” Whoah, bro! What are you doing? Two Novation reviews in such a short space of time? Peeps are going to start thinking you’re a fan!”
At least, that’s what my internal voice is saying but I think it’s about time I mentioned a controller that can only be described as the poor man’s Ableton Push 2. The original is still a decent competitor in today’s market and the ‘mini’ is still a confusing waste of time but the Launchpad Pro is definitely still worth taking a second look at. It may just be the fact that there are a lot more buttons around the grid but to me, this controller just makes a lot more sense altogether.
Like most of Novation’s products, it’s aimed directly at satisfying the needs of the Ableton Live user first. Understanding each layout is the only real obstacle for the seasoned producer and even beginners should have no trouble getting to grips with this fantastic piece of hardware once the software is a familiar tool. So, as you can probably tell by now, I would definitely not recommend getting something like this if you’re a user of other Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Reason, FL Studio, Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools or even Magix Music Maker.
There are better options that are way more suitable but if you’re looking to expand on your Ableton experience, then this may just be the one for you. Here’s my Novation Launchpad Pro review.
Novation Launchpad Pro
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars (Based on 229 ratings)
What Can It Do?
The first time I saw someone using the original Launchpad I was stuck staring, asking myself “Who the-? What the-? How the-?” and I had exactly the same reaction with the ‘mini’ version (only x100!) but I found the Pro model to be far more obvious. All the buttons are labelled clearly and as a result, making beats really doesn’t take much effort. On the right-hand side of the controller are your scene launch buttons for activating entire rows of clips in your Session View and at the top, we have the navigation arrows and a selection of four different modes, Session, Note, Device and User.
At the bottom are your mixer buttons which give you instant access to the controls for your volume, pan and sends and allows you to quickly arm tracks for recording. Rounding up the selection on the left-hand side are your primary function buttons that you’ll use to create and edit clips such ‘Delete’, ‘Duplicate’ and ‘Quantise’. All this adds up to excellent integration with Ableton-Live that aids the centrepiece of this device, the 64 pad grid of candy-coloured music-makers.
The Main Event…
They feel a lot better than those on the original models (so I’m told) and are your golden ticket to creative freedom. Session mode lays out all the clips as they would appear in the on-screen grid of your Session View, matching with the exact colours too. Note mode is what takes this bad boy from simple MIDI controller to full-blown instrument. For regular virtual instruments (like pianos, synths etc.), the pads become a proper chromatic keyboard for you to easily play melodies and chords.
It can be enhanced even further with Scale mode which allows you to select a specific key and make sure that you never play out of tune no matter which pad you hit. If you’ve got a drum rack loaded, the pads become your own MPC-style drum machine by laying every sample out across the entire 64 pad grid. It doesn’t stop there, however. Once you’re in Device mode or using one of the mixer controls, you can tweak parameters on your effects and instruments and make staggered adjustments to volume and pan levels. Yup, these pads are versatile indeed.
What Can’t It Do?
It’s simple really. It can’t cater to every DAW out there but you can show off your programming skills by mapping your controller accordingly. You can set it up as a drum machine if you’re using something like Reason’s Korg Instrument) or as a regular keyboard for pianos and other synths. The other 32 buttons that surround the Launchpad then become assignable buttons waiting to be given a specific MIDI command.
This process isn’t as streamlined as you want and the difficulty really depends on which DAW you’re using, so you’ll probably do a bit more learning before your operation is running smooth. To effortlessly get yourself going on the right foot, you need Ableton Live otherwise you just won’t get the same value for money. It also requires it’s own power supply which puts a tight leash on how portable it is.
As I mentioned on the original launchpad too, mixing may be a cool feature but there’s still really no precision involved and it only really succeeds in making drastic adjustments, not fine-tuned changes.
Like every Novation product, there’s a whole bag of downloadable extras for you to get free of charge. First things first, there’s the 4GB of Loopmasters samples that contain sounds from various genres like blues, funk, hip-hop and house. There’s also a free license of XLNAudio’s Addictive Keys plugin that gives you access to one of their magnificent pianos. Choose from Mark One, Studio Grand, Electric Grand and even Modern Upright (the cheapest is $79.95 sold separately).
There’s also a free copy of Ableton Live Lite (a demo version of the software that I keep mentioning) as well as Novation Bass Station and V-Station virtual instruments, so you can hit the ground running and start making music immediately.
Check out the Launchpad Pro in action
Should I get It?
If you love the Ableton Push 2 but can’t afford the steep asking price then I would definitely (absotively, posolutely) recommend you get the Novation Launchpad Pro. If you’re a beginner, though, I have to suggest that you stay away from this guy until you’ve spent a few solid months getting to know your craft and getting familiar with Ableton Live. Otherwise, why not try the Novation Launchkey or even the Launchkey Mini. Both have drum pads, black & white keys and are integrated with Ableton, so getting started will be a breeze.
Got any more questions about the Launchpad Pro? Have you had experience with this controller? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
All in all, the Launchpad pro is a solid piece of gear that’s portable and sturdy enough to take with you on the road, a great tool that would be welcome in any studio.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- 64 RGB backlit velocity and pressure sensitive button grid
- 32 RGB backlit round mode buttons
- One setup button
- Front LED strip
- Orange rubber base mat
- High retention USB connector
- Two MIDI sockets (3.5mm jack sockets with MIDI din break-out cables)
- Power supply connector
- Kensington Security Slot