Ableton Push 2 Hands-on Review - Create Digital Music


Ableton Push 2 Hands-on Review The new Ableton Push is here. From a distance, it looks like the same rectangular grid with some color screens. But using it person is an entirely different experience. We’ve gotten to spend an extended time with the new Push, so we can let you know what that’s like. Here’s the simplest way to put it: Ableton has kept the same basic layout and form factor of the original, yet somehow made every single detail better. From hardware refinement to software integration and functionality, everything feels like 2.0. Ableton repeated that they’ve completely re-engineered Push themselves. But even if they hadn’t told you that, you’d be aware of a different feeling from the moment you see one up close – doubly so once you touch it. Push is still called “Push,” though Ableton will call it “Push 2” when comparing to the original. That says a lot: this is just what Ableton now considers Push to be. The weight and size are the same, but each surface feels more detailed and precise – and that’s saying a lot, as the first Push was already reasonably impressive. The new Push simply feels a class above any other hardware in the industry at the moment. This isn’t just qualitative; it’s quantitatively different. Buttons are lower profile – by a lot; they emerge only slightly from the faceplate. Tolerances at each edge are tighter. The unit itself is thinner. The strange indentation on the first Push, made for a cover that never shipped, is gone. In practice, these many subtle changes mean that indication text is clearer, and tactile feedback is more solid and consistent – in short, the desire to make music with the object is greater. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing to put the two side by side and realize how much the buttons and pads wobble around on the first Push (the triggers in particular), or how much less satisfying the surfaces are to touch. On the left, the new Push; on the right, the old Push. The surface finish is different, as well, and seems free of the scratching and peeling issues on the original (I tried to scratch it and couldn’t). The days of weird dusty-gray or pink LEDs standing in for “white” are gone, too – white looks white, and colors look vibrant without being blinding or garish. Significantly, it’s also easy to read the light-up text on the buttons. Those still elegantly fade to black and disappear when functions aren’t active. But now when they do light up, text looks crisp – almost like looking at a display. And speaking of displays, yes, the display is gorgeous. Sharp graphics illustrate some concepts (like filters), with text recalling the look of Teenage Engineering’s OP-1. (And that’s definitely a compliment.) It isn’t a touchscreen, but for this generation of hardware in the industry in general, that seems to make sense. People now compare touchscreens to Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and it’s tough for musical manufacturers to live up on a smaller scale – at least, for now. (I’ll be curious to try the new Akai MPC Touch and see if it holds up to those rigorous expectations.) For now, I was perfectly happy to see but not touch the screen, dialing in settings on encoders, and I never once caught myself wanting to swipe the display. With the new displays and all this color and light, of course, USB bus power doesn’t quite cut it any more. You will need to plug this in to use it. (If someone trips over your power cord, you’re not out of luck – the new Push will keep operating, but it’ll be very dim – not just slightly dim like the old model, but nearly dark.) The Push 2 also lacks MIDI, as found on Novation’s Launchpad Pro. On the other hand, Push doesn’t work standalone, so that omission is a minor one. You do get foot pedal jacks, as before. None of that matters out of context, though – you’re buying an instrument, not a nice-looking paperweight. So the real test of Push 2 is as the hardware extension of Live. Combined with software enhancements in Live 9.5 (particularly integration with the new Simpler), Push 2 promises three major areas of innovation. 1. It’s more fun to play. 2. It makes sampling an integrated workflow. 3. It promises to give you more time working with the hardware, less time going back to your computer screen and mouse. Let’s look at those in turn. More fun to play I think the biggest deal in Push 2 is that the grid feels so fantastic. The first Push was reasonably sensitive, but not always equally so across pads. And it was a bit too stiff for my taste – making it feel like work to play. Push 2 is another story. The pads are soft to the touch, but firm as you hit them. They respond to the slightest changes in force, from feather-y gentle to finger-drumming-hard. They keep an incredibly low profile, close to the faceplate. That may seem odd at first to old-school MPC lovers, but the tight clearance means there’s not the slightest sensation of wiggle as you play. This accommodates a wide variety of playing sty…

Ableton's new Push is here, engineered from the ground up with new color screens and sampling powers. Read our exclusive review to find out if it's for you.

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