Ableton Live is the most prevalent DAW for producers of hip-hop and electronic music.
It’s simple to see why. Live revolutionized the way artists write music with its innovative Session View.
However, at its core, Ableton was always meant to be played…Live. Even in the studio, the best way to use Live is to play it like an instrument.
The missing piece of the puzzle is the right MIDI controller to get the most out of Live’s functions for stage and studio.
However, there are more Ableton controllers out there than ever before. In this article, I’ll go through the best 10 devices for controlling Ableton Live.
Street Price: $799 USD
Let’s get this one out of the way first. Ableton made its own controller in-house to be the perfect companion to Live.
Now on its second version, Ableton Push 2 is the most comprehensive Ableton controller available.
Push 2 offers you hands-on access to your entire production workflow. You will not even have to bother your computer screen when you do not want to.
Push 2’s onboard high-resolution display, navigation controls, touch strip, and rotary encoders offer an insane amount of flexibility.
However, they also come at a price. If you’d like the premium Ableton controller experience you will have to pay more to get it.
Street Price: $149.99 USD
The main ideas for dedicated Ableton have been around for a while.
Novation was one of the first firms to produce an Ableton-specific device with the Launchpad.
The 8×8 button grid could seem common at this point, however, the Launchpad was one of the controllers that made it the standard.
The Launchpad features the classic RGB-enabled grid, plus an additional set of circular buttons around the edges for navigation control and transport.
It is a super easy controller that could get you controlling Ableton Live right away.
Street Price: $299 USD
When you are looking to get the classic playable pads of early music production stations for your Ableton rig, Akai’s offerings are the best place to begin.
Building on their legendary MPC line, the APC (Ableton Performance Controller) was the original dedicated Live controller to get Ableton’s stamp of approval.
The APC40 mkII is the newest flagship design in AKAI’s Ableton range.
With a choice of pads, faders, encoders, and even a crossfader, the APC 40 mkII is pre-mapped to work perfectly with Ableton proper out of the box.
The APC 40 mkII functions as a true music production center with dedicated controls for almost every necessary function of Live.
Street Price: $99 USD
The Akai APC Mini is the compact version of the flagship Akai APC 40 mkII Ableton controller.
The APC Mini is an excellent affordable method to get Akai’s Ableton controller expertise into your setup.
This simplified APC has a grid, sliders and multifunctional buttons to care for launching clips and scenes.
Despite its smaller size, there is still a ton of fingers on music production you could do with the Akai APC Mini.
Street Price: $159.99 USD
Not every Ableton user is totally concentrated on the clip grid.
Novation’s Launch Control XL gives an excellent alternative for those looking for perfect Ableton integration as well as plenty of rotary controllers and faders to tweak.
All that plus dedicated navigation and enough pads to perform basic clip-launching tasks make the Launch Control XL an ideal choice—particularly for dedicated knob tweakers!
6. Monome Grid
Street Price: $700 USD
No list of Ableton controllers would be full without the original “grid of pads” controller.
Monome was the boutique controller that began all of it.
Now known as the Monome Grid, the idea that a controller as minimal as an easy square set of pads might be an expressive musical instrument was revolutionary.
Though it could do much, much more, Monome’s pad array naturally lends itself launching Ableton clips.
You might say that capability was what kicked off the Ableton controller craze in the first place!
7. Any MIDI controller
It might sound obvious, however, I mean it! Any MIDI controller could be configured to work perfectly with Ableton.
One of the best things about Live is its extremely simple method of mapping DAW functions to MIDI.
Simply hit the MIDI toggle in the top right corner and move a knob, slider or key or your controller—it’s as simple as that!
Ableton will automatically learn the MIDI CC or Note number and associate it with that function.
Street Price: $99.99 USD
The Novation Launchpad Mini is one of the most compact, easy Ableton controllers available.
It shares its format and design inspiration with the Launchpad MK2, however, the whole package is considerably smaller and more stripped down.
If saving space and keeping it easy are your chief concerns, the Launchpad mini might be the right choice!
Street Price: $129.99 USD
So far, traditional keyboard keys haven’t been included in the controllers on this list.
The Akai APC Key 25 puts standard Ableton control features and classic keyboard input in the same compact controller.
That is as close to a one-stop-shop controller as you could get.
When you do not already have a keyboard controller or you want inexpensive, portable Ableton control, the APC Key 25 is ideal for you.
Street Price: $149.99-249.99 USD
Right here’s another one for the keyboard crowd.
Launchkey is Novation’s take on the hybrid controller style. It takes all the best features of the Launchpad and integrates them seamlessly with Novation’s premium keyboard controller tech.
Launchkey is available in quite a lot of codecs to accommodate any desired keyboard measurement.
The pads, sliders and transport controls will allow you to keep mouse free whereas inputting complicated musical passages with the keyboard.
Getting hands-on control of your Ableton Live sessions is a game-changer.
Staring at a computer could get pretty tiring—even if you are making music!
Get your hands off your trackpad and into your music with these ten fantastic Ableton controllers.