Novation Launchkey 49 Review

Novation has been crushing it lately in the MIDI and synth space. We were lucky enough to test out their Summit and Peak synths in action, both for review in the mag and at a few tradeshows in the past year. We’ve learned hands-on that Novation is serious when it comes to today’s modern synthesists, producers and keyboardists.

The new Launchkey 49 is no exception to that rule. While the controller is designed to be Ableton Live’s killer app, it also integrates perfectly with any other DAW or MIDI hardware, no problem. In fact, while we did some quick testing in Ableton, we also used it primarily to control soft synths in Studio One, as well as a hardware drum machine, a Moog Sub Phatty that lacks an arpeggiator, and one of the new digital Mellotrons. Success all around.

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OK, so it works perfectly as a MIDI controller, as you’d expect. But you could go out and get any cheap keyboard with MIDI outputs to do that. What Launchkey brings to the table are some awesome features, and if Novation doesn’t mind me swiping one of their buzzwords, some inspirational functionally that many controllers in this price range don’t offer. Our favorite (and the most fun) was the arpeggiator. We were bouncing 80’s style electro-bass grooves in no time both with hardware synths and software plug-ins, and the mappable pads and knobs made custom integration fun and easy with any setup we threw at it. This can be your studio’s new go-to one-stop shop for all things synth-related if you just take a minute to set it up to your liking and preferences.

You’ve also got some on board transposition options and chord triggering pads, which means you can quickly and easily shuffle things around to new keys and modes when you’re writing. Everything feels super solid, and we didn’t even really need an instruction manual to figure out most of the features off the bat. Even the small LCD screen, usually something we hate diving into, was bright and easy to navigate. A bonus for us menu haters!

If that weren’t enough, there’s a ton of included software (including Ableton Live Lite) to get you started in your musical creations, especially if you’re primarily hardware-based.

There’s nothing bad to say about the Launchkey 49 – it does what you’d expect from a MIDI controller, and so much more. Recommended, for sure.

PROS:

easy to use, decent keybed, lots of great features.

CONS:

None.

STREET PRICE:

$219

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