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Hardware DAW controller: Yes or no?
Old 17th July 2019
  #1
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Hardware DAW controller: Yes or no?

Hello.

I recently switched to Ableton Live for electronic music production and I'm confused about should I get a hardware controller or not?
Producing in Ableton is very complex, with hundreds of knobs, sliders, XY areas, effects, drag/drop fields...
I somehow can't immagine a hardware controller that would speed up the process compared to a mouse. On screen you exactly see where you are and what are you "grabbing" with a mouse, while with a controller you usually have to dig inside many buttons to get to a specific control, not to mention you don't have a direct visual feedback.
So the options are:
- Full DAW controller based on Mackie Protocol (ex. Behringer X-Touch). They are fully integrated but lack custom mapping.
- Full DAW controller based on MIDI (ex. Behringer X-Touch Compact or mini). They are not so nicely integrated but you can program them as you wish.
- One channel DAW controller (ex. Behringer X-Touch One), which is a somehow upgrade to a mouse.
- Matrix based controllers (ex. Novation Launchpad) which I think are more focused on live performance.
- Using just a mouse.

What do you use and why has that made your production faster?
Old 17th July 2019
  #2
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Matth30's Avatar
Hey!

Currently on ableton the controller that will give you the most controll overall is the push2 imo, it has been designed especially for ableton and i dont think there is an equivalent to it. The big advangage of the push is that it allow you to navigate into ableton browser.

Should you get a controller? Depend of what you want to do! Playing vst and record midi in real time? Mixing mastering? Midi keyboard or no? Vst or audio recording or both? Live performance?

My suggestion is to first learn how ableton is working' and know exactly what you want to do with it, because in order to get fast work with a controller you need to do some pre-configuration to adapt the controller to your personnal workflow. There is currently no controller on the market that give you EVERYTHING. You can also combine different controllers.

Note that the behringer x touch are more for "arrangement and mixing/mastering sessions" than "composing and jamming sessions", and will absolutely not give you "full control" of ableton

Is it better to have a controller or no? I think it depend on the person and his workflow. I have a friend who is a killer with the mouse. Personnaly i need to feel interraction between my hand and the music so controllers are best for me
Old 19th July 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cupax View Post

What do you use and why has that made your production faster?
Either of the Pushes are good as working with these are like having Live under your fingers. The original Push can be had for a good price second hand, just make sure it's in good condition and that the seller will also transfer the Live Intro version, if it hasn't been forfeited already, that came with it to your account as that can be used for updates later or allow for 2 more installs on training computers elsewhere.

The Push 2 is equally great and has some important improvements but I'd make sure I had a dedicated graphics card so it can use that instead of the CPU for running its own display process (The original Push doesn't need this).

You can't go wrong with either of these also when you're learning Live, but neither will likely solve all of your needs. I got one of those mixer faders for example.
Old 19th July 2019
  #4
Learning hot keys/keystrokes using the mouse and keyboard have made the greatest improvements to my workflow.

Naturally (for Gearslut reasons) I'm always interested in controllers and new tech; I've lusted after many controllers - usually just out of budget - but at the end of the day the tracks still got made at the same audio quality...just a different workflow.

IME controllers do alter workflow and choosing the right one is the difference between ease-of-use and another layer of uneeded complexity (and software/firmware updates and maintenance). I've mainly used keyboard controllers (around 6 diferent models since 2001; currently: Nektar Impact LX61; Arturia KeyLab 61; CME UF6; AKAI MPD18.

My main interests were originally VST synth parameter control for performance or writing automation; also a faux hardware mixer with 'real' faders controlling the DAW mixer. Around 2007 I bought a Yamaha 01X an automatable digital mixer and controller; big investment, steep and long learning curve...and now basically, junk. Caveat emptor.

I started using basic keystrokes in Reason, then when I got an iZ RADAR Studio I saved money on the hardware controller by mapping the keys onto a regular keyboard. Now I use keystrokes all the time - even outside audio uses.

The main plus of the mouse and keyboard method is that it can travel everywhere, needs no special equipment, takes less space, saves a power socket, and will likely be around for time. It easily becomes a learnt intuitive workflow rather than interfacing through another level of tech complexity.
Old 19th July 2019
  #5
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

I've been using a Novation ReMOTE SL Mk I as my main controller for Live since version 4. It worked perfectly from day one, right out of the box, without the need for Automap.

To supplement the ReMOTE, I've been using an original Novation Launchpad.

But just last week, I picked up a Push 2. All I can say is wow.

Hands down THE best controller for Ableton I've ever seen or used.

So, while it's true, a controller isn't really necessary, I wouldn't want to be without a least one device that caters to Ableton's non-linear approach--eg a Launchpad. Original Launchpads can be had for very little money and are still supported in Live 10.
Old 20th July 2019
  #6
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Joe Porto's Avatar
 

I couldn't imagine using Live without Push2. I mainly loop external sources, so being able quickly set loop length and trigger recording with a foot pedal is invaluable, as is live arranging using the grid pads, particularly when I want to switch parts on multiple tracks simultaneously.
Old 21st July 2019
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Porto View Post
I couldn't imagine using Live without Push2. I mainly loop external sources, so being able quickly set loop length and trigger recording with a foot pedal is invaluable, as is live arranging using the grid pads, particularly when I want to switch parts on multiple tracks simultaneously.
Agreed. It definitely makes the process more efficient.
Old 28th July 2019
  #8
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I had a push 2 for a while. I don't get the raves anymore because you simply can't work in arrange mode with it. So basically it's composing parts in session mode only. Once you go to arrange mode it doesn't really have the functionality anymore.

I guess I don't really understand Session mode enough. I did some Ableton courses and the teacher would make a simple looping beat with a few variations in it. But it was basically copy paste house music. What if you wanted a LPF to sweep over the course of 2 minutes or something?

For me session mode is where I come up with a couple of big loop ideas for an A and a B section and then I record those into arrange mode and do most of my work in there. Am I missing something? It just seems like Session mode can be rather limiting and that's the only mode that the Push is really meant for.
Old 29th July 2019
  #9
Gear Maniac
Live's UI and MIDI FX have loads of stuff that is fun to use when MIDI assigned, IMO any MIDI controller adds a lot to Live, even small ones like the Korg Nanos.

Just bought Touchable Pro app, pretty fun to use too.

Quote:
What if you wanted a LPF to sweep over the course of 2 minutes or something?
You just unlink the LPF automation (or modulation) Clip Envelope, they don't have to be the same length as the audio or MIDI note sequence. Every Envelope can be set to have its own length and loop length (or not to loop) independently.
Old 29th July 2019
  #10
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bitman's Avatar
I have 4 bcf2000s in a console case. They were great for quick mixing for clients after tracking was finished and we all wanted to hear what was done. Much much faster than a mouse with 24 tracks fresh and new. I don't have clients anymore and so they sit there looking pretty cool for nobody while I just use the mouse.

That's my take on em.
I'd like to use em but forget to.
Old 29th July 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pottering View Post
Live's UI and MIDI FX have loads of stuff that is fun to use when MIDI assigned, IMO any MIDI controller adds a lot to Live, even small ones like the Korg Nanos.

Just bought Touchable Pro app, pretty fun to use too.



You just unlink the LPF automation (or modulation) Clip Envelope, they don't have to be the same length as the audio or MIDI note sequence. Every Envelope can be set to have its own length and loop length (or not to loop) independently.
Yeah I think a good midi controller is what I need. I already have a Keyrig for playing on but I'd like some drum pads for drum racks and knobs for faders and automation. Is there one with a good macro where I can use a knob to scroll through and auto select the instrument track I want to edit or record on? That's something I am really wanting to have.
Old 29th July 2019
  #12
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I have the Launchpad Pro but I don't know if I would use it aside from its usefulness for live duties. I use the mouse for setting up drum racks, sound design for soft and hard synths (mine have apps too), setting scenes and recording 'backing' clips. That's the backing parts and then, I set up empty clips of the right length, assign knobs to macros.
And then that's where I find Launchpad useful. You can use it to launch clips and scenes or course. But also play the drums,* make mix or pan adjustments, control any of the macros.^ All with bright visual feedback.

^See Automapping. Handy think with this and other controllers where they take over the active rack.

*I suppose you could play regular notes, but I'm used to playing keys.
Old 29th July 2019
  #13
I just got a Behringer X-Touch One for travel. Using it with Pro Tools 12 and Logic X. Loving it.

Single, motorized fader, quiet, small-ish footprint. Overlays for various DAWs that customize the buttons. Transport controls, jog wheel, well-made.

Under $200
Old 30th July 2019
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Cant imagine using live without push2. I made a gamble in switching to live, and would definitely not have stayed with it if I didnt love the push workflow. Game changer.
Old 30th July 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
I had a push 2 for a while. I don't get the raves anymore because you simply can't work in arrange mode with it. So basically it's composing parts in session mode only. Once you go to arrange mode it doesn't really have the functionality anymore.

It just seems like Session mode can be rather limiting and that's the only mode that the Push is really meant for.
It's true Arrangement isn't getting the same level of love, but I never feel disturbed by this (in original Push). I've also adopted alternative scripts and devices that somewhat give you some more control in Arrangement.

Session is where I develop patterns and musical ideas and Arrangement is where I tie these together, typically by recording from Session, as you mention.
Old 30th July 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikael B View Post
It's true Arrangement isn't getting the same level of love, but I never feel disturbed by this (in original Push). I've also adopted alternative scripts and devices that somewhat give you some more control in Arrangement.

Session is where I develop patterns and musical ideas and Arrangement is where I tie these together, typically by recording from Session, as you mention.
Hi, that makes sense and is probably how I will work. I have discovered ways to evolve clips, like unlinked envelopes so I can make their clips play without sounding like fixed loops.

Would you suggest a Push 1 as my second controller? I just use a standard Keyrig 49 and play keys, but I’d like something with knobs that allows me to switch between and arm tracks, and quickly map knobs to VSTs so I can automate sweeps..etc. I was thinking maybe just getting a Novation keyboard with pads and knobs on it, but I am not sure.

I had the Push 2 and sold it because I liked using my MIDI keyboard a lot and the Push 2 was crazy expensive. It also crashed now and then and so when Ableton support sent me a new unit, I just sold it and moved on.

I like to tap pads sometimes to play drums as well. I was originally just going to get a maschine but I keep reading how it’s VST takes a lot of CPU in Ableton, plus I am not sure how the Maschine sequencer could be better than an Ableton drum rack. To me the Ableton sequencer is the best on the planet when you combine it with M4L plugs or even just the stock ableton MIDI effects. I’m not sure anything can top that workflow.
Old 30th July 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
Hi, that makes sense and is probably how I will work. I have discovered ways to evolve clips, like unlinked envelopes so I can make their clips play without sounding like fixed loops.

Would you suggest a Push 1 as my second controller? I just use a standard Keyrig 49 and play keys, but I’d like something with knobs that allows me to switch between and arm tracks, and quickly map knobs to VSTs so I can automate sweeps..etc. I was thinking maybe just getting a Novation keyboard with pads and knobs on it, but I am not sure.
What I've heard is that people that moved from Push to Push 2 are very satisfied with the improvements that came with that. Personally I didn't feel the need, even so.

I enjoy my Push still, because I've invested a lot of time and effort making it work for me, which includes careful mapping of instrument parameters, commercial alternative control scripts and devices to increase what is possible. A couple of my friends, that also own the Push, are not into it as much as I am, maybe because they use more external hardware than I do more often, so I'd assume it takes some motivation to learn it deeply. To me it's my hands-on control of Live.

As much as I enjoy it and think it's a no-brainer, I'm not sure it's for everyone. Everyone that hears the call maybe. Overall, I think Push is very close to Push 2 in usability, but I'm pretty sure many would disagree with that.
Old 31st July 2019
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Much overlooked about controllers is the power of its control surface SCRIPT .
Ableton have concentrated on developing their Push products leaving their implementation of other controllers to the minimum .
Thankfully as Live has an open API there are 3rd party providers whose products add much deeper & wider functionality to many controllers - even extending Push itself.

Top of the list is NativeKontrol company who offer Arsenal which adds “modules” of different modes which can be used across various specific controllers -
not just for live performance but adding general workflow enhancements , differing sequencing & sampling modes , arrangement view control ...
watch the video for the range of functionality available , & hopefully to conclude to at least buy a controller that Arsenal supports ( & bear in mind number of mode slots available e.g apcmini only has 4 whereas launchpad mini has 12 ! ) .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=P...&v=Eg_i2DiRmpI

website : https://nativekontrol.com/arsenal

NativeKontrol also has a generic script called ClyphX Pro available from Isotonik adding much workflow functionality for all devices .
Isotonik themselves also have many script or M4L products to add additional functionality , as well as M4L library itself .

I have written in a bit more detail previously on this subforum so search for that , but the point about controllerism with Live is that the script is as important as the controller itself & there are many ways to extend & customise a controller from just what Ableton offer.

Last edited by subhertz; 31st July 2019 at 02:08 PM.. Reason: more info
Old 1st August 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subhertz View Post

Top of the list is NativeKontrol company who offer Arsenal which adds “modules” of different modes which can be used across various specific controllers -
not just for live performance but adding general workflow enhancements , differing sequencing & sampling modes , arrangement view control ...
watch the video for the range of functionality available , & hopefully to conclude to at least buy a controller that Arsenal supports ( & bear in mind number of mode slots available e.g apcmini only has 4 whereas launchpad mini has 12 ! ) .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=P...&v=Eg_i2DiRmpI

website : https://nativekontrol.com/arsenal

NativeKontrol also has a generic script called ClyphX Pro available from Isotonik adding much workflow functionality for all devices .
Isotonik themselves also have many script or M4L products to add additional functionality , as well as M4L library itself .

I have written in a bit more detail previously on this subforum so search for that , but the point about controllerism with Live is that the script is as important as the controller itself & there are many ways to extend & customise a controller from just what Ableton offer.
I own and use PXT-Live from nativeKONTROL that still is good for the original Push, PrEditor from Isotonik and Max For Live devices like Push-ArrangeMode by Valiumdupeuple. I'm looking at Arsenal, which is the only option, I think, for the Push 2, but I want it for some old APC. I was dumb to pass on a great upgrade deal once. Clyphx Pro is on my purchase list.

Even as much as I love these I realize that it's about what flows you can build and get into and this is something I can do because I choose to sometimes, but not some other people like friends of mine, that while technical and determined just can't be bothered. Great scripts are wonderful, but you also need to put your mind into using these, so you can make music. Which is what it's all about, of course.
Old 1st August 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikael B View Post
What I've heard is that people that moved from Push to Push 2 are very satisfied with the improvements that came with that. Personally I didn't feel the need, even so.

I enjoy my Push still, because I've invested a lot of time and effort making it work for me, which includes careful mapping of instrument parameters, commercial alternative control scripts and devices to increase what is possible. A couple of my friends, that also own the Push, are not into it as much as I am, maybe because they use more external hardware than I do more often, so I'd assume it takes some motivation to learn it deeply. To me it's my hands-on control of Live.

As much as I enjoy it and think it's a no-brainer, I'm not sure it's for everyone. Everyone that hears the call maybe. Overall, I think Push is very close to Push 2 in usability, but I'm pretty sure many would disagree with that.
I think I will probably just upgrade my old KeyRig 49 to the new Novation Sl Mk3 49. I love the simplicity of a keyboard controller and this one seems to do about everything I could want. I like how it controls hardware as well. Thats a very, very cool device and it gives me the flexibility to sequence with ableton or try some stuff on its n-board sequencer and then dump into Live.

Novation is really dialed in right now and making some great stuff.
Old 4th August 2019
  #21
Gear Addict
 

I don’t see a need for a hardware controller. Just learn the keyboard shortcuts. I don’t even use a usb keyboard anymore as I just use the laptop keyboard to play. You can control everything via the keyboard.
Old 4th August 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smccarthy945 View Post
. I don’t even use a usb keyboard anymore as I just use the laptop keyboard to play. You can control everything via the keyboard.
No, you can't "control everything via the keyboard", but there are controls that are only available via a computer keyboard and also a few only in the GUI as well as some only via external scripts like Mackie or Push.

On the absence of an external playing keyboard it would be interesting if you'd tell us how you make use of velocity and aftertouch in real time using that.

Some people using external controllers do this precisely because they don't want to fiddle around with shortcuts, but it's a rewarding thing to learn these and that shouldn't be dismissed, so your experience and thoughts on this do have value.

What I appreciate with the Push is getting where I want for a particular control using my fingers moving things in a continuous fashion while listening back not paying attention to any numbers. This detaches my conscious mind and allows me to create stellar results I couldn't think of before I got them.

Last edited by Mikael B; 4th August 2019 at 02:44 PM..
Old 4th August 2019
  #23
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Tnsl's Avatar
Push2 all the way
Old 4th August 2019
  #24
Deleted e49beec
Guest
I can recommend Push 2 + Midi Fighter Twister !
Old 4th August 2019
  #25
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Originally Posted by Deleted e49beec View Post
I can recommend Push 2 + Midi Fighter Twister !
Ok why? Specifically, the MIDI Fighter.
Old 5th August 2019
  #26
Deleted e49beec
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
Ok why? Specifically, the MIDI Fighter.
Push 2 is really cool for composing your elements in a track with visual feedback and great integration.
You have to start with the mouse setting up chains and instruments first if you use more intricate max assignments
And you def need to come back to the mouse ever so often when mapping.
But push 2 is just an inspiring and wonderful way to work with Live.

It’s kinda limited to a per track workflow and that’s where a second midi controller gets interesting.
On that you can map a lot more freely across ALL tracks and whatever you decide is the most relevant parameters to the song.

This second midi controller can of course be any controller!
The midi fighter twister is just a really nice highly customable unit with clever features.
Have a look at its functions!
No visual text feedback though and you need to use its own software for setting up its behavior.
Although you can edit its appearance and mappings endlessly it does not operate on a per song basis like switching the light Colors differently for each song.
The buttons on its side is little awkardly placed and there is no on/OFF switch for power.

You could use push 2 user mode for kinda some of the same things but its really Nice to have it showing you the session mode While controlling Other stuff on the midi twister.

This is just my experience and setup but i do recommend giving it a serious try
Old 5th August 2019
  #27
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Matth30's Avatar
Push 2 + midi fighter twister is exactly what i have, very happy with it!
Old 5th August 2019
  #28
Deleted e49beec
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
I had a push 2 for a while. I don't get the raves anymore because you simply can't work in arrange mode with it. So basically it's composing parts in session mode only. Once you go to arrange mode it doesn't really have the functionality anymore.

I guess I don't really understand Session mode enough. I did some Ableton courses and the teacher would make a simple looping beat with a few variations in it. But it was basically copy paste house music. What if you wanted a LPF to sweep over the course of 2 minutes or something?

For me session mode is where I come up with a couple of big loop ideas for an A and a B section and then I record those into arrange mode and do most of my work in there. Am I missing something? It just seems like Session mode can be rather limiting and that's the only mode that the Push is really meant for.
Exactly !
What you can do is to record your "performance" with all the realtime controller automation you want into the arrangement view - for as long time you want.
Then go to arrange view - select the duration in time - and then rightclick and choose "Consolidate to New Scene".
Puts everything back into seesion view in a new scene INCLUDING all of your controller data
I almost shed tears of joy when I found out - true story bro - comming from time Linear DAWs for years and years - these kind of things was exactly what I was looking for in workflow and possibilities

Anyways, this particular feature/workflow REALLY calls for something like multiple arrangement views in Live or "Clipboards" if you will - which Live doesnt have as of now, of cause.
Old 5th August 2019
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raoulmusic View Post
Exactly !
What you can do is to record your "performance" with all the realtime controller automation you want into the arrangement view - for as long time you want.
Then go to arrange view - select the duration in time - and then rightclick and choose "Consolidate to New Scene".
Puts everything back into seesion view in a new scene INCLUDING all of your controller data
I almost shed tears of joy when I found out - true story bro - comming from time Linear DAWs for years and years - these kind of things was exactly what I was looking for in workflow and possibilities

Anyways, this particular feature/workflow REALLY calls for something like multiple arrangement views in Live or "Clipboards" if you will - which Live doesnt have as of now, of cause.
Yes for sure. The Push 2 for me, was overkill because I play keyboard mostly, and if I sequence drums I have no problem triggering them with the keyboard and then getting it how I want with the mouse.

But I would like to have some knobs that I can quickly assign to different things in Ableton. And that includes 3rd party VSTs. It's not even a must for me, just something I am looking into, but I like to have some knobs to turn to for recording automation. Workflow would be firing up a session and maybe taking 5-6 knobs and quick mapping them to different VSTs so I can write in automation. In a perfect world I could use one that scrolls to different instruments and then I could press the knob in and arm it. That would let me quickly play my different synths and drum racks on my MIDI controller. That's mainly all I am looking to do
Old 5th August 2019
  #30
Deleted e49beec
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
Yes for sure. The Push 2 for me, was overkill because I play keyboard mostly, and if I sequence drums I have no problem triggering them with the keyboard and then getting it how I want with the mouse.

But I would like to have some knobs that I can quickly assign to different things in Ableton. And that includes 3rd party VSTs. It's not even a must for me, just something I am looking into, but I like to have some knobs to turn to for recording automation. Workflow would be firing up a session and maybe taking 5-6 knobs and quick mapping them to different VSTs so I can write in automation. In a perfect world I could use one that scrolls to different instruments and then I could press the knob in and arm it. That would let me quickly play my different synths and drum racks on my MIDI controller. That's mainly all I am looking to do
midi fighter twister has very nice encoders and doesnt take up much space.
Its ok priced too in my opinion.
You just use its software to pick colours for the different LEDs and midi mapping behaviour if you wish.
But you can use it right out of the box for what you desribe without doing anything other than updating its firmware the first time you use it.
Mapping in Live is business as usual.

Keep in mind that it MUST run on a dedicated USB port - not USB hubs according to the makers.

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