NAMM’s happening, and we’ve picked our five favourite announcements. Here’s one…
What: 25, 49, or 61 key controller with 8×2 RGB velocity sensitive pad strip and included iPad software for PC/Mac free operation
When: Jan/Feb 2013
Price: £99/£139/£159 (25/49/61 key versions)
Novation are very good at both evolution and revolution in their range, and then monitoring what sticks. Now joining their top of the line SL range of controllers and their mid range Impulse controllers is the Launchkey, which seems to do things that even the SL range doesn’t do but also pull back on some of the Impulse’s features. Launchkey is much sleeker looking than Impulse, but control wise the major changes aren’t what’s been added or taken away but how the controller has been considered ergonomically. Instead of discrete matrices of knobs and pads, Launchkey aligns the pads and knobs vertically; connecting the two controls in this way should improve the mental link between the two and make things like, for instance, adjusting the volume, filter, or effect send of percussion sounds assigned to pads a very intuitive process.
The faders have been reimagined, with new ‘sticky outy’ caps for easier manipulation, but the knobs are still fixed motion pots, and other than double the pads (which is a welcome addition, even though we’re glossing over them a little) there’s not a huge amount of difference between Launchkey and Impulse… why begs an answer to the question: Why are we featuring it?
Firstly, the price of Launchkey is a huge draw. At £140 for the 49 key and £160 for the 61 key versions, this is Novation’s lowest priced keyboard controller. I’m not 100% sure how Novation have achieved this price, so when we get one in the studio build quality will be the first thing we look at, but it is certainly in line with low priced competition and we’re fairly confident in Novation’s track record in build/price compromise. Secondly, Launchkey is being touted by many as an iOS controller – but not Novation themselves. As far as Novation (and we) are concerned, this is a keyboard that works with iPad, not one that works for iPad. Akai have dipped their toe into the iOS waters with their Synthstation range, and others too, but Launchkey doesn’t feature direct connection, just the ability to connect to iPad and use the new Novation Launchkey and Launchpad apps to turn the keyboard into a computerless live playing device. Looking to the future, this is almost certainly going to be something that manufacturers and developers focus on more and more often, as without having to worry about a computer the Launchkey can feel much more like a dedicated synth.
A final point of note is the lack of Novation’s own brand of Marmite: Automap. Instead, Novation have a new baby in InControl, which purports to be a sleek, simple way to automatically connect DAW controls to transport and the like without the sometimes confusing complexity of Automap.