Novation has come up with a new and improved version of the LaunchKey Mini. It’s designed to be a portable controller for Ableton Live and the Mk3 reworking brings it line with the style of their SL Mk3 super-controller.
There’s always room for another MIDI controller! These sorts of design and feature tweaks are a bit remarkable because looking at the Mk2 LaunchKey Mini it does, somehow, seem a bit dated. But the LaunchKey Mini Mk3 takes more than just the style of the SL Mk3, they’ve also built in some of its music creating abilities.
So the standard stuff is that you’ve got a 25 note mini keyboard (their best yet), pitch and modulation strips, octave up and down buttons and a sustain pedal input. Across the top you have 16 velocity-sensitive multi-coloured pads and 8 rotary encoders. All solid MIDI controller features. But then it gets a bit more interesting. The LaunchKey Mini has an arpeggiator. It can run up to 4 octaves in multiple directions and rhythms with swing and adjustable gate time. It has a Mutate mode which brings in interesting variations and a Deviate rhythm to explore a bit of unexpected movement. Both Mutate and Deviate have knobs so you can dial in the intensity of the effect. Then there’s Fixed Chord function where you can store any chord you play and then play that same chord on any key you press. The chord stays in memory until you hit the button again.
Ableton Live control
LaunchKey Mini is designed for controlling Ableton Live 10 and there’s a free “Lite” copy in the box to get you started. The pads are the most obvious connection where they mirror the Session view and let you launch clips. The previous LaunchKey Mini only had a couple of colours on the pads whereas now they are fully RGB allowing them to match the colour of the clips in the session. A couple of extra non-coloured pads provide scene launching and navigation. The transport controls includes the “Capture MIDI” function of the Live 10 where you can retrospectively record a performance even though you weren’t recording at the time.
The pads can also function as drum pads in connection to the Live Drum Rack. They will play whatever is visable on the screen and the side buttons can be used for navigating through all 128 pads of the Drum Rack. The rotary encoders come into play with Live Devices – effects, instruments or third-party plug-ins. They automatically map themselves to the first 8 parameters as they appear in the rack. You can also use the knobs as volume controls, panning and sends.
Good things, small packages
Novation has squeezed some useful functionality into this petite MIDI controller. The interesting arpeggiator, in particular, sets it apart a little from the very crowded controller market place. The Ableton Live functionality is great although it will work with other DAWs as a regular, mappable controller. The Components editing software gives you full control over the mapping, colours of pads and other functionality. There are also scripts for Logic for a bit of deeper integration. It does have a MIDI output which is unusual at this level but very welcome but I had hoped it might take a CV/Gate output from the SL Mk3 but sadly no. It comes with a big bundle of software effects and instruments including an exclusive LABS Expressive Strings from Spitfire Audio.
The Novation LaunchKey Mini Mk3 should be available about now for £99.
- Novation website.
Here’s a quick jam I threw together to highlight the main features:
Here’s the official video.