Back in September 2020, rumours started circulating on various Internet forums that a new Ableton Push 3 controller would be released in 2021, and that it would be a standalone device. These rumours, however, were subsequently denied by Ableton. Currently there is no confirmed release date for the Ableton Push 3.
It all started with a photo posted to an Ableton Live Facebook group, that allegedly showed a leaked photo of the new controller. After an initial flurry of excited speculation, Ableton quickly poured water on the fire by appearing to confirm that the image was in fact a fake.
Despite this denial, many Ableton users still believe that a new Push 3 controller is in development and is close to being announced. Is this just wishful thinking? Or is there any truth to these rumours?
In this article I'll be looking at the evidence by examining the history of the Ableton Push controller and speculating on its future direction and potential feature set.
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History of the Ableton Push Controller
Akai APC40 Ableton Performance Controller
Let's begin at the beginning. The original official Ableton controller was the APC40, designed by Akai in partnership with Ableton way back in May 2009. The device was pretty innovative for its time and appeared to signal the start of a great collaboration between the two companies.
The APC40 was aimed both as a production tool, and for live performances. The left-hand side of the controller consisting of clip launch buttons which mapped to Session View in Live, whilst below that was the mixer section complete with faders and a cue level knob.
The right-hand side had eight knobs for panning and effect sends, eight macro controllers for changing track parameters, navigation buttons, and controls for quantisation, MIDI overdub, and a metronome.
All in all, it was a pretty feature packed controller, although some reviews criticised it for trying to appeal to both producers and DJs, and in doing so compromising its design.
Although fairly long in the tooth, the APC40 is still a decent option for a budget controller today, retailing for less than $200 second hand.
Ableton Push 1
Now let's fast forward to 2013 and the release of the Ableton Push 1. Once again this was a collaboration between Akai and Ableton, the big difference this time being that this was a device where Akai developed the hardware specifically for Ableton. This is reflected in the name of the device, even though Akai's logos still appears on the side.
The first thing you noticed about the Ableton Push was that it looked stunning. A stylish looking all-black device with a sleek low profile, it wouldn't have looked out of place in even the coolest studio.
The main interface consisted of 64 touch sensitive pads, surrounded by banks of buttons on both sides, a large LCD display, and nine controller knobs at the top of the device.
Push was designed to control every aspect of your Live set, enabling you to navigate easily within Live, add or edit tracks, select and control instruments, program drums and melodies, and pretty much anything else you would want from a dedicated controller.
What the original Ableton Push controller did that was so special was to create a new kind of creative workflow. The intuitive interface provided an incredibly tactile alternative to programming in Live, as opposed to simply using a mouse and keyboard.
Ableton Push 2
The partnership between Akai and Ableton didn't appear to last long however, as just three years later in 2015, Ableton released the Push 2, which was developed solely by Ableton. This is important as up until this point Ableton did not have an in-house hardware capability.
The Ableton Push 2 upgraded on the original in almost every way and was extremely well received. Improvements included more sensitive pads, a larger full colour screen, and fantastic graphical visualisations.
Since the release of the Push 2 there have been various updates. The latest major Ableton Push 2 firmware update introduced MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) in early 2021 to coincide with the release of Ableton Live 11.
It's still an extremely capable device, and it's obvious that Ableton remain committed to fully supporting it, however, the fact remains that more than six years have passed since its release, which is a fairly long time in any device's lifecycle.
Ableton Push 3 Speculation
Ok, so the Push 2 has been around a while. Is this the only reason why we should expect to see a Push 3 in the near future? - Well no, not quite.
Since the release of the Push 2 the world has not stood still. The momentum now seems to be for more and more companies to release their own standalone controllers.
Take audio production powerhouse Native Instruments for example. In 2020 they released the Maschine+ that is a standalone device that takes advantage of the company's massive library of software instruments, effects, and samples by incorporating them seamlessly into the device itself.
Another example is the Akai Force. This beast of a device is a standalone clip and scene-based production tool which promises "The ultimate in standalone end-to-end production workflows, complete with every tool you need to produce, remix, mashup and perform your tracks live". The similarities in its design makes it look suspiciously like a standalone version of the Push 2 controller!
Hopefully by now you see where I'm going with this. Ableton as a company have considerable expertise in creating great audio software. Not just the Live DAW itself, but the fantastic instruments within it such as Wavetable and Operator, and an array of amazing audio effects and utilities. They now also have the capability to produce good quality hardware as proven by the Push 2.
Imagine then a standalone device that contains all these great instruments and effects within it, integrated into a cutdown simplified version of Live. I really think there'd be a market for such a device that could compete favourably with what's already out there.
Whether this product is called an Ableton Push 3, or whether it's packaged as a brand-new product line, I think Ableton would be crazy not to take advantage of what is obviously a large amount of customer demand.
Should I wait for Ableton Push 3?
Although it's likely that Ableton will release a new hardware product soon now that they have expertise in both software and hardware development, I believe this will be a new standalone device rather than a direct replacement for the Push 2. Therefore, my advice would be not to wait for the Ableton Push 3 and to buy the Push 2 instead.
I hope you've enjoyed this article and I'd love to know your thoughts. Do you agree with me that a standalone device is more likely? What killer features are on your Ableton Push 3 wish list?
Let me know in the comments section below!
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Have a great day!