Sonic LAB: Novation LaunchControl, LaunchKey Mini

We take a look at the new Launch models   25-Nov-13

   QuickTime (MP4)  | iOS MP4
11:0 mins    

Novation recently announced a new range of Launch controllers focussed on working with Ableton's Live, though not exclusively. We took delivery of the trio - LaunchKey Mini, Launch Control and Launchpad Mini.

I'm not going to go in depth with the Launchpad, it's essentially the same as the LaunchPad S which is a tweak of the original LaunchPad (see our review) and is class compliant and can be powered from an iPad (as can all the units individually).

The LaunchKey Mini has a two octave minikey keyboard with adequate action, not the best, but also has 16 velocity sensitive drum pads, which are backlit and can also double as clip launch buttons. Additionally there are 8 encoders, plus  a couple of scene launch buttons as well as up/down cursors and left/right. the important button is the inControl one which puts the LaunchKey Mini into full Live control mode and allows data to be sent to specific virtual ports over USB, which means it can also be used to control other HUI savvy DAWs.

Hooking it up with Live and it just works, the knobs control level, the pads can be switch in and out of clip launch mode to toggle the MIDI data ports, so you can use the 16 pads to trigger drum sounds (or just MID notes) fixed assignments. Knobs map to track level.

For some reason on this and also the Launch Control, the redbox (which generally signals which group of tracks and scenes you are in control of) is not applied, which is a shame would help with visual reference.

I also tried this with Logic Pro (OS X 10.7.5 version 9.2.1) and found that it worked well - track selection and banking via the up/down cursor keys. Great for quick select and play without the mouse - though the knobs seem to map to Pan only as far as I could make out.

Launch Control

This has no keyboard, 16 knobs in two rows and a row of 8 backlit pads (not velocity sensitive). Hook this up to live and the pads work as mutes, the knobs pan/volume or Send A/B with a flip of the up down arrows. Again banking and track select are not reflected in the redo box, which is the only real downside so far. There are up to 8 factory presets, the first is mute for the pads, the second (hit factory and pad 2) is for clip launch for the pads, the 3rd factory is the secret weapon - device editing - left/right cursor for track, up/down for device select, you can then edit using the first 8 knobs  - this is actually really cool and makes tweaking a breeze. Obviously if you want more than 8 parameters, it's back to the mouse.

Additionally there's an Editor which allows you to create user templates (8 of them) .

You can assign note ot control values to the buttons, momentary/toggle and control data to the knobs. But thats about it.

I also tried to hook this up to Logic in HUI mode, but it wouldn't play ball like the LaunchKey Mini does.


I do like the integration with Live of both these devices, though the Launch Key Mini offers more overall if you are not a Live user. All three devices are priced at £79/$99/€89 so you can pick and choose how you want them to work. All three also come with USB leads, the LaunchKey Mini and Launchpad mini are microUSB, the LaunchControl full size.

I think these are best suited to Live users and do provide a enough difference between each to present a tempting suite of controllers

.Available now.



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3 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Tom    Said...

Hi Nick, would you recommend the LaunchKey mini as a companion to Ableton Push? I want to use a real keyboard sometimes, and everything else would be taken care of by Push.

25-Nov-13 10:32 AM

Nick B    Said...

Not really, you may as well spend the money on just the keyboard, you dont really need all the extra stuff and you can get a better keybed for the money I would think

25-Nov-13 11:05 AM

Chris    Said...

I wish Nick would have spent more time on the Launchpad Mini. I've had launchpad for years, but when I saw the Mini I instantly wanted it. It looked way more portable (both smaller and thinner), yet actually seemed more playable as an instrument since it's small enough hold game controller-style and played with thumbs. Reminded me of the original monome 64...which I'm sure it can emulate. Speaking of apps, worth mentioning are the 3rd party apps that are compatible with the launchpad mini. The J74 ISO mapping adds not only Push-like scale modes to the launchpad mini, but can also be used outside of Ableton with any DAW. Also Nativekontrol's LPC and Push emulator apparently work well with the Mini. Honestly A review of those apps are way overdue.

25-Nov-13 07:54 PM

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