Best Controller?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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Best Controller?

Post by kneptosan » Mon May 23, 2011 11:56 pm

Hello I am new to the forum new to DAWs in general. I plan on getting Abelton Live 8 or 9 (if it comes out soon) sometime during the summer. I'm looking for a good keyboard controller and or drum machine to produce music of all sorts with. I've read and heard that Novation is the easiest to use, but also wondering if anyone has any experience with other brands or set ups?

Thanks in advance

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by nowtime » Tue May 24, 2011 1:33 am

You want a drum machine? Get NI's Maschine. You will love it. You just want to hit some pads to trigger Ableton drum racks? I've heard Korg PadKontrol is good.

Since you're a beginner, you might want to consider just getting a generic cheap midi keyboard and then controlling Live with an APC20 or APC40, rather than getting a Novation SLmkii.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by kneptosan » Tue May 24, 2011 2:07 am


Thanks for your suggestion I definitely considered that route.

I'm trying to save money by getting the best gear for Ableton instead of trying a bunch of things I will probably outgrow. I understand that there is some learning curve to Abelton and controllers, but I'm not new to synths and programming them so I have some faith that I will be able to understand assigning buttons, knobs, and pads.

I thought about getting the apc20 or the launchpad, but looking to keep desk space to a minimum.
I figure the SLmkii might be the best of both worlds, but that the drum pads on it aren't velocity sensitive. For what I'd like to do, I think a separate drum machine would help my performance. was thinking the Akai series have some good affordable table top drum pads.

I haven't bought anything yet, not until I get my main piece: Apple mbp
I will be making purchases over summer, hoping to hear what Abelton users would get if they were getting a new controller, set-up, etc. like me...

Tone Deft
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Re: Best Controller?

Post by Tone Deft » Tue May 24, 2011 2:10 am

also check out the Akai MPK series. there is no best controller for everyone, we're all different.

I was an early adopter for the Novation SL series. after a few years I don't touch it. the screens pretty much suck and end up with weird abbreviations on them. an APC + keyboard replaced it.

but the APC isn't a good for finger drumming, it's not pressure sensitive, neither is the Launch Pad. I love both my Launch Pad and APC though. some people don't mind this drawback, it's up to you.

finger drum pads are cool but keyboard keys can also serve to enter in drum beats.

YMMV. go to a shop and play with them, see what speaks to you.
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

Dell Inspiron 15 7000, Live 10.1, Win10 Home, Edirol UA101, APC40, Remote SL, SPD-SX, mic, POD500HDX, JX305, Nova

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by kneptosan » Tue May 24, 2011 2:32 am

Tone Deft,

Thanks for your input. I have tapped out beats using keys before and it works well, overall I am used to keyboard controlling. I like the launchpad because its portable and not bulky, from what I've read it has some deeper programming capabilities than the apc's. I'm seriously considering getting one just to get my feet wet with the program since it is fairly affordable. I know at some point I will be needing a 49 key controller though...

What keyboard are you using now?

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by spektralisk » Tue May 24, 2011 6:57 am


I am using SL MK2 and Launchpad. It's nice combination but far from perfect. I mean it won't let you control live without a mouse. I am wondering what could be the best minimal combination of controllers to really control live and I can't find right one at the moment.

Regarding SL MK 2. The only quality thing there is fatar keyboard. Drums pads are crap, knobs are not well calibrated to use with live, faders are medium quality too. Automap is not that good as I hope it would be. To control more complicated instruments you need paging and you are lost quickly. At least this is my experience.

Launchpad is nice, but its implementation in Live sucks. Session page is good, user1 and user2 is ok but mixer section is totally wrong. Far better implementation of this is made by nativeKontrol - check out its LPC wrapper. To control session view and a mix you would need two launchpads - one in standard mode and one in nativeKontrol LPC mode because switching between session and mixer section on launchpad is annoying. However this is still not perfect and you get to much gear on your desk :)

I ordered iPad2 and still waiting for it. I think this can be an ultimate surface for controlling DAWs because it can give you any user interface that you want.

From my point of view, to work seamlessly (when composing) in live u should:
- have control over mixer, session, browser and overall control in arrangment - like zooming, editing clips and so on - this can be achieved with iPad (don't know if current apps can do that, but it's doable :)
- be able to play notes - thus some keyboard (mk2 should be ok, additionally you have knobs for controlling racks, if you need better quality then maybe some mpk from akai?)
- be able to play drums - some pad controller (I would took maschine :)

I hope ableton will design some really good controller. I think that at least for studio use a nice solution would be keyboard with pads and a dock for iPad - all with proper implementation and dedicated app from ableton :). This would be minimal setup to fully control live.

Summary: if you have money go for MBP + iPad2 (u can't go wrong with it) and wait until Live9 is released, maybe they are preparing something new for controlling live. Sorry for long post :)
Last edited by spektralisk on Tue May 24, 2011 11:21 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by rikhyray » Tue May 24, 2011 11:07 am

I buy/keep/return all controllers worth trying. Akai and Novation are definitely the best (not Akai mini though, for small keys Korg microKeys are only usable) none better then other, just different. I use SLs since years, perfect for stage and studio, "perfect" minus the "quality" which by all, even better brands is as good/bad as "made in China" gets, that is why I never keep them longer then warranty period, just ebay them after 2 years and get fresh.
The quality controllers-unfortunately discontinued, were Doepfers, Clavia G2, I wish Clavia could release controller only version, USB powered - would pay any price for it (since THAT would be for lifetime)
I use Akai and Korg pads but for really high quality multisamples usually end up using keys due to better velocity precision (the pads of SL II are usable to some extent unlike the original SL that are not even any good as switches- dont know anyone using them for anything)
The newest Korg mini is the best value for money, unlike original it gets 2x 8 grid (which I find way more usable and place saving), and it has great feature from Electrotribe ESX and MX - the arp that you can control with touch pad.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by kneptosan » Tue May 24, 2011 7:19 pm

Thanks folks,

i've noticed that many controllers seem cheaply made. I'm not sure I'd wait around too long for Live 9, would like to get the summer projects underway. I imagine I would be spending alot of time organizing sounds to use together. I think what I'll do is just go and check a few out and see how they feel. I've looked at some of the keys Ableton recommends, and they all have some good functions but I've noticed there isn't one that has everything. I'm not trying to completely control it from the keyboard, i just want to be able to assign functions easily and get used to loading it so I don't lose flow.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by monsterhead » Thu May 26, 2011 12:58 am

my set up is alright. apc 20 (trigger clips,mixer faders), Launchpad (Drum machine, sequencer, slicer), Nano Kontrol (fx knobs), Axiom 49 It can do all the above, but it's dedicated to synths.

I enjoy having all these so i don't have to switch through programs its all set right up. and not that much apc with rebate $130 launchpad got for $130 Nano Kontrol i think i paid $35. i have done research on the other nano stuff and people are saying they fall apart. Axiom 49 i think i dropped $280 on it.

have fun

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by matthews » Thu May 26, 2011 1:44 am

Completely depends on what your after...

I'm currently using a Launchpad + SL25mkii + UC-33e. Your never going to find a single controller that does everything exactly the way you want it. Even with the equipment I have now, I still feel a bit limited at times and your mappings need to be spot on. As far as the mk2 goes, its a fantastic little piece of equipment. Automap is garbage imo, so glitchy/finicky and temperamental, but the hardware is build very well. The drumpads are also quite bad, so don't expect too much. Having said that, I take it on the road with me and on vacations wherever I go, and it absolutely does the job.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by skatr2 » Thu May 26, 2011 3:05 am

I have a pretty similar setup to Monsters, though no LP. Originally bought an axiom 49 and an apc40, then followed up with a 20 for some portability when out and about (tried a LP once and bought it back 2 weeks later because I am too used to the apc series). I do recomend the apc40. The remote scripts out there make it a monster for music production. Worth the extra nobs.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by maze23a » Thu May 26, 2011 3:18 am

When it comes to controllers out there,there are so many that i would recommend
to check the market and your needs very carefully at first.
Me for instance,i play a little electronic drum set,so i don't need any fingerdrumset.
I use an APC 40 with an LPK 25 and i really like that combination.
Like skatr2 said the remotescripts (i only know hanzpetrows which is a bomb)
are very useful.
But like i said i don't think there's a best one.
Check the market and your needs!

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by kneptosan » Thu May 26, 2011 5:55 am

I'm really curious to hear some pros and cons on the mkii and the Launchpad. I need keys to lay down piano, organ, bass, and drumtracks, so the it will be the main piece to my puzzle.

I like the affordability of the launchpad, but may just try mixing with the mouse at first (heard this gets old). The APC40 looks very easy to use, but I'm willing to tackle some mental jiujitsu if it means saving bucks with the launchpad.

By the way I've got a m-audio fasttrack pro for voice/synth and guitar input which I've used only once to some degree on a friend's garageband.

All this is going on a macbook pro that I'm ordering as soon as the summer promotions start.

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Re: Best Controller?

Post by HeadrickProductions » Thu May 26, 2011 9:40 am

launchpad does not have velocity sensitive buttons. This simply means that your drums are all going to be at the same level. Also the launchpad has a 1.1 ubs port which is behind the times considering that usb 3.0 is out on some motherboards. The good thing about LP is that you don;t need an external power source so you can take it anywhere. I use it as a toy. I had lots of issues when trying to do a bunch of midi routing sometimes it would blink and have a glitch for a second.

With the apc 20/40 which does not have velocity sensitive pads. Check out hanz remote scripts for the apc 40. It's free and makes the apc 40 worth having without getting Max for live. The akai mpk is a sturdy build but the pads are terrible, but has decent knobs faders and is what I'd get for a keyboard Google akai mpk series pads and your'll set many vids.

You are correct that many controller fell like plastic toys but have held up for me quite well. Highly recommed the korg pad control for a cheap drum pad. Best pads out there. If you got the money to spend grab NI machine.

I'd get something that has at least 49 keys (unless you don't ever really want to play the keys and just make beats)

I thought there was just a thread on this board about it could not doing what Novation automap video's claimed it could do.

Best of luck

Edit: I spaced since I still up this late but check out the ohm 64. It can be used with multiple programs. I wish i'd gotten one!
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Re: Best Controller?

Post by matthews » Thu May 26, 2011 1:34 pm

Launchpad is awesome as a clip launcher. In terms of using it to mix though, it's quite challenging. Clips are on one preset, volume controls on another, and stop/start/solo on another. So it's almost next to impossible to map efficiently to play live since your always switching between pages. This may be possible with LPC Live though, give it a look. I also second the OHM 64, probably my next purchase, looks like it has endless possibilities.

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