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Review of Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini mk3

Over the last year or two years, I started to perform more and more with Ableton Live. To be honest, in the beginning, it was a struggle to learn Ableton Live mainly as I was used to DAWs like Studio One, Logic, and Cubase. The concept of Live follows a very specific approach and method which can make it harder to get started when you feel at home in a different DAW.

When I first connected the devices to my iMac my chrome browser was assisting me with the setup process.

Also, both Launchpads show as USB storage devices on my MAC. Once you’ve plugged in your Launchpad you start the online Easy Start tool. Through this process, you can easily register the device.

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When I plug Launchpad X or Launchpad Mini mk3 into my MAC both devices start a fun light show using colors of the rainbow. The Launchpad X has an 8×8 grid of pads and on the side of the device, you can use two rows of parameter/navigation buttons. The Mini also includes an 8×8 grid of pads plus one row on the side.

Ableton Live Control

After I got my head around the way to use Ableton Live I was looking into the market to understand how I can launch clips and manage the handy grid easier with an external device. I ended up asking Novation to send me a review unit for their new Launchpad X version, and the updated Mini (mk3).

For me, the main use of the Novation Launchpad is to manage with sensual feedback my prepared clips and scenes that I define in the Session View in Ableton Live. Novation Launchpad X and Novation Launchpad Mini Mk3 did become my personal two unique clip starters.  

The volume and pan control was not utilized often, that could be personal preference on how I work. I do see that in a dark room I would use volume and pan more as it is easier to use when performing live where it is generally speaking dark.

As I am a keyboard player I tent to use the midi keyboard to play the piano. The Launchpad can be used to play an instrument in the desired scale. On the other hand, the Launchpad shines when playing drums. The scale selection are unique to the Launchpad X and not available in the Launchpad mini.

Performance with Launchpad

My personal number one use of any Launchpad is that I completely control a composed music track and perform with loops single or in groups in an extremely easy way. When you play with a Launchpad your live performance.

Pressure Sensitivity Pads

With the launch of the new version, one of the new features of the Launchpad X is that Novation added velocity and pressure sensitivity to the pads. These enhanced pads turn the Launchpad X into a more meaningful controller for example when performing drums.

As before there are mixer controls that are manageable through the pads. You can mix the different sounds when managing their volume or pan.

The Launchpad X includes 64 Velocity Sensitive Pads with Polyphonic Aftertouch, the mini mk3 comes with 64 Pads which are not Velocity Sensitive.

Launchpad in other DAWs than Ableton Live

Novation actively supports you when using the Launchpad controller in other DAWs. You get access to excellent video tutorials like the one below.

Setting up your Launchpad X in Logic

Launchpad Pro MK3 Alternative

Besides the Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini mk3 Novation also relaunched their Pro Launchpad as an MK3 version. Launchpad Pro MK3 highlights a thinner body, additional MIDI connections, and larger pads. One of the killer features is the step sequencer available in the Launchpad Pro MK3. Using the Pro with AE Modular, Euorack, synths, and semi-modular positions the Pro because of the sequencer as the more desirable launchpad of the three. You can easily pair the Pro with a 1010music Bitbox mk2, Bitbox Micro, Mutant Brain, Hermod, and many other modules in the Eurorack world. When you go full DAWless you can use the Launchpad Pro as the central brain to manage and control your semi-modular, modular, and synths.

Do I need a Launchpad?

To start with the main use (at least for me) the grid-based Session View in Ableton benefits the most from this controller. Changing the launched samples in the grid by Launchpad is controlled by the available arrow keys. You can also combine two Launchpads to launch different rows of clips. When performing the Velocity Sensitive Pads of the X makes all the difference.

Rating:  Five Out of Five Stars

As I was new to these kind controllers for Ableton I did slightly adjust my personal playing style and in return used a very flexible and helpful midi controller or let us call it an instrument that can do more than just firing clips.

When do you choose which one and what is the deal with the Launchpad Pro? I will look at the Pro in the coming months. My take away on the Mini and X is that the Launchpad Mini Mk 3 is all about the size, it comes with a small footprint and is still usable. When I look at the X and having in mind that it supports 64 Velocity Sensitive Pads with Polyphonic Aftertouch the X is better suited when playing drums or an instrument.

Both devices are excellent for launching new clips. The design of these Launchpad controllers is delightful. They are thinner than the previous generation. The pads are enlarged, the function buttons encompassing the edges are now square. The pads are sensitive, come with useful light action, and the X includes pressure sensitivity and aftertouch.

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