Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017: Still Relevant?

Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017: Still Relevant?

Novation has been at the forefront of electronic music production for quite some time and they almost stole the show with their first attempt at a mini keyboard. The second version is what sequels are meant to be, just like first except 100 times better. They’ve excelled with their MPC drum pads, launch controllers, and the various synthesisers but their range of keyboards is what sets them apart. The LaunchKey Mini is by far their most portable and compact MIDI keyboard controller to date.

It was tailor-made to suit Ableton Live but it can still be integrated to work on many of the most popular Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) on the market, including FL Studio, Pro Tools, Reason, Cubase, Logic and even Magix Music Maker. It’s a strong competitor with its incredible value for money and is a far cheaper alternative to the Ableton Push 2 when it comes to getting a controller dedicated to the software. So, for any veteran producer looking to pick up an affordable on-the-go keyboard or anybody looking to buy their first MIDI controller, here’s my Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review.


Product: Novation LaunchKey Mini MKIINovation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017 - HowToMakeHip-Hop.com

Price: $99.99

Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com 

Operating System: Windows and Mac OS

Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars (Based on 173 ratings)


What Can It Do?

The LaunchKey Mini is the definition of Plug-in and Go…after you take the time to register your product on their website that is. Be prepared to do this to get the included software as well if you don’t already have a DAW. Now, they may have designed this controller to integrate perfectly with Ableton Live but doesn’t mean you need to replace the one you’re using. It’s just that this DAW, in particular, has a unique layout courtesy of its ‘Session view’ and its interesting ability to launch and audition clips without skipping a beat.

That’s where this nifty keyboards main feature comes into play. There are 16 velocity-sensitive pads at your disposal and they can be used to trigger your preloaded clips or to get a beat going with some traditional finger-drumming. Tap out your drum pattern while simultaneously adding synth all from the pads alone, it’s really up to you. Each pad lights up as well to indicate when you have a clip loaded, playing or recording.

Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017 - HowToMakeHip-Hop.com

Besides That…

The 25 Mini keys are smaller than your regular size keyboard (hence the word ‘mini’) so they’ll be a bit of a challenge if you’re stepping down from the full-sized deal. Even for the beginner, it may take a few hours to get the hang of it but they’re still very usable. The 8 knobs are completely re-assignable and can be used to tweak your instruments and effects however you please with precision.

Using them on a non-Ableton DAW may take a bit of technical support as you map each control but again, it shouldn’t deter from picking one up for your favourite software. You’ve also got Octave Up and Down buttons as well as 4 more for easy track and scene navigation through your Ableton Live session.

 

What Can’t It Do?

You notice how I keep mentioning Ableton? Well, that’s the downside this controller. It’s really the only program that’s going to squeeze every drop of value out of your purchase and that kind of sucks. No controller is perfect and the LaunchKey Mini is no exception. The thing that I can’t get over is the fact that there’s no pitch or modulation control, which is practically standard these days. No matter how slick my Ableton skills are, there’s no denying the versatility you miss out on without these kinds of controls on deck.

 

A common complaint that I’ve seen is that of the keys and the amount of action they have. I know it’s only a mini keyboard but their key component should be a little more responsive. It does boast an app that you can download from the Apple App Store to operate the launchpad from your iPhone or iPad but turns out that without a Camera Connection or lightning to USB camera adapter, it’s pretty useless so…wharp-wharp.

Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017 - HowToMakeHip-Hop.com

Extra Sauce?

Besides the launchpad app, the LaunchKey Mini comes with a lot of downloadable extras like the Novation Bass Station, a great plugin that retails for almost $70 alone, and V-Station virtual instruments. And since this controller was made to favour one DAW, in particular, they’ve included Ableton Live Lite. A stripped down version of the software that gives you enough of the basics to get you started. Once you have your controller registered you can download the Addictive Keys plugin. Pick from Modern Upright, Studio Grand, Electric Grand or Mark one, on the house! The cheapest of these goes for $79.95 so it’s practically a steal to be included with this.

 

Conclusion

When starting out, it’s important to focus on what you need more than what you want, and with that regard, the Novation LaunchKey Mini delivers on all fronts. It caters more for the Ableton-use than any other but you can still get a lot of use out of it with your favourite software, so there’s no need to rush out and switch just yet. It’s made for the musician on-the-go but looks just as welcome on the desktop of any young producer just starting out.

Click Here to get your Novation LaunchKey Mini today.

 

The Short Version

  • 25 note velocity sensitive mini-key keyboard
  • 16 multi-colour backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
  • 8 knobs
  • 2 octave buttons
  • 2 track buttons
  • 2 navigation buttons
  • InControl button
  • 2 multi-colour backlit round buttons
  • Micro USB socket
  • Kensington security slot

 

Have you picked up one of these bad boys? Got a few questions you need to ask? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below

Peace.

Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com

 

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10 thoughts on “Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII Review 2017: Still Relevant?

  1. James Denny

    Yea shame about the keys. Not very robust after all that’s where all the action is.

    Software seems easily accessible so that’s a good thing. Portability looks like a key feature on this model.

    Plug and play makes it very attractive to me as a user. Looks like you covered all the bases in this very in depth review.

    Just wondering what’s next for the clever people that designed and produced this wonderful kit.

    Looks like I might need to upgrade to this soon.

    1. Ryan

      Whadup James.

      Novation have been inching their way into the spotlight for years so I too am interested to see how they do in the future.

      Thanks for leaving your comment

  2. Bassam

    I am very glad that I ran across this post, I am in the market for one and really had no idea what to get. I am trying to get more equipement, right now all I have is a SL 51 and Maschine Mikro, which do the job but I do need something that can do more MIDI stuff and this right here helped me out.

    1. Ryan

      Glad to hear Bassam.

      I’m glad you found this post helpful and I’d suggest checking out the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII as well. It has the same price tag and is one of the closest rivals.

      Thanks for leaving your comment.

  3. natalie

    I thank you for your very comprehensive review on the Novation LaunchKey…has certainly given me much to think about!

    I always think that I have a good idea of what I want until I research further. As you say though, it is important to focus on what you need rather than what you want. This will just about meet my needs as a controller and I will definitely check it out further.

    1. Ryan

      Hi, Natalie.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found this information useful and hope you’re happy with the one you end up getting.

      Thanks for leaving your comment.

  4. Layne

    The thing I like about the Novation LauncKey is that it has a pretty quick learning curve. It may not be the best of the best, but you can plug it in, get your samples loaded and have a beat made within the hour.

    I know a lot of these come with a proprietary software but I’ve always found it best to use a more widely used software like protools because it makes it a little easier to make adjustments when traveling to another studio or collaborating with others online.

    1. Ryan

      Hi, Layne.

      Yeah, it really is one of the best controllers for beginners.

      It’s true that ProTools is a widely respected brand but is not a software that I recommend for beginners (Still the only one I know that needs Textbooks instead of a manual :D). Ableton Live is more common than you’d think these days and this controller makes use of it’s unique layout the best in this price range.

      Thanks again for leaving your comment.

  5. Frank

    So, first of all, I am a musician and earlier in my life played professionally for about 20 years (sax and flute) in jazz bands. Therefore, I was very interested in you post.

    It is very informative and I was particularly impressed by the video you posted. Were you the musician?

    This device is an incredible piece of equipment and you have done a very good job of reviewing its attributes.

    I appreciated your answers in the comments as it gave me a bit more insight.

    Good job.

    1. Ryan

      Hi, Frank.

      That video was taken directly from Novation and features a performance by KillTheRobot and that is definitely not me :D.

      I’m glad you appreciated the review and thanks for leaving your comment

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