How to use Koala Sampler with Ableton Push Standalone via ADAT

I might finally have solved the perfect idea-machine setup, using Koala Sampler hooked up to the Ableton Push 3, for perfect back-and forth sampling and grooving.

Koala might be the best sampler on any platform, hardware or software. Start it up, and you see 16 empty pads, plus a few controls. Tap a pad to record into it, then tap again to play whatever you recorded. That’s it!

You can also sequence those samples, edit the sounds, and add performance effects as you go. It’s so fast and immediate to use, that even when I just launch it to check out something in its settings, I end up making some kind of groove that makes me dance.

But Koala isn’t Ableton. It has no synths, and its FX are basic. I’ve struggled for ages to get the two to work together seamlessly, and nothing has ever really stuck.

For example, I tried connecting the iPad to my Mac (running Ableton) via the built-in iDAM connection, but it only works one-way for audio, from the iPad into the Mac, so no sampling. Plus, you have to enable iDAM every time you connect the two devices.

Then I tried using an iConnect audio interface, which lets you connect two devices via USB at the same time, and send pristine digital audio back and forth. It was ok, but clunky, and I never really took to it.


Then I got the Push 3. It’s amazing in all sorts of ways, and one of those ways is that it has optical ADAT connections. This means that it can be an audio interface to a Mac, but also connect digitally to another device simultaneously.

After thinking about this for quite a while, I ordered an MCH Streamer from MiniDSP. It’s a little box that converts USB to ADAT. In my case, I connect it via USB to my iPad, and connect its ADAT ports to the Push. This gives me 8 mono channels in each direction (or four stereo).

The beauty of this is that there is, as far as I can tell, zero latency. If I sync the Koala and the Push via Ableton Link (over Wi-Fi), I can play them both in perfect sync, and record loops and samples back and forth.

The audio routing is simple and easy. I have a return track in Ableton, with an External Effect device on it. This device outputs on the Push’s channels 9+10 (which are actually tracks one and two on the ADAT box, thanks to the way Live orders its outputs).

I have the same External Effect device set to receive audio from Koala.

To send audio to Koala, all I have to do is use the send knob on any Live track to send it to the Koala return track. That’s it. Likewise, if I want to record stuff coming back from Koala, I just create an audio track and use the Koala send track as its input.

I have this as a part of my default set on the Push, so it’s always ready to go. The beauty of this is that it just works. I configured it once, and now, whenever I’m using the Push (or Ableton), I just have to connect the iPad to the ADAT box with the USB cable.

It’s transformed how I make music. Live is amazing, but quickly sampling into it isn’t easy. You have to record a clip, then convert it to a Simpler, and so on. With Koala, you just hold down a pad for the duration. And because the connection is all digital, I’m not losing anything, quality-wise. Not that this would matter in my music anyway, where I often sample through piezo mics and fuzzboxes, but still.

If you have a Push and love Koala, I highly recommend giving this a go. The streamer box isn’t cheap, unless you’re in the U.S. where the company is based, but it’s totally worth it.


6 responses to “How to use Koala Sampler with Ableton Push Standalone via ADAT”

  1. Woah. This blew my mind. I’ve had struggles with latency recording into Push 3 via 1/4″. I’m not a Koala head but i’ll be giving this a try.

    I’m assuming you’re using the “jailbreak” for the Push for the default set, or is that a template you load?

    Thanks for putting this together!

    1. I’m assuming you’re using the “jailbreak” for the Push for the default set, or is that a template you load?

      Exactly. I used this guide on the Ableton forums to add an SSH key to the Push, so I could add a default set.

      Unlock Push 3 – change collection names, default tracks, USB and more

      The nice thing is that once you add a default set, you don’t need to go into the Linux terminal again. You just drag a set over in Ableton and rename it to have the same name as the old one. I.e. you overwrite it.

      Let us know if you try this!

  2. @charliesorrel great tip with the USB-ADAT adapter. Expect it to work perhaps with other iPad apps as well. Would be a cool way to bring AU effects into the Push workflow…

  3. It works with AUM too. In that case, you can access all of the stereo inputs and outputs.

    If you want to use MIDI though, you’ll need another cable and probably an adapter. Bluetooth MIDI adapters for the Push should work.

    1. @charliesorrel yeah. Got excited for a brief moment there about using AU instruments, but then realised there’s only one usb capable port on the iPad…

      1. @jakobbak @charliesorrel If you have Ableton running then Bluetooth midi is fine, although I don't like having to open a separate app to connect it every time.

        The iPad could really do with some extra ports though. Even if it's just MagSafe for charging.