Ableton has changed the landscape of DAWs and the way that many producers and beatmakers craft, sculpt, design, and create their tracks from start to finish.
Whether you use Ableton in the studio or live on stage, the infections and fluid workflow of making beats on the fly, triggering clips, launching loops, and warping the previously unwrappable has become the main ingredient for new beatmakers and veteran producers of electronic music across the scene.
In this in-depth review, we’ll be discussing the Ableton Push 2, one of the most recognizable MIDI pad controllers on the market today.
Ableton Push 2 Reviews: Quick Overview
With Ableton’s viral effect on many producers, it was only a matter of time until they brought out a custom-designed MIDI controller suited for the DAW in all its glory.
After the release of the Ableton Push 1, the team at Ableton have broken away from their previous partners in crime, Akai, that co-produced the Push 1.
They then went solo and created the second coming of what was already and great all-in-one controller. They made it EVEN BETTER, and thus, the Ableton Push 2 was born.
Let us dig a little deeper into this Ableton MIDI controller for your studio or live setup.
- Complete plug-and-play connectivity with Ableton Live
- New workflow friendly control button alignment
- 64 solid pads, new high-quality rubber
- Sampling is now part of the 64 pad grid workflow
- New aluminum surface, no more rubber finish
- Hi-resolution, full color, widescreen LCD navigation
- 8 rotary encoders to access soft synths, drum racks
- Use Push 2 to play and create with Ableton, less laptop usage
- Does not yet offer to arrange view functionality
- MIDI over USB only, no MIDI in/outs
- Does not support a built-in sound card
- No standalone option, exclusively a controller for Ableton Live production and performance
The Ultimate Ableton MIDI Pad Controller
We have to start off by saying this. The Ableton Push 2 is a work of art with its black finish and strong aluminum body. The Push 2 now has low-profile, high-quality rubber pads for that sturdy, touch-sensitive, velocity feel and functionality
This kind of feel is known and loved by traditional beatmakers who grew up using the MPC or even the NI Maschine.
This piece looks super dope laid out on your studio table, it really pops and catches the eye. We know, we know, that has nothing to do with the specs, workflow, and stability of the machine.
But damn it looks good. So this bad boy gets 5 out of 5 for studio design appeal and audio eye candy.
The Push 2 makes use of the session view in Ableton DAW, making it fun, creative, and easy to make beats. This piece of hardware is intuitive not only with the software, but it also inspires the workflow of the producer.
With its innovative use of the controller’s real estate and ergonomic design, you really are buying an instrument and an extension of the Ableton experience and creative process when you invite this piece into the studio!
Navigation and Workflow
The newly improved hi-resolution widescreen display makes navigating, loading, manipulating, and playing with instruments and effects from the hardware interface more like operating a traditional drum machine, synth, or sequencer than triggering software with a MIDI controller.
Prepare to get lost in Push 2 as you become less reliant on the laptop screen and mouse when you become familiar and proficient with the controller designed for Ableton, BY Ableton.
Okay, so you have chosen Ableton as your DAW and, as stated above, this controller is exclusive and unique to your weapon of choice.
So how do you use Push 2? And what are its limitations? Well, you can make beats and sequence with all 64 pads in the grid at once.
This is a totally unique and fast pace style of finger drumming, step sequencing, and pattern arrangements that are all done by splitting the 64 pad grid into 3 sections and exclusively using dedicated groups of pads for specific functions.
Making Beats and Sequencing
The bottom left 4 x 4 pads are used for drumming and creating beats on the fly, exactly the same as the traditional pad drum machine layout.
The pads on the Push 2 are quite a bit smaller than the MPC or Maschine, so this may take some getting used to for people used to playing on bigger pads or just have fat fingers.
Push has adopted swing mode for each pad and quantize plus swing for the entire kit and pattern. This is a necessity to create movement in your beat when recording patterns in quantizing locked mode.
Additionally, your play, stop, and record buttons are conveniently located next to your left hand when drumming and recording beats. We love this arrangement as it stops you from reaching all over the controller and slowing down your workflow while tapping out new ideas to work from.
The bottom right 4 x 4 or 16 pads are dedicated to creating new patterns. This makes starting new arrangements and edits a breeze, as you don’t need to refer to the laptop or go into pattern mode with a series of button entries and shift shortcuts like on the Maschine and MPC.
These sorts of small interruptions can kill the creative flow and can knock you off your beat-making zen mode. The top 4 x 8 or 32 pads in the grid are dedicated to the traditionally styled step sequencer, this is a fantastic visual element to the entire beat creation process.
The pad lights run from left to right across the grid, always giving a point reference of where the sound you have triggered from the drum kit is in the beat sequence, plus you have the ability to manipulate every sound, quantize the sequence and extend the length of the pattern all from the controller.
Sampling With Ableton Push 2
Like most MIDI pad controllers on the market, such as the NI Maschine and the Akai MPD ranges, Ableton Push 2 does not support a built-in sound card. It relies on your audio interface to record sounds from an instrument and your dusty old vinyl collection into Ableton for further chopping, slicing, and manipulation.
Once you import or sample a drum loop into Ableton and warp the BPM of your desired track tempo, you now have complete control over each individual sound.
Slicing mode spreads out your individual drum sounds over the 64 pad grid. However, this can be reduced at the turn of an encoder for less pad to be used in the slices (or chops of the break).
Now, you can recreate the drum pattern of your choice and style when you go into record and sequence mode.
Once you’re happy with your new drum kits and want to keep this in your library to add to your arsenal of go-to sample sounds, simply just select the convert key on the controller and create a new drum rack for future projects.
Don’t be fooled to think that the slicing mode is strictly for chopping and manipulating drum loops from your granny’s old funk and soul vinyl collection.
Slice mode can give amazing control over whatever sound you load into your racks, by changing the slice by option into the range field, producers can create sample racks for creating melodies, riffs, and atmospheric soundscapes by jamming with the pads and parameters all assessable at your fingertips on the Push 2.
The soul and foundation on so many dance breaks and hip hop tracks were all built on the basic foundations and equipment of the ’80s and ’90s. So in addition to all of Push’s bells and whistles, they have cleverly kept it old school with the Classic mode.
Push 2 also gives you the ability to play with sounds and loops with all the functionality of a traditional sampler and sequencer from the controller’s options.
Browse your entire library of sounds, loops, instruments, then load your sound into a simpler device and edit from inside the widescreen display section of the hardware controller.
Play the Ableton Push 2 Like an Instrument
Pushes 64 pads are like no other when it comes to playing chords, Ableton has really thought this through and designed a system that allows non-keyboard players to bang out chords and create ideas by following the route note that lights up in the 64 pad grid mode.
This is a blessing for the non-musicians and will save you HOURS of time that would be spent scouring youtube to learn chord progressions and scales.
Instead, follow some of Ableton’s tutorials then play, jam, repeat, record and start to produce your own unique melodies and stop relying on sample packs.
Then, get inside the sound and start tweaking the parameters and setting of your instruments and let your creative juices flow.
Get your freak on with Push’s built-in pad feature called aftertouch. Instead of going back into the sound setting via the encoders after playing a melody, simply add velocity and pressure with your fingers when touching the velocity-sensitive pads.
Aftertouch will activate a setting inside your live instrument and activate modulation, creative movement, and texture to your sounds without ever having to turn the encoders.
If you’re looking to get more hands-on with Push by modulating sounds, the touch strip will be your go-to tool of choice. The touch strip can be used as a traditional mod wheel or assigned to one of the instrument settings and manipulated to create automation changes during the playback and record mode.
The other option for creating a melodic pattern inside of Push is stepped sequencing melodies. This is a great spin on the old-style step sequencer made famous by iconic drum machines like the Roland TR-808 and the 909.
The melodic step sequencer gives a range of root notes on the bottom 8 pads and allows you to tap in octaves in the pad columns above. We love this method for creating funky bass lines and glitched out pad patterns on the fly inside the melodic sequencer.
Where Does The Push 2 Fall Behind?
As mentioned in the pros and cons section above, Push 2 does not support the arrange view inside of Ableton DAW.
So when it comes to arranging, editing, and doing the final touches to your finished track, you’ll have to go into arrange views and start cutting, pasting, and adding automation where you desire with the good old faithful mouse and keyboard approach.
We personally don’t think that this is a bad thing as the arrange view is the best place to get a complete overview of the structure of your track and easily edit certain elements of the track.
It’s really hard to compare the Ableton Push 2 to anything else on the market, because, basically there is nothing else like it out there.
The Push 2 was created with Ableton in mind, while most other competing products out there are made to be compatible with all the top DAWs in the industry today.
Push is the current leader in the industry when it comes to making music and creating sounds with the entire suite of sounds, instruments, and editing tools that come with Ableton Suite.
For beat makers and producers on more of a budget, it’s a no-brainer to turn your attention to the Novation Launchpad series. Novation has been players in the electronic music production industry for quite some time now.
This company has totally embraced the technology and workflow of Ableton Live and created a line of products with the use of Ableton clip view in mind.
Overall, if you use Ableton, the Push 2 is a 100% solid option for beat-making and music production. If you DON’T use Ableton, consider using MIDI pads from other brands like Novation and Akai instead.
If you’re interested, we have a review of the top alternatives to the Ableton Push 2. However, note that none of these tools can do what the Push 2 can do when it comes to speed, workflow, and interactivity!
OTHER REVIEWS: A Complete Review of the Novation Launchkey 25 MK2
May 26, 2021 – updated SPR schema
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