Tech Review – Erik Pettersson road tests the LK Live Controller for Ableton Live

LK – Live Controller (formerly known as LIVKONTROL) is an iOS and Android controller for Ableton Live. It comes as a free version with in-app purchases to unlock additional features. It requires an Apple iPad on iOS 7+ or an Android 7” or bigger (one of the few Live controllers available for Android) and works with both Ableton Live 8 and 9 (more features enabled for Live 9) on both Windows (7 & 8) and Mac OSX (10.7 or later). It can also work as a regular MIDI controller for other hardware using a MIDI interface like the iRig MIDI 2 or iConnectMidi 2+. ! ! To get the LK app connected to Live you also need to install their ‘server’ software LKBRIDGE which is a free download from their website

Once you’ve installed and setup LKBRIDGE and updated your preferences in Live to use the LK app as a controller you then select the computer to connect with in the settings on the LK app. One cool thing is that the LK controller works both over a WIFI connection but also with a direct link using your standard iPad cable connected directly to your computer. This method is preferred as the latency is lower and less prone to interference and lag.

LK – Live Controller is divided into 4 major sections: MATRIX, MIDI PADS, MIDI CONTROLLER and X/Y PAD. The MATRIX section is the meat of the application, replicating the Live matrix view with clips triggering, scene triggering, solo & mute as well as volume and pan control per channel. The MATRIX view also sports a nudge back and forward feature, loop toggle, metronome toggle, overdub and undo/redo buttons. In the settings section of the app you can also scale the size of the channels from very small to very large view which is a great feature when you want to swap from a larger overview mode to a more detailed view. The MATRIX view can also toggle showing the return channels as well as a crossfader (mapped to Live’s crossfader) and mute/solo buttons. Pressing the (i) button in the lower right corner slides up another view where you can swap between DEVICE view where you can edit parameters on the devices in the Live chain. This does not seem to work at all with 3rd party plugins even if you do a Live mapping of parameters on the device (something I would love to see in an update).

Next is the SENDS section where you can change the amount of each send on the selected channel. Finally is the COMPOSER section which is a complete MIDI editor for the selected Live clip. Here you edit the notes, change velocity, toggle looping on and off, extend of half the clip size, zoom in and out. This section can also be expanded to show a larger view with more devices to edit simultaneously or get a bigger view when editing MIDI. Since the look of the MATRIX view is very similar to Live’s own view you feel quite at home right away and get a quick understanding of whats going on and how to use it.

Next up is the MIDI PADS section which has an MPC style layout with 16 large pads you can use to lay down melodies or beats in realtime. The MPC pads can be tweaked with velocity depending on how close to the centre you hit the pad. The section also has a basic arpegiator with ‘steps’, ‘rate’, ’gate’ and ‘sync’ settings. On top of that there is also a handy ‘chorder’ section allowing you to play chords using only one note. Currently there are 24 chord varieties you can select from but the dev’s could easily extend that with an update.The MIDI CONTROLLER section is a 128 controls programmable MIDI controller divided into 4 banks. Each bank has 8 rotary knobs, buttons, sliders and pads. You can assign any MIDI CC message to these to control your devices. Once setup for your track its great to use when using the LK controller app in a live environment instead of having an additional midi controller. Setting the various connections are easy, just select click ‘learn’ select the controller you want to learn on and move the control on you Live device or VST plugin to link them.

Finally the X/Y PAD section is composed of four banks of three mappable parameters: X, Y, Z, additionally there is one ASR envelope generator that can control the Z axis and an LFO for automated X & Y modulation. Similarly to the MIDI CONTROLLER section you link the parameters the same way. The X/Y PAD also has the ability to hold the last value you triggered in the X/Y pad, another handy feature when using the app live if using it to drive FX sends.! ! Conclusion! With the various sections being enabled as in-app purchase you can pick and choose what modules you want to use and purchase. It also opens up a long time support for the app as new modules can become available to buy without forcing users to buy a whole new version of the app. In-app purchasing is all the rage now and we are most likely going to be the way forward for most apps.

All in with all the modules it comes to $22.50 which is a about $10+ cheaper than comparable products like touchAble or Conductr. For me the app crashed or quit unexpectedly a few times while trying it out but overall it has worked great, its easy to use and intuitive. For Android there aren’t that many choices out there as there are for iOS so the developers definitely has a leg up there. I highly recommend you trying LK out if you are a Live user and all modules will work for 15 minutes giving you the chance to try them all out before deciding which modules you want to purchase. The ability to swap between ‘Live’ mode and ‘MIDI’ mode is another great feature that extends the usage of the app even more, you can even combine them so the MATRIX & X/Y PAD views are operating in ‘Live’ mode while MIDI CONTROLLER is working in ‘MIDI’ mode controlling additional hardware.!

About the Author

Sweden’s Erik Pettersson is better known as DJ/producer Sonic Union, one half of prolific progressive house pair Bastards of Funk and Sonic Union and co-founder, label owner and manager of Lowbit Records.