Best Ableton Controllers Reviewed in Detail

5 Best Ableton Controllers — Fire Up the Dance Floor with Your Beats!

25 Models Considered
65 Hours of Research
10 Experts Interviewed
199 Reviews Analyzed

For digital music composers, one of the best purchases you could ever make is that of an Ableton controller. As much as you may be good at playing several instruments, DJing, recording, and collating different types of sounds may prove a hassle. The best Ableton controllers will help you compose, record, and sample your creative musical compositions all while sitting in front of your computer. Of course, you will have to combine a controller with the right software, but with the addition of a personal computer, you can start your music producing journey. While Ableton controllers may look different, they all have the same basic design, which is a rectangular matrix filled with buttons. As such, they are not hard to spot.

In our review of the same, we had to consider the features that each option brings to the table. This is inclusive of button layout as well as the capabilities of the control panel. In addition to that, the warranty of the product also says a lot. Some of these devices come with extra features such as software to use on your PC, and that may factor in helping choose an Ableton controller for you.

Top 5 Ableton Controllers review 2019

Below you will find a table highlighting our first five picks of which products deserve to be called the best Ableton controllers. Directly below that, we have the same list only now features, in-depth reviews, as well as the pros and cons of each of the devices are also highlighted. This helps determine how each device came to be on our list. The manufacturers, as well as people who have used these products before, have all been kind enough to provide the information that makes this list possible. Also, in a bid to help you make the best Ableton controller purchase, we have provided a buying guide that will help you rank each of the options according to your needs.

Editor’s Choice

Undoubtedely one of the best controllers from Akai lineup provided with original Ableton Software

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9.7
Best Interface

A grid controller from native Machines with 88 click-pad matrix, 8 parametres to tweak up, and advanced multi-track sequencing features

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9.5
Best Professional Ableton Controller

Original Ableton Controller with digital display wave and samples manipulating

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9.4
Best Value Ableton Controller

A great conroller at affordable price with user-friendly interface including 8×8 click-pad matrix, and side buttons set for looping and recording

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9.1
Budget Pick

A Portable, budget-friendly model from Akai with 8×8 pad grid , 8 asignable faders (+1 master) and buttons for recording and looping

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9.0
1.

Akai Professional APC40MKIIEditor’s Choice

Features
  • Grid: 5 × 8 clip-launch matrix
  • Control Panel: 9 channel faders, eight control knobs, and eight device controls interface with Ableton Live
  • Dimensions: 10 × 16.7 × 1.8 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year
VIEW ON AMAZON

For a beginner to music production or performance, the button layout may seem like overkill. After all, there are more than 50 buttons on the device which might prove to be a hassle to work with. However, veterans will tell you that whether you are performing live or recording a composition in your home or studio, these buttons are necessary. It might take a learning curve and some getting used to but in the end, learning the functions of all the switches is worth it.

The device comes with Ableton lite, which is software that you install on your computer, and that enables you to use the device better. However, this is not to say that you need to look at your computer screen every time you press a button. If you look at the features listed, you would be remiss not to notice the grid described. It is a 5×8 launch matrix and as such, has about forty individual buttons in the layout. These buttons are remarkably responsive, even in terms of lighting. Due to the RGB color coding of each, A performer can go through most of his set without checking his computer screen.

You are also likely to notice the nine faders that work with the eight-track selection system. Once you select a track, you then have various options of how to manipulate it. You can manage the sound, mute it, cross-fade into another track and more. All the buttons for doing this are available right below the track selection button. Also, you need the eight knobs provided for additional control over the tracks you are playing. Add that to the one-year warranty, and you have at least 12 months of worry-free music-making.

Pros
  • Comprehensive button layout
  • Comes Ableton Lite
  • Plug and play USB connectivity with personal computers
Cons
  • Some users have complained of the tool deteriorating rather quickly after the warranty period
Features
  • Grid: 8 × 8 clip-launch matrix
  • Control Panel: control color-coded send effects
  • Dimensions: 10.2 × 10.2 × 0.35 inches
  • Warranty: 2 years
VIEW ON AMAZON

The Novation Launchpad Ableton Live Controller comes in at number four with 8×8 matrix. This is one impressive option on offer where color coding is concerned with its RGB light show. These lights are even visible in daylight, minimizing the need to work under a roof. Where cost is concerned and in comparison to other options on our list, this device features medium pricing and will thus be affordable to about half the population.

Also in the delivery package of this machine is four gigabytes of the Loopmasters sample library. This will ensure you have a smoother start to your music creating and performing journey. Since this is an Ableton controller, it comes as no surprise that it ships with Ableton live software. Consequently integrating this model with the use of a Mac or any other type of PC will be easy. Other impressive attributes of the device include the Novation Bass Station and V Station.

Pros
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Impressive light show from the buttons
Cons
  • Buttons may be a bit stiff upon un-packaging the product
3.

Ableton Push 2 ControllerBest Professional Ableton Controller

Features
  • Grid: 8 × 8 clip-launch matrix
  • Control Panel: display, eight display buttons, eight effects faders, metronome knob, master fader + menu buttons on the right side
  • Dimensions: 18.8 × 14.3 × 4.4 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year
VIEW ON AMAZON

The most expensive Ableton controller on our list and is one that is made by the Ableton company. As such, you can expect this product to integrate almost seamlessly with the Ableton software. It also comes with its version of the software, which is the live 10 edition. Design-wise this device is as simple as it gets for the money without losing any key functionalities. Where durability is concerned, the upper shell is made anodized aluminum which should be enough to withstand a bit of impact without taking damage. Nevertheless, considering the money you spend purchasing this product, you might see it wise to buy additional carrying cases raising the price to more than 900 dollars.

This tool is meant for professionals who’ve had practice and as such, know how to handle such a controller. Also, the buttons are soft to press and very responsive. You even get similar color displays from the buttons that you would get with other controllers. In addition to the above, you get an RGB display that will enable you to analyze information about current tracks and see if there is anything you need to change.

On one end of the tool stands a 17cm touch-strip for pitch scrolling. If you couple this with the 31 LEDs in this component alone you will find the navigation of the strip a walk in the park. This tool will allow you to improvise and experiment as much as possible with the sounds and music you make. As to whether this is a quality investment, it all depends on your budgetary limits.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Responsive controls
  • Ableton live ten software
Cons
  • Expensive
4.

Novation Launchpad Ableton Live ControllerBest Value Ableton Controller

Features
  • Grid: 8 × 8 clip-launch matrix
  • Control Panel: control color-coded send effects
  • Dimensions: 10.2 × 10.2 × 0.35 inches
  • Warranty: 2 years
VIEW ON AMAZON

The Novation Launchpad Ableton Live Controller comes in at number four with 8×8 matrix. This is one impressive option on offer where color coding is concerned with its RGB light show. These lights are even visible in daylight, minimizing the need to work under a roof. Where cost is concerned and in comparison to other options on our list, this device features medium pricing and will thus be affordable to about half the population.

Also in the delivery package of this machine is four gigabytes of the Loopmasters sample library. This will ensure you have a smoother start to your music creating and performing journey. Since this is an Ableton controller, it comes as no surprise that it ships with Ableton live software. Consequently integrating this model with the use of a Mac or any other type of PC will be easy. Other impressive attributes of the device include the Novation Bass Station and V Station.

Pros
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Impressive light show from the buttons
Cons
  • Buttons may be a bit stiff upon un-packaging the product
5.

Akai Professional APC MiniBudget Pick

Features
  • Grid: 8 × 8 clip-launch matrix
  • Control Panel: 8 assignable faders + 1 master fader
  • Dimensions: 7.9 × 9.4 × 1.1 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year
VIEW ON AMAZON

If we are honest, the Akai Professional APC40MKII may seem a little intimidating. There are so many buttons to work with, and to top it off the overall structure of the device is a bit bulky. As such, it would be a bit difficult to move it from place to place. Nonetheless, this is not something to worry about with the Akai Professional APC Mini being available. With this option, you can even fit it into your laptop bag as you go about your other obligations. As you can tell from the name AKAI, both these devices are from the same manufacturer. Consequently, you also get the same version of Ableton lives as its predecessor on our list.

Due to its portable nature, the manufacturer was unable to fit as many knobs and buttons on this model as the previously mentioned one. However, there isn’t much deterioration in functionality. You get an 8×8 grid that features tri-color lighting. Consequently, any time you select or manipulate a track, you are sure to get feedback in the form of lighting from the device. In addition to the grid, you also get faders for each of the eight tracks that you are playing. They regulate the volume of individual tracks, and if need be, you can use the master fader to control all of them at the same time.

Once you’ve installed Ableton lite the computer should be able to automatically detect your Akai Professional APC Mini if connected via USB. Where this doesn’t happen, there is a manual go around that should have the same desired effect.

Pros
  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with Ableton Live Lite
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Limited keys due to its compact design

Buying Guide

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Features to consider while choosing an Ableton controller

5 Best Ableton Controllers — Fire Up the Dance Floor with Your Beats!Where you are choosing an Ableton controller, you might want to put a few of their elements into consideration. This is mostly in regards to the interface as that is all that matters in making your music-making journey more comfortable.

Control Panel Interface

If you go through the options mentioned above and their images, you will see that the basic design is almost similar. However, if you look closely enough, you are bound to find some differences that may help guide you in your buying decision. For one, does the device use a touchpad for any of its functions, or is it full button control? The Akai Professional APC40MKII is one such option where all you get are knobs and buttons. Where this is your preference, you can go ahead and purchase one. On the other end stands models like the Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM Production & Performance Grid Controller that even feature touch-sensitive components. If your hands sweat a lot as you are working, it may not be such a good idea to buy this tool. Also, you have other devices like the Ableton Push 2 Controller that even features a display in addition to the one you have on your computer.

All three of the above interfaces will work well for some people and not so much for others. It, therefore, falls to you to know where you stand and consequently, which model would be ideal to purchase.

Price and Warranty

If you log on to Amazon and check out the pricing of each of the options mentioned above, you will find prices below 100 dollars while others feature even above 750 dollars. Where you have a budget of about 1000 dollars, the whole list is available for you to pick from. However, most people don’t have that luxury and as such, should be content with getting the most value for money. As a buyer, take into consideration the price in addition to how long the warranty lasts and see if the device is worth breaking your bank. If not, opt for cheaper options.

Dimensions and weight

5 Best Ableton Controllers — Fire Up the Dance Floor with Your Beats!Each person who buys this device has a different intended use for it. Some would like to use them for performances while others would prefer using it at home for composition. If you need to carry it around you are much better looking for a smaller, lighter model.

FAQ

Most of the manufacturers provide software with every purchase. An example presents itself in the fact that even at sub 100 dollars the Akai Professional APC Mini comes with Ableton live light so you can couple the device with your PC for the best results.

It all depends on your preferences as well as your skills with either device. If you are more comfortable with a MIDI keyboard, you should stick to that whereas if an Ableton controller works better for you; there are no rules against getting one. Nevertheless, no one is stopping you from experimenting and finding your niche between the two of them.

Some of the controllers we have mentioned are compatible with other devices. Where you are looking for one such tool, the Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM Production & Performance Grid Controller provides itself as one viable alternative. This, of course, gives you much more freedom to choose a digital audio workstation but that unfortunately also comes with costs. Most of these software packages are not free and may cost you a pretty penny to install.

On the other hand, devices like the Akai Professional APC Mini only work with a single version of Ableton. Where you want to compose with other software, it might necessitate shopping for other controllers. This may also lead to higher costs.

Our Verdict

In a shopping situation, our first pick would be the Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM Production & Performance Grid Controller. The device seems to have all the essential controls to help you make and tweak music just the way you like it. This is inclusive of buttons that light up, thereby enhancing control in dark environments and even in daylight. The interface is also rather easy to use with touch strips that feature light meters next to them. Perhaps what we like most about this particular gadget are the options it provides. You can work with Ableton as well as other DAW software available. In addition to that, you can couple this with a smartphone app that allows you to continue working on your projects while you are in a car or a plane.

Our next favorite choice is the Akai Professional APC Mini. As mentioned before the button layout can be overwhelming to learn and use effectively. For a beginner, you want to be comfortable using an Ableton controller before you can upgrade to much more expensive models. This particular tool makes this possible without weighing too heavily on your pockets.

The Akai Professional APC40MKII also makes a somewhat reasonable upgrade from the mini if you’ve moved from amateur to professional. All the controls are there either in knob or button format, and once you get used to them, your music-making capabilities may be unmatched. The RGB lights on the buttons make this tool a joy to use even in scenarios where lighting is not all that favorable such as a performance in a night club. With the options provided, you are bound to find one that you like.

9.7/10 Total Score
Akai Professional APC40MKII - Editor's Choice
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