Made to move. Launchkey mini is Novation most compact and portable 25-mini-key MIDI keyboard controller. It gives you everything you need to start creating in Ableton Live – and it’ll fit in your bag. Make tracks anywhere with launchkey Mini’s deep, intuitive Ableton control, arpeggiator, fixed...
I own the mini MK2 and this is definitely quite the upgrade with tons of new features that make it great for producing, such as arpegio and the ability to change beat, rhythm, and pattern. They also have added pitch and modulation wheels and dedicated buttons for playing and recording. They also improved the sensitivity of the keys and the drum pads, so you no longer have to slam on it as hard as on the MK2.However, I use my Launchkeys for live looping and the way they changed some features makes it less than ideal for commonly used features while live looping. There are no longer dedicated buttons for features that the MK2 has. For example, in order to switch to "In Control" mode, you have to hold down the new "Shift" button while simultaneously pressing another button. Another example is the track buttons for switching through tracks left and right. In order to do this, you have to hold down the "Shift" button as well, but what makes matters worse is that the track buttons are on the other side of the keyboard from the "Shift" button. I like to do live loops during my performances, so I switch tracks quite often, but this is no longer feasible with the MK3 since I have to use both hands to switch tracks, which leaves me with no free hands to continue playing on the keys. I can see this becoming a common complaint for the MK3, so hopefully they release a firmware update that enables some sort of "Caps Lock" mode that keeps the "Shift" button enabled without having to hold it down.
I have been a musician for more than 15 years, playing the mandolin in acoustic jam sessions, bands and home recordings. I have also produced amateur recordings for about ten years, using several different hardware based digital multi-track recorders. In the last year I switched to computer based recording, when I discovered the affordability and astonishing breadth of capability offered by software systems. My choice of software is Logic Pro X and Mainstage 3. As I became familiar with the OSX music production software, I realized the importance of a midi controller to make use of the numerous software instruments and other digital music production techniques. I have nearly no keyboard skill, so this meant learning, not only a new musicianship skill, but also learning the technical nuts and bolts of digital music production methods. After several months of familiarizing myself with the capabilities of Logic and Mainstage I felt like I was ready to make a reasonably informed decision about what might be my best first midi hardware gear purchase. In this review I list the features I felt I would need to best enable my progress toward some minimal level of competence and how well I believe this controller met my expectations.First, I needed a keyboard that would not be a hindrance to learning to play a keyboard. I reasoned that I need full-sized keys, with velocity sensitivity, aftertouch, an adequate number octaves, a pitch bend wheel and a modulation wheel. Admitting that I do not have any experience against which to evaluate how this controller measures up against these criteria, I am very pleased with how this keyboard met my expectations. although not weighted, the key bed feels substantial and operates smoothly. Although far short of a full-sized 88-key behemoth, the Launchkey 49 seems completely adequate. The pitch and mod wheels are sturdy and responsive.To have some flexibility in mapping screen controls, in Mainstage and assigning them to physical midi controls, I predicted that I would need a reasonable number of knobs and sliders. While Launchkey controllers are specifically designed to map to the Abelton Live interface, I have found this controller to be sufficiently flexible for a variety of Mainstage patch configurations with enough physical controls to manage a number of instrument parameters, effects sends, patch changes etc.I anticipated that I would want several drum pads. I imagined using them, not so much for finger drumming, but for launching backing tracks, loops, drum sequences and one-shot clips. Short of buying a separate pad controller, Launchkey 49 offered enough pads to explore all these possibilities. The 16 drum pads are solid and responsive. They work beautifully for the functions I wanted them to serve in Mainstage. The pads have RGB back lighting, which have impressive plug and play functionality in Abelton, but I have not yet figured out if there is any way to use their RGB lights in Mainstage. At the very least, it would be helpful to be able to use the back lights to provide visual feedback on the pad or pads that are controlling an active clip or sequence.I have used the controller a little to control the free Abelton Lite software, bundled with the Launchkey 49. In this software environment this is an awesome controller.In summary, it seems that, as a beginning controller for a novice keyboardist and digital musician/producer, The Launchkey 49 provides a completely adequate keyboard and control surface for a very reasonable price. At this point I can say that I am very happy with this controller and anticipate that as I look to add gear to my rig I will likely not replace this controller, but keep it as part of an expanding rig.
Sync'd right up with my Presonus Studio One 3 Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Plugged it into the USB port, went into the Presonus setup and changed the 'MIDI in' and 'MIDI out.' to 'Launchkey' No external software or drivers required, and best of all, no additional 'wall wart' power supply as it runs off of USB power. The keys feel like most any other keyboard controller in this price range. I do prefer weighted keys, but I wasn't willing to spend over $200 for yet another keyboard to add to my growing collection. For this price, you won't find a better deal.
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