MPC Live 2 vs Push 3 Standalone (w/ Live Suite)

I really enjoy the tactile, hands-on nature of grooveboxes. At the same time, I want to make finished tracks in the end, not just jam live for the fun of it. Regardless of which groovebox I’m using, there’s always a point where I go from exploring and sketching, to transitioning into mixing and working on the final arrangement of a track.

The MPC Live 2 and the Push 3 (with Live Suite) are two of the most fully featured standalone grooveboxes and production centers out there. Ever since the Push 3 was announced, I’ve been hesitating between which of them to invest in. I’ve been using the MPCs (One and Live 2) for over two years, sold them earlier this year but just bought a Live 2 back last week (used market, so no financial losses yet) and I’m having fun with it. However, I have two main gripes with it and they’re essentially the reasons why I sold the MPC earlier this year:

  1. I still find the reverbs and some other effects to be a bit low quality and I don’t love to sketch a track and thinking in my head “this will sound better with a different reverb”. I just can’t dial in something with Air Reverb or any of the other ones that give me that atmospheric feeling I’m after in the kind of music I make. In theory this is fine because the idea is to export dry stems and do the final mix in the daw, but…

  2. …as much as the process of exporting audio stems and picking up the mixing process in my daw (currently Reason 10) works, I still don’t really enjoy that disruption of the flow. It feels like that workflow of aligning stems, naming tracks and re-doing some of the work you already did on the MPC to recreate the reverbs again in the daw is just tedious and a fun killer.

I continue to dream of a world where there is a completely seamless transition from sketching on a groovebox, where you can start a new embryo of a song with the perfect reverb tail, and then gradually transition to mixing and doing the final arrangement on the computer screen. And that world seems to exist with the Push + Live Suite combo.

Some pros/cons of both as I see it - would love to hear your take:

:+1: = pro
:-1: = con
:see_no_evil: = my personal gripes

MPC LIVE 2

  • :+1: Relatively affordable - a used MPC Live 2 typically costs less than a third of a Push 3 SE + Suite license combo.
  • :+1: Excellent battery life - I get around 4 hours of time on battery on average.
  • :+1: Smaller desktop footprint - both devices are rather large, but the Push no doubt takes up even more space on the desktop or (if you can stand the weight of it) your lap.
  • :+1: Made from the ground up for standalone use - you really can make fully finished tracks on it and it’s not marked as an “instrument” as an excuse for not having a proper arrangement mode. It comes with proper song mode and all the automation tools you need to finish tracks.
  • :+1: Easier sample/resample workflow - by the looks of it, this seems a bit more clunky on the Push where you need to sample onto an audio track rather than just sampling independently or straight to a drum pad.
  • :+1: Built-in monitors - They’re actually surprisingly useful to quickly get a feel for the levels of the elements of a track, and the kids love using it that way.
  • :-1: The soft synths and effects don’t sound all that great - they’re “fine”, but soft synths of modern DAWs are noticeably better sounding. Hype sound good, but it’s a limited and dumbed down preset synth on the MPC, and while TubeSynth sounds good for the bread and butter VA sounds, it doesn’t push you into more interesting sonic territories like wavetable, FM, granular etc. Also, the reverbs just don’t sound amazing compared to daw equivalents.
  • :-1: The actually good soft synths and plugins are expensive separate purchases - for “fun”, I added Jura, OPx4, Fabric collection, Mini D and some of the new effects to the shopping cart, and once you do, the price of them all plus an MPC Live 2 is actually higher than the Push 3 + Suite combo! Which to me is totally nuts.
  • :-1: No seamless transition from sketching to mixing - at some point, the audio export is inevitable and you need to then commit to printed stems in the daw to finish the mix. This means losing all the soft synth automation and having to rebuild any effect chains that you weren’t pleased with already, most likely including all reverbs. If you need to tweak something, you need to go back to the MPC software and do it over there and then re-export stems back into your daw of choice. All of this is doable, but it makes you spend more time on the MPC before exporting to make sure thighs are just right when you’re really ready for the mixing phase already.
  • :-1: Can’t easily run off of a powerbank - at 19V, it’s not PD compatible and you’ll need custom powerbanks and power cords to be on the safe side.
  • :see_no_evil: Less future proof - this is more of a me thing, but I suspect the MPC Live 2 won’t be Akai’s flagship product over the next 3 years compared to the Push 3. I wouldn’t be surprised if they release MPC 3.0 software along with a Live 3 launch, forcing people like me to either GAS or upgrade. In comparison, I feel pretty certain that Push 3 and Live 12 will not be replaced until 2027, so buying it now means I can future-proof for at least 3 years.

PUSH 3 + SUITE

  • :+1: Great synths included - wavetable, FM, virtual analog / subtractive, granular, excessive sample and instrument packs, all included with no need for separate purchases unless you really need it.
  • :+1: Great effects included - the reverbs on the MPC leave something to be desired, and I can’t imagine that being true with Ableton. No need to pay for separate purchases of reverbs, delays or other effects because you have all you need in Suite.
  • :+1: 64 MPE pads - maybe a marketing buzzword, but the Push 3 is arguably an instrument in its own right and I’m attracted to the idea of mastering how to play harmonies and melodies on those expressive pads.
  • :+1: Seamless transition from sketching to finishing a track - the idea of having a completely seamless transition between that almost-finished song to start the ‘proper’ mixing process in the daw is very compelling to me.
  • :+1: No real mixing limitations - I don’t advocate for serious mixing work while sketching, but there are some exceptions like getting the bass and kick to sit well in the mix because that sets the stage for everything else in my experience. Working on the overall levels and some eq is inevitable in the creation process for me, otherwise I won’t “feel” the groove. On the Push, you have everything you need to mix as you go, unlike the MPC which has arbitrary limitations like the number of mix buses or inserts you can use. For my kind of music, there’s always that one exception when I wish I had just a couple of more inserts on one of the return channels.
  • :+1: An actually useful step sequencer - looking at tutorials, it seems like a decent workflow that resembles the Elektron workflow to a degree. Having both the trig and notes available simultaneously looks super convenient when programming chord progressions and melodies, faster than even the Elektron workflow. In comparison, the MPC step sequencer is utterly underwhelming and I basically never use it. The MPC is all about playing things live.
  • :+1: Clip based workflow - this is a thing I don’t love about the MPC workflow, where each track is contained within a Sequence. You can’t easily mix and match to discover what combinations of drum energy works the best for a particular section of a song. On the Push, it seems very easy to discover which combinations work well together, similar to the MC-x0x which I enjoyed. Also, this leads to less sequencer data redundancy across multple sequences and less need for endless Copy Events dialogs and complex math to copy something from one part to another, which is a workflow killer on the MPC.
  • :+1: Usb-c powered and can run on a PD compatible 65W powerbank or Macbook Pro charger - this somewhat negates the issue below with the underpowered internal battery because there is no room in my house without a usb-c charger.
  • :-1: :-1: Ridiculously expensive - obviously this is the strongest con, especially for someone like me with no previous Ableton Live license. However the 20% off deal in November along with the promise of a free upgrade to Live 12 make the price tag somewhat less ridiculous. Buy once, cry once?
  • :-1: Mediocre battery life - if I understand correctly, you should be happy if you get about an hour of use unplugged.
  • :-1: Large and heavy - I have no problem sitting with the MPC Live 2 in my lap, but with the Push 3, I wonder if it’s going to feel a tad too heavy and/or warm?
  • :see_no_evil: Having to pay for and learn a new daw - not sure how big my appetite is for spending hundreds of euros and then hundreds of hours relearning things across both hardware and software. Perhaps Live is inferior in some ways to Reason 10, like when it comes to mixing? Not sure I fully understand the pros/cons there.

What is your perspective on this and which platform would you choose?

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Get a 30 day Live trial. Use that and only that for 30 days and then decide?

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I am facing a similar dilemma, albeit with choosing between committing to the Push 2 already in my possession and an MPC One that I could pick up for pretty cheap. They are both so similar yet so different.

What helps the MPC workflow, IMO, is its high-res screen that shows a lot of information at once. You can move around easily, edit notes. We say we don’t want a DAW-like experience in standalone, yet, sometimes, that’s what we need.

Nudging notes around on a Push screen is tedious! So is scrolling through pages of parameters. The Push screen sucks (low res, some parameter names have to be shortened to things like PE R < V, standing for Pitch Envelope Rate modulated by Velocity…) Dialing in sounds is not very fun on the Push. On an MPC, the Q-links are also a bit awkward to use. No silver bullet.

So, after several days of craving an MPC One, I am beginning to realize that I am just GASing. I already have Live 11 Suite and Push 2. They are beautiful tools. I can appreciate them when I am able to quiet the GAS voice in my head. It wouldn’t make sense for me to jump into AKAI’s ecosystem of hardware, software, and plugins because it gives me some vague sense that it will somehow make me more productive, creative, fulfilled, …? Who am I kidding?

So now I tell myself to embrace the wonderful tools Ableton has given us. They are a solid brand/company, they provide long-term support for their products (my Push 2 is still working perfectly, you have the option to upgrade a Push 3 to standalone, or you can put in a better processor in the future), they give us HW/SW workflow continuity, they give us powerful tools, they give us the ability to run 3rd party VSTs in controller mode within Live. All this comes at a reasonable price (unless you are buying Live Suite and Push 3 Standalone all in one go, in which case, good luck to you!). I’ve been an Ableton Live user for almost a decade now. In this time I’ve upgraded maybe twice, and bought a Push 2 secondhand for not much. This is a lot of bang for buck.

I think, if you are already committed to Ableton’s ecosystem, it doesn’t make sense to also go AKAI if your goal is to finish music (play, exploration, and fun – that’s a different story). So might as well get a Push 2 or 3 to squeeze even more potential out of Ableton Live. If you are already on team AKAI, maybe it makes sense to continue to invest into their platform, buy their better plugins, upgrade to the next MPC device when it comes out, use their desktop MPC software to finish tracks, etc.

In the end, the tool that will cut through workflow blocks is the tool we master, no matter what logo is on its box.

Question: What’s the screen like on the Push 3? Is it high-res or still the same as Push 2?

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You might want to add Maschine+ to this list ^^

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Not to this list because I want this thread to compare the MPC against the Push. I have no interest in Maschine+ but I agree it’s in the similar category of standalone, full-featured production-friendly grooveboxes.

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For your particular situation I think Push+Live is the best you can find on the market right now.

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Let’s see then, in total we would need

  • MPC vs Push (this thread)
  • MPC vs Maschine+
  • Push vs Maschine+
  • Push vs Maschine+ Vs MPC in addition to those 3 ?

(don’t anybody mention Akai Force).

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I know the topic is MPC Live 2 vs Push 3, but if you are currently working in Reason 10, try the 30 day Ableton trial and see if you like working in it. A month is too short, but at least try it. I don’t use it anymore but I know it’s very likely still the number one DAW on the market. Personally, I would never buy a DAW before trying it out.

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If the OP has narrowed his personal choice to those two devices there isn’t any ‘need’ to include the M+ or anything else… ‘have you thought about the Maschine+?’ is more than valid IMO… but, as we all know, people tend to get overly tribal about their choice of device, so introducing the Force tribe, and the M+ tribe, to the mix is only going to go one way… :upside_down_face:

Personally, I did a trade and took in an M+ recently, whilst I had MPC’s and a Push 3 Standalone, because I was curious… I use Traktor and have an S4 mk3 that I really like, so the prospect of creating loops/parts in Maschine and being able to drop into Traktor was appealing… but, the M+ has just sat in it’s box because I could feel it pulling me into an NI Eco system I have no interest in, I didn’t want/don’t have the time to invest to learn it, and, I much prefer the MPC and Ableton approach.
That’s not to say I don’t understand/appreciate that it works for a lot of people, and could no doubt work for me if I wanted it to.

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Sorry, it was only an observation. I wasn’t necessarily trying to get the OP to change his mind.

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IMO they’d probably make it so the devices can still upgrade to MPC3.0 but you’d run into processor/memory limitations as you use more of the features. The DLC stuff is likely too lucrative to cut off the existing user base from the ones they add in V3.0.

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I owned an MPC Live and sold it, now have Push 3 standalone. Nothing wrong with the MPC, good free updates, good hardware, well priced….i just never really got on with the MPC workflow. It’s just a personal thing. PUSH 3 is worth twice the price of the MPC in my opinion, it’s an expressive MPE instrument with amazing self contained drums, synths and fx…and if you use Live an amazing controller a# well!

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Out of curiosity, where you already an Ableton Live user by the time you got the Push?

Do you have a live lite license to test Ableton, they come with everything(at least they use to)

I think Koala has a free lite version when purchasing the app as well. Also may help with the upgrade path pricing.

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Certainly in my paid-for Koala there’s a menu option “Get Live Lite”

EDIT: If you really haven’t already got a free live lite licence in anything, Koala is just $5.

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Yes, and had a PUSH 2 so zero learning curve. Loved the MPC hardware (especially the speaker) just didn’t like the NOC workflow and ultimately that’s what made me pick PUSH 3.

Yeah, this is the sound advice and I actually have a trial license for Suite and the clock is ticking. But I am a bit more interested in the feel of the hardware workflow than the comparison between Reason and Live (that would be a separate thread, probably). So it’s more about the viability of the Push 3 as a standalone song writing tool, because I’m sure I can learn Live in the end, and if I commit to the purchase, I’d clearly have all the incentive to invest the time to make that happen. :joy::see_no_evil:

Basically, is the Push 3 straightforward to write a full song on? Can you stitch together “scenes” of clips to form the full song along with automation on plugins? And is the workflow fun and fast? All compared to the MPC.

Oddly I fit in the category of having both right for now. I’m on the fence about keeping either, but for long-term keep-age, the Live 2 is currently winning.

Everyone has their own list of caveats for what fits their workflow, but for me primarily there are only 2. Portability and least-path-of-resistance in actually creating a track. The MPC lineup is just so well evolved as a groove box, that it’s obviously going to perform better here. Say what you will about some of the clunky paths to do things like step-sequencing etc, but it works with little to no resistance if you gel with the workflow.

The P3SA (specifically in sa-mode), does have some great methods to get a song writing skeleton built, the pads and mpe are nifty too. But it comes down to basics of getting sounds into, and out of the unit. Something must be plugged into it to compete against L2 in a fair fight.

Because of those 2, the Live 2 should be a no brainer. The speakers, familiarity, breadth of knowledge base available and ultimately, the IO. Nothing I know of on the market can beat the L2.

But, I want the Push 3 SA to win. Because of its higher audio quality and compatibility to move to a mastering stage, the final output will always sound more dynamic and flavourful. Also, this is to admit as well, that I only have the base Ableton Lite license too. Pounding another cost for Suite is just ridiculous to me for now. The software limitations of Lite seems like heavy handed gate-keeping that will hurt sales for the unit.

When it comes down to actually making music, they go hand-in-hand together so well I’ll probably end up hoarding both of them. But if the P3 doesn’t end up getting USB audio IO, or a VST-like interface to produce per-track audio from external boxes like the L2, Elektron, etc, it will always be one step out the door.

If I hadn’t have picked up the P3sa from a heavy buyers remorse seller who needed the money, I doubt I’d have it now.

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That’s a fair point. And it’s also part of what I dislike about the MPC, they really want you to pay a lot of money for the synths and effects and without them it’s not the complete experience. The flagship synths and instrument collections alone (Jura, OPx4, etc) cost more than the MPC Live 2 itself, even at the currently discounted prices.

At that point, I’m thinking it starts to make more sense to just pay for the Suite license because with that I’d have all the synths I need (really, I’m not into the VST GAS at all and don’t plan to ever be).

Is this not easy on the Push? I find it a bit tedious on the MPC too fwiw. They are missing such obvious features like making the physical Erase button actually erase selected notes in the piano roll, and more often than not, a swipe to select notes won’t catch all notes near the edge of the screen and/or cause it to scroll insanely fast. Also, it won’t automatically show the part of the piano roll where the notes are. If you programmed notes between C5-G5, it might still show you octaves C2-C4 on the screen when you jump to the piano roll.

It’s like Akai never bother to actually do a QoL release and fix some of the most painfully obvious omissions. All they focus in now is to sell plugins, seemingly. At least Ableton is honest about being thiefs by asking you to pay all the cash upfront. :joy: