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Novation Launchpad Ableton Live USB MIDI Controller review

Juno Plus casts an expert eye over the Novation Launchpad, the new MIDI controller intended for use with Ableton Live.

In the flesh the Launchpad is a simple, well-built controller with a total of 80 backlit rubberized buttons and rubberized feet so it doesn’t slip about while in use, a Kensington lock socket for security, and a USB socket for connecting to the computer.

The buttons either light up in amber (to show that the slot contains a clip), green (to show that the clip is playing), red (to show that the clip is recording) or no colour (to show that there are no tracks or scenes in that range).

The buttons look nice and the backlighting provides valuable information to what’s happening on-screen (they feel slightly sticky to the touch at first but this soon wears off).

Novation say that the Launchpad’s buttons can be used to sketch out beats with drum racks, however the fact that they aren’t velocity sensitive makes me think Akai’s MPD range , M-Audio’s Trigger Finger or Korg’s NanoPAD and PadKontrol controllers would be more suited to that particular task.

The Launchpad is USB bus-powered so it draws power from the computer and doesn’t require an adaptor to run – very useful.

Connection to the computer is via the included L-shaped USB cable, which is a welcome addition compared with the standard USB cable, which would inevitably stick out quite a way from the Launchpad and end up getting in the way.

In operation the Launchpad works seamlessly with Live, as you’d expect for a controller designed in conjunction with Ableton. The Launchpad can be used to control other functions in Live using Ableton’s ‘Learn’ mode as well as control almost any other music software using Novation’s award-winning ‘Automap’ control software.

The exclusion of knobs and faders does limit the Launchpad somewhat compared with Akai’s more complete APC40 Ableton Performance Controller, but for £149 compared with the pricier and less portable APC40 (£379), the Launchpad is definitely worth considering.

Review: Ben Daly

Learn more about the Novation Launchpad at Juno Records.