The 7 Best MIDI Controllers for Ableton Live

Ableton Live is an absolutely amazing DAW. What makes it even cooler is the amount of great, dedicated MIDI controllers that are available for it.

From tweaking your ideas in the studio, to performing your tracks on stage, this guide will have you covered.

It might seem a bit daunting to decide on a controller. First you need to decide what your main objectives are: do you want a high-end, feature rich controller like the Ableton Push 2, or do you just want something cheap that you can launch clips and tweak effects?

Our Recommendation for the Best MIDI Controller for Ableton Live is the Ableton Push 2.

Our Recommended budget option is the Akai Professional APC Mini.

Check out the following list to find out which one is right for you, along with videos showing each of them in action.

MIDI Controller for Ableton – Our Round-Up

1. Ableton Push 2 Controller Instrument
Editor's Choice - Best Option For Professional Producers
2. Novation Launchpad Pro Professional
Useful and Compact MIDI Controller for Ableton Live
3. Akai Professional APC40 MKII
Lightweight and Compact MIDI Controller For Live and Studio Use
4. Akai Professional MPK249
Portable MIDI Controller For Ableton Live
5. M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
Very Affordable Keyboard MIDI Controller
6. Nektar 49-Key Impact GX49 Controller Keyboard
Basic Midi Controller Compatible With Any DAW
7. Akai Professional APC Mini
Budget Option - Lightweight and Compact MIDI Controller For The Road

1. Ableton Push 2

Check Price: Sweetwater | Amazon

Ableton Push 2 is one of the most sought after controllers for Ableton Live. It is built directly for Ableton Live, and it integrates with the software exceptionally well.

In fact, the Push 2 is quite a major selling point for using Ableton Live as a DAW in the first place!

It’s a very versatile instrument and you can do a whole lot with this controller.

It includes:

  • High-resolution screen – So you don’t need to spend much time looking at your laptop.
  • Multi-colored grid buttons – Very useful to help you distinguish between different clips and samples.
  • Velocity-sensitive buttons, great as a MIDI Drum pad – The 16 pads on the bottom left are often used as a drum controller for Ableton Drum Racks. These work VERY well!
  • Play melodies and chords using the grid buttons – This is particularly well liked among those that do not play piano or keyboard.
  • Very robust build quality – The Push 2 is built extremely well and is made of good quality.

Ableton push 2 has a ton of other features and you can spend a long time really sinking your teeth into this controller.

If you’re going to get one very versatile MIDI controller that you want to work with Ableton Live, then this is a great option.

Check out the video above if you want to learn more about the Push 2.

2. Novation Launchpad Pro

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The Novation launch pad has some great features such as 64 touch and velocity-sensitive RGB pads.

It includes a 32 step sequencer. You can also play in chord mode, as well as dynamic-mode and scale-modes. It has MIDI in, out, and thru. It also has a USB C port.

The Novation Launchpad is a really good compact controller that works very nicely with Ableton Live.

It’s usually a more affordable controller than the Push 2, so if you’re looking for something on more of a budget, then this could be a great option for you.

3. Akai APC 40 MKII

Check Price: Sweetwater | Amazon

Most of us that work with Ableton Live have heard about Akai’s APC40 midi controller, which was one of the first dedicated controllers.

The Akai APC40 MKII controller is the second generation of this device and it works as a very useful ‘all in one’ controller that has lots of very useful features:

  • Grid buttons for launching clips and scenes
  • Volume control, solo, mute
  • Track select to select which track you want to alter and apply effects to
  • 8 Device control knobs that automatically map to the effects and instrument devices on your track
  • 8 Knobs for track control effects such as panning and sends.
  • Easy control of cue volume and metronome.
  • Play, stop, and record buttons.

This is a great MIDI controller to give you a lot of control of your sound, especially if you are more focused on clip launching and control.

The main drawback is that you will not get touch-sensitive buttons like you would with the Ableton Push 2. It is more for clip launching rather than using it as a MIDI instrument.

4. Akai Professional MPK249

Compare Prices: Sweetwater | Amazon

If you are into music production, you have probably heard about Akai’s quality controllers. It is perfect for both beginners and professionals that relied on it throughout the years.

Akai Professional MPK249 midi controller is the good choice for beginners that wish to start with music production on Ableton Live. Even though it has been around us for a few years back, it comes with a lot of features.

Even though you will find reviews that target only amateurs, we can easily say that it is perfect for both professionals and beginners. It comes with a classic design, but it is very durable and can withstand moving it around from gig to gig.

It is a relatively light MIDI controller, which means that you will be able to move it around with ease.

Check out the video to see its features and what you will get with this controller.

5. M-Audio Keystation 49 II

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M-Audio Keystation 49 II midi controllers is an excellent choice if you wish velocity sensitive synth keys built inside the lightweight construction. It comes with directional and transport buttons so that you can control your DAW.

Apart from that, you will gain an assignable slider that will help you control volume with ease. It is compatible with Ableton Live as well as iOS devices, which increases both convenience and portability.

The Keystation 49 II midi controller comes with straightforward functions and controls. It is an excellent choice for the affordable price tag, and you will gain a solid feel an appropriate response.

It is large, but it should fit your desk without using too much space. At the same time, it is lightweight so that you can carry it around with ease.

In overall, you will get a midi controller with essential functions and an affordable price tag that you can carry around with ease, especially compared with more expensive ones on the market.

6. Nektar 49-Key Impact GX49 Controller Keyboard

Compare Prices: Sweetwater | Amazon

If you are wondering whether one midi controller can handle your mobile and studio requirements, you should check out Nektar GX49 controller keyboard.

With it, you will get a synth-action keyboard that comes with 49 keys that have high velocity when it comes to sensitivity. It is compatible with Windows, MacOS, as well as iOS devices, and the best thing about it is that you do not need to install additional drivers.

The lightweight construction and compact size mean that you can easily travel with it, especially when compared with other midi controllers on the market.

You will get two connection ports, one that will provide you MIDI out and jack that you can hook up with a footswitch. It comes with Octave buttons that will illuminate when you activate them as well as a pair of Transpose buttons that are on the left side of the keyboard.

You will be able to shift it up to four octaves, and buttons will illuminate in yellow, red, orange or green that will indicate the octave shift.

You will not get a digital LED display that will show you parameter values and assist you with programming, which is the main drawback we will mention here.

In overall, you will get a decent sound generator for the affordable price tag, and travel-friendly features.

Check out the video that will present you its features as well as demo sounds:

7. Akai Professional APC Mini

Check Price: Sweetwater | Amazon

The Akai APC mini the closest thing to Launchpad with faders. It comprises more clip launch buttons than other Akai devices, which means that we can compare it with Push and Launchpad.

Below each row of buttons, you will find a fader as well as the master track at the right side. It looks compact and straightforward to use, but you will also see additional functions available.

The shift button works in combination with circular buttons that are on the right side of the clip-launching grid.

The construction and price are appropriate for beginners and the control layout straightforward to use.

It is mostly focused on Ableton Live so that you can control it along the way.

Best 7 Midi Controllers for Ableton Live Buying Guide

What Features To Look For In Ableton Controllers?

  • Ableton Compatibility – Since we are talking in this particular review about Ableton Live midi controllers, the first thing that you should look is the compatibility with it. Of course, you should have in mind that most controllers work with it, but some of them tie in very nicely as a control surface for Ableton Live.
  • Pad Quality – Controllers are defined by the quality of their pads, which is why you should find the one that will provide you perfect and accurate feedback. That is especially important if you wish to use it to perform live.
  • Durability – The controller needs to be sturdy and robust as well as travel-friendly. Therefore, you should check out online reviews that will help you determine their strength before you make up your mind.
  • Weight and Size – It is vital to understand that smaller controllers are better especially if you wish to use it both in the studio and on gigs. You do not need a large box, similarly as E-piano, which is why you should consider whether you wish to use it only in the studio, or take it with yourself from gig to gig.

Conclusion:

Our choice as the best MIDI controller for Ableton Live is the Ableton Push 2. This is tightly integrated with Ableton Live. It works very well with both Ableton Live 9 and Ableton Live 10, and we would highly recommend this if you have the budget for it.

Alternatively, if you need to go for something a bit more affordable, then the Akai professional APC MINI is a fantastic option.

If you want to go for something mid-level, then we would highly recommend the Akai APC 40 MKII, you can do so much with this MIDI controller, and is incredibly versatile. It is a good competitor option even to the Ableton Push 2, depending on how you want to use it.

Featured image by GeschnittenBrot [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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