Ableton 10 Details Leaked: Olfactory Synthesizer + Smell Racks

We’ve received leaked details of a brand new version of Ableton Live including what appears to be a completely new type of synthesis and a new associated piece of hardware that could be set to become motus operendi of the next generation of live performance. Read on for all of the distinct details on how Berlin is changing the game – again.

Olfactory Synthesis: Experience A New Sense In Live Performances

The new Live Device - the Stinker
The new Live Device – the Stinker

There’s always been a distinct aroma to festivals and clubs since the beginning of modern nightlife, but until recently it hasn’t been a pleasant one – mainly because the scent of a dancefloor is driven by it’s participants. With Ableton’s new olfactory synthesis technology, producers and DJs will be the curators of not only the sound that an audience experiences, but also the smells.

In Ableton 10, there appear to be a whole host of new features that enable producers to craft unique scents, the central one of which is the new olfactory synthesizer, the Stinker. We’ve learned that the new synthesizer – like a traditional synth – starts out with a basic common smell profile (selectable, just like you might the shape of a sine wave in a synth) and manipulates it different ways in order to create new and unique smells.

Screenshot of the Stinker with a Smell Of Rain scent being synthesized
Screenshot of the Stinker with a Smell Of Rain scent being synthesized

The potential workflow appears to be:

  • Select a common smell profile (eg: “baked goods”)
  • Adjust the key parameters of the smell (eg: “Chocolate”, “Flour”, “Raw / Burnt”)
  • Adjust the type of environment that the smell is coming from (think of this like reverb – options for the “Grilled Meat” profile include “Outdoor Grill”, “Industrial Grill”, “Stovetop”, “Smokehouse”, etc)

New Hardware: Ableton Sniff


One of the hardest parts about branching out into what is a completely new medium is content acquisition. While Ableton has been working with major artists and big names in the scent industry to develop unique content (see more on “Smell Racks” below), one of the key tools that producers have used for years in order to craft new content are samplers.

Ableton has partnered with a Minneapolis-based company St. Croix Sensory – who manufactured long-range scent detectors for police hoping to detect and bust excessively odorous marijuana growers in Denver, Colorado. Instead of simply enhancing and amplifying scent, the two companies have apparently successfully made strides in recording key scent parameters, allowing Ableton users to sample as MIDI and playback unique scents directly into and out of Live’s Stinker synthesizer.

The hardware in question – currently dubbed the Ableton Sniff – will work very similarly as the St. Croix’s original design for police:

  • Point the end of the Sniff towards the source of a smell you want to sample
  • Monitor the smell with your nose at the other end of the Sniff
  • Record the current scent with a trigger-mounted button
  • Plug your Sniff into your computer via USB later to upload all of the scent parameters directly to Live – either for further manipulation in Stinker or for immediate triggering and playback in a Smell Rack

Live Scent Triggering: Smell Racks + Sequencing

Ableton’s Smell Rack allows real time triggering of scents

One of the best parts about being able to digitally trigger smells is that we can use all of the same paradigms that have been built up for audio triggering over the last few decades of digital audio workstation development. One of Ableton’s greatest tools is the Drum Rack, and the team has seemingly ported that same interface to scents. Using iconography instead of text titles, it’s easy to see exactly what you’re triggering – and yes, this has been confirmed to be working with the Ableton Push’s rack sequencer, so you can quickly build a “beat” of smells on the fly.

Excitingly enough, Ableton has partnered with a number of famous smell companies, celebrity chefs, and producers for the launch of Ableton Smell, meaning that there will be loads of Smell Rack content ripe and ready for use when it launches next April 1st, 2016. So far confirmed are Smell Packs from:

  • Dada Life (expect lots of fatty sausage and banana scents – likely more than a few whiffs of champagne as well)
  • Bassnectar (he’s expected to finally have a specific nectar scent to go alongside his bassy tracks)
  • Flosstradamus (their packs will all likely be based on various strains of cannabis)
  • Chanel (top-selling perfumes and colognes – just wait until perfume companies start sponsoring DJs…)
  • Deep Dish (the duo is getting together for a Chicago pizza themed pack)
  • Eats Everything (a literal cornucopia of food-related scents)
  • Justin Martin (also confirmed to have a wide array of pizza-related scents)

How Will We Smell These Smells?

Could we see a co-branded Ableton scent speaker in the near future?
Could we see a co-branded Ableton scent speaker in the near future?

We’re still waiting on details on how exactly scent reproduction will work with Ableton Smell, but an inside source has hinted that fog and hazer machines will play a big role in scent reproduction. In addition to working alongside industry speaker giants like Funktion One, we also expect home studio speaker manufacturers like KRK to take on the challenge of scent reproduction.

The Future Scent Of DJing

We’re pretty sure we’ll see other companies taking on this new medium of scents in the near future, likely with Serato first out of the gate focusing on the Scratch-n-Sniff style of scent experience. Would it be that unlikely that Bitwig Studio might take on the task of bucking Ableton’s precedent and instead focusing on another sense, like Touch or Taste? Let us know your foolish thoughts in the comments below – and happy April, everyone.

Read about an actual new format for DJing announced this week – Native Instruments Stem files – here

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