Looking quite handsomely like 70s stereophile equipment, a couple of prototype Ableton controllers have shown up on the website of Kenton, the UK MIDI manufacturer:

Kenton Electronics MIDI Controllers; AB mini (shown left) and AB DJ (right)

Via Gearjunkies, who I swear are wired directly into some sort of psychic network that tells them when anyone comes up with anyone new. The controllers are beautiful looking, certainly, with brushed aluminum, high-end knobs, and (on the AB mini, at least) handy light indicators around the knobs. The AB mini is admirable for its minimalism, though it seems wanting of a crossfader. (Love the joystick, though, and this could fit neatly on a keyboard or, as shown, at your laptop.)

“DJ” has come to mean, oddly, generic design and not enough controls. But here, there are some interesting ideas, like the velocity-sensitive pads, color-coded buttons, and joystick. If the design remains flexible, people could find it useful.

Here’s the next question, though: can someone think of a hardware interface that truly matches Ableton Live, rather than combining existing controls in a slightly different configuration?

Kenton is asking for feedback. I’m sure you have plenty of suggestions.

[Updated:] Marc van den Hurk of Gearjunkies writes in to explain their news gathering secret: “We are no member of a psychic network, we ARE a psychic network.”

  • SNTNL

    I have a working concept in the works with friends in fredricksburg at his farm, it is a little far ahead the NORMAL hardware controls, this is totally different though, for this type of software but it is musical mechanism.

    hehe….

    time will tell…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I'd love to see that! Keep us posted.

  • Rozling

    I've just started DJing with Live and have been looking at making a MIDIbox controller as a summer project. I think if you're gonna give up time, space and money for a controller (bought or built) it should go as far as possible to let you do the full job, not just mixing, EQing and FX.

    By this I mean cramming as much control and visual feedback as possible into one space. For example a big part of DJing with Live for me involves navigating the browser: Turn off/on browser cue (not doable by midi as of Live 5.2) Drag clip into slot. Open clip view. Check tempo. Engage cue. Launch track. Maybe edit a few warp points if the song is out of time… forget about doing that with a controller as minimal as this.

    I don't want to come off as negative – I'm delighted that a name like Kenton is starting to recognise the need for dedicated hardware – it's just I've yet to see anyone address issues like proper control of the Live views (the clip, I/O, s/r, mixer, x-fade sections), tap, global quantise, getting the master tempo out onto an LCD… I could go on and on but I'm actually kinda pressed for time :p

    Anyhoo the flip side is that after making a mockup panel in Reaktor I have seen that such a level of control makes for a 'busy' interface, but I believe it's doable – for example Faderfox have gone a long way towards packing controls into a tight space.

    If I've time this weekend I'll put up a screen of my interface on the forum (I've been putting off doing the obligatory intro thread post) and you all can rip it apart – seriously though this is kinda close to my heart at the moment so I'm interested as to what others think.

    By the way CDM is wired into my psychic network at the moment with the amount of scarily relevant stories – get out of my mind!

  • http://www.offnominal.com Logickal

    I know that the early versions of Automap have been a bit on the buggy side, but the Novation SL series seems to me the best possible compromise of functionality and usability for Live. Even disregarding the Automap functionality, custom created templates give these units some serious functionality with Live. Maybe the layout just works for me, but I've used one a couple of times with Live and now I can think of nothing but to get one of these things.

  • Steven Jarvis

    The line of micromodul controllers made by Faderfox (faderfox.de) were designed specifically for Ableton Live and NI Traktor DJ Studio (though you can use them with any app that's MIDI mappable). I have the Faderfox LV2 and have an LX2 on the way. The LV2 has completely revolutionized how I use Live, both in the studio and for live performance. While not perfect, they're the best non-custom solution I've seen for controlling Live.

    As Im starting to DJ more, I plan on getting a micromodul DJ2 for Traktor.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, the Faderfox version 2 models are now shipping? Been watching for those. Let us know how that works out.

    Logickal, I just got an SL in on loan, and you can bet Live will be one of the first things I'll try.

    Part of what I like about Live is that no one seems to use it the same way, so that does mean flexibility of interface is paramount — and nothing is likely to be perfect, either, especially without some effort on our part to adapt it to our needs.

    And on that note, Rozling, I'm all the more interested in new custom solutions. I'll catch you on the forum. Or I'll just see you inside your mind. ;)

  • http://www.2secondfuse.com Vlad Spears

    Perhaps Ableton will ultimately deliver one of their own? Robert Henke's working on version 2 of his own Monodeck for use with his Live setup, so it's not too far a jump to see this generalized as a hardware product for the Live user base.

    A Monolake live show using version one of this controller is a blast. It's such an obvious good time for him it translates directly to a good time for the audience.

  • http://www.offnominal.com Logickal

    Vlad – I keep wishing Robert would post more pictures of the new Monodeck! I saw him at Mutek2003 and had a blast. He and I approach live performace in a similar way. :)

    Peter – This Discussion on the Ableton board shows some people feeling like they are beta testers of the new Automap features with Live. I can see their point, but with the very fact that Live is such an individual experience it seems more suited to those that will take the time and set up their own custom control sets for the way that they use it. That's one of the reasons that these controllers look a little bit limiting to me.

  • http://www.socal-breaks.com robtronik

    The DJ version has been semi-scrapped and has gone back to the drawing board according to mindlobster (handle) the guy who designed the smaller AB version. It was considered too big and clunky after review.

    Can't wait to use the small one w/ my DJM-800 though (which is my primary controller of Live with my MOTU Ultralite).

    :)

    rob.

  • nelle

    I want to learn LIve and would like to ask you experienced users if the Tascam FW1082 might be used as a controller through MIDI?

    As far as what the ideal controller would be like, having worked with vintage synths and modular analog systems I think the more knobs and sliders the better. I would also add ribbons (especially a pitch ribbon) and wheels and hell if you could make a Moog Theremin or maybe an updated "touchscreen" theremin interact with it, that would be quite cool…. I had an idea of a large theremin field for a dancer but then I saw one with a Scandinavian musician performing with a Mac, at a festival honoring Bob Moog.

    Meanwhile, back down to earth, I have a slow 633Mhz G4 Powerbook and would like to know if anyone can suggest where to get older versions of software that would work with it .. the focus being on working with Live and composition and audio for video.

    Thanks for any help offered!

  • beatsjunkie

    No need for a crossfader – use the deck volume or "upfaders" – unless you're a battle DJ.

  • LifeInChords

    One of these companies needs to incorporate the unique pitch controller that Nord uses in their keyboards

    bottom of this page :
    http://www.nordusa.com/lead2x.html

    and start gettin more expiermental with the tpyes of MIDI controllers – how bout a pull knob, that triggers an event when let go- imagine dropping a beat after pulling an elastic knob or similar… cmon people get creative!