Ableton Not Working on Bluetooth Speaker? (5 fixes)

Using portable Bluetooth sound devices such as speakers or headphone sets can be a useful method of monitoring on the go.

The convenience of having no cables or wires to run or heavy speakers to set up would appeal to most producers and musicians.

We’ve heard from many users that they have encountered some issues in connecting Bluetooth devices to Ableton.

This article will serve to troubleshoot these problems as well as some tips and tricks in making sure this setup works smoothly.

Lady working on laptop with bluetooth speaker on desk

Bluetooth Compatibility in Ableton

The good news is that most Bluetooth speakers and headsets are compatible with Ableton Live.

If your laptop or PC is paired with the Bluetooth device, you only need to jump into Ableton’s preferences and set the audio output to the Bluetooth sound device.

If your Bluetooth device is not listed in the possible choices for output device in Ableton then it may mean the Bluetooth device isn’t compatible.

Ableton has not, to date, published a list of incompatible Bluetooth devices.

Pairing Bluetooth Speakers to Laptops and PCs

This process is simple but vital; just follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the Bluetooth is on and discoverable on your laptop or PC (find this in system preferences or settings).
  2. Make sure the Bluetooth speaker or headset is powered on, and the Bluetooth pair button is pushed so that pairing may be possible (if applicable).
  3. Find the Bluetooth speaker or headset in the Bluetooth list of discoverable devices.

NOTE: Some Bluetooth devices have a security pairing code that has to be entered to connect. This can be found either in a pop-up window or on the back of the Bluetooth device.

Ableton Settings for Bluetooth Audio Output

It is preferable to first make sure the output audio setting of your laptop or PC is set to the Bluetooth device you are wanting audio to play from.

Essentially, you want all audio to play through the Bluetooth device.

Once this first step is done, simply do this:

  1. Open Ableton’s preferences by clicking “Live” and then “Preferences” (cmd – , MAC/ctrl – , WINDOWS)
  2. Click the audio tab on the left of the preferences window.
  3. Go into the drop-down menu of “Audio Output Device” and select your Bluetooth device

Creating an Aggregate Audio Output Device (Mac Only)

If your Bluetooth device is connected to your Macbook or iMac but does not appear as an audio output option, then one solution that may work is to create an aggregate audio device.

This process creates a virtual audio output option by combining available audio output sources (i.e. combining a Bluetooth speaker and the onboard laptop speakers) giving you the choice of multiple output channels.

This would enable Ableton to send audio to your Bluetooth device.

To do this, follow these simple steps:

  • Spotlight search and open the “Audio MIDI Setup” application.
  • Click the “+” on the bottom right of the window.
  • Click “Create Aggregate Device”
  • Tick the box in the “out” column that corresponds to your Bluetooth Device’s name on the left.

Open Ableton preferences and follow the steps above to set the aggregate device as the output device.

Bluetooth Speaker and Headset Troubleshooting

Below is a list of problems that can occur when using Bluetooth devices as your monitoring system in Ableton.

I suggest that when you are troubleshooting these issues, you have another application that is open on your laptop or PC that can play music.

If you are experiencing any of the issues listed below, then the first action to take is to jump over to Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube Music and see if the same problems occur.

If they don’t then the issue must be found in the relationship between Ableton live and the Bluetooth device.

Sound is Coming In and Out

Some people have reported that playback audio through a Bluetooth device phases in and out, randomly dipping and spiking on occasion.

One highly probable reason for this is a power-related issue.

Bluetooth devices, by nature, run on battery, and often the demand of running complex audio through these devices can cause the battery to take strain, especially if the battery is aged.

Make sure the battery level of the Bluetooth device is above 80% when using it through Ableton. I have made it common practice to run my Bluetooth while charging it via my laptop USB port.

Another common reason is the Bluetooth connection itself.

Bluetooth frequencies operate in a similar bandwidth as other household devices and often, interference can occur because of this.

A simple disconnect, power off and on, and reconnect can solve the issue.

Playback Audio is Glitchy

Playback audio can also be glitchy from time to time when using a Bluetooth device as an output device in Ableton.

Here are some quick solutions to try:

  • Re-establish Bluetooth connection between Bluetooth Device and Laptop or PC.
  • Make sure the battery of the Bluetooth device is charged.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website for a possible firmware update for the Bluetooth device.

Unwanted Compression

Unfortunately, unwanted compression is a common issue that is experienced when using a Bluetooth speaker or headset as an output device in Ableton.

Often this can be because Bluetooth devices, generally speaking, are not built with studio-quality components.

Some Bluetooth devices simply become overwhelmed by the audio Ableton is producing and subsequently “squash” the music.

Another reason for unwanted compression could be that the gain level outputted from Ableton is too high. It is recommended that the output level be set to 2 or 3dB below zero to protect the Bluetooth device and avoid other audio issues.

High Output Latency

This is, arguably, the biggest drawback to using a Bluetooth device as an output in Ableton.

There is always an output latency experienced when running audio through a Bluetooth device. This is due to the time it takes for the audio to travel to and be decoded by Bluetooth speakers or headphones.

This usually ranges between 34-200 milliseconds, and, in my experience, the latency can be so noticeable that the visual timeline measuring seconds and subdivisions you are seeing is out of sync with the audio you are hearing.

Playing audio back and arranging pieces with latency isn’t too much of an issue (especially if latency is low. But, trying to record software instruments via MIDI or tracking live instruments becomes a real challenge because the latency will consistently throw off the timing of your playing.

Recommendation for Wired Speakers and Headphones

It makes sense that any artist or producer should choose wired headphones or wired studio monitors over Bluetooth devices for a variety of reasons:

  • High-quality audio output
  • Wider frequency range
  • Greater range of brand, model, and budget brackets.

There is a place for Bluetooth speakers and headphones in the world of music creation, but these devices will struggle to compete with the industry standard high-end studio speakers and headphones.

Final Thoughts

Bluetooth speakers and headphones undoubtedly have their uses when arranging music in Ableton.

This is especially true when it comes to portability, convenience and general cost. Bluetooth headphones are probably the most practice when you’re using Ableton Note while you are traveling or commuting.

Professional studio monitors and headphones will always be needed for instrument and vocal tracking as well as the mixing and mastering process.

Sources

Bluetooth Headphones and Latency in Note

How to Fix Bluetooth Audio Stuttering

How to Output Ableton to Bluetooth Speakers?