Novation Launchkey 25 Mk2 Review | 2021 Update

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

In this Novation Launchkey 25 Mk2 review, we are going to break down why this backpack sized push button controller is jam packed with value for money.

The big brother of the Novation Launchkey 25 now comes equipped with a massive bundle 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.

Novation LAUNCHKEY-25-MK2 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller + Mic + Headphones

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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
  • Incontrol System. Maps out all controls with all major DAW software
  • Great free software bundle and sample pack

Cons 

  • Mainly suited to 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

Novation Launchpad 25 Keys

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 an octave down a few note to get that rumble in the jungle, then 25 is more than fine plus it’s portable (and cheap).

Novation LAUNCHKEY-25-MK2 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller + Mic + Headphones

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16 Pads

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 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 launch key 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.

Novation In-control Navigation

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.

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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.

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 making music opposed to getting lost in the DAW and all the moving parts that go into making electronic-based music.

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Final Thoughts

It’s 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 headphones and you have a seriously powerful piece of hardware and software without breaking the bank. The Launchkey 25 is no 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.

Novation LAUNCHKEY-25-MK2 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller + Mic + Headphones
  • Package Includes: (1) Novation LAUNCHKEY-25-MK2 25-Key USB MIDI Ableton Live Lite Keyboard Controller. (1)Rockville RMM-XLR Dynamic Cardiod Professional Metal Microphone W/10' XLR Cable. (1) Samson SR350 Over Ear Closed Back Studio Reference Monitoring Stereo Headphones. Includes: Launchkey 25. Green USB cable. Getting Started guide. Live Lite registration card. Features: Novation LAUNCHKEY-25-MK2 25-Key USB MIDI Ableton Live Lite Keyboard Controller
  • Designed for Ableton Live- All controls work immediately and can be freely reassigned. Full color RGB pads match the color of your clips. All 16 pads are velocity-sensitive for creating dynamic drum beats. Tweak your instruments and effects using eight rock solid knobs. The 25-note velocity-sensitive synth-style keyboard is lightweight, fast, and very easy to play.. Compact and tough enough to throw in your bag. Get automatic hands-on control of other DAWs using InControl
  • Class compliant and USB bus-powered on Mac or PC, so it works without drivers or a power cable. Includes Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and V Station virtual instruments and over 4GB of Loopmasters samples. Dimensions: 3.54 x 17.72 x 10.63 (H x W x D). Unit Weight: 4.08lbs (with accessories). System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7
  • iOS 8, iOS 7 - Camera Connection Kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter required (not included). Power supply required for use with iOS devices (not included). Software available upon registration: Ableton Live Lite music making software. 4 GB of Loopmasters sounds and samples. Bass Station VST and AU plug-in synthesiser. V Station VST and AU plug-in synthesiser. MIDI keyboards now come with XLN Audio Addictive Keys. Included Software. Ableton Live Lite. 4 GB of Loopmasters sounds and samples
  • One of four XLN Audio Addictive Keys instruments. Novation Bass Station VST and AU plug-in synthesiser. Novation V Station VST and AU plug-in synthesiser. Free Melodics lessons. Whats In The Box. Novation Launchkey 25 Mk2. USB cable. Printed Getting Started Guide. Safety information sheet. Advantages of buying from an authorized seller: Best prices - We sell all Novation Products at great prices. Full Factory Warranty. Lifetime Customer Service by Novation product experts

About the author

Daniel Douglas

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.