Review: Novation Launchpad

I have just received my Novation Launchpad, and my oh my, what a controller! Coupled with Ableton Live, this is one mean live setup.  

I have just received my Novation Launchpad, and my oh my, what a controller! Coupled with Ableton Live, this is one mean live setup.  

Initial Reaction

The Launchpad is USB-powered with a 64-pad matrix. It has additional control buttons on the top and side that allow for further switching between Ableton tasks on the Launchpad. The controller is very light, which makes it great for gigging. With my 13-inch MacBook Pro and Korg MicroKey, it makes for an easy fit, and impressive mobile gigging setup. The pads feel very durable and the rubber feet on the bottom keep the Launchpad firmly in place when placed on a flat, smooth surface.

Session Mode

The Launchpad allows you to jump between Session and Mixer Mode with the press of a button. When in Session Mode, the Launchpad displays what clips are active, inactive and armed. They are unlit if the cell is empty, glow amber for a loaded clip, green if the clip is playing, and red if the clip is recording. This makes it very easy to get to grips with your live session at a distance without the need to look at your MacBook. The buttons on the right launch the respective Scenes.

Session Mode

Session Mode.

Mixer Mode

In Mixer Mode, soloing, muting, and arming tracks becomes available via the buttons on the right-hand side of the unit. Plus, modes for panning, volume and send levels are also available. This is displayed on the Main Mixer view. You can also switch the Mixer Mode to show only the volume, pan, and send levels, which is quite handy.

Even in low light, the Launchpad is easy to see with the LEDs. Check out the images below:

The Launchpad displaying the level meters

The Launchpad displaying the level meters.

The Launchpad displaying the pan meters

The Launchpad displaying the pan meters.

The Launchpad displaying the Return Levels

The Launchpad displaying the Return Levels.

User Modes

The Launchpad also allows you to assign your own modes to the User 1 and User 2 modes. By default the User 1 is set up to trigger drum racks so that you can build drum patterns on-the-fly during your set.

But you can assign whatever you like to these User Modes. It will be interesting to see what people come up with when assigning these modes.

Beat creation is made easy using the User 1 Mode and its Drum Rack compatibility.


This device is definitely a stress-reducing Ableton Live machine. I would highly recommend incorporating the Launchpad controller into your live setup. It shifts the emphasis from your computer screen and mouse or keyboard to a dedicated controller, where you feel more in control of your Live sets. If you feel like having more pads, you can link up to 5 additional Launchpads for a massive 6-Launchpad setup.

Find out more info on the Launchpad at

For further details on Ableton and controllers, take a look at the Ableton Live 8 101 tutorial.

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More


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