Dubspot Top Picks: 10 Choice MIDI Controllers and Control Surfaces

In this Dubspot Top Picks guide, we look at a selection of our favorite MIDI Controllers and Control Surfaces for music production and live performance based on impressive features, powerful capabilities, and intuitive design.

Midi Controllers


Ableton | Push 2

Like the original Push, the new version brings hands-on creation of melodies, harmonies, beats, and song structure. Now designed and engineered entirely by Ableton, Push has a new level of playability that brings even more elements of song creation at your fingertips. Push’s crisp and colorful new display adapts to show what you need and keep you in the creative flow. Library navigation, sample waveforms, effects parameters, and mixer levels are instantly visible on the display and tweakable via the touch-sensitive encoders. Push now has fast and flexible sampling workflows that let you slice samples across the pads and play back single hits and time-stretched samples. Easily create looping instruments on the fly, chop up drum kits from recordings, play longer rhythmic samples back in tempo, and more without taking your hands off Push. Read more at Ableton


Native Instruments | MASCHINE MK2

The MASCHINE MK2 provides the flexibility of computer-based music production with straightforward, two-handed control for composing, performing, browsing, sampling, slicing, sound-shaping, and tweaking effects. You can easily load your samples, effects, and plug-ins through its built-in software stocked with a 6GB sample library, and then control them with the touch-sensitive pads, knobs, and buttons without the need to touch the computer’s mouse or keyboard. This Groove Production Studio and controller features 16 multi-color illuminated pads with velocity and aftertouch, eight endless rotary potentiometers, 47 back-lit buttons, one endless encoder, two displays, USB and MIDI I/O connections, and much more. An external keyboard controller may be connected via the MIDI I/O connections on the rear as well. Read more at Native Instruments


Livid Instruments | Ds1

The Ds1 MIDI mixer is a portable solution for computer-based mixing, production, and performance. This multi-purpose controller is a creative collaboration between Livid Instruments and Dubspot. This partnership was forged from a shared desire to bring a classic audio mixer design to the digital world. Ds1 works with any music production or DJ software that supports MIDI giving you a hands-on, dedicated controller for instant access to your mix, effects or instrument parameters. Ds1 is a versatile and portable controller that also offers templates for Ableton Live, Bitwig Studio, Logic, Traktor Pro, and more. Whether you are mixing in the studio, performing on stage, or traveling to a gig, the Ds1 is designed to fit into your setup and lifestyle. Read more at Livid Instruments


KORG | nanoKONTROL Studio

KORG’s nanoKONTROL Studio is a lightweight battery operated mobile MIDI controller that provides transport keys and a mixer section for ultimate control of any music production or DJ software that supports MIDI input. This ultra portable controller features a velocity sensitive keyboard, eight sliders, eight knobs, trigger pads, a Kaoss-style touchpad, LEDs, a convenient jog wheel, and more. Connect the nanoKONTROL Studio via USB or wirelessly with Bluetooth to iPhone/iPad or Mac/Windows for more music production freedom. Also included is the KORG KONTROL Editor software that allows users to freely customize the settings of their nanoKONTROL Studio. Read more at KORG


Akai | Professional MPC Studio Black

MPC Studio

The MPC Studio Music Production Controller fuses legendary MPC production with the processing power of your computer to give you creative, hands-on workflow. Its compact design is less than 1 inch thin and fits easily into a laptop bag or backpack for ultimate portability. Powered by USB, it features low-profile knobs and brushed aluminum body, and includes MPC Software for Mac and PC with 128-track sequencing capability. Style out with 16 backlit genuine MPC pads that brings legendary MPC workflow, MPC Swing, plus four touch-sensitive knobs providing enhanced MPC software control. Finally, a large LCD screen allows you to make tracks without having to look at your computer. Read more at Akai


Novation | Launchpad Pro

The Launchpad Pro is a MIDI controller and grid instrument that gives you the ability to create dynamic and expressive musical performances in Designed for Ableton Live, or any music software. The enhanced RGB LED backlit pads are velocity and pressure sensitive providing fluid expression and control over effects, instruments, and plugins to bring creativity to production and performance. The layout is designed to keep your focus on the performance by easily and immediately applying effects, changing between mixer controls, switching between four key modes, and even control external MIDI hardware. Read more at Novation


Arturia | BeatStep Pro

BeatStep Pro is a unique controller, performance sequencer, and composing tool. BeatStep Pro allows you to take full control of virtual devices, analog and digital instruments, drum machines, iPad apps, and more all at once. BeatStep Pro will supercharge your creative process on stage or in the studio. Two independent step sequencers and a separate drum sequencer make it a highly versatile, instantly variable creative tool. As a MIDI controller, it has a variety of customizable knobs, pads, and transport controls that are fully customizable using the included MIDI Control Center application. On the stage, BeatStep Pro offers three integrated sequencers and 16 Projects, each loaded with 16 sequences per sequencer, meaning you can bring thousands of ideas to the show. Read more at Arturia


Akai | Professional MPD232

Akai MPD232

The MPD232 is a MIDI-over-USB pad controller perfect for producers, programmers, musicians, and DJs alike. Its intuitive blend of MPC controls and technologies deliver the performance of a pad controller, the hands-on manipulation of a control surface, and the easy programming of a classic step sequencer. The MPD232 has an expanded control set featuring eight knobs, eight faders, eight buttons arranged in three banks for 72 total controls, and also boasts an all-new 64-channel, 32-step performance sequencer. Read more at Akai


Novation | Launch Control XL

The Launch Control XL is designed to integrate seamlessly with Ableton Live to give you total hands-on control. This portable controller helps you focus more on your music and less on your laptop by providing 16 multicolor buttons for various functions, eight faders to smoothly tweak track volume or other continuous parameters, and 24 knobs for instant access to sends, panning, and more. When combined with Launchpad’s intuitive 64-button grid, Launch Control XL provides extraordinary simultaneous control over Ableton Live’s session view, mixer, effects, and instruments. Read more at Novation

Akai | APC40 MKII

The APC40 mkII is a professional controller designed to integrate seamlessly with Ableton Live but has the ability to re-assign all controls for customized setups that work with other music software. This USB-powered controller features 40 clip-launch controls arranged into a 5 x 8 RGB clip-launching grid designed to launch clips and create or perform tracks, perfect for live performance or remixing. Nine assignable reinforced faders and eight assignable channel control knobs offer an intuitive layout and smarter workflow over a variety of functions. Eight Device Control knobs make it easy to tweak device parameters that light up to provide visual feedback of each parameter. In addition, a set of soft buttons gives you easy access to other essential controls making the APC40 MKII a powerful controller for both the studio and stage. Read more at Akai


Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

About This Program

At Dubspot our world-class instructors provide the most complete and cutting-edge Ableton Live learning experience. The Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program is the flagship of our music training. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

What’s Included

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music


  • Dubspot’s complete Ableton course load: six levels/48 class sessions
  • 132 hours of hands-on instruction
  • Additional lab hours to work on assignments in Dubspot’s onsite facilities
  • 24/7 access to Dubspot Online’s Ableton Live course videos
  • Access to the course videos for one year after course completion

Additional Information

Visit the Ableton Live course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.