As we neared the Novation booth at Winter NAMM this year, we couldn’t help but get excited when we saw from a distance those small rubber pads sprawled through out some of their new gear. We knew this meant just one thing — either some new Launchpad’s (a piece of gear we’ve all come to love, especially Ableton Live users), or entirely new MIDI controllers to check out. Regardless, Novation definitely did not disappoint with getting their feet wet in the new year with some new controllers to check out. Today we review and give you our thoughts on the new Launchpad Pro MK3 (yes, they skipped the MK2 launch and said it’s because it’s closer to the features of the Mini Mk3 and they wanted to keep it neat — relax people).
Main features of the Launchpad Pro MK III
- 64-pad MIDI controller
- 42 buttons
- USB-C bus-powered
- Velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
- Seamless Ableton Live integration
- Standalone 32-step standalone sequencer
- Scale mode and chord mode to help harmonize
- Eight (8) custom modes to design control surface
- Capture MIDI function for recall
- Access to ‘Sound Collective’
- Two months free of access to Splice
- MIDI in / Out
- Out 2 / Thru
- Dimensions: 268 mm L x 268 mm D x 18 mm H
Standout features of the Launchpad Pro MK3
We’ll state the obvious: the number one attraction here is going to be your usage with Ableton Live. Here are some highlights when it comes to integration: dedicated controls for launching clip and scene, quantizing (push all those notes onto the grid), transport, and duplicating. Access straight from the device to Ableton’s ‘Capture MIDI function’ for the quick jotting of your ideas, and also view your drum rack straight on the grid.
Like in other Launchpads, you can also access the mixer, track selections, clip access (volume change, pans, sends), and device control (jump between different devices — 8 at a time). All new for the MK3, the bottom row has been split with an extra row if you’ve noticed — quick access to track selections at the top, but with the extra row now you can clear, stop and solo clips, mute, duplicate, double or even record arm.
Another one of our favorite highlights of the Launchpad Pro MK3 is the built-in standalone step-sequencer, which comes with four tracks and is eight-note polyphonic. The four tracks is pretty decent in our opinion, which is a feasible amount for us so we can let’s say have our drums, bass, a piano and perhaps a synth handy. You can add your sounds onto separate blocks or pads and record real time if you’re let’s say performing on the fly, recording in the studio or even just jamming for fun with friends or solo to get into the creative mood.
They also allow you to actually edit your notes (let’s say you press the wrong chord while you record live) on the unit itself, instead of having to go into your DAW and change the note in the MIDI writer. The Launchpad Pro MK3 will actually show you in colors what chord you pressed at the particular step so you can see where it went wrong and change it on the hardware. We watched the demo of this at the booth and loved the simplicity of use when it comes to actually creating on the hardware instead of relying fully on Ableton. You can even change the actual length of those chords as well using the same methodology by holding the particular button you have assigned to that step.
Before we move on, one last nifty feature of the Launchpad Pro MK 3 MIDI controller we think is noteworthy is their ‘chord mode’. New for this model, we think it’s nice addition. As piano players ourselves, nothing hits better than a minor or major instead of a single note. If you don’t have a MIDI keyboard this is going to be handy, and even if you do know all about chords, you know it’s going to be pretty difficult using three buttons at once.
Novation created this little feature to fix that, and all you need to do with it is press their ‘chord mode’ button up top, and a column becomes handy that provides all of the chords available in a particular scale (you can change the scale as you please). You also have the ability to create your own custom chords and save them within the hardware so you can use them later. This is one of our favorite features by far and absolutely love it. Also super easy to use once you get the hang of it.
What are the upgrade from previous Launchpad Pros?
- Features the most sensitive pads of any of the Launchpads.
- Brings us ‘track select’ buttons (move quickly between tracks without the sacrifice of your other functions).
- Has a ‘fixed length’ feature (recorded clips in Ableton remain the right length and you can print the patterns in the sequencer).
- We noticed the buttons are a lot bigger and even more responsive than previous Launchpad Pros.
- The included step-sequencer is an obvious new addition as it’s the first Launchpad to ever have one of these things.
- The chord mode previously explained is also a cool feature not available in other Launchpads.
- It has the same software as both the Mini and X (two months free to Splice Sounds, access to their monthly Sound Collective, and a copy of Ableton Live Lite 10).
What’s in the box?
- One (1) Launchpad Pro MK 3
- One (1) USB-A Power Adapter
- One (1) USB-C to USB-C Cable
- One (1) USB-A to USB-C Cable
- Three (3) TRS Mini jack to MIDI (DIN) Adapters
- Safety information sheet
Concluding our Launchpad Pro MK III Review
The obvious recommendation here would be to those not using Ableton Live to stay away. However, hear us out for just a few more sentences. The Launchpad Pro MK III starts to make it’s claim as a standalone step-sequencer and we’d even go as far as telling you to think twice if that’s something you’re in the market for. Here’s why: you have four tracks with eight patterns each and 32 steps, pattern sets, the custom modes allow you to do MIDI CC’s to hardware synthesizer (you can use any synth with it) if you have any, and the two MIDI outputs really allow us to take a step away from a computer and use the power of this without it. The sequencer also allows you pattern settings such as multiplying or dividing the clock, mutation, velocity — a lot of self-tweaking available here to be completely standalone.
If you’re in the market for your first Launchpad Pro in general, don’t forget that they have a few other controllers in the series you may take a liking to: their Launchpad X (a step up from this Launchpad we reviewed today, recommended for those more serious about music production, have a larger budget and just want to go bigger than the MK 3) and Launchpad Mini (for perhaps those just starting out, on a stricter budget, has a smaller setup with let’s say a laptop). Otherwise, this here Launchpad Pro MK III is best suited for those of you who want something in the middle, but in our opinion most importantly want to take advantage of the built-in step-sequencer or serious about producing their music. Also note that the Launchpad Pro comes with all of the same software as the X and Mini.
All in all we love the few upgrades with their newest Launchpad Pro MK III MIDI controller and recommend it for those who need an entirely new step sequencer and Ableton controller, but we’re just not sure about buying an entirely new model if you already have an older one. The biggest reason we would recommend doing so if that’s your situation is if you really foresee yourself using the sequencer.
In terms of an actual competitor to this thing, there aren’t as many specific and niche-related when it comes to a straight up MIDI controller literally built for Ableton Live. However, through out the years we’ve seen a few heavy hitters get into the market, with a few notables such as the Ableton Push (twice the price) or Akai APC (less features and a little more expensive) which you may want to check out.