Either you will perform live either use it in your home recording studio, the best Ableton controllers in the market can 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 softwares 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 special 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. This 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 the best 5 DAW softwares.
How is an Ableton controller usable?
I personally own an AKAI APC40 and has cover 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 a real dj experience. Ableton Live monopoles at live performances. There are a big 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.
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 5 excellent and budget friendly options of Ableton controllers that instantly and automatically maps with the DAW and your projects.
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 integrate seamlessly with Ableton for real time note input, clip launching and more. 8 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 of controls you can perform with Push 2, like adding effects, change type of scales or apply automation within step sequences. The large multicolor display will perfectly show you what you need.
Conclusion: Without a doubt, Push 2 is an amazing gear for music producers. Any user would praise it’s premium features for hours. But as every tool it has it’s minuses as well. First of all it is a bit pricey and secondly it sure needs time and effort to experiment, 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, 9 faders and plenty of function buttons that will give you the opportunity for an exquisite performance.
The only concern here is the built quality. I found a 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 constitues 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 8 assignable faders. It has great reviews and 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 easy introduction to grid-base 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 it’s main 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 make 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 to the live platforms. It is small, ridiculously light-weight and very affordable. The plurality of great reviews doesn’t let 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.AKAI APC KEY25
I use both MIDI keyboard and controller on my live performances and since both are a bit heavy, i’m not having the best time caring 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 sure missing the faders and some also wish for pitch and mod wheels. But you cannot ask everything for such an affordable price.
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 to 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 1 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.