What’s New: It’s safe to say that when Novation released the original Launchpad in 2009, it completely revolutionized the way electronic musicians used Ableton Live. Now in 2013, the Launchpad S is a fresh, revamped MIDI controller that includes all the features of the old design plus some brand new goodies. Designed in conjunction with the folk at Ableton, the Launchpad S is an 64 button, pad-based MIDI controller designed specifically to work perfectly with Live.
The beauty of the device is its simplicity. Completely bus-powered, Launchpad S sports big, bright, multi-colored pads (upgraded brightness from the original) that let you control your entire session without ever looking at the computer. The updated plug-and-play drivers work perfectly with Mac OS X and Windows 7 and 8, plus the Launchpad S is now MIDI class-compliant, which allows the Launchpad S to work seamlessly with any MIDI application. Just plug in the hardware via an extremely thick, heavy-duty USB cable, (we were quite impressed with this cable!) open up Live and the Automap software does the work for you.
Upon opening a Live session, the controller displays the first 8 scenes and clips as lights on the grid. Just touch a pad that you want to play or trigger the whole scene with the button on the right. Up, down, left, and right arrows make easy navigation for big sessions, and a dedicated mixer mode lets you control volume, pan, FX sends, solo, and track arming without even looking at the computer. Two user modes allows for customization and can turn the Launchpad S into a drum machine or synthesizer at the touch of a button.
As a controller, the Launchpad S is sturdy and well built; the pads feel great, the lights are even brighter than before, and the exterior is a hard plastic with non-slip bottom feet. Included with the hardware is a free download of Ableton Live Launchpad edition, a loop library from Loopmasters, and a software plugin version of Novation’s Bass Station. One note: the included software is only available via free download, there are no CD’s included in the Launchpad S packaging, so if you’re counting on using these when you open the box, be sure you have an internet connection. The Launchpad S has a dedicated iPad app that hosts its own sounds and effects and works with the hardware through a simple adapter sold separately.
If you’ve ever been intimidated by Ableton Live, the Launchpad S is the answer. There’s no assigning, MIDI mapping, or trouble-shooting, just plug in the controller and press play. Launchpad S is a perfect compliment to Live to trigger loops and click seamlessly between songs and throughout the entire set. Launchpad S’s ease of use, great price, and flawless integration with Ableton makes it our number one pick as a MIDI controller for Live.
Visit novationmusic.com for more information about the Launchpad S and other products by Novation.