The new Push represents a technological leap forward for Ableton, both in terms of its independent, upgradeable Intel-based architecture and its new pad sensor technology. I had a chance to talk to the folks at Ableton about some of these details, and how the hardware has evolved. We also have some early answers for those curious about gear delivery or development in Max for Live.
New pillow sensors
I really can’t overstate this enough – the sensors on the new Push are incredible. They trace the fingers. They deal with triaxial expression. You can play on the grid, but you can also convincingly crouch between pitches and play continuously – while every other MPE I’ve played tends to perform one well and the other poorly.
It’s good enough that it’s entirely possible to recommend the new push for its MPE capabilities alone.
I asked Jesse Terry from Appleton about the on-board sensors:
We have two layers of sensors, one for force and one for finger position. We use contactless inductive sensors. It is proprietary and designed/patented by Oliver Harms and Ralf Suckow. X/Y is continuous and we can for example sense between the pads. There is a lot we can do as these pads move forward.
And yes, while support for Max for Live is still evolving (see below), the ability to eventually target this console as a Max developer is huge.
On the current devices tested, there is no user mode – this is the custom control layout as found in Push 1 and 2. I’m keen to try this out, as the new sensor opens up interesting possibilities for different layouts. It’s coming soon, though there’s a button dedicated to it at the top left. (I have to acknowledge the rectangle and the arc which I didn’t know at first to mean “used”, but they are there).
ADAT digital input/output
This specification came as a pleasant surprise – it stands for multi-channel digital inputs and outputs. And yes, it’s an optical transmission — that’s the red light you see. (Check out Pro Tools’ expert for history and tech rundown if you don’t know ADAT, and be prepared to take on Alesis, VHS, and the ’90s.)
ADAT in the new Push system offers 8 plugins and 8 outputs, in addition to your existing I/O. That brings the total to 10 inputs x 14 outputs (2 outputs, 4 CV outputs on the pedal, 2 inputs).
These inputs and outputs are available to your computer, and can also be handled in standalone mode. This means that you can also use ADAT for additional control over the modules’ CV, as with the Datanoise hack.
USB host port
There is also a USB-A port that acts as a host. Any USB MIDI Class device works. Includes existing consoles with Ableton Live support. Got Akai APC or Novation LaunchControl? I haven’t tested them yet, but in theory you could plug them into the port and they would act as controllers directly. The same goes for any keyboard or controller with driverless class support. (I haven’t yet gotten to the question of how Live console scripts work on the device, but we can come back to that).
USB host support also means compatibility with devices such as the Expert Sleepers FH-2 for additional module control and calibration.
The USB host port does not support USB audio or other USB devices (such as a joystick), but the device is running Linux, so who knows what might come in the future.
There is also no storage support – yet. This means that you are limited to an internal SSD of 256GB. This part will be upgradable, however, again, since Linux supports mass storage possible in the future.
What about sharing groups?
As long as the new push is in standalone mode and on the same wifi network, you can transfer combos (and sounds) between the device and the computer.
Ableton points out that you can transfer an entire group using these groups. MIDI controller mappings are designed to move your computer into push-independent mode – so you can use them with dedicated controllers connected to this USB port. LFOs and Envelope mappings work too.
It also means that you can do the preset on a PC, where things like managing clips, names, and samples are easier, and then clutter-free on the device.
Freeze is your friend – it allows you to exchange groups with plugins, either with other users without those plugins or on standalone machines.
Hopefully we will eventually see group sharing between devices as we currently do in Ableton Note (via Cloud option) and Ableton Push (standalone, via Wifi). It’s great functionality, great for navigating between sites or collaborating.
One very nice and useful touch – Push will automatically generate memorable group names if you don’t provide one yourself. This saves you from either navigating groups like Untitled 11 or creating the name on the wheel.
Hardware and sustainability
I heard Head of Appliance Jesse Terry talk about sustainability in a talk last year at Berkeley College, where I’m also a senior. So I asked how this might affect existing hardware. Jesse answers:
We spend a lot of time taking sustainability into account in our design, product, lifespan and packaging. Since 2013 or so, we’ve been doing a life cycle analysis (LCA) of each propulsion component, and we’ve tried a lot of materials, some that didn’t work for one reason or another (stability, injectability), and many that did, especially in the packaging. This is also a factor in how we choose the factory we work with.
The most important factor for sustainability in hardware as I understand it is making sure it has a long life, and doesn’t go quickly to a landfill. So I think having upgradeable components is probably the best thing we’ve done in Push 3. We intend to support it for a long time, and hope this helps the product grow in the future if/when Live 16 or something requires more processing power. This also applies to Push 2, and we want to make sure that Push 2 is kept up to date as well.
There are some other considerations for the battery and processor; I will share more when we learn about it. The battery is lithium iron phosphate specifically, not lithium ion – which is much safer to dispose of and can be recharged further.
See more information about the upgrade kit, along with its FAQ:
Max Direct Development
Joshua Kit Clayton from Bicycling ’74 was incredibly helpful answering my questions about Max for Live support on the new platform. An official developer guide will be released soon, but in the meantime, some early answers.
Installed push devices should appear in the correct bank, provided they have been configured by the developer and installed in the user’s library, and with the parameters set too (for 8 encoders). They won’t always work without a mod, though that support is coming – see below.
What works on the new hardware?
Most patches will actually work – except for a few external objects and elements, as well as large libraries like Jitter. Objects can be a problem – Microtuner doesn’t work yet, for example, because it’s used externally to load Scala files. (I’ll definitely get involved when they have this working; I’m excited to give it a try.)
There is enough support that you can easily try adding a device to a group to see what happens. If it doesn’t work, you’ll see a message saying “This device contains missing or incompatible Max objects.” Please contact the device developer for more information.
The majority of devices that don’t rely on Jitter, Java, Mira, or third-party third-party devices should be running Push 3 at launch.
– hi object for human input devices like game console
– Serial object to communicate with devices via serial bus
I’m actually curious if this could eventually be added to a USB host port, even if that takes a lot.
What about RNBO?
Very hidden in today’s push, Ableton Live 11.3.1 quietly bundles the RNBO – 74 new cycling library to target a lot of different devices. This is relevant for all users, not just those with the new Push.
RNBO support is not currently working on new Push devices today as I write this, but it is coming soon. From Joshua:
With Live 11.3.1, RNBO will be bundled and supported in Live both on desktop and in standalone mode. In order to save patches and/or modified RNBO devices one would need a full license of Max 8 and RNBO, but already composed devices using rnbo~ must be running under Max for Live.
This is a change since the last time I spoke about RNBO in Live:
Users will no longer need to indicate a separate Max installation. Everything else should remain the same – ie RNBO patches will compile and run without a Max and RNBO license, saving patches to build new devices with RNBO will require a Max and RNBO license (free to edit and explore, but no saving without the add-on license) .
It’s early days for that, but of course I’m excited to see where this goes.
A word from Cycling ’74 – and the reason I’m sharing these details with our Max Developers readers – is to try things out and provide feedback on what works. Since not everyone will have access to the devices, I’ll keep you posted when more information becomes available, so you can be sure your devices will work even if you don’t have one to test.
See this space.
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