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And all new Push Controller

Not one but two reasons for Ableton users to be cheerful have been announced from the company’s German headquarters in the form of Live 9 along with a rather intriguing controller called Push.

Not content with just improving their hugely popular Live software, for their latest incarnation, Ableton have also found the time to get teamed up with Akai to create a new Push controller specifically to control Ableton. It looks like they might have created the perfect Ableton controller in the process.

There are many new features in Live 9. One of which is the ability to record automation into clips, and edit the automation directly in the session view. The recorded automation can then be edited with the mouse using curves to create smooth transitions or freaky parameter changes.

Another welcomed update is to Live’s new browser, which has managed to put all of the instruments, effects, samples and VSTs into one place, making finding things an absolute breeze. The ability to now drag and drop audio files into the browser betters the user experience of Live 9.

Another new feature that is bound to delight Ableton heads is the audio-to-MIDI function (Logic users have had this little beauty for some time). It will take samples and convert their structure or melody to MIDI.

Take a drum beat from vinyl and run it through the converter to use the MIDI notes on drum machines and samplers, or take melodies or even sing into a microphone to have Ableton convert melodies to MIDI notes for use with synthesisers and other virtual instruments.

In addition to some very tasty new effects such as the Glue Compressor, one of the best new features found in Live 9 Suite is the inclusion of Max for Live. Not only does Max for Live give 24 new instruments and effects straight out of the box, it also enables users to access the 900 devices built by the Max for Live community, as well as offering the ability to create custom new devices. Max is put to good use by artists such as Daft Punk and Justice for their live shows, and can be a dream machine to create custom interfaces with hardware controllers when in the right hands.

The new Push controller takes Ableton to a whole new level and has been designed in conjunction with Akai, who have done an outstanding job on the looks, build quality and functions. The design of Push means that it wouldn’t look out of place in the cockpit of a stealth bomber and looks just as deadly in a studio environment.

The sheer amount of buttons and controls found on Push and the clever layout make this controller a proper workhorse — the only small potential letdown is the LCD display which although comparable with the older Maschine displays, could be something of a disappointment when put side-by-side with something like the new Maschine MK2.

The centre of the Push control panel is dominated by a huge bank of pad-style buttons with multicoloured backlit LEDs, giving a total of 64 trigger pads. A long touch strip backlit with 24 LEDs runs alongside the pad bank that can be used for pitch-bending or navigation, and next to this are a bank of buttons for engaging the transport controls — record, play, etc, and other useful composition functions.

The top of the Push controller features a row of nine rotary encoders above the LCD display to create a powerful controller section for navigating through sounds or tweaking the parameters of synthesisers or plug-ins. At the far right of the controllers are five banks of buttons that take care of the most used functions when using Live along with a navigation keypad.

Push comes in three flavours. The most expensive packages include the controller and Live 9 Suite, with the other two options being Live 9 Standard and Live 9 Intro. The bad news for existing Live users who want to add a Push controller to their studio is that the controller is not available separately from the Live software, but the good news is Ableton have upgrade programs to suit existing users, which should hopefully keep everyone happy.

Live 9 has benefited from some great new features and improved functions without getting too serious or losing the fast-paced creative edge that has gained Ableton so many fans over the years. Live is developing into a full-blown DAW while keeping true to its origins and providing a very unique, no-nonsense way of creating music, putting ease of use and creativity at the forefront. The addition of the Push controller has taken Ableton Live to the next level and has ensured this music production platform is keeping pace with its rivals.