Join us as we break down the specs and production possibilities inside this Novation Launchpad Pro Review.
Novation Launchpad was first released in 2009; since then, it has become the preferred tool of many producers and has blown up on the Ableton Live scene.
The 64 pads have been embraced by bedroom beat-making kids and live performance pros alike, flooding youtube with clip launched covers of some of dance music’s most iconic tunes to EDM one-hit wonders.
Novation Launchpad Pro Review
Users of the previous Launchpad models will not be let down by the newly added features, tweaks, and twists that the team at Novation has engineered and brought to life in the new Launchpad Pro.
This super portable, powerful, and playable backpack beast is not to be slept on by Ableton producers, whether in the studio or live on stage.
Much like its Ableton Live predecessors, the Launchpad’s main feature has made it the go-to tool of choice for most producers and live performers.
This is the session mode (or scale mode). It works by triggering clips, loops, and sounds inside of Ableton Live’s uniquely famous session view.
Novation has also added a range of buttons and features to the Launchpad’s controller to make the entire session mode or scale mode experience more accessible, fluid and fun.
- Simply press the session button on the top of the controller, and you are in the iconic session view inside of Ableton Live, with the interactivity and hands-on control of the Launchpad at your fingertips.
- You can then navigate the entire session mode or scale mode inside of Ableton Live via the up, down, left, and right navigation buttons on the Launchpad. This is handy for larger tracks that have more than 64 pads assigned to clip inside of your project.
The main purpose and advantage of the navigation buttons being added to the control features are to stop users from having to refer to the laptop and mouse by keeping their hands and concentration on the Launchpad as much as possible.
Novation has also added backlit multi-colored RGB pads that match the color of your tracks and clips inside of Ableton Live.
This allows you to coordinate and navigate both the controller and DAW simultaneously. It allows you more time to craft sets and sounds and less time to get lost inside the machines and software.
- Designed for Ableton Live users.
- Plug and play connectivity
- Portable and high-quality build
- Custom modes, such as the newly added Note and Chord mode, which plays MIDI notes from the pads
- Low-profile pads and buttons, great for backpack transport
- Improved workflow and navigation controls
- Modes can be used in Ableton, with third-party software, or independently from a computer through MIDI outputs
- Designed for Ableton Live workflow and performance only
- Not a laptop and mouse replacement
- No LED navigation and control screen
- No rotary encoders
- No Mod Wheels
Launching Scenes with the Ableton Live
The Launchpad Pro’s 64 pads are a vertical strip of buttons for launching scenes on the right-hand side of the Launchpad Pro.
Each button gives you the ability to launch an entire row of clips, also known as a scene. This is a great feature for going into the next phase of your track, such as a breakdown or drop, without having to launch each clip individually.
Create impact and instant crowd reaction when seamlessly switching from scene to scene. You can be on the beat and on the fly with the Launchpad.
Mixing with Launchpad Pro
Create depth, texture, and stereo flow with the built-in mixing functions and parameter options on the Launchpad Pro.
The horizontal bottom row of buttons is where you can get into the mix with the Launchpad controller. We can’t see this function being overly used by bedroom beatmakers and producers.
This is since it’s much quicker and more detailed to edit and automate audio from inside the box, right after your main track structure has been created.
Still, Launchpad Pro users who play live will get a kick out of editing and adding live audio mixes. This is because the MIDI pad controller has features such as mute, solo, and grid fade.
The volume fade function on the Launchpad Pro is a new and welcomed addition to the updated Ableton Live controller.
By using the new and improved touch-sensitive RGB pads, you can control the volume increase with the impact or subtlety that you trigger the assigned pad.
Hard hits will give a sudden and responsive increase in volume, while the soft touch and caress of the pad will slowly fade the volume in response to the built-in velocity-sensitive functions of the pads.
Editing on the Fly
On the opposite side of the session launch controls is the edit section of the Launchpad Pro.
Once again, these functions allow you to keep your hands on the Launchpad instead of a laptop and mouse.
The edit buttons include actions such as quantize, delete, duplicate, and record.
These buttons come in handy when playing the Pro in the new custom modes, Note and Chord Mode, which allow you to assign and record patterns and chords into a new clip on an empty pad in the 64 grid.
You can watch the video below for a more detailed breakdown:
What is Note Mode?
The Launchpad Pro has almost all the same features as the popular Ableton Push 2 but is at about half of its price.
With it, you can play MIDI instruments, virtual instruments, and drum tracks from the velocity-sensitive and aftertouch-equipped rubber pads.
Unlike scale mode, Note Mode allows you to leave your portable mini, midi keyboard at home while you follow Novations root note lights across the bottom of the controller to come up with chords and progressions of virtual instruments.
And though, indeed, Novation software is not as intuitive and cutting-edge as the melody section of the Ableton Live Push 2. But with Novation’s open-source firmware, more 3rd-party tech-heads are coming up with better alternatives.
There may even be a solution available in the future.
Note Mode is a great tool for finger-drumming and creating pad-based beat ideas. You can also start building up a complete track, layer by layer.
Let’s hear it then: Is this worth it?
Are We Just Looking at Another MIDI Controller?
The Launchpad Pro is a well-built machine. It’s also slightly bigger than its previous model because of its newer features.
It’s perfect for the backpack producer who likes to attend live gigs. The controller has no knobs or mod wheels that may be prone to damage and no faders that can snap.
If you’re not looking to completely remove the laptop and mouse for your music production workflow, then this is for you.
This budget-friendly tech gear is good if you don’t mind getting your hands busy in session mode or scale mode while launching clips and audio mixes.
Novation has released an overview video for the Launchpad Pro. Check it out below:
Our verdict is that the Novation Launchpad Pro is very much worth your money.
We recommend that you also check out the Novation Launchpad Mini if you’re looking for a smaller version of the Launchpad Pro. It can still launch clips with full Ableton Live configuration but is more portable.
And if you’re interested in good-quality pads, then Akai is another good brand to check out. We especially love their MPD range.
But if you’re looking for more of those original boom bap style pads, peep the MPD 218. Though it’s less portable than the Launchpad Pro, it’s packed with assignable faders, knobs, and MPC-style drum machine pads.
- A Complete Review of the Akai MPD 232
- The Best Ableton Push Alternative Picks: Novation Launchpad Pro and Others
- 5 Best Audio Interface For Ableton Live: The Complete Guide
April 26, 2022 – minor content edits