11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

This article will discuss the best MIDI keyboards/controllers/devices for Ableton Live in 2023.

Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation popular among electronic music producers, musicians, singers, and DJs, as it offers a variety of tools and features for recording, editing, and producing music, as well as for performing live.

A MIDI controller with it can greatly enhance your music production and live performance experience, as it allows you to control aspects, such as launching clips, controlling effects, and playing virtual instruments using physical buttons, knobs, and pads.

To use it with Ableton Live, you must connect the controller to your computer using a USB cable or MIDI interface. Once the controller is connected, you must select it as an input device in the DAW’s preferences. Once it is set up, you can start using it to control various aspects of the DAW.

Ableton also includes a feature called MIDI mapping, which allows you to assign specific functions to the controls on your MIDI device. This can be useful for customizing your workflow and creating your unique setup. Now, let’s look at our list of the best MIDI controllers for Abelton Live.

11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

1. Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL M32

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL M32 is a compact, portable MIDI keyboard controller.

It has 32 mini keys, two touch strips for pitch and modulation, and a four-way joystick for navigating and controlling your virtual instruments and effects. The M32 also has a built-in arpeggiator and scale mapping and support for Native Instruments’ NKS plugin format, which allows you to control virtual instruments and effects directly from the hardware.

It is compatible with Mac and PC and can be used with various music production software such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and Pro Tools.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

Using the device, you can create and manipulate sounds more quickly and easily without reaching your mouse or trackpad. The M32 has dedicated buttons for Ableton’s most important and frequently used functions.

For example, there’s a button for turning the metronome on and off, a button for tapping the tempo, starting and stopping the recording, a quantization button to adjust MIDI notes to the grid, undo button, and more.

The device’s mini keys, four-way joystick, and touch strips make it easy to play and control virtual instruments and effects in Ableton. You can use the M32’s NKS compatibility to control Native Instruments plugins directly from the hardware.

Key Features: 

  • Two touch strips
    The device has two touch strips that can control various aspects of your virtual instruments and effects which can be used to control pitch, modulation, and other parameters, depending on how they are assigned in your music production software.
  • Built-in arpeggiator and scale mapping
    The M32 has a built-in arpeggiator, allowing you to play a sequence of notes in a particular order automatically. It also has scale mapping, which allows you to play easily on a specific musical scale by restricting the notes that can be played on the keyboard.
  • Compact and portable design
    The instrument is small and lightweight, making it easy to take on the go and use in a variety of settings. It is also USB-powered so that you can use it with a laptop or other mobile device.
  • Support for MIDI over USB and Bluetooth MIDI
    The M32 supports MIDI over USB, which allows you to connect it to your computer and use it to control virtual instruments and effects. It also supports Bluetooth MIDI, which allows you to connect it wirelessly to other MIDI devices or a mobile device running a MIDI-compatible app.
  • Quantization
    Quantization is a feature that allows you to align the timing of your MIDI notes to a specific grid, such as a beat or a measure, and it is often used to tighten performance timing or create a more precise and rhythmic sound.
  • Presets
    In Ableton Live, you can create and save custom configurations of the M32 by creating a MIDI effect rack and assigning different parameters to the keys, touch strips, and joystick. You can save the rack as a preset for later use. You will need to create and save your custom configurations if you want to recall specific settings for the keyboard quickly.

Pros: 

The M32 is relatively affordable compared to other MIDI keyboard controllers on the market, making it a good option for those on a budget. In addition, it is compatible with both Mac and PC. Plus, it has a straightforward and easy-to-use layout. Lastly, it is well-constructed and feels sturdy and durable, making it a good option for those who need a reliable and long-lasting MIDI keyboard controller.

Cons: 

The keys may be too small for some users, especially those with larger hands. Plus, it has a limited octave range of two octaves, which may not be enough for some users who need a wider range of notes. Lastly, the M32 does not have a built-in display, so you must rely on the software it is connected to.

2. Novation Circuit Tracks

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Novation Circuit Tracks is a compact, portable music production and performance instrument that combines a drum machine, synthesizer, and four-track sequencer.

It has a touch-sensitive grid of 32 pads that can be used to play drums, trigger samples, or program melodies and chord progressions. The Circuit Tracks has a built-in speaker and can be battery-powered, making it a great option for making music on the go.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

You can use Circuit Tracks to control parameters in Ableton, such as launching clips and triggering samples via pads, controlling mixer levels via sliders, and playing virtual instruments using the pads in chromatic order. For example, it has a sequence view, where macros can control various synth parameters, such as cutoff, resonance, start position of a sample, wavetable, or fold.

Similarly, in the mixer, they can be used as master effects parameters, such as a bipolar filter knob or sidechain compression amounts. They can also be used to control stutter or reverb. In addition, you can also increase your rhythmic and melodic possibilities by using its sequencer and arpeggiator.

Key Features: 

  • Two polyphonic synthesizers
    The Circuit Tracks has two polyphonic synthesizers, which means it can play multiple notes simultaneously. It has a variety of built-in sounds, including basses, leads, pads, and percussion, that can be selected and modified using hands-on controls. You can also import your samples via the Circuit Mono Station software, giving you even more sound design possibilities.
  • Four-track sequencer
    The device has a four-track sequencer that allows you to create and arrange music such that each track can hold up to 64 steps, and you can use the pads to input notes, rhythms, and other musical information. The sequencer also has many features for editing and manipulating sequences, such as transpose, quantize, and swing.
  • Built-in speaker and battery-powered design
    The controller has a built-in speaker, which means you can use it to play and listen to your music without needing to connect it to external speakers or headphones. It can also be powered by batteries, making it a portable option for making music on the go.
  • Hands-on controls
    The Circuit Tracks has several hands-on controls for tweaking sounds and creating music in real time. It has knobs and buttons for adjusting synthesizer parameters, such as filter cutoff and resonance, and triggering effects, such as delay and reverb. It also has a touch strip for pitch bending and modulation.
  • MIDI connectivity
    The instrument has MIDI connectivity, which allows it to communicate with other MIDI-compatible devices and software. You can control virtual instruments in a DAW or send and receive MIDI information from other devices.

Pros: 

Overall, the Novation Circuit Tracks is a standalone, compact, and portable instrument with various built-in sounds and the ability to create and arrange music. It is a great option for musicians of all levels looking for an easy-to-use instrument for making music on the go.

Cons: 

It has some limitations regarding sound design and connectivity compared to more advanced synthesizers and software. In addition, its four-track sequencer is relatively basic and may not have all the features and capabilities of a more advanced sequencer or DAW.

3. Arturia MiniLab 3 

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Arturia MiniLab is a compact MIDI controller designed to be used with a computer or other device.

It has 25 mini/slim keys, eight encoders, four sliders, and eight pads, as well as a built-in arpeggiator and several other features. It is a popular choice for electronic music production and is known for its high-quality construction and responsive controls.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

First, the device has several controls that are well-suited for use with Ableton Live, including its encoders, which can be assigned to control various parameters in the software, and its pads, which can be used to trigger clips or drum sounds. The DAW comes with a dedicated MiniLab3 mini script that allows it to be recognized instantly.

Second, the instrument is a compact and portable controller, making it easy to take with you on the go or to set up in a small workspace. Finally, the MiniLab has many built-in features, such as its arpeggiator and the ability to switch between different control maps, which can add a lot of creative possibilities when working with the DAW.

This is the right device if you’re a bedroom producer looking for an affordable MIDI controller. On the other hand, if you are a touring musician/DJ looking for a portable device that can fit into a backpack and has sufficient controllers to give you more hands-on control on Ableton, the Arturia MiniLab can help you greatly.

Key Features: 

  • 8 velocity-sensitive pads
    The MiniLab has 8 pads, which are square buttons that are typically used to trigger sounds or clips. The pads are velocity-sensitive, meaning the harder you hit them, the higher the velocity (or volume) of the sound that is triggered. This can add an expressive element to your playing and allow you to add dynamics to your performances. The pads can be used in various ways, such as triggering drum sounds and launching clips in your DAW.
  • Built-in arpeggiator
    The MiniLab has a built-in arpeggiator, a feature that automatically plays a series of notes in a specific order based on the notes you hold down on the keyboard. The arpeggiator has various modes and settings that allow you to customize the pattern and timing of the arpeggiated notes. This can be useful for creating complex, intricate melodies or adding movement and interest to your performances.
  • Programmable touch and pressure-sensitive strip controllers
    The device has two touch and pressure-sensitive strip controllers and long, narrow pads that can control various parameters in music software or other applications. The strips are sensitive to touch and pressure, meaning you can use them to control a parameter by either touching the strip or applying pressure. For example, you could use a strip to control the pitch of a sound by sliding your finger along it or to control the volume of a track by pressing down on it with different levels of force.
  • Included Software
    The MIDI controller typically comes with a selection of software titles that you can use with it, including a stripped-down version of the popular DAW software Ableton Live Lite, a virtual piano instrument called UVI Grand Piano Model D, a collection of over 6,500 sounds called Arturia Analog Lab, and a virtual instrument based on the sounds of the Mellotron called Arturia Mellotron V. These software titles offer a wide range of sounds and features that you can use in your music production, including classic synthesizer sounds, virtual piano sounds, and more.

Pros: 

The MiniLab is compact and portable, has multiple control maps, built-in arpeggiator and programmable touch and pressure-sensitive strip controllers, and comes with a selection of software titles. It has high-quality construction and responsive controls, making it a pleasure to use.

Cons: 

Some users may prefer a full-sized keyboard with traditional-sized keys, and the MiniLab has a limited number of controls compared to some larger MIDI controllers. Some users may also find the mini keys to be a little too small for comfortable playing.

4. Arturia KeyLab Essential 61

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The KeyLab Essential 61 is a MIDI controller by Arturia designed to work with digital audio workstations and other music software.

It has 61 keys and a range of controls, including knobs, buttons, sliders, and pads, which can control various aspects of the software. The device is compatible with Mac and PC and can be used with various music software, including Arturia’s software instruments. It is a compact, portable controller that is well-suited for use in a home studio or on stage.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

It is a great choice with Ableton Live because of its wide range of controls and compatibility with the software. The keys, knobs, buttons, and pads on the controller can be easily assigned to various parameters of your software, allowing you to control it more intuitively and hands-only.

Additionally, the KeyLab Essential 61 has several preset configurations specifically designed for use with the DAW, making it easy to get started right out of the box.

Key Features: 

  • 2 banks of 10 assignable switches
    2 banks of 10 switches on the controller can be assigned to control different parameters of plugins and DAWs. For example, you could use the switches to turn effects on and off or to switch between different preset sounds.
  • Preset configurations for use with popular music software
    The KeyLab Essential 61 comes with preset configurations with popular music software, including Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, and more. This makes it easy to get started with the controller right out of the box.
  • 9 faders
    9 faders on the controller can adjust the levels of various elements in the music software, such as the volume of a track or the amount of a particular effect.
  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads
    The controller has 16 pads that are velocity-sensitive, meaning that they respond to the force with which they are struck. These pads can be used to trigger samples, play drums, or control other aspects of the music software.
  • Compact and portable design
    The KeyLab Essential 61 is a compact and portable controller, making it easy to take with you wherever you go. It is well-suited for use in a home studio or on stage.

Pros:

A huge pro of the device is its extensive software collection, including virtual instruments like Grand Piano, Analog Lab, and more. In total, it consists of 17 synthesizers and 6500+ sounds, covering sonics across different genres and styles of music. Secondly, it has a wide range of controls and is compatible with various software, making it a flexible and versatile choice for musicians.

Cons: 

However, it has no built-in sounds or instruments. In addition, it does not have an aftertouch, which is a feature that allows the sound to be modified based on the amount of pressure applied to the keys after they have been pressed.

5. PreSonus Atom SQ

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The PreSonus Atom SQ is a compact and powerful pad controller designed to help you create and perform music with software or hardware instruments.

It features a grid of 16 pressure-sensitive pads that you can use to trigger sounds, launch loops, and manipulate samples. The device also has a set of eight rotary encoders and a set of dedicated transport controls, allowing you to navigate and control your music software easily. It is USB-powered and can be used with any computer or device that supports USB MIDI.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

There are many reasons this instrument is a good choice for Ableton Live, one of which is that it has a well-suited layout for the DAW’s Session View. Its 16 pads can trigger clips and scenes, and the rotary encoders can be mapped to control various parameters in the effects and instruments of the software. For example, its transport controls allow you to easily start and stop playback, enhancing your live set’s overall workflow.

In addition to its functionality as a controller, it also includes PreSonus’ Studio One Artist DAW software, a powerful and easy-to-use digital audio workstation compatible with Ableton.

Key Features: 

  • 8 rotary encoders
    The MIDI controller has 8 rotary encoders that can control various parameters in your software or hardware instruments. For example, you could use them to adjust the volume of individual tracks in your DAW or to control the cutoff frequency of a filter in a synthesizer.
  • Dedicated transport controls
    The Atom SQ has a set of dedicated transport controls that allow you to navigate and control your music software easily. These controls include buttons for starting and stopping playback, recording, and jumping to the beginning or end of your project.
  • Ableton Live Lite software included
    The instrument also includes a copy of Ableton Live Lite software, a streamlined version of Ableton’s popular Live DAW, which is a great way to get started with Live and is fully compatible with the Atom SQ. In addition, it is compatible with both Macs and PCs, so you can use it with your preferred platform.
  • Included software
    The device comes with various software tools for music production, including the PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW, the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite, the Impact XT drum sampler, SampleOne XT sampler, Presence XT virtual instrument, Analog Lab Lite, and Ableton Live Lite. These tools allow you to create, record, edit, and produce music, import and play back audio samples, create virtual instrument sounds, and perform electronic music.
  • USB-powered and MIDI compatible
    The Atom SQ is powered via USB and can be used with any device that supports USB MIDI. You can use it with a computer, laptop, or mobile device to create and perform music.

Pros: 

The device’s small size and lightweight design make it easy to take with you wherever you go, and its high-quality pads and faders are responsive and feel good to use, making it easy to create and edit music. In terms of price, the PreSonus Atom SQ is an affordable MIDI controller option that is accessible to a wide range of users.

Cons: 

However, it does have some limitations, including a relatively small number of pads and faders, the lack of a standalone mode, and the absence of a display screen, which may not be suitable for more advanced users.

6. Novation Launchkey 37 MK3

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Novation Launchkey 37 MK3 is a MIDI keyboard controller designed for use with digital audio workstations (DAWs) and music production software.

It features 37 velocity-sensitive keys, 8 knobs, and 16 pads that can be programmed to control various parameters in your DAW or software instruments. The Launchkey also has a built-in arpeggiator and a range of performance-oriented features, such as a sustain pedal input, pitch, mod wheels, and dedicated transport controls for controlling playback in your DAW.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

Launchkey is great for Ableton users as it provides them with active and physical access to various features and functions within the DAW, such as the ability to capture and record MIDI data, arm tracks for recording, apply quantization to recorded performances to ensure precise timing, enable or disable the metronome click, and control looping functionality.

Key Features: 

  • Chord Modes
    The Chord Modes feature on the Launchkey MK3 transforms the keys and pads into a dynamic control interface. In this mode, each note you play will have a specific tonal and harmonic relationship. The arpeggiator lets you explore new ideas and nail the perfect melodies quickly, while the mutate function reassembles your patterns into exciting new musical statements.
  • Arpeggiator function
    The keyboard also has an arpeggiator function, which can quickly generate melodic patterns and ideas. An arpeggio is a series of notes played in a sequence rather than all at once. The arpeggiator allows you to quickly generate melodic patterns by holding down a chord on the keyboard and letting the arpeggiator play the notes in a predetermined pattern. It allows you to customize the arpeggio’s pattern, tempo, range, and the order in which the notes are played.
  • Mutate function
    The “mutate function” is a feature that can be used to transform pre-defined patterns or sequences into new, original musical ideas. It may do this by rearranging, transposing, or modifying the original patterns in some way. This function is designed to inspire creativity and help the user develop new musical ideas and compositions.
  • Custom Modes
    The device has a “Custom Modes” feature, which allows you to customize the controller’s behavior and tailor it to your specific needs. Using the browser-based Novation Components tool, you can program Custom Modes to assign specific controls to various parameters in your music software, route MIDI signals, change the color of the pads, and more. Custom Modes make communicating between the controller and software easier and give you greater control over your music production workflow.
  • Pitch Wheel
    The device has two wheels above the keyboard: a pitch wheel and a modulation wheel. The pitch wheel allows you to bend the pitch of notes up or down, similar to a guitar’s whammy bar. This can be used to add expressiveness to your playing or to create special effects. The modulation wheel is often used to control the intensity of a modulation effect, such as vibrato, or to modulate other parameters in your software instruments.
  • Mod Wheel
    The position of the modulation wheel can be used to control various parameters in different software instruments, making it a versatile performance tool. The pitch and modulation wheels are continuous controllers, meaning they can be moved to any position within their range of motion, allowing for a wide range of control options.

Pros: 

The built-in arpeggiator and pitch/mod wheels add additional creative possibilities and count as huge pros of the device. Plus, the dedicated transport controls make it easy to control playback in your DAW, and the controller is compatible with both Macs and PCs and various music software.

Cons: 

Some users may prefer a keyboard with full-size keys, and the included software bundle may not be comprehensive enough for all users. Lastly, the unit may be too large for some users or recording setups.

7. Akai Professional Force

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Akai Professional Force is a standalone sampler and sequencer designed for music production and performance.

It features a multi-touch screen, 64 pads for drum programming and sample triggering, and a variety of onboard effects. The Force also has a built-in synthesizer and can control external MIDI devices. It allows for creating complete tracks using its sequencing and arranging capabilities and can be used to record and edit audio and MIDI. The Force is highly portable, making it an ideal choice for live performances.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

Ableton and Force are well integrated, as Force allows you to save sessions in Ableton Live file format, which you can transfer via SD Card or USB. Secondly, the device allows you to view the DAW on its screen, so you can use its pads, knobs, and other controls to manipulate the features and functions of the DAW.

The Force’s multi-touch screen and onboard effects can also be utilized to get a more immersive and hands-on experience of the DAW.

Key Features: 

  • Multi-touch screen
    The Force’s multi-touch screen allows you to easily navigate and control various aspects of the device, such as its sequencing and arranging capabilities, onboard effects, and more. It can also be used to display information and provide visual feedback.
  • Onboard synthesizer
    The Force features a built-in synthesizer with various sounds, including virtual analog, digital, and sample-based sounds. You can use the synthesizer to create, and playback various electronic and acoustic instrument sounds.
  • Sequencing and arranging
    The Force allows you to create and arrange complete tracks using its sequencing and arranging capabilities. This includes the ability to record and edit audio and MIDI and to arrange and arrange tracks using the device’s multi-touch screen and other controls.
  • Onboard effects
    The Force includes a variety of onboard effects, such as reverb, delay, and more. These effects can be used to shape and manipulate the sound of your music.
  • External MIDI control
    The Force can control external MIDI devices, such as synthesizers and drum machines. This allows you to easily use the Force as a hub for your music production setup and incorporate other instruments and devices into your workflow.
  • Portable design
    The Force is highly portable, making it an ideal choice for live performances. Its compact size and lightweight design make it easy to transport, and its standalone capabilities mean you can use it without needing a computer.
  • Built-in sound engines
    The Akai Professional Force has four built-in sound engines: the Sampler, the Synth, the Sequencer, and the Drums. The Sampler engine allows you to import and play audio samples from the device’s internal storage or an external source such as a USB drive. The Synth engine and the sequencer are mentioned above, and the drum engine allows you to use the Force’s 16 pads to create and play back drum patterns and rhythms.

Pros: 

The biggest pros of the Force are its standalone design, seven inches multi-touch screen, a wide range of sounds, and powerful sequencing and arranging capabilities. Plus, it’s extremely expressive, playable, and great for live musicians, producers, and DJs.

Cons: 

The Force has limited internal storage for audio samples and other data, which may be limiting for some users, and does not have an audio input, so you cannot record live audio directly into the device. Lastly, a limited number of connectivity options, such as MIDI and USB, may be insufficient for some users.

8. Novation Launchpad X

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Novation Launchpad X is a grid-based MIDI controller designed for use with digital audio workstations and live performance software.

It features a 64-pad grid that can trigger samples, play loops, and control effects in real time. You can turn it into an instrument using the Scale and Dynamic note modes and use the pads vertically to adjust your mix controls. Plus, it also has a three-year warranty, ensuring that it lasts longer and has good quality.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

The device is an effective controller for use with Ableton Live, as its grid layout of the pads makes it easy to trigger clips and play drums, and the faders and knobs can be assigned to control various parameters in Ableton.

The Launchpad X also includes several features specifically designed for Ableton, such as launching and stopping clips, navigating the session view, and controlling mixer and instrument settings.

Key Features: 

  • 64-pad grid
    The pads on the Launchpad X are arranged in an 8×8 grid, with each pad representing a single note or sample. The pads are velocity-sensitive, which allows you to create more dynamic and expressive performances by varying the velocity of your pads. The pads can trigger samples, play loops, and real-time control effects.
  • Durability
    The Launchpad X is built with high-quality materials and is designed to withstand the rigors of live performance. It has a sturdy construction and can withstand the wear and tear of regular use.
  • Scale Modes
    In scale mode, the pads on the Launchpad X will only trigger notes within the selected scale, making it easier to play melodies and chords that sound harmonically correct. The controller will also highlight the pads corresponding to the notes of the selected scale, making it easy to see which notes are available to play.
    Several different scale modes are available on the Launchpad X, including major, minor, chromatic, and various modes such as Dorian, Phrygian, and Mixolydian. You can customize the scale by selecting a root note and mode and specifying the scale’s intervals. 
  • Included software
    The Novation Launchpad X includes a software package with various music production tools and software instruments. Here are some of the programs included with the Launchpad X: Abelton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station, Klevgrand R0Verb and DAW Cassette, Softube Time and Tone bundle, Sound Collective access, Novation V-Station, Loopmasters, Ableton Live packs, AAS Session Bundle, and XLN Addictive Keys.

Pros: 

The Novation Launchpad X is a grid-based MIDI controller that is well-suited for use with digital audio workstations and live performance software. It has several features that make it an effective controller for music production and live performance.

The device is also specifically designed for Ableton Live and includes many features that make it easy to use with the software. It is compact and portable, making it easy to use in various settings, and it has a high-grade build, making it robust enough for regular use in live performance.

Cons: 

There are a few potential downsides to the Novation Launchpad X that you may want to consider. One potential issue is the price: the Launchpad X is a relatively expensive controller, and some users may feel it is not worth the cost. Additionally, the Launchpad X may not be as flexible as some other controllers, as it is specifically designed for use with grid-based software like Ableton Live.

This means it may not be as well-suited for other software or traditional music production techniques. Finally, some users may find the pads on the Launchpad X to be a little small or cramped, which could make it more difficult to play accurately.

9. Novation 61SL MkIII

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Novation 61SL MkIII is a MIDI controller keyboard designed to be used with music production software.

It has 61 keys, several controls, and features that allow you to create and edit music in a digital audio workstation (DAW). It can control virtual instruments, record and edit MIDI data, and mix and process audio. In addition, it consists of an 8-track sequencer, various pads and buttons, a full-color LCD screen, and more.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

The Novation 61SL MkIII is a go-to choice for Ableton Live because of its control surface integration with the software, transpose controls, assignable buttons, and encoders and faders. For example, you can access all sounds in the DAW in your drum rack, so you can play those sounds using the velocity-sensitive pads of the device.

Further, following the same example, you can scroll through different sounds, select a sound, and edit its parameters by using the controllers of the SL MKIII. So you can control everything from macros to little details in the DAW.

Key Features: 

  • Multiple touch-sensitive encoders and faders
    The controller has eight touch-sensitive encoders/continuous rotary knobs and eight faders that can control various parameters of your music. In addition, the pads are also velocity-sensitive and boast a polyphonic aftertouch feature, which is great for expressive MIDI programming and performances.
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
    It has a pitch bend wheel and a mod wheel, which allow you to bend the pitch of notes or modulate various parameters of your virtual instruments. These wheels give you additional expression and control when playing or programming MIDI data.
  • Assignable buttons
    The instrument has several buttons that can be assigned to control various functions in your DAW or virtual instruments. This allows you to customize the controller to fit your workflow and gives you quick access to the functions you use most.
  • Sequencer
    The Novation 61SL MkIII has an internal 8-track sequencer, which allows you to record and edit MIDI data directly on the controller. The sequencer allows you to record and edit up to 8 tracks of MIDI data, which can be used to control virtual instruments, create drum patterns, or sequence other aspects of your music.
  • Quantization flexibility
    Novation’s auto-quantization feature has been popular among musicians for helping to correct timing errors and keep their tracks sounding tight. However, some musicians may prefer the natural, organic sound of their original performances, which may include timing variations.
    Previous firmware versions of the MkIII included micro-step editing, allowing users to adjust their notes’ timing slightly by nudging them off the grid. With the introduction of V1.3 firmware, users can now record without any quantization, allowing them to capture their performances exactly as played, including any timing variations.
  • Synth-style semi-weighted keys 
    The device has a synth-style semi-weighted keybed, which means that the keys have a slightly heavier feel than a fully weighted keybed but are not as heavy as those on a traditional piano. The keys are designed to feel similar to those on a synthesizer, typically semi-weighted.
    A semi-weighted keybed can be a good choice for musicians who want a balance between the feel of a traditional piano and the lighter, more responsive keys of a synthesizer. The semi-weighted keybed on the device is designed to provide a smooth, consistent playing experience and allow for a wide range of expression.

Pros: 

Some of the pros of the 61SL MkIII include its semi-weighted keybed, which provides a smooth and consistent playing experience; its touch-sensitive encoders and faders, which give you hands-on control over your virtual instruments and DAW; its internal 8-track sequencer, which allows you to record and edit MIDI data directly on the controller; its transport controls and backlit LCD screen, which make it easy to navigate and use; and its compatibility with a wide range of music production software, including Ableton Live.

Cons: 

It is a relatively expensive controller and may not be within the budget of some musicians or producers. Next, it does not have any built-in sounds or effects. You will need to connect it to a computer or other device with a DAW or virtual instruments to use it to create music.

10. Arturia Keystep Pro

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Arturia KeyStep Pro is a portable, polyphonic MIDI controller and sequencer that allows you to control your virtual instruments and analog gear.

It features a 37-note keyboard with velocity sensitivity and aftertouch, built-in arpeggiator and chord mode, step sequencer, and real-time recording capabilities. It can control various musical equipment, including synthesizers, drum machines, and software instruments, and it is highly portable, making it an ideal choice for musicians on the go.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

The real-time recording capabilities of the controller allow you to capture your ideas quickly and easily. In addition, its step sequencer can be used to program intricate patterns and rhythms. Lastly, the KeyStep Pro can control a wide range of virtual instruments and effects in Ableton Live, making it a versatile and powerful controller.

Key Features: 

  • Chord mode
    When chord mode is enabled, the keys on the keyboard are divided into four groups, each representing a different chord. You simply press the key in the corresponding group to play a chord. This allows you to play chords without having to play each note individually, which can be helpful if you are not a pianist/keyboardist or want to play chords more quickly.
  • Multiple connectivity options
    The device has various connectivity options, including USB, MIDI, and CV/Gate, that allow you to connect it to various musical equipment, including synthesizers, drum machines, and software instruments.
  • It comes with a selection of software instruments and effects
    The instrument comes with a selection of software instruments and effects from Arturia’s V Collection, allowing you to start making music right out of the box.
  • Supports automatic scale quantization and scale locking
    The device supports automatic scale quantization and automatically snaps your notes to a specific scale or mode. It also supports scale locking, which allows you to play in a specific scale or mode without worrying about playing the wrong notes.
  • Built-in chord memory and chord progressions
    The KeyStep Pro has a built-in chord memory, which allows you to store and recall your favorite chord progressions. It also has chord progressions, which allow you to play through a series of chords with a single finger.
  • Accent control for adding expression to your performances
    The controller has an accent control feature, which allows you to add expression to your performances by adjusting the velocity of individual notes. This can emphasize certain parts of your music or create more dynamic and expressive performances.

Pros:

The Arturia KeyStep Pro has various connectivity options and comes with a selection of software instruments and effects from Arturia’s V Collection. The built-in arpeggiator and chord mode can add movement and interest to your tracks. The step sequencer and real-time recording capabilities allow you to program intricate patterns and capture your ideas quickly and easily.

Cons: 

However, the KeyStep Pro has a limited key range of 3 octaves, a limited pad layout, and no pitch bend or mod wheel on the left side of the keyboard. It also lacks a sustained pedal input and has no built-in display, making navigating the different features and settings more difficult.

11. Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3

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11 Best Ableton-Friendly MIDI Controllers 2023

The Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 is a portable, grid-based MIDI controller.

It features a 64-pad grid that can trigger clips, play drum sounds, and control other MIDI devices. These pads are pressure-sensitive and RGB-colored. In addition, it is USB powered and can be used with a computer or an iPad. Lastly, it also consists of buttons for probabilistic playing, mutations, and more generative options.

What Makes It Great For Ableton?

One reason it is great for Ableton is its grid-based layout, which maps directly to the clip and scene-launching functionality in the software. This easily triggers and manipulates clips, scenes, and other session elements.

In addition, the Launchpad Pro MK3 has many features that are specifically designed for use with Ableton Live. For example, it has a “Session View” mode that allows you to control its layout and content, and it also has a “User” mode that lets you customize the pad colors and functions to suit your specific workflow.

Key Features: 

  • Step sequencer
    The device features a 32-step sequencer that allows you to create and edit MIDI sequences on the device itself. Each pad represents a step in the sequence, and you can use different colors to represent different notes or MIDI events.
    The sequencer can create drum patterns, melodies, and other MIDI sequences. You can then save and recall your sequences for later use or even use them to trigger clips in your music production software.
  • Chord Mode
    In Chord mode, the pads on the Launchpad Pro MK3 are configured to play chords based on the notes that you input. You can select the root note and chord type (e.g., major, minor, etc.) using the device’s buttons and then play the chords by pressing the pads. This can be a quick and easy way to experiment with different chord progressions and find ideas for your music.
  • Scale Mode
    The Scale Mode allows you to play melodies on a specific musical scale. You can select the root note and scale type and then use the pads to play melodies within the selected scale. This can help you to create coherent melodies and avoid playing “out of key.”
  • Included software
    The software included in the instrument is plugins like XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, AAS Session Bundle, and Klevgrand R0Verb and DAW Cassette. 

Pros: 

The Chord and Scale modes are the biggest pros of the device, making it easy to play and experiment with chord progressions and melodies, and help with compositions and arrangements. This is especially great for producers who do not have a great background in music theory. The Launchpad Pro MK3 has various software programs, including Ableton Live Lite and virtual instruments. It is overall a powerful, intuitive, well-laid-out, inspiring, and user-friendly device.

Cons: 

The Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 has a few potential cons that users should be aware of: it has small pads that may be cramped for some users, it does not have a built-in audio interface, it does not have built-in synthesis or sample playback capabilities, and it is somewhat more expensive than some other MIDI controllers on the market.

Conclusion

The Novation Circuit Tracks, PreSonus Atom SQ, Akai Professional Force, and Novation Launchpad are great choices if you are looking for grid-based controllers for your Ableton workflow. However, the Circuit Tracks also have synthesizer capabilities and built-in effects, but Launchpad has more sequencing, arpeggiation, and generative playing capabilities and more pads.

On the other hand, Force has a great multi-touch screen, four synth engines, an 8×8 grid of pads, and more great features. However, it’s priced about 4x as compared to the Launchpad and Circuit Tracks. Secondly, if you are looking for a portable MIDI keyboard, the Komplete Kontrol M32, Arturia MiniLab 3,  and Novation Launchkey 37 are some good options.

If you want a full-fledged playable keyboard, then Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 and Novation 61SL MkIII are great options, as both have a 61-key keyboard. I hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.

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