I've been researching Ableton Live 8, and I'm wondering, what is the main difference in sound and limitations between the Analog and Operator instruments? I'm looking for an industrial rock type synth sound and I was wondering if anyone has advice.

I've looked into both of the instruments but I dont know how they would actually sound being played by someone who has learned how to use them. :/


3 Answers 3


The major difference between the two is that Analog is a virtual analog synthesizer and is subtractive, while Operator is primarily an FM synthesizer so the approaches to using them are fairly different. Analog tries to model the circuitry and characteristics of classic analog synthesizers, including their quirks. Operator is unashamedly digital, like many FM synthesizers. If you put an Ableton Spectrum object after Analog and Operator in turn (you can try this in the demo), you can see that Analog's sinewave generator has some subtle overtones in it, like I imagine analog hardware might, while Operator's is more "pure."

There are a few feature differences that might be important, too - Analog has two "channels" each containing an oscillator, filter, and LFO, however you can route between them a little bit before and after the filter section. Analog also has a formant filter as one of its filter types which Operator doesn't have. Operator, on the other hand, has only one LFO and filter, but it has four oscillators which can be either audible or used to modulate each others' frequency.

In general, Analog makes traditional older synthesizer noises, whereas Operator tends to sound a bit more modern. I personally think both are useful.

I'm not sure what exactly constitutes an industrial rock synth sound, but you definitely know the sound you're looking for - try searching through the presets for both Analog and Operator and seeing what their creators have come up with. Since you're using Ableton Live, check the "Instrument Rack" presets as well. Presets aren't the entire story, but they're usually a good way to get a quick feel for what a particular synth is capable of. There might even be a sound very like what you're looking for and if so, you've found your synth.

  • Wow thanks. Thats helps a lot. Are there usually added MIDI effects when they user is trying generate "the right sound" aswell?
    – Lebowski156
    Jul 22, 2011 at 4:05
  • @Lebowski156 MIDI effects affect the control data that's sent to the synth, not the timbre of the synth itself. However, effects like arpeggiators can be thought of as a sound. I'm not quite sure how to precisely answer your question, honestly!
    – Warrior Bob
    Jul 22, 2011 at 14:49
  • @Lebowski156 If you want to discuss it, feel free to mention it to me in chat anytime. I'd be happy to help anytime - I like these synths a lot :)
    – Warrior Bob
    Jul 22, 2011 at 18:28

I agree with everything Warrior Bob Mentioned.

Here's a bit more info:
An "algorithm" in an FM synth is the arrangement of what oscillators modulate each other and how they are chained.

One of the algorithms in Operator is a flat one where none of the oscillators modulate each other. In this mode, it is basically laid out like most traditional analog synths, and you can explore most of what can be done on a traditional analog subtractive synth.

What you won't get from this (as Warrior Bob Mentioned) are the quirks of true analog synths - the subtle imperfections - that give them their characteristic organic warm sound. Ableton's Analog synth attempts to emulate these imperfections.

You can get HUGE milage out of either synth.


I can add to Warrior Bob's answer that analog is a synth that came from Applied Acoustics Systems, the creators of the famous Tassman synth, a physical modeling synthesizer. Operator was developed by Ableton itself. Why is this important? Because analog has a very specific sound.

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