The Best Ableton Controller For Home Studio And Live Performances
Either you will perform live either use it in your home recording studio, the best Ableton controllers in the market will make the life of producers easier.
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 user-friendly interface and shines at recording, editing, mixing and live performances. And for that last part, a MIDI controller is essential.
What is Ableton 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 5 DAW software.
How is an Ableton controller usable?
I personally own an AKAI APC40 and has 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 DJ’s and musicians of all genre like Robert Babitz, Stephan Bodzin, Gui Boratto, Trentemoller, and others, that perform exclusively with this setup.
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 in 2018.
Control Ableton with iPad
There is also the option of using an App in 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 five excellent and budget-friendly options for Ableton controllers that instantly and automatically maps with the DAW and your projects.
If you have found what you are looking for, take a look at what else you will need to start music production today at Build your Home Recording Studio with under $600.
Taking into consideration personal experience, recommendations, reviews and features such as portability, style, comfort level, including software, and the price tag we picked five of the best Ableton controller for home studio and live performances.
5 BEST ABLETON CONTROLLER
1. ABLETON PUSH 2
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.
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, I still consider it an excellent choice for live performances and studio work.
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 every use. It is the best Ableton controller without step sequences in the market.
Note: Check also the APC mini with 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 mode makes it impossible to play out of key and in Note Mode automatically switches the layout for drum or instrument devices. 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.
Conclusion: The new Novation Launchpad Pro can satisfy newcomers as well as experts in the live platforms. It is small, 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.
Note: There are also two versions of Novation Launchpad, the Ableton version, and the MINI. It’s your choice.
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 chooce the best Ableton controlers are the 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.
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 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 other MIDI keyboard like this one, you will find here 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
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 the 1 to 1 mapping with Ableton Live, the package comes with a Lite version to start music production immediately.
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 is does, only by looking at it. With an amazing price tag and great reviews is a choice that needs to be taken serious.
In 2019, 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 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.
Do not hesitate to post your comments and questions about the best Ableton controller for your home recording studio and live performances.