VLaunchpads have become the quintessential tool that every producer needs to add to their arsenal and Novation struck gold with the Launchpad Pro, but I don’t think you’ll be getting off easy by taking this more affordable version. The thing I love about the Pro is the fact that I understood how to use it almost immediately and couldn’t wait to see what it could do in my own setup. The buttons made a lot more sense and the RGB colours that lit up those pads made it an absolute show stopper.
Sadly, I’m just not as excited by the Launchpad Mini. The learning curve is steep enough to throw any beginner off balance and for your first MIDI controller, you really want something that’s a little more beginner friendly. The one advantage that this device has is its ability to integrate just as well with FL Studio as it does Ableton Live which is a bonus since most producers out there are rocking good old Fruity Loops (they even included a matching set of label stickers for both Softwares).
I can’t say the same for other major Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, Reason or Magix Music Maker and this little guy is definitely not worth making the switch. You could probably flex your MIDI mapping skills but who’s really got time for that? Still, I had to take a second look and see how it stacks up to its older brother, so here’s my Novation Launchpad Mini review.
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars (Based on 238 Ratings)
What Can It Do?
The word ‘mini’ is almost an understatement with this nifty piece of tech. I mean, seriously.
The main attraction on this controller has to be the 8×8 grid of multicoloured backlit pads that take on all sorts of functions depending on which mode you select. They’re not just made for the finger drummers out there as they let you play chords and melodies just as well, it all depends on which instrument you have loaded on-screen. They also replicate Ableton Live’s unique ‘Session View’ with ease as each column represents a track and the rows represent the grid of clips that you have loaded or recorded.
Once you’ve got it in Mixer mode, use them to control volume, pan and sends while simultaneously being able to mute, solo and even arm tracks for recording. All those functions are accessed on the right-hand side but when you’ve got it in Session mode, those become your scene launch buttons that instantly play entire rows of clips at once with a single press. The first 4 at the top side are used for navigation and are followed by the 4 buttons used to select the different modes (User 1, User 2, Session and Mixer).
For general MIDI control, the 16 buttons that decorate this device are labelled 1-8 and A-H but they each take on a specific function when you’re hooked up to the software.
What Can’t It Do?
The obvious thing would be it’s very limited cross compatibility. Ableton Live may be a world-class DAW but not everybody is accustomed to using it and there’s just not enough reason here for me to stop using my favourite music making software and I’m sure others won’t either. As cool as it may sound being able to mix with it, I really don’t see myself putting down the mouse to make edits with this thing anytime soon.
A staggered change means I won’t have the surgical precision I need and with the changes being so sudden, I don’t see it working in a live scenario either. Even if you’re just going to launch clips or tap out some beats, these pads are 3/4 the size of the Pro and look a bit cramped to start. Plus, without the RGB colours that dazzle most YouTube videos, I don’t see it really being worth the time or the effort that it takes to perfect the skill (staring at red, yellow and green is going to get old real quick).
There aren’t any real instructions so be prepared for a marathon of youtube tutorials too if you feel brave enough to add this to your beat studio.
There are a handful of extra goodies here for sure, you can always count on Novation for that. You get 4GB of downloadable samples from Loopmasters themselves to make sure you can get started making beats right away. You’ll find one-shots and loops from various genres such as hip-hop (of course), techno, funk, blues, DnB, house and many more. Since this device was designed to suit one DAW, in particular, they made sure they included the Ableton Live Lite as well. It has all the basic functions of the full version but you’ll probably want to upgrade to the real deal eventually.
It has all the basic functions of the full version but you’ll probably want to upgrade to the real deal eventually. Even if you don’t, they’ve included the Novation Bass Station virtual instrument. A digital replica of one of their famous analogue synthesiser.
Check out what the Launchpad Pro can do!
Should I Get It?
It really depends on you with this one I have to say. If you’re willing to put in the work to master all this controller’s nuisances then you’ll be in for a treat. On the other hand, there are much better options out there for the beginner producer at this price. It’s always best to have some piano keys if you’re new to the world of MIDI and you can definitely find the right one for you. There’s always the Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII if you’re still a fan of the brand but for something that’s a little more friendly towards every DAW, I’d definitely suggest the Akai MPK Mini MKII.
Got any more questions on this device? Wanna tell us about your experience? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- 64 (8×8 grid) square multi-colour backlit buttons
- 8 round multi-colour backlit system buttons (assignable)
- 8 round multi-colour backlit function buttons (not assignable)
- Micro USB socket
- Kensington security slot
- Ableton Live Lite 9 is included