Ableton Push - Reviewed

One controller to rule them all?   05-Apr-13


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Intro

Designed by Ableton and engineered by Akai, Ableton Push is the Live controller to rule them all - at least that's what you'd hope for given it's coming straight from the source.


So, it's a purpose built USB control surface to work with Ableton Live - only version 9 and above though, so you'll need to update to the latest build - which has a lot of extra features - but thats the subject of another review perhaps.


One thing thats for sure, Ableton have been extremely keen to ensure that Push is portrayed as an instrument, to enable seamless composition and creation. As Live has a reputation for live performance, where you are more likely to have pre-configured it to suit your set , this is an important distinction.


Hardware

Out of the box, it's an impressive piece of hardware, weighty and robust with a sense of quality and rugged construction - something you want to covet and own. Plugging in via USB, you're prompted to launch Live, in doing so Push picks up without a fuss, displaying session or track/clip information. Infact, plug in Push at any point, even with a running track and it picks up - no relaunching etc.


At the heart of Push are the 64 velocity/pressure (regular aftertouch) sensitive pads. These have a reassuringly solid feel and are nice and responsive - you can change the curves to suit your style. In note mode, you get the equivalent of over five octaves of keys assuming you are not in chromatic mode, playing runs you go up in threes, and I found I could play quite swiftly, although it's going to take me some time to learn the layout, my muscle memory is designed to work on a standard keyboard. One thing I did find though is that you find yourself playing unusual chord voicings and inversions which gives it quite an interesting musical angle and takes you places you wouldn't normally go.


There are also an additional 16 backlit push buttons for various different modes, device parameters, track mute and solo, scrolling and loading. Above the 4 row LCD screen, there are 8 rotary encoders, again for parameter tweaking, plus a 9th knob for master volume.


Around the sides are 48  backlight dedicated function buttons, transport control and cursor keys for working directly with Live, these are also backlit, but more subdued, I found them a little tricky to read when not positioned directly over the unit.


In Drum mode, there's 16 pads, 16 bar selectors and a two bar step sequencer area, I enjoyed using this for beat programming, even though I'm not really a step sequencer type of guy, combined with the repeat function - select a time division press a pad for velocity variation, you can quickly assemble some grooves. No access to drums in note mode though which was a little disappointing.


To select instruments and plugins, the browse mode brings up all the available Ableton devices on your system, though no AU or VSTs are listed - though I'm told you can put them within racks and browse from there, it's not quite the seamless experience I was hoping for.

Once a device is loaded though, you can edit all of the parameters, and switch between devices on a single track with ease - a very laptop-free experience.


Session View shows the coloured clips as displayed on the screen with the scrollable window - very similar to the APC40 or Launchpad - easy to trigger scenes or clips and very visual.


One thing I did find problematic though was the fact that there was no modwheel, the ribbon controller whilst lovey for pitch control and also for banking between sets of drum sounds, is fixed to pitch bend, I guess I could map pressure to modulation , but out of the box, it's just not there.


User Mode

User mode is a separate User programmable MIDI mode which also has it's own separate MIDI port - it shows up as USER as opposed to the LIVE port. So that allows for control of other software or hardware from  Push. Whilst it does appear to go rather inert - no lights or display, it is possible to program Push to light up and display if you fancy getting into the world of  MAX or python script programming. Shame there wasn't just a vanilla patch to get you going. No doubt as the product matures this will become available.


In Use

Overall, it was generally perfectly possible to work with Push without using the computer, especially when working with Ableton's own virtual instruments and devices, introducing VST and AU plugs, meant I did have to go to the computer to instantiate, but once I had, it was all no mouse required.

Aside from making it possible to browse those plugs on the unit, I would like to see an easy Modulation control, and if hardware is to be taken into account, a USB hub would make sense either for additional keyboards, or an audio interface etc. heck, why not even put an audio interface in while your at it?


But generally, it really does make working with Live a different experience - reminds me of having a proper hardware interface for a plug-in synth, you stop using the part of your brain that interferes with the creative flow, and just get on with creation (to a point). I found it very intuitive to use and was able to create easily just using the hardware.


It's not a low cost item, but the hardware does make it feel like it's worth the cash. You can't actually buy Push on it's own, the entry bundle comes with Ableton's Intro - so if you already have Live, then thats your cheapest option.


Ableton Push Intro £429/$599/€499

Ableton Push Standard £668/$948/€778

Ableton Push Suite  £863/ $1198/ €998


Available now, though still in short supply. More shipments expected soon.


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10 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Phraggle    Said...

Great overview - thanks Nick!

05-Apr-13 12:23 PM


Antonio Sage    Said...

Nice! I would like to add that you can indeed have your VST's and AU's listed in Push. Once you convert them into Instrument Effects Racks. Most hardcore Live users have already done this so that they can access the Macros to their favorite parameters within them. The one thing to note here is that you must add those racks into your "User" folder. You can create subfolders that look exactly like the ones in the main "Instrument Racks" presets. So now your favorite Bass sounds in let's say Sylenth are preconfigured with Macros and show up when you look in the "Bass" category within Push! So, advice from an Ableton Certified Instructor for those who are anxiously waiting to Push. Go through and make sure you create effects and Instrument racks with your VST's and AU's.

I will post a tutorial on how I did this in the next few days. Any questions contact me;

Antonio Sage Auspicious Music LLC http://antoniosage.com

05-Apr-13 06:27 PM


Antonio Sage    Said...

Nice! I would like to add that you can indeed have your VST's and AU's listed in Push. Once you convert them into Instrument Effects Racks. Most hardcore Live users have already done this so that they can access the Macros to their favorite parameters within them. The one thing to note here is that you must add those racks into your "User" folder. You can create subfolders that look exactly like the ones in the main "Instrument Racks" presets. So now your favorite Bass sounds in let's say Sylenth are preconfigured with Macros and show up when you look in the "Bass" category within Push! So, advice from an Ableton Certified Instructor for those who are anxiously waiting to Push. Go through and make sure you create effects and Instrument racks with your VST's and AU's.

I will post a tutorial on how I did this in the next few days. Any questions contact me;

Antonio Sage Auspicious Music LLC http://antoniosage.com

05-Apr-13 06:27 PM


Nick B    Said...

thanks Antonio, thats a great tip.

06-Apr-13 03:11 AM


loneraver    Said...

Super review as always! Are you going to review the Waldorf Rocket per chance?

06-Apr-13 09:16 PM


halo    Said...

hi nick,

do you get your unit directly from ableton? do you know abourt the Major issues with the LED calibration? your unit looks like the promotion pictures, video etc my unit have the problem and a replacement are heavy at this time with a delivery time of 16+ weeks for a new unit. akai must get a harder instance for the QC it´s not abletons fault i think. nice review. i like push a lot. hope to get a answer fom ableton for replacement. rock on! cheers!

https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=191939

they know about it and say "Regarding the LEDs, please understand that it is difficult to maintain perfectly consistent color across 64 pads. We conducted extensive usability testing with Push, and found that the minor variances in color did not detract from Push's usability. Additionally, please note that, due to the nature of RGB LEDs, variances in color may appear more pronounced when the LEDs are set to white."

epic fail for a 500 Euro controller thats build like a tank! then after fixing the QC and the second major shippment from akai to the users have not this problem. the early buyers are ...

07-Apr-13 04:58 PM


halo    Said...

do you have informations about the push cover?

07-Apr-13 06:20 PM


asiohead    Said...

Great review Nick, very informative. I'm not really into these sort of controllers but it made a lotta sense. I can see the potential now.

10-Apr-13 03:41 AM


queglay    Said...

You can browse NI komplete presets, soundtoys and UAD plugs with this - http://audiomodder.com/collections/all/products/push-vst-bridge

22-Oct-13 10:23 AM


Stevie Oswald    Said...

If you want to browse the 1400+ sylenth presets immediately from Push without making your own racks for each preset, download the Sylenth preset rack pack herehttp://mabelton.myshopify.com/ (Mini V and Modular V also available)

22-Jan-14 04:36 PM


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