Launchkey 88 brings an expensive keybed to a price range MIDI controller

Novation already makes 5 totally different variations of its venerable Launchkey collection of MIDI controllers, starting from the travel-friendly Launchkey Mini all the way in which as much as the studio centerpiece Launchkey 61. However for some, 61 keys isn’t sufficient. And a severe piano participant would possibly balk on the unweighted keys. However now Novation presents the Launchkey 88 with a semi-weighted keybed.

The most recent addition to the household primarily bridges the hole between the budget-minded Launchkey and the higher-end SL collection, which begins at $600. The Launchkey 88 retains the fee to only $400 by leaving out extra superior options like CV outputs, coloration screens and built-in sequencer. However, should you’re primarily producing in-the-box you almost certainly received’t miss the extras that a lot.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

That is to be anticipated, and it’s not a con, however the Launchkey 88 is enormous. It’s not the controller for you if house is at a premium. I truthfully had bother discovering room for it in my small attic studio. That being mentioned, the keybed is great. I’m not a piano participant, and haven’t any specific allegiance to weighted keys, however these had been clearly a step above your common MIDI controller. They lack the springy bounce of the cheaper members of the Launchkey line and I discovered it a lot simpler to get nuanced velocity response.

In any other case, the {hardware} is largely similar to the remainder of the Launchkey line. It’s all plastic, however feels stable sufficient. The 16 velocity delicate pads are satisfactory however nothing to put in writing dwelling about. The faders have a wonderful quantity of resistance, however are a tad wobbly. And the knobs are extremely stable however a tad small. The pitch and mod wheels are pretty although, full cease. The resistance is ideal, they usually’re rock stable. Going again to the contact strips on different controllers looks like punishment.

Novation Launchkey 88

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

After all, the massive promoting level of any Launchkey system is its tight integration with Ableton Dwell. It’s not fairly adequate to go utterly mouse and keyboard free, however you possibly can get rather a lot completed immediately on the controller. You may launch clips from the pads, management macros with the knobs and blend your tracks with the faders. You could have management over ship results, the panning, and there’s a devoted button for looping a portion of your observe to jam over, in addition to a seize MIDI button in case you play one thing actually impressed however forgot to hit document. You may do fairly a bit with taking a look at the pc, although it could possibly be a bit powerful to navigate bigger initiatives.

There are some odd quirks immediately, although, that can presumably get ironed out in firmware and script updates fairly rapidly. Particularly, Dwell will get confused by taking part in within the higher octaves. There’s a few useless zones, from G4 by E5, for instance, and a few keys in the very best octave set off numerous recording modes as an alternative of notes.

Novation Launchkey 88

The arpeggiator remains to be unbelievable, although. The random, Mutate and Deviate options make it simple to create distinctive patterns and introduce a little bit unpredictability to a composition. That is the function that has me coming again to the Launchkey line many times in my private studio. And the five-pin MIDI DIN connection lets you deliver that top-notch arpeggiator to {hardware} synths. Nevertheless, I nonetheless suppose the controller is finest suited to a primarily software-based setup.

Novation Launchkey 88

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The Launchkey 88 isn’t a real luxurious MIDI controller. It’s actually an inexpensive workhorse. Nevertheless it does go a bit past a few of its more cost-effective opponents, and even its siblings. The expansive dimension in all probability isn’t crucial for many producers, however the semi-weighted keybed does make an enormous distinction in playability. And I’d like to see Novation deliver it to the smaller family members just like the Launchkey 49, which might be a bit extra my pace (and simpler to shove on my cramped desk).

The Launchkey 88 is out there now for $400.

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