The TouchOSC iPad app is ¥600 and the Livecontrol app that runs on the host computer is a free download, as are the Livecontrol templates.
In their own words: LiveControl is a MIDI remote script that allows full control of Ableton Live with an iPad or iPod Touch wirelessly using TouchOSC.
It provides full automapping of the majority of useful parameters within Ableton Live without needing MIDI mapping.
LiveControl currently supports Ableton Live 8 and upwards on Mac OSX and Windows.
Features: It has seven discreet screens — a clip launch grid, a mixer, device controls, a sequencer, XY Pads, Drum Pads, and Keys — giving near complete control over Ableton Live and Ableton Live devices (including third party plug-ins.)
The software is bi-directional so clip names. track names, names of devices and so on are clearly displayed in the interface.
Everything is high contrast and easy to see and navigation cues are clearly marked and intuitive.
Set Up: The software takes some time to set up/sync but the instructions are fairly easy to follow and once done everything works as stated.
Issues: As with many controllers of late a whole lot of features are crammed into a very small space and this leads to a very linear, one at a time process of performing, Flipping like mad through screens to access certain parameters and having to dig deep through menu screens to get to where I want to control is distracting and confusing at times.
(This is purely a contrast with my own performance needs though and not a fault of the software itself at all. I want to be able to sweep a filter, launch a clip, drop an EFX simultaneously while adding delay to something else and also juggling five chainsaws. The drum pads and keys do allow for a certain amount of modularity in this regard but the multiple screens do hinder how I prefer to perform for now.)
Another thing, when moving, renaming or adding clips and tracks in Ableton the clip launch screen on the iPad doesn’t refresh until you navigate away and back to it. This is not so bad in and of itself but it does seem to be correlated to the sudden quits I experience when I use the app as a studio/remix tool (controlling Ableton in a “studio” rather than a “Live” aspect) and it doesn’t seem to like that too much.
It seems that when too much activity is happening on the Ableton side of the equation, especially when moving or editing clips in rapid succession in clip view, the app running on the host computer will unexpectedly quit.
This is not such a big issue for studio work (I just restart it on both the iPad and the Mac with no harm to my current Live Set) but it does have me concerned that during a live show there is a potential for a sudden quit if I dare touch or move clips around in Ableton itself.
As is often the case with these kinds of glitches it has been difficult for me to replicate, though it must be pointed out that I am using the app in a way that it was not really intended for and I haven’t encountered these sudden quits when just using Livecontrol as a controller in a performance situation.
Thoughts: I have not worked with any controller, soft or otherwise, that works as well as this from the get go. It is simply amazing and borders on magic for me. The integration is seamless and sublime and an incredible feeling of living in the future now wells up inside me every time I fire the app up.
Hexler has done a fantastic job of combining functionality with cool design and it definitely enhances the experience. When I use the app I genuinely feel like a commander at the controls of an interstellar Starship.
If this is the calibre of where we start from with wireless control I am very excited about the future of this technology.
More Controller Reviews:
I invested in an iPad because after an exhaustive search I simply could not find a ”hardware” controller that satisfied my needs as a live performer.
In my live set I already use two Novation Remote Zero SLs controlling Ableton Live and I wanted to get a separate clip launcher without needing to take up any more space than I already do. I also like to have dedicated controls for each function in my set because I do a lot of simultaneous manipulations across multiple tracks and a lot of the newer controllers I looked at don’t seem to cater to this way of working.
It is for this reason that I am not a big fan of the Akai APC40 and the Novation Launchpad. They rely on multiple layers to access devices/features and have these one-at-a-time device-you-are-looking-at-now controls that make controlling effects across multiple devices and tracks awkward and unintuitive for me.
I am also amazed that neither support velocity sensitivity on their pads and buttons, and their overtly plug in and play feature, particularly that hideous Automap software, drives me nuts. (Anyone who knows how to disable it completely on the Zero SL please let me know.)
These kinds of controllers are squarely aimed at the bedroom DJ/Producer market and will clearly be obsoleted by newer versions of themselves in the months to come so I found myself at a loss for what to do until someone suggested I get an iPad.
Now I am not ashamed to admit I had my eye and dreams on the JazzMutant Lemur Interface for years and when Apple announced the iPad my very first thought was, wow a Lemur for a fifth of the price, but for some reason I just couldn’t get my head around what an iPad actually was and what is was good for, until I saw the apps being developed for music software control.
I am not an early adopter, I like to leave the line waiting and the bug battles to those who care more deeply about that kind of thing so a lot of the software I am talking about here is not necessarily new or revolutionary, it is just software I have tried out since getting the iPad and some of it has left me disinterested and a little confused and some of it has simply blown me away, inspiring and enabling new interactions with my software and instruments and opening up a whole new level to my live performances and studio production.
I hope these insights assist you in making a decision on which app best suits your setup.