Here’s this week’s theme from Novation, in a nutshell:
Stuff that costs US$99 (street).
Stuff that’s ultra-mobile/portable.
Stuff that works with Mac, PC, and iPad.
CDM readers already worked out that they weren’t done, watching the video for the $99 Launchkey mini keyboard, which also fits this theme and combines pads, knobs, and keys. Looking closely at the video, you nailed one of the product releases: a smaller version of the Launchpad grid controller, the product that perhaps more than any other popularized grids in the mass market. (Outside the mass market, that honor surely goes to the monome.)
So, apart from the keyboard, what have we got?
There’s the Launchpad Mini, a svelte, smaller version of the Launchpad, plus the Launch Control, a set of knobs and pad triggers. Let’s take a closer look:
The Launchpad Mini really is basically a Launchpad S in a smaller, lighter form factor. It’s also notably absent the Ableton branding, going with (very nice) minimalist markings. It’s no less compatible with Ableton Live, but as with the Launchpad S, Novation is also pushing integration with FL Studio 11. (We’ve seen readers make their own creations, too, ranging from Renoise to Pd patches to Max for Live to … well, just lots of things.)
Labeled 1-8 and A-H, the performance buttons on the side are at last something you would really use for whatever you like. Other than that, it’s still an 8×8 grid with red, yellow, and green color options for the triggers. There’s no velocity sensitivity, but if you don’t need that, the appeal of the Launchpad is, as ever, that it’s something cheap and rugged.
Launchpad Mini vs. Launchpad S
Novation released a photo illustrating the difference in footprint between the Launchpad Mini and Launchpad S, but what about actual specs? Oddly missing from the press release, but here you go:
185 mm x 185 mm x 16 mm
240 mm x 240 mm x 20 mm
So, that’s no small difference.
Also, Novation has added the tagline “Launchpad for the iPad Generation” — so it’s not hard to see how they view this in terms of positioning. And that’s wise, too, given that the increasingly-popular iPad can do a lot more than the Launchpad, and unlike the other hardware controllers (Ableton Push, QuNeo, etc.), the Launchpad has no velocity sensitivity on which to fall back.
Still, for physical triggers, the Launchpad Mini looks intriguing, and at this price, I believe the specs above could make an absolutely epic difference. Indeed, the real competition to me remains the Keith McMillen QuNeo. It’s also slim and light, but adds additional expression controls. The Launchpad is a bargain, but it’s down to how you want to play.
Launchpad Control is one of those devices that makes you say “yeah, okay – obviously.” In a good way. It augments the Launchpad (or any other controller) with a handy set of 16 knobs and red/green/yellow triggers.
That’s it. And that’s already really good. There are eight factory templates and eight user templates for more controls, and it’s of course pre-mapped for the Launchpad app for iPad and built to augment the (knobless) Launchpad.
Of course, this also means if you’ve got a Launchpad and you’re on a budget, you can add the knobs you’ve been missing for a hundred bucks. Not too shabby – especially in this economy.
Both hardware devices come with the bundle we saw on the Launchkey earlier this week – Live Lite, the iOS Launchpad app, V-Station and Bass Station synth plug-ins, and some samples.
And both run on bus power.
Launchpad Control ships this month worldwide, as the Launchkey does, whereas the Launchpad Mini ships next month.