When picking the correct Ableton controller for your needs, you first need to take into account what your intentions with Ableton are; would you like to produce, are you using it for a live show to launch clips, or are you doing a bit a both. This list will highlight the best Ableton controllers for music production and live shows.
Table of Contents:
Best Portable Ableton Controller
Novation’s Launchpad series built the “controllers for Ableton” product category, they are for lack of a better phrase, the innovator of the space, and have held a stronghold of its audience by remaining so. By being the first to the gauntlet, Novation has carved out a niche but large group of followers that trust their products and their insight into what works and doesn’t.
The Novation Launchpad Mini brings the usability of its larger siblings to an extremely portable 8 by 8 grid with iOS connectivity.
- 64 Multi-color Backlit Trigger Pads
- MIDI Transport Controls
- Fully Integrated with FL Studio’s Performance Mode
- Daisy-chainable to Other Devices in the “Launch” Series
- Bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station, and Novation V Station
- USB MIDI Enabled
- iOS Compatible
Best Affordable Ableton Controller
Hoping that lightning would strike twice, as it did with their MPK and MPK Mini series, Akai introduced the APC Key, the micro key included Ableton performance controller. Boasting some of the great features from its performance-focused older-brother, the APC Key 25 is focused more on affordability and portability. If you’d prefer to stick strictly in the performance control aspect of the APC, you can get the APC Mini which swaps the keys for faders and a slightly larger grid spread.
$99 and up
- Keybed: 25 Shallow synth action mini-keys, playable but don’t get crazy.
- Pitch Bend / Modulation: None
- Clip Launch Matrix: 5×8 trigger layout.
- Build: Sturdy, lightweight but plasticky.
- Knobs: 8 assignable pots
- Pedal Inputs: Sustain Button
- Octaves: Dedicated -1/+1
- Extra Features: VIP 3.0
Best Ableton Controller for Performance
After the hardware revolution of Novation’s Launchpad series, and before the Push was ever created, Ableton partnered with legendary music production hardware company Akai to create the Ableton Performance Control, aptly shortened to the APC. As the first truly 1 to 1 solution for Ableton, the gap in production between the original APC40 and the MkII took 5 years of testing and user feedback to make it a reality, but as they say good things come to those who wait.
The APC40 MkII is packed with RGB-backlit 5 by 8 clip-launching grid, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 8 device control knobs, a navigation panel with instant plug-and-play mapping so that you can work seamlessly from the moment you unbox your new toy.
$99 and up
- Clip Launch Matrix: 5×8 trigger layout with RGB response
- Build: Sturdy, lightweight.
- Knobs: 8 assignable pots, 8 device control knobs
- Fader: 9 faders
- Buttons: 8 Send Buses
- Extra Features: Ableton Live Lite + Puremagnetik Racks
Best Keyboard Controller for Ableton
Novation has a longstanding history with Ableton while also launching the entirety of the control pad culture with their Launchpad series. Continuing with the success of its Launchpad line, Novation released it’s Launchkey series, pairing their original core competency with their somewhat newly found captive audience.
Coming in 3 different sizes at 25-keys, 49-keys, and 61-keys, the Novation Launchkey MK2 is the most versatile of all of the Ableton-specific controllers on the market. In its smallest form the Launchkey can control any DAW or MIDI-capable synths on any of your iOS devices but in its 49 and 61 key forms, it’s a fully prompted (and mappable) Ableton controller with all of the bells and whistles one could want.
The extra perks of buying the Launchkey include access to Melodics, a gamified production learning tool and a host of sounds from Loopmasters, 2 Novation VSTs, XLNs Addictive Keys, and a lite version of Ableton Live.
$99 to $250
- Keybed: Synth-style velocity-sensitive keybeds which include key configurations
- Pitch Bend / Modulation: Both present. Both fine.
- Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit trigger pads.
- Build: An ergonomically slanted casing for ease of use for controls.
- Knobs: 8 knobs
- Faders: 9 faders
- Pedal Inputs: Sustain
- Octaves: Both Up and Down with transpose function.
- Extra Features: Full transport control, 2 multi-function programmable round buttons, 3 InControl buttons for DAW control, 4 GBs of Loopmasters content and Addictive Keys.
Best Controller for Ableton
Though Novation reigned supreme in the clip launch game, it was only a matter of time before Ableton took control of there own destiny and launched their own Launchpad competitor, the Ableton Push. Though pricier to even the most senior of its competition, the Push 2 is unlike any other controller for Ableton because it brings the workflow to your fingertips, taking your head out of the screen, and putting it back into creativity.
Where all of the other devices on this list focus on ease of use and control, the Push is about unencumbered access. With the Push, you can edit waveforms, create loops, launch clips, open and browse sounds and VSTs and way more. Outside of being the most comprehensive controller for Ableton, the Push is also fully capable of controlling any other DAW or MIDI controlled device, making it a beast of a workstation (because it also has a built-in sequencer).
Though the Push series is both designed and formatted by and for Ableton, it holds the steepest learning curve of any of the devices on this list simply because of its immersive design.
- Screen: High-resolution RGB display
- Pitch Bend / Modulation: Touchstrip with 31 LEDs for pitch bend, modulation and navigation
- Buttons Matrix: 8×8 trigger layout with trigg
- Build: Heavyduty, highend silicone.
- Knobs: 8 touch responsive endless encoders
- Pedal Inputs: Two Pedal inputs
- Extra Features: Step sequencer, sampler, chord mode and more.