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Is Ableton Push 2 An Audio Interface? (Finally Explained)

By Matthew Vultaggio

October 13, 2020

When deciding to buy an Ableton Push 2, I found myself wondering if it is also an audio interface, so I did a bunch of research and then wrote this nice little article on the topic.

Ableton Push 2 is not an audio interface, it is a controller used to control the Ableton software. It has several ports on the back but these are for power, USB (data transfer only, not audio), and 2 foot pedals.

Ableton Push 2 is a MIDI controller that simply controls the Ableton and plug-in software inside of your computer. It does not have any ports for audio input or audio output and does not actually create or process any sounds itself.

The Ableton software is what is actually creating the music and your audio interface is what sends the music to your speakers, letting you hear the music you are creating.

If that is the case, then you might be asking yourself:

  • Why is the Ableton Push 2 so expensive if it doesn’t include an audio interface?
  • What the heck do the other ports on the Ableton Push 2 actually do then?
  • Do I actually need an audio interface to use the Push 2 and make music?

It can all make you wonder is Ableton Push 2 worth it?

The Ableton Push 2 is actually a mighty fine controller, but deciding if it is right or not for you can be a bit tricky. Especially when you consider the high price tag.

So, read on my friend, and I will show you the way. 🙂

Ableton Push 2 vs An Audio Interface

So what exactly is the difference between Push 2 and an audio interface? To put it in the simplest terms: Ableton Push 2 controls software and an audio interface inputs and outputs sound.

Let’s break that down further, starting with the Push 2.

The Ableton Push 2 is a MIDI controller dedicated to controlling the Ableton Live software.

A MIDI controller is a piece of gear that sends Musical Instrument Digital Interface data (or MIDI for short) to trigger sounds and control parameters.

Here are some key things to know about MIDI that will help you understand better:

  • MIDI data can be sent over a USB connection (which is why the Ableton Push 2 has a USB connection and not a MIDI connection).
  • MIDI can be used to control both software (like Ableton Live) or hardware (like a synthesizer).

In the case of Ableton Push 2, it sends MIDI data over USB to control various things inside of the Ableton Live software such as: notes (ie: instruments and sounds) via the performance pads and control parameters (ie: volume levels, panning, etc.) using the knobs and buttons.

Usually, with MIDI, you need to manually map all of the performance pads, keys, and knobs to what you want it to control in the software.

This can be a tedious process, but because of the Ableton Push 2’s tight and pre-made integration with the Ableton Live software, a lot of these mappings are already done for you and switch over depending on what you have selected.

In fact, having the Push 2 can definitely cut down how long it takes to learn Ableton since everything is automatically right at your fingertips.

This tight integration between the software and controller also allows you to see a lot of parameters right on the Ableton Push 2’s screen. Essentially this is the main benefit of Push 2: you can make music without heavily looking at your computer screen.

This can be a huge bonus if you’ve ever caught yourself wondering why Ableton looks so bad!

So now that we have that out of the way, how does an audio interface come into play here?

An audio interface is simply a piece of gear that can expand and improve your computer’s ability to input and output sound. Here are some of the things audio interfaces can do for you:

  • Allow you to connect microphones
  • Allow you to connect instruments like guitars or synthesizers
  • Allow you to input sound at a higher level of quality than your in-built sound card
  • Allow you to send multiple different outputs to different speakers and headphones

As you can see, the main difference between the Ableton Push 2 and an audio interface is that Ableton Push 2 controls software and an audio interface inputs and outputs sound.

But do you actually need an audio interface to use the Ableton Push 2 and the Ableton Live software?

Do You Need An Audio Interface to Make Music?

Great question, my friend! The short answer?

You only need an audio interface if you want to expand and improve your computer’s ability to input and output sound beyond what your computer’s built-in soundcard is capable of.

The main benefits of an audio interface are decreased lag, increased audio quality and the ability to record instruments like guitars, synthesizers, and vocals.

But, you can definitely make music without an audio interface.

In fact, skipping an interface at first can help lower how much it costs to make electronic music. For a beginner, this can be a huge plus.

So how do you make music without an audio interface in Ableton Live?

In Ableton’s preferences, simply set the input and output options to be your computer’s default sound card. In most cases, there will just be 1 or 2 options available, so try them out until you get some sound.

Making music without a dedicated audio interface is the cheapest way to get started, but it could introduce a few problems or complications.

So, if your answer to any of the questions below is yes, then you would be in best shape with adding an audio interface to your recording setup:

  1. Are you experiencing any lag when recording or performing?
  2. Are you experiencing any glitching or stuttering in your audio playback?
  3. Do you need to record any live instruments like guitar, bass, piano or synthesizer?
  4. Do you need to record any vocals?
  5. Do you need to send your audio to multiple sources like different sets of speakers or headphones?

Alright, so now that you have a good handling of what the Push 2 is compared to an audio interface, let’s address the elephant in the room…

The Ableton Push 2 is a pretty expensive piece of gear. So…

Why the heck is the Push 2 so expensive if it does not even include an audio interface????

Why Is The Ableton Push 2 SO Expensive?

The reason the Ableton Push 2 is so expensive comes down to 2 main things: the build quality and the tight integration with Ableton Live.

It’s important to consider if both these things are important to you when deciding to buy an Ableton Push 2 or not (remember to look out for bundles that include Push 2 the rare times when Ableton ever goes on sale).

Build Quality

Spend just a few minutes with the Ableton Push 2 and you will know that this thing has very solid build quality. Here are some of the main things that stick out to me regarding Push 2’s build quality:

  • The device feels rock solid and has a very premium feel to it.
  • The knobs are endless encoders so you don’t have to worry about re-adjusting the knob to its previous position.
  • The knobs are touch-sensitive. Tap one and the screen will adjust to show you are controlling that knob.
  • The screen is big, beautiful, and colorful.
  • The pads are nicely sized, very easy to perform on, and even have aftertouch.

FYI: I personally own a Push 2 and would definitely recommend it as the best gear you can get for deep house and electronic music in general.

Push 2’s Integration with Ableton Live

Push 2 is actually made by Ableton, so it makes sense that it provides the tightest integration with the software compared to every other controller out there.

I mentioned some of these points earlier, but here are some key highlights of this integration:

  • Push 2’s knobs and buttons are automatically mapped to several features in Ableton, so you don’t need to manually map a thing.
  • Push 2’s screen shows you what device you have selected, and what those device’s parameters are.
  • You can easily access the mixer section of Ableton Live and have a visual representation of the volume levels.
  • You can easily create and perform with different drum racks.
  • You can add different effects and new tracks right from the Push 2.
  • You can dive very deep into the settings of different effects and instruments right from the Push 2.

I said it before but, essentially this is the main benefit of the Push 2 is that you can make music without heavily looking at your computer screen.

What Do The Ports On The Ableton Push 2 Actually Do?

Finally, I want to quickly cover what the ports on the back of the Ableton Push 2 actually do, since we now know that these are not audio inputs or outputs.

  • The port labeled “1” is used to plug in a Sustain Pedal (like pianos or keyboards have).
  • The port labeled “2” allows for a looper-style level of control over the clip recording features (similar to how those live looping guitarists do things).
  • The port labeled “USB 2.0” is used to power on the Push 2 and send MIDI data back and forth between the computer and Push 2.
  • The port labeled “DC12V 1.25A” is used to provide additional power to the Push 2 so that you can increase the brightness levels.

Hopefully that clears things up, my friend! 🙂

Related Questions

Does the Ableton Push 2 have audio inputs?

Great question! The Ableton Push 2 does not have any audio inputs. It is simply a MIDI controller used to control software.

Is Ableton Push 2 good for beginners?

Another great question! The Ableton Push 2 is easy enough for beginners to learn but due to the high price tag it makes more sense to start with learning the Ableton Live software first. Once you have an understanding of the software, getting the hardware will greatly improve on what you already know.

How do I use Ableton Push 2 without an audio interface?

Another great question! Without an interface you can use your computer’s built-in audio card but you won’t have direct monitoring which means there may be latency or lag. If you are okay with dealing with a bit of (potential) lag and not being able to plug in other instruments, then it is no problem at all.

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