My all time top tip for getting a nice sound from Ableton Live (or any DAW) is to keep your channel faders low and the Master at 0db. I explain my reasoning in an older post from January 2008. You can read it and the great comments by: clicking here. A safety net or let’s say helper in keeping your Master at 0db is a Limiter. Luckily (finally!) they added a native Limiter to Ableton Live 8. I recommend saving your startup Template with the Limiter in place. How much headroom below 0db you should leave is questionable but mostly I just leave it at it’s default setting of -0.30 dB. I’m guessing Ableton set it there for a reason. Of course you can use Limiters to shape and pump your sound and for something like that I turn to other plug-ins like Wavearts FinalPlug ($199) or a hardware unit such as a Universal Audio 1176.
“The Limiter effect is a mastering-quality dynamic range processor that ensures that the output does not exceed a specied level. Limiter is ideal for use in the Master track, to prevent clipping. A limiter is essentially a compressor with an innite ratio. To ensure that your nal output will never clip, place Limiter as the last device in the Master track’s device chain and keep your Master fader below 0 dB.” – Ableton Live 8 User Manual
For more Ableton tips and info: wiretotheear.com/category/ableton-live/