Ableton Push assessment: a devoted controller for the Stay trustworthy

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

MIDI may be a bit of lengthy within the tooth as protocols go, nevertheless it’s been the prevailing normal for getting music hardware and software program to play good just about since its inception. As such, the MIDI controller is a reasonably established staple in skilled and bed room studios alike. The issue is that they’re generic by nature. They arrive in all styles and sizes, however to be worthwhile, they should attraction to a broad vary of purposes. Ableton clearly did not assume this association was as much as snuff, although, so it created Push — a software program controller constructed totally for the newest model of its well-liked Reside manufacturing software program. Whereas there have been Stay-particular controllers earlier than — some even formally endorsed by Ableton — Push is an entire new beast. It is one which hopes to unite hardware and software program in a means that an all-objective controller by no means might.

Ableton additionally has lofty musical ambitions for Push: it claims it designed the hardware as an instrument in and of itself; one thing that allows you to shut the lid of the laptop computer and use to make music with, whereas not wanting like you’re checking your e mail. And, provided that Ableton makes the software program that it is constructing Push for, integration is understandably anticipated to be hermetic. However how properly does it work? Is it an instrument? Will it exchange all of your different controllers? Would you like one? Is it well worth the $599 pre-order worth? Will it mix? We have pushed ourselves to discover the system absolutely in an effort to seek out out (aside from that final query, in fact).

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Ableton Push assessment


Ableton Push


  • Intuitive tactile controls
  • Wonderful construct high quality
  • Fits all talent ranges


  • Extra audio controls wanted
  • Much less reasonably priced than different options


An incredible debut controller from Ableton that makes environment friendly use of a modest footprint. Extra controls for audio can be good, however there’s undoubtedly one thing for all ranges of customers.


We already alluded to the truth that there are myriad MIDI controllers in all styles and sizes, however there are two particularly which are value understanding about earlier than we go on for context — Novation’s Launchpad and Akai’s APC40. Each are Ableton-particular controllers, which arguably have a minimum of indirectly influenced the Push we’re evaluating at the moment. With these recent in our reminiscences, let us take a look at Ableton’s spin on issues.

There aren’t many mass-produced controllers that appear and feel as nicely-crafted as this.

Take away Push from the field, and the very first thing that strikes you is how dense it’s. The sq. system measures 14.5 x eleven.5 x 1 inch, and weighs 6.6 kilos. The load falls very a lot into the “reassuringly heavy” class, although for those who’re a fan of lighter models such because the Launchpad, it’d initially really feel somewhat cumbersome. Bar a couple of connections across the again, all of the motion could be discovered alongside the highest floor. A big eight x eight grid of white rubber pads takes middle stage, flanked on the left and proper by smaller black buttons with a special, more durable, plastic really feel than the central white ones. Above the central grid are one other two rows of smaller buttons, an LCD show and 9 rotary controllers. On the left aspect, there’s additionally a contact-strip between the middle pads and the black management buttons. General, the end of the casing feels nice, and is of the tender-contact selection — just like that discovered on many telephones and tablets.

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

The pads within the central grid are strain-delicate (how exhausting you push impacts the sound) and really feel extraordinarily agency / mashable, with solely a small quantity of journey. The black buttons on both aspect, nevertheless, are barely looser and have extra of a “clicking” motion. All of the rotaries are countless (you possibly can twist them endlessly), and are completely clean of their movement, bar one, which has a notched motion to permit straightforward setting of fastened values. None of them are clickable, as is usually the case, however they’re contact-delicate up prime, which provides additional performance. These different ports we talked about earlier all sit alongside the rear of the gadget, and embrace a brushed-metallic energy button, a 6V DC enter (adapter included), a USB port and two 1/four-inch jacks for pedals.

We have now to say that we have dealt with greater than our justifiable share of MIDI gear, and there aren’t many mass-produced controllers that appear and feel as properly-crafted as this. The design could be very a lot consistent with Ableton’s strategy within the software program realm, and has a really robust sense of minimalist aesthetic simplicity. This, mixed with the standard of the construct, actually does make it an object to behold. It will get as near a few of the extra bespoke or area of interest controllers (something from Furious, or Monome) as we have ever seen in a mainstream gadget. It is value noting, too, that the hardware has been produced in partnership with Akai, so not solely is there some heritage in these pads, nevertheless it’s been constructed by the corporate that successfully makes a competing (albeit older) choice.

Software program / Hardware interplay

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

The launch of Push coincides with the lengthy-awaited arrival of Ableton Stay 9 (the one model it presently works with). Whereas we’re not going to go too far into the software program aspect of issues from a assessment standpoint, it is necessary to discover how properly Push does its job — which finally is letting you management the software program. There might be some assumption of primary information of Stay, as most individuals fascinated by shopping for are in all probability utilizing it already. We’ll begin with the 2 foremost views in Stay — Organize and Session. Push is nearly totally fascinated about Session view. Inside this a part of Ableton Stay, there are broadly two issues it would be best to do: create new clips of music, and play / set off these clips in a musical, ordered style. Push permits you to do each of those duties, and we’ll strategy each individually.

Join Push to your pc (by way of USB, no drivers, and so forth. required), open Ableton Stay and the gadget springs to life. The beforehand unlit pads show vibrant colours, and the LCD display lets you understand that Ableton is asking you a query. That query is “Would you want to start out a brand new music?” Clicking “Sure” will routinely drop Push into drum-machine mode, having loaded up some default devices within the software program routinely.

On this state, the eight x eight grid divides itself in three. The underside-left four x four pads symbolize drum sounds (contact the slider to scroll up and down by way of much more sounds), whereas the underside-proper quarter of the grid serves as a clip-size management (press and maintain the primary pad, faucet the fourth for a 4-bar loop, and so forth.). The remaining eight x four pads above now perform as a step-sequencer — with a sound chosen, tapping these provides drum hits within the respective place within the drum loop.

That is meant to function your start line for a brand new track, letting you lay down a rhythm right away. Push allows you to add drum hits by tapping the pads on and off because the loop performs, however you can too document a sample in reside should you’re a little bit of a finger-drummer. That is the place we escape onto the outer black buttons, which (amongst different issues) include controls for quantize, delete and — fortunately for us — undo.

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

So, you’ve got obtained slightly drum beat going and also you’d wish to spice it up with a melody. No drawback, says Push. The highest-proper cluster of black buttons enables you to change focus between clips, units, tracks and so forth. Ableton could have routinely loaded a pitched instrument within the software program, and making this the middle of Push’s consideration is only a button click on (or two) away. It’ll rely upon what you have been doing final, however the black controls helpfully mild up when they’re helpful, and stay dim when they don’t seem to be. The LCD show additionally exhibits the present perform of the buttons instantly under it, which, within the present state, means switching between tracks in our challenge. With our pitched instrument chosen, the grid on Push modifications from the step-sequencer view into its technique of notational enter.

So, you’ve got obtained somewhat drum beat going and also you’d wish to spice it up with a melody. No drawback, says Push.

To realize this, the pads primarily develop into piano keys, the association of which may be closely configured to your choice. A scale button enables you to change the musical key and whether or not it is minor or main (or a number of different unique scales). You may also change the grid to characterize both solely these notes in the important thing you will have chosen (by no means play a incorrect word!), or to supply all of the notes chromatically. That is the place it tackles a big problem: permitting skilled musicians and one-finger wonders alike to “play” it as an instrument. Once more, with out drifting off into concept an excessive amount of, the best way the pads characterize notes has been organized in an effort to rattle off scales, chords, and so forth. in case you so want. It will possibly additionally present mild steerage to those that are maybe slightly extra used to drawing of their MIDI notes one after the other with a mouse.

Whereas there’s far more to probe for every of the above two instrument types, the opposite fundamental mode of operation is as a clip launcher. That is akin to probably the most primary perform of Novation’s Launchpad, whereby the eight x eight grid represents a corresponding part of your venture. On this mode, one pad represents a MIDI or audio clip, which can begin to play when pressed. Once more, just like the Launchpad, you’ll be able to set off entire “scenes” (or rows) of clips simply with the corresponding black button to the left. There’s a 4-means navigational pad within the decrease-proper nook of Push, and this can be utilized to maneuver the eight x eight grid’s focus round your session. When you’ve got a very giant challenge, with lots of of clips, urgent (and holding) shift will current a zoomed-out view, the place every pad now represents an eight x eight part of a venture, letting you shortly bounce about to totally different elements of the session. Function-clever on this mode, issues are fairly simple, and a properly-constructed challenge might be navigated and carried out with ease. So, when you may be extra eager about efficiency or manufacturing with Push, in actuality, the 2 duties may also be mixed considerably seamlessly, which is sort of the thrilling prospect should you’ve to date been utilizing a number of units to realize one thing comparable.

In use

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

Normally, and if you already know the software program, a lot of the controls really feel intuitive. However, if like us, you need to discover what all the things does proper now with out studying the guide, it may be a bit of irritating on the primary go. We’ll admit that our first 5 minutes with Push weren’t fairly as simple as we might hoped. Creating clips of drums and melodies was easy sufficient, however determining solely barely extra superior actions — similar to duplicating a clip, or making an attempt so as to add a plug-in / third-celebration instrument — had us leaping forwards and backwards between modes on the lookout for the best button. That is doubtless extra right down to our enthusiasm, eager to be specialists proper off the bat. The second session with Push felt much more pure, and intuitive. Thankfully, it does not matter how a lot you already know about Reside, as there’s enough documentation to get you going regardless of how affected person you’re (or in our case… not).

Rhythms and melodies may be performed expressively, and experimental concepts (and glad accidents) instantly grow to be simpler and extra frequent.

As soon as the workflow clicks, nevertheless, the enjoyable actually begins. The distinction a MIDI controller makes to your artistic workflow is already vital. So having one which’s purposely constructed for the software program it’s controlling solely serves to ramp up that sense of utilizing a hardware instrument, somewhat than a digital one. Rhythms and melodies might be performed expressively, and experimental concepts (and completely satisfied accidents) all of a sudden turn into simpler and extra frequent. Ableton Reside already had a status for permitting you to get concepts down shortly, and Push actually does expedite that course of much more. This, for us, is its strongest go well with. There are small concessions being made. For instance, keyboard gamers may favor a daily piano interface, and drummers might like greater pads, and so forth., however Push nonetheless manages to ship all of that performance in only one system, and does an honorable job, at that. However it’s undoubtedly the sparking of latest concepts that basically makes this value a glance. For those who repeatedly end up wheeling out the identical patterns, Push is perhaps simply the artistic kick you want.

Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

It is also value noting that it’s a must to decide to a specific amount of preparation first. If, like a large number of customers, you are all for utilizing Ableton Reside with third-celebration plug-ins, issues understandably aren’t as native as they’re with Stay’s constructed-in devices. You’ll be able to work round this by creating instrument racks, and allocating macro controls to an important options of your instrument. Stay will even show no matter you select to label it on Push’s readout. That is nice, nevertheless it means if you end up creating a brand new MIDI monitor, and searching for devices, you could solely add these from Reside’s suite, or instrument racks you’ve got created as described above. Provided that Ableton has no management over third-celebration devices, it appears somewhat unfair to mark it down for this. However on the flip aspect, you will possible end up organizing your library, instrument and sounds in a brand new solution to accommodate Push, and the aspect impact is that your entire workflow will profit, even for those who could be doing it reluctantly.

As we have established, asking Push to have the ability to do every little thing for everybody proper out of the field is an enormous request. However, with a consumer mode that allows you to map your personal configuration and Max for Reside, there’s an excellent probability that the group at giant may fill in most of the blanks briefly order. Maybe that is one thing Ableton thought-about when deciding the place Push’s competencies ought to lie.


Ableton Push review: a dedicated controller for the Live faithful

If you would like one thing that may deliver each perform, choice and submenu of Ableton Reside inside bodily attain, you then’re doubtless asking far an excessive amount of of any software program controller. If, nevertheless, you need a system that makes Reside really feel extra like devoted hardware, then this goes an extended solution to attaining that. However, is it for everybody? Nicely, that is a tough query. Making music — particularly within the digital realm — is a really private affair. There are not any greatest practices so far as workflows go. What Push does, although, is deliver Reside out from the display and underneath your fingers in a approach that not many different controllers can match (when it comes to 1:1 perform mapping).

As all the time, there are commerce-offs, with one of many largest being that there aren’t almost as many controls for audio as there are for MIDI. Should you have been maybe fascinated by utilizing this to report audio on the fly, loop issues up and construct a monitor that means, then you definitely may need to attempt one out for your self first, or adapt your workflow to make this match. There isn’t any doubt you’d have the ability to configure it with the Consumer mode to do all of these issues, however it’s not likely a part of the native workflow a tool like this sells itself upon. The Consumer mode is a superb catchall function, however it’s there to make up for all of the features that Ableton did not give a hard and fast quantity of hardware assets to.

Above and past all of that, Push is immense enjoyable, and can doubtless present a artistic jab within the arm to virtually any Reside consumer it doesn’t matter what their standard workflow is. And, to be truthful, whether or not you are a jobbing, aspiring or recovering musician, that is just about the perfect “function” you’ll be able to ask for. In case you’re utterly new to Ableton Stay, the $1,198 asking worth for Push and Stay 9 Suite ($948 for Reside commonplace) may be an enormous chunk of change. Present customers can pre-order the hardware by itself for $599, which, whereas not unreasonable, is a worth that might get you each its nearest rivals with change leftover. This can little question be the most important supply of consumer debate, however we’re fairly positive when you truly laid palms on it, there is a good probability you may end up justifying the fee. In any case, you’ll be able to’t put a worth on creativity, are you able to?

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