Ableton Live is an absolutely killer 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 play keys on?
Check out the following list to find out which one is right for you, along with videos showing each of them in action.
1. Ableton Push 2
If you wish to notice the fantastic improvement when compared with Push 1, Ableton Push 2 will provide you exceptional build quality, inspiring device control and excellent step sequencing.
Since it comes with a partnership with Akai, you will get 100% Ableton controller that comes with a lower profile, which is both wider and longer with well-constructed top and casing.
The improvement is that you will get the responsive and transparent display in full-color and bright HD resolution screen with a wide viewing angle.
The RGB backlighting is entirely consistent and better disturbed, and you will get fantastic responsiveness when compared with Push 1
A must-have upgrade will help you improve your controlling style. The main drawback is that it lacks arrangement view ratings. However, you will still get useful, beautiful and first class screen with fantastic functionality.
If you are a beginner and you wish to learn what you can do with Ableton Push 2, you should check out this video:
2. Novation Launchpad Pro
Novation Launchpad Pro is one of the most recognizable and successful music tech products in the last few years. It comprises the programmability and affordability, which is perfect for DJ hobbyist and professionals, while it will provide you tactile control of Ableton Live.
Finally, you can enjoy and take full advantage to APIs built and functionality that will work as a combination of beat workstation and Ableton controller. You can also use it as stand-alone MIDI mode so that you can use it with other software or as an independent MIDI connection.
It is compatible with Bitwig, FL Studio as well as other DAWs you wish to use. It comes with stand-alone User, Note, and Drum modes so that you can use it in Pro Tools as well as Reason. You can also combine it with hardware synths so that you can get amazing sound.
Of course, it does not have visual feedback and high-end features as Push, but it will provide you slick compositions and recording due to sensitive pads and standard launch grip.
You should learn more about how to make music on the Novation Launchpad Pro midi controller by visiting this video:
3. Akai APC 40 MKII
Most of us that work on Ableton Live have heard about Akai’s APC40 midi controller, which is one of the first dedicated controllers. Of course, since then Akai and Novation entered the scene and changed the game, as we know it.
Therefore, we can say that the Akai APC40 MKII controller works for the artist, especially if you are more focused on clip launching and control.
The updates are more aesthetical than functional, so you will gain the appropriate level of control, with a redesign that will appeal to you.
Apart from the midi controller, the package features registration card that will allow you to use software bundle, USB cable, Twist and Hybrid soft synths and 5GB of loop content among other things.
It is a great update and unit that you can use both in houses on gigs. The main problem is that you will not get sensitive buttons, but the design is much more functional and sleeker than before, and it has RGB LEDs for additional convenience.
Check out the latest introduction of this particular midi controller so that you can determine whether it is worth for your specific requirements:
4. Akai Professional MPK249
If you are into music production, you have probably heard about Akai tools that will help you deal with specific things. It is perfect for both beginners and professionals that relied on it throughout the years.
Akai Professional MPK249 midi controller is the perfect 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 that looks like plastic, but it is exceptionally durable and can withstand moving it around from gig to gig.
It weighs 12.6 pounds, which is lighter than other midi controllers on the market, which means that you will be able to move it around with ease. The main problem, according to previous users, is too light keys, which means that you need some time to get used to it.
Check out this video to see its features and what you will get with this particular midi controller.
5. M-Audio Keystation 49 II
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.
According to customer reviews, 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 will fit your desk without using too much space. At the same time, it is lightweight so that you can carry it around with ease.
The main disadvantage of this particular midi controller is that keys are too stiff and springy, which makes it inappropriate for live performance.
In overall, you will get a midi controller with essential functions and a cheap price tag that you can carry around with ease, especially compared with more expensive ones on the market.
Check out its performance on this video:
6. Nektar 49-Key Impact GX49 Controller Keyboard
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
The Akai APC mini, the midi controller, is 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 when it comes to firepower.
Of course, you will get the perfect midi controller for beginners that will provide you basic level functions. The pads are small and feel like rubber buttons, which means that velocity response is not that good too.
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.
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. It is a perfect choice for people that want to launch plenty of clips, but it does not come with Twist synth software bundle.
To learn how to use it in Ableton Live, you should watch this video for more information:
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 are specifically designed to provide you clear Ableton features.
- 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.
- Pad Size –Some controllers come with small pads, which is problematic to get used to. This is an excellent choice if you wish to use it in the home studio, but for professional use, we recommend you to find large pads.
- 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.
As you can see from everything we have mentioned above, you can choose different types of midi controllers based on their size, durability, features and price tag. In all cases, you will be able to use it for Ableton Live, which was the first consideration when creating this list.
Of course, it is challenging to find the best one on the market, especially if you are a beginner so that we will make appropriate recommendations below:
- Budget Option – M-Audio Keystation 49 II midi controller will provide you the combination of sturdiness, affordability and basic features that you will need for everyday use. Since it is lightweight, you will be able to move it around, and you will get the perfect choice for the price tag you will pay.
- High-End Option – Ableton Push 2 is the best choice we made on this particular list. Even though it comes with a high price tag, so you have to make the initial investment, if you are into a midi controller that will work on Ableton Live, this is the best one for you. Apart from the responsive display that will help you use it, you will get the first-class controller that will stand the test of time.