The Best Ableton Live Controller For DJing, Home Studios, and Live Performances
Whether you are looking for a MIDI controller for live performances, DJing, or control your favorite DAW. Our top picks for the best Ableton controller will cover your every need…
Ableton Live was the DAW that got me familiar with electronic music production. Even if I tried a couple more software and sometimes still use them, Ableton is my main DAW simple because it has a user-friendly interface and shines at recording, editing, mixing, and live performances. And for that last part, a MIDI controller is essential.
What is the Ableton Live controller?
A digital gear that is specially designated and integrated with Ableton Live to give you easy control, navigation, and maximum capabilities in your recording studio and live performances. If you just got the DAW in your hands, a MIDI controller is not a necessity. If the navigation in the platform is a daily occurrence for you, then it is time for shopping. That is my point of view; of course, you can still purchase a controller in the same package with your DAW and get familiar with them simultaneously.
If you want to learn more about Ableton Live and other DAW’s check our article with the best music production software.
How is an Ableton MIDI controller usable?
I personally own an AKAI APC40 and have covered my needs in the studio as well as live performances for many years.
In a recording studio, the use of a midi controller will make the process of composing, recording, and mixing more intuitive by triggering clips and knobs rather than clicking a pc mouse.
The essential use of an Ableton controller is performing it live. At Ableton’s groundbreaking Session View you can use the controller to mix tracks and add audio filters resulting in a real DJ experience. Ableton Live monopoles at live performances. There are a significant number of global DJs and musicians of all genres like Robert Babitz, Stephan Bodzin, Gui Boratto, Trentemoller, and others, that perform exclusively with this setup.
Control Ableton with iPad:
There is also the option of using an App on your iPad to control the software. But I would not recommend it for live shows. It is a bit scary to perform live with such a “small” device, especially since powerful laptops can crack after long hour sessions (Dj Sasha once “burnt” two MacBook Pro laptops on a live performance). In this post, we will see six excellent and budget-friendly options of MIDI controllers for Ableton that instantly and automatically maps with the DAW’s interface.
Taking into consideration personal experience, recommendations, reviews, and features such as portability, style, comfort level, including software, and the price tag we picked six of the best Ableton controller for home studio and live performances.
TOP 6 BEST ABLETON CONTROLLER – REVIEWS
1. AKAI ABLETON PUSH 2
Most people in the music scene are familiar with the legendary AKAI MPC series and its impact on music production. Ableton in conjunction with AKAI, create one of the most popular DAW controllers, used by musicians of all kind and genre. Designed for live sets and music production but not for DJing this machine has no limits on features. In some cases, Push 2 is the reason some musicians start to use Ableton Live.
The 8×8 grid of RGB backlit pads integrates seamlessly with Ableton for real-time note input, clip launching, and more. Eight touch-sensitive rotary knobs that can be used for library browsing, mixing adjustment, and other controls are exactly what you need for extreme performance.
Ableton Push 2 scale mode lights up the pads that align with the notes in the key and scale that you have chosen. There are numerous controls you can perform with Push 2, like adding effects, change the type of scales or apply automation within step sequences. The large multicolor display will correctly show you what you need.
Conclusion: Without a doubt, Push 2 is a fantastic tool for music producers. Any user would praise its premium features for hours. But like every tool it has, it’s cons as well. First of all, it is a bit pricey, and secondly, it sure needs time and effort to play, learn and efficiently use it, but once you do, you will perform creatively and inspirational sets. If you are a professional or want to become one, Ableton Push 2 is the best Ableton controller for you.
Musicians who use it: Richie Hawtin, Josh Wink, Linkin Park, Dubfire, Armin Van Buuren, Morgan Page, and the majority of Ableton Live users.
2. AKAI APC40 MKII
In my own home recording studio, the original and less compact APC40 has a prominent place. The new APC40 MKII is lighter with not such a “premium” build, and alternative ergonomics compare to the oldest model. However, It still is an excellent performance tool for every job. It can be used as a DAW controller for your studio, or a DJ controller for live performances.
The new light and slim edition of APC40 offers the same features as the old one. You can fully control the playback of the clips you have in your project. With 40 RGB backlit clips, launcher/trigger buttons, nine faders and plenty of function buttons will give you the opportunity for an exquisite performance.
The only concern here is the built quality. I found numerous of disappointed reviews about button dysfunctionalities. The pads are not velocity-sensitive, and if you are looking to play instruments, you won’t be able to perform with this controller because it doesn’t offer step sequencer like the Ableton Push.
Conclusion: The APC40 MKII has a grid of buttons to mirror the session view of Ableton. Along with the rotary controls, cross-fader and individual channel control buttons constitutes a controller that offers unique functionality and performance. With an attractive price tag is an excellent choice for home studio and DJing.
The APC40 is one of the best and most common Ableton MIDI controllers for DJs and live performances. Check out how to use it to make a DJ set.
Note: Check also the APC mini with an 8×8 backlit clip-launch grid and eight assignable faders. It has excellent reviews and a sweet price.
Musicians who use it: Guy Gerber, Max Cooper, Todd Terje, Giorgio Moroder, Gesaffelstein, and the majority of Ableton Live users.
3. NOVATION LAUNCHPAD PRO
If Ableton Push intrigued you in our first place, we have a such-alike option but cheaper and more portable. Novation Launchpad Pro is a simple and accessible introduction to grid-based controllers.
The new Launchpad features 64 RGB backlit velocity and pressure buttons, as well as 32 round mode buttons. Apart from using it as an instrument which is its primary use, Launchpad Pro gives you immediate access to all your mixer controls, so there is no need to insert a separate mixer mode.
The scale model makes it impossible to play out of key and in Note Mode automatically switches the layout for drum or instrument devices. The Launchpad Pro is designed not only to run with Ableton Live, but other DAWs like Logic Pro, and also is connected with other MIDI equipment, software samples or 3rd part VST instruments like NI Komplete series.
Here are 10 tips for Ableton Live and other DAW’s to get you started.
Conclusion: The new Novation Launchpad Pro can satisfy newcomers as well as experts in the live platforms. It is small, compact, ridiculously light-weight, and very affordable. The plurality of great reviews doesn’t let a room to doubt it’s quality and features. I would personally ask for a tougher built but is good altogether. There is another similar controller worth mentioning; check out the Korg SQ-64 vs. LaunchPad Pro MK3 comparison for more.
Musicians who use it: Marc Houle, KINK, Martin Solveig, Richie Hawtin, Giorgio Moroder, Ian Williams
4. Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM
MASCHINE JAM is a digital MIDI controller, ideal for capturing ideas and creating tracks with a user-friendly interface. There are many controls on this tool by Native Instruments that worth your attention. It may not be an Ableton controller but it includes an advanced template for Ableton Live that lets you sequence and launch clips from the pad matrix or play notes and control levels with the powerful Smart Strips.
With MASCHINE JAM’s powerful step sequencer and 64 multi-color illuminated step matrix buttons, plus 8 scene buttons, you can create your own patterns and rhythms. The 8 Touch Strips with a real-time multi-color indication to control levels, is something unique that does not have similar products. However, it is not necessarily the best choice for every performer or producer.
The package includes an arsenal of premium sounds from MASCHINE software and KOMPLETE SELECT to complete your track building. There are over 29 GB of professional sounds right out of the box, to control from MASCHINE JAM and create a professional sounding track.
Conclusion: An important factor to choose the best Ableton controllers is user reviews. So, visit Amazon.com, and you will be amazed by the great ratings by pleased producers. Its price tag is truly exceptional for everything it offers.
The Native Instruments’ Maschine Mk3 drum controller is the latest addition to NI’s collection and you should definitely take a closer look.
5. AKAI APC KEY25
I use both MIDI keyboard and controller on my live performances, and since both are a bit heavy, I do not have the best time to care for them around all the time. If your setup requires those two pieces of equipment, but your budget is limited the AKAI APC key25 is made for you.
AKAI professional collaborated with the creators of Ableton Live to create this extremely portable and light-weight MIDI keyboard controller with excellent software integration. But like all light-weight and portable gear, this controller needs a bit more caring when you transport it.
This 2-octave keyboard controller gives you 25 synth-action keys, 5×8 tri-color clip launch buttons, 8 knobs, and various control buttons, making it an excellent option for composition and performing. Of course, the keys are not fantastically playable, and also the buttons are not velocity-sensitive. For more MIDI keyboards like this, you will find at the best MIDI keyboard controllers.
Conclusion: With an AKAI APC key25 you are killing two birds with one stone. 25 keys for music composing and the live controller to ‘start’, ‘stop’, ‘edit’, ‘record’, and ‘mix’ your samples everywhere with this highly portable Ableton controller. It is sure missing the faders and some also wish for pitch and mod wheels. But you cannot ask everything for such an affordable price.
6. AKAI MIDIMIX
AKAI produced the first controller for FLstudio; the AKAI Fire. Prooving that they are producing high-end equipment for the needs of every music producer.
Owing to the collaboration of AKAI and Ableton, our list is dominated by AKAI professional equipment. The MIDImix Sends all mixer settings to Ableton Live with a single button press. Even if it is not entirely aimed at Ableton, there is only a little documentation on other DAWs.
AKAI MIDImix has a simple design with 24 knobs arranged 3 per channel, 16 buttons arranged in 2 banks, and 8 individual line faders plus one master. Except for the 1 to 1 mapping with Ableton Live, the package comes with a Lite version to start music production immediately. The faders are also there to help you mix tracks if you want a live controller for DJing.
This pocket-size controller weights less than a kilo and has a footprint almost the same as an 11″ Macbook. MIDImix is an excellent portable device to mix and process your projects on site.
Conclusion: The good thing about this mixer-type MIDI controller is that you can tell what it does, only by looking at it. With an amazing price tag and great reviews, this mini midi controller is a choice that needs to be taken seriously. The same with the AKAI APC40, MIDImix is an excellent MIDI for live performances and DJing with Ableton.
These were our top picks for the best Ableton Live controller for live performances, DJing, and home recording studios.
In case you are looking for other DJ controllers to control your Ableton, Serato, Traktor or any other DJ software, check The Best DJ Controller under $400.
We saw some cheap and some more expensive MIDI controllers for Ableton 10, and every other version of Live. AKAI and Native Instrument are the most recognized brands, but there are also more DAW controllers that can do a decent job. For example in our list with the best MIDI keyboard controllers, you will find small and large tools to control your favorite music production software. Whether is Ableton, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Cubase, Reason, or Pro Tools.
You can also use Ableton Live with multiple MIDI controllers. That is an advanced stage, that will take you some time and experiment to reach it.
In 2020, there are many choices for the best Ableton controller in the market. A wide variety of brands, features, and price tags. That is why we made a list of different products and characteristics that will cover the needs of the most.
Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAW’s and will constantly come out with new MIDI keyboards and controllers dedicated to the software. AKAI, NI, and NOVATION are the most common brands out there and their tools guarantee nothing less than high-quality.
Take a look at how to build your Home Recording Studio at under $600 and start music production right away.
Do not hesitate to post your comments and questions about the best Ableton controller for your home recording studio and live performances.
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