Only a few short years ago, touchAble came onto the market and blew us all away. The idea of controlling Ableton Live from across the room without a hard-wired MIDI controller was brand new at the time, and the elegance with which touchAble packed so much content into a compact and beautiful app made it the gold standard to which all other iPad/Ableton apps are compared. The brand new touchAble 2 takes what worked in the original, adds some great new functionality, and gives everything a brand new coat of polish in what may be the new crown jewel of the mobile Live-control market.
Setup and mastery of touchAble 2 is perhaps the most difficult part of the process. Mac users have got it made; only a few clicks and the touchAble communication is set up between your computer and the iPad. For Windows, things are only slightly more complicated, especially with Windows 8 which requires you to do some command-prompt chicanery to get a wireless connection going. Once everything is all set up, users may be overwhelmed by touchAble’s many buttons and controls – but trust me, you’ll come to love them all. While touchAble does have a bit of a learning curve, the most basic functions are readily intuitive. The touchAble website also has an extremely comprehensive video series which details almost every feature the app contains in great detail. I found those videos extremely helpful, though I had to re-watch more than one to really nail down the details.
The genius of the touchAble interface is its fluid modularity, allowing for users to take up half or all of the screen with any given working module. These modules include the clip launcher, mixer, device viewer, keyboards/drum pads, and an X-Y parameter control pad. The clip launcher and mixer are fairly straightforward – you’ve seen them before in Live, and not much changes when translated to the iPad. The device manager allows you to view and even manipulate parameters of the audio effects and MIDI instruments assigned to each track in Live, or to do cool things like momentarily bypass or enable effects at the touch of a finger. The keyboard also is fairly straightforward, though I find its smart chord-making matrix to be pretty helpful. The drum pad takes advantage of touchAble’s Live browser function (you can flip through all of Live’s audio plugins, your VSTs, and even your computer’s audio clips right from within touchAble’s UI!) by allowing you to drag and drop samples into drum pads on the fly. The X-Y pad is also useful in that it allows you to control four pairs of parameters at one time – that’s 8 faders or knobs! touchAble 2 can also be run on as many iPads as you want simultaneously, allowing for enhanced control of multiple modules and multiple devices all at once.
touchAble 2 has way more features than I could possibly hope to cover in one sitting (check out touchAble’s video series for a more comprehensive list), but as an overall review I can say that my experience learning new things and live-jamming with myself and a friends was overwhelmingly positive. Sure, sometimes the amount of activity on the screen can almost be a little too much, and in some cases overcrowding makes pushing the right button difficult, but touchAble makes provisions for this by allowing you to zoom in and out on features in most of the modules. In 2010, touchAble set the standard with a killer app which has held strong for many years. The revamped touchAble 2 keeps what made the original so special and adds a new level of professionalism and utility with its polished looks and enhanced modular design. Wireless and compact, this may be the greatest Ableton aid known to man.