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Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 Review: A 25-Key Wonder

Novation Launchkey 25 Mk2 Review

Let’s break down what could very well be the KING of all 25-key MIDI controllers for Ableton users, newbie beatmakers, or producers who are looking for a MIDI travel companion.

In this Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 review, we’re going to break down why this backpack-sized, push-button controller is jam-packed with value for money.

If you’re a producer who uses Ableton Live as your DAW of choice or just getting started and looking for the best controller to kick off your beat-making and producing career, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading as we dig deep and check out the pros and cons of this little, backpack-MIDI beast.

Table of Contents

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 Review

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2

Keyboard keys are almost ESSENTIAL for all electronic music studios. Keeping you away from entering notes into your piano roll editors is the first step you should take when entering the world of music production.

It’ll help you create speed and flow to your creative process.

You don’t need to be a musical genius to get creative and enjoy playing out bass lines and synth melodies. The Launchkey 25 MK2 comes with semi-weighted synth-style keys and is great for jamming out ideas with no latency or ghost notes.

Before buying a controller, make sure you’re getting the right size for the job, if you want to learn chords and patterns, then a 61 or 49 key controller might be more suited for you. But if you’re happy just jamming out bass lines and occasionally going an octave down on a few notes to get that rumble in the jungle, then 25 keys is more than fine (plus it’s portable and cheap).

The Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 is one of the best options for those looking for a 25-key MIDI controller keyboard.

Pros

  • Incredible value for money
  • Complete plug-and-play connectivity and control with Ableton Live
  • 25 semi-weighted synth-like keys
  • 16 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit pads
  • In-control System — maps out all controls with all major DAW software
  • Great free software bundle and sample pack

Cons

  • Mainly suited for Ableton Live users (works with all major DAW’s)
  • Pots and sliders are not as well built as the keys, pads, and body of the controller
  • RGB pads are small and not the best for finger drumming
  • No Aftertouch

Notable Feature: 16 Pads

The 16 RGB velocity-sensitive pads are the nerve center of this controller. Combined with the 8 rotary encoders above, this is where a lot of your attention and production will happen while making music and playing out ideas in Ableton’s session mode.

The 16 pads can be used similarly to more traditional hip-hop-styled drum machines such as the Akai MPC range, made popular by the greats such as DJ Premier and J Dilla.

Unfortunately, the pads are small and spread out horizontally across the Launchkey 25 MK2, making finger drumming a challenge.

We consider the added pads as an added feature to the Launchkey series and not a MAIN buy decision, but if you want to get your beat creation and finger drumming, the Launchkey 25 MK2 is still a great product to learn and practice with.

In drum pad mode, each pad can be assigned an individual sound from your Ableton Drum rack and tapped out and recorded into the piano roll editor.

The 8 rotary encoders above the pads are assigned to the effects and parameters of the drum rack, which gives you control over each sound allowing you to tweak, edit, and automate drum patterns.

The real magic happens when you combine all 16 pads, 8 encoders, 9 sliders, and 3 transport controls on the Launchkey 25 MK2 while creating music in Ableton’s session view.

Assigning and recording individual tracks, known as clips in Ableton’s session view, makes your workflow fluid and fast. The Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 can help make your music-writing a BREEZE.

Novation In-Control Navigation

In-control, is Novation’s nerve center of the Launchkey controller that links up the hardware to Ableton’s software, allowing you to navigate and access every area of the DAW.

This is where you assign the controller pads, keys, and encoders, allowing COMPLETE control over Ableton when you need it!

You will still need to load instruments, loops, and samples into the DAW before you start your session if you don’t want to get slowed down during your creative process.

None of Launchkey’s products have a navigation screen onboard to choose and load instruments, unlike products such as the Ableton Push 2.

In-control will take some getting used to (much like switching from android to IOS), but the power and speed you gain once you crack the code will allow you to record, launch, create, and capture loops while keeping your hands on the controller at all times.

Novation has thought of everything when it comes to making the Launchkey series compatible with Ableton Live.

All of the 16 RGB pads are backlit with individual colors that are matched with the screen. With that, you can correspond the color of the track you’re controlling with your hands to the color of the clip channel you’re monitoring on your screen.

This is a great visual tool for live and studio music creation, allowing you to concentrate on making music — as opposed to getting lost in the DAW and all the moving parts that go into making electronic-based music.

Final Thoughts

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 back view

It’s pretty obvious by now that this is a great MIDI controller that works with all of the main Digital Workstations, but keep in mind that it mainly created for Ableton Live producers.

So what do we suggest? Well, if you’re just starting out and you have not yet purchased your first DAW, then this is a NO-BRAINER.

This is a well-made MIDI controller that is packed with pads, faders, encoders, free software, samples, and instant connectivity to Ableton (it comes with Ableton Live Lite, too).

We would suggest this as the go-to starter kit for anyone looking to get into making beats and creating electronic music.

Even with the Lite version of Ableton, someone new to music production could get totally immersed in all of the capabilities of the Launchkey 25 MK2 for MONTHS before needing to upgrade to the full version of Ableton Suite.

All you need is a laptop a set of headphones, and you have a seriously powerful piece of hardware and software without breaking the bank.

The Launchkey 25 MK2 is no toy. It’s a great option for your studio if you have limited real estate and you’re in the market for a small portable MIDI controller.

The Launchkey gives you the power of In-control to navigate Ableton and lets you jam out ideas from the controller’s faders, knobs, and transport features.

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2

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Changelog:

May 26, 2021 – updated SPR schema

May 17, 2021 – updated title and meta description, updated publish date, tagged primary keyword, added table of contents, added schema, updated product images and buttons, changed affiliated links to Genius links, fixed and updated article formatting and content, added new article images, fixed interlinking, added 3 external links

About the author

Daniel Douglas

After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Daniel became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.