that instrument, right-click on the clip you want to mute and select Deactivate.
Why is your Ableton track muted?
Probably because you clicked on the yellow Track Activator button.
Why is Audio delayed while recording on Ableton?
That is a driver issue. If you are using your computer’s stock audio driver, you are likely to experience latency (delayed Audio). To fix this issue, either install ASIO 4ALL (it’s free) or use an external audio interface.
Why do you hear crackling or glitches while playing guitar?
This could be a latency issue. If you are running a live set with tons of tracks, you might be overcooking your CPU, which will make recording difficult. Otherwise, use a third-party audio driver like ASIO 4ALL or an external interface. Doing either will help this issue.
Do you hear your guitar through the track when you are not recording?
Yes, if you have the audio input option on that track selected to the input channel of your guitar (running through your audio interface). You may also need the Arm Arrangement Recording button turned on for that track.
How do you change audio output in Ableton?
Follow the steps above, one through five.
Sound card recommendations for using Live with multiple instruments?
I am quite a fan of the Focusrite range. You can get Focusrite audio interfaces with 2 to 8 audio inputs. I use the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2, which only has two inputs (enough for guitar and vocals). However, I have recorded an entire live band using one of the eight input audio interfaces.
Hopefully, by following the simple steps above, you have solved your issue of not hearing any playback.
In most cases, issues like this are relatively easy to fix and shouldn’t take long to get things rolling again.
about the author
Hi, I’m Casey, a musician, and writer from the Australian surf coast.
I make midtempo bass music under the name ‘Cavedweller,’ which was inspired by the past and Plato’s cave sages. Originally from a musical background in heavy metal, I also play guitar and drums for the band Mountaris – signed to US record label Transcending Records.