Top 5 MIDI Controllers For Ableton Live
Looking for the best Ableton controller can be difficult at times with the many types of MIDI controllers that exists in the market. As an Ableton user, your workflow would be a little different compared to using other DAWs as you’ll be primarily triggering clips and mixing live.
That being said while there are many DAW controllers which will work with Ableton, there have been a rising increase of controllers that were primarily made for the Ableton. Ableton undeniably provides a DAW environment which can be taken to the stage for live performance which calls manufacturers to make hardware controllers designed for it.
Some might love the idea of using an app on the iPad to control Ableton, but in all seriousness using an iPad app during a live performance can be scary. We all know apps are bound to crash and stutter without any given notice. So we decided to skip on recommending software based controllers in this guide.
Well without futher ado, here is the top 5 best MIDI controllers for Ableton Live you can get your hands on today.
1 – Ableton Push
The Ableton Push is made for Ableton and is aimed for producers who uses Ableton Live. It makes sense to buy Ableton Push as soon as you can if you’re a Live producer. Built with 64 velocity and pressure sensitive pads, it’s brings in a new way to play and experiment with loops.
There are many ways you could control your sounds with Push like changing the types of scales, manually adding effects and playing differently than you would on a conventional MIDI controller which would expand your creative freedom .
It still possess a little learning curve as you need to learn how to program and switch your worfkflow style. Therefore, expect to spend some time experimenting with Push. However trust us, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be inspired with the Ableton Push.
You’ll find a screen on the Push as well, depicting what you are controlling. This is a big win and is a really useful feature on a good Ableton controller that many other controllers seems to miss out on.
With a seemingly cheaper build than the Ableton Push, there are some reasons that many producers choose to buy the Launchpad Pro instead of the Push.
Launchpad Pro is smaller in size and easier to carry around. It’s easy to pack the Launchpad into a bag and go travelling with it. Besides, the Launchpad Pro is made to run with other MIDI equipment, software samplers and DAWs. While Push is aimed solely for Ableton Live, you have more flexibility with the Launchpad which works perfect as a pad MIDI controller on other 3rd party VST instruments like Native Instrument’s Komplete series.
Featuring 64 RGB backlit velocity and pressure buttons together with 32 RGB backlit round mode buttons, you can easily change the modes to quickly switch the layout of the controller when playing drums or instruments.
The pads illuminate according to different modes so you can easily play notes like a chromatic scale even if there are no keys on them. It’s also cheaper compared to the Ableton Push, so this might be a choice for many aspiring producers.
3 – Akai APC40 MKII
The second edition of the popular Akai APC40, the APC40 MKII appeals to DJs who have found home in the layout of the predecessor.
Designed to work with Ableton Live, the APC40 is made to playback the clips you have in Ableton Live sessions. Unlike Ableton Push which offered a step sequencer, the APC does not come with one. If you’re looking to play instruments with an Ableton DJ controller, the APC40 is probably not something you’ll look for as the pads aren’t velocity sensitive.
The APC is made to really just control the playback of the clips you have in Ableton, controlling faders and mixing, so you don’t have to reach the mouse to play clips. It’s seen more as a controller for Ableton Live rather than a flexible instrument, like the Ableton Push or Launchpad.
With the RGB pads, it’s easy to see and monitor which clips are playing and which are not. This makes it very usable for performing live in clubs and concerts, making the APC40 a favorite for DJs who do live mixing.
The Base is a very cool MIDI controller that feels and look solid. Though it is not made primarily for Ableton Live, the Base is easy to integrate with differetn DAW (like Ableton Live) with the included Remote Script.
The 32 velocity & pressure sensitive pads with after touch is fully re-programmable with the Base II Editor making it an all rounder MIDI controller capable of controlling majority of DAWs. This makes sense if you aren’t looking to just focus on Ableton Live as your one and only DAW. Perhaps you’re a music producer who jumps between DAWs like using Traktor along Ableton.
The pads are very responsive. Drumming or playing samples off the pads is a remarkable experience as the pads have after touch in them.
Some of us who are keyboardists cum DJs prefer having at least some keys on our MIDI controller together with some assignable pads and faders to control our DAW software. While there are many keyboard MIDI controllers which has such features, we’d recommend going for the M-Audio Oxygen series.
They are built with highly sensitive and responsive keys together with easy to assign knobs, pads & sliders to control software instruments and also your DAW, thanks to the DirectLink softare which automatically maps the onboard controls to different DAWs.
Not made primarily for Albeton, the pads can be assigned for beat production or to trigger clips on Live. The M-Audio Oxygen also has a cheaper price tag compared to other keyboard MIDI controllers.
We hope we shone light into your decision of choosing a MIDI or DJ controller to use with Ableton Live. Keep in mind though that different musicians, producers & DJs have different approachs to playing and performing with a MIDI controller. Get creative and create your own workflow that works for you
Remember, these controllers are made to be extensions to our music. Never forget to hone your music & production skills every day.