Let's break down what could very well be the king of all 25 key midi controllers for Ableton users, newby beat makers, or producers who are looking for a midi travel companion. The Launchkey 25 Mk2 is jam packed with value for money, not only for what you get with the hardware but also the bundles of extras that novation have thrown in to sweeten the deal and cut through the noise of the constantly growing midi controller market.Basically if you're a producer who uses Ableton Live already 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 keep reading as the team at Bpm Skills dig deep and check out the pros and cons of this little bedroom and backpack midi beast.
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 that you should take when entering the world of music production, helping 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.
Make sure when buying your controller that you are 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 are happy just jamming out bass lines and occasionally having to octave down a few note to get that rumble in the jungle, then 25 is more than fine plus it's portable (and cheap).
The 16 RGB velocity sensitive pads are the nerve center of this controller and combined with the 8 rotary encoders above this is where a lot of your attention and production will happen from when making music and playing out ideas in Ableton's session mode.
The 16 pads can be used similarly to a more traditional hip hop styled drum machine 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, which makes finger drumming a challenge.
I really consider this an added feature to the Launchkey series and not a mian buy decision but if you want to get your beat creation and finger drumming, this is a great place the learn and practice. 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 tweaks, edit and automate drum patterns.
The real magic happens with the 16 pads, 8 encoders, 9 sliders and 3 transport controls on the Launchkey 25 when you start to create 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 when writing music with Novation’s Launchkey 25.
In-control, is Novations 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, then assign the controllers 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, as the none of the Launchkey 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 use 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 keep your hands on the controller at all times.
Novation have thought of everything when it comes to making the Launchkey series compatible with Ableton. All of the 16 RGB pads are backlit with individual colors that are matched with the screen, so that you can correspond the color of the track that you are controlling with your hands to the color of the clip channel that you are monitoring on your screen.
This is a great visual tool for live and studio music creation, allowing you to concentrate on the making music apposed to getting lost in the DAW and all the moving parts that go into making electronic based music.
Its pretty obvious by now that this is a great midi controller that works with all of the main Digital Workstations, but has been created mainly 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 for me. This is a well made midi controller, that is packed with pads, faders and encoders.
To be honest with all the free software, samples and instant connectivity Ableton (Ableton Live Lite 9 come free shipped with this product) I would suggest this as the go 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 for Ableton Lite and the Launchkey 25 mk2 offer for months before needing to upgrade to the full version of Ableton Suite. All you need is a laptop a set of headphone and you have a seriously powerful piece of hardware and software with out breaking the bank.
The Launchkey 25 is no a toy and is 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 the jam out ideas from the controller's faders, knobs and transport features.
If you're not a dedicated Ableton user, we have created a list of comparable 25 key midi controllers that also include assignable pads and faders that might better suite your producing style and genre.
Last update on 2018-04-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API