Review: Launchkey Mini MKIII – MIDI Controller for Ableton Live on Mac

Externally, the third generation of the Launchkey product line does not see the enormous increase in performance: in terms of width and depth, the Launchkey Mini MK3 hardly differs from its predecessors. However, Novation has saved in height, which is partly due to the lower key stroke of the new mini keyboard. Nevertheless, the keyboard offers a better feel than with the first and second editions and a good implementation of the stop dynamics. But it doesn’t come close to really good mini-keyboards like the Arturia Keystep. However, the rounded undersides make the new model look more compact and lighter overall.

Novation Launchkey Mini – MIDI Controller (MK3)

€99.00

The 16 RGB surfaces above the keyboard correspond in size to the old models, but are slightly lower, making them look firmer and less wobly. This pays off when playing drum sounds, as this makes it easier to dose the stop dynamics of the pads. Eight small controllers, which also look a little more modern than the MK1 and MK2 of the launchkey respectively, complete the offer. These are still classic rotary potis with fixed start and end points and not imprecise infinite controllers.

Launchkey Mini with flexible arpeggiator

Instead of the sides, the Launchkey Mini MK3 has all the connectors on the back. The USB jack for connecting to the Mac and power supply is designed according to the USB-A standard and no longer as a micro-USB, making the cable more secure. A sustain pedal can be connected using a jack. A standard MIDI adapter fits the mini jack next to it. With the Launchkey Mini, this makes it possible to directly control other MIDI sound generators without USB and Mac – this possibility is hardly found with such compact controller keyboards nowadays. Unfortunately, there is no suitable adapter. If the sound generator also has a mini jack connection with TRS-A assignment, a simple stereo mini jack cable is also sufficient for connection.

(Picture: Manufacturer)

The MIDI output is practical especially in conjunction with the built-in arpeggiator, which, unlike Native Instruments’ Komplete keyboards, works without a computer. Different playing directions, dividers and rhythms can be set using a shift button and the keyboard or pad. Swing and note length can be controlled using the knobs.

With Mutate and Deviate, Novation has added two more delicacies: Mutate mixes the notes into new motifs, while Deviate changes the rhythm. The extent to which the parameters affect the arpeggio can be individually adjusted by a rotary knob. Chord memory allows you to save a chord, which can then be played with a button.

Ableton Live Integration of launchkey mini

Ableton Live automatically detects the Launchkey Mini in the current version, no further setup is required. The pads can be used to record and start clips, the multi-coloured lighting adapts to the clip color for better orientation.

Unfortunately, moving through the clip matrix and selecting further tracks and clips is only possible using the shift button, which also does not allow one-handed operation due to the physical distance. Since the view of the pads also changes when the shift function is activated, one quickly loses orientation in larger projects – a shift lock option could remedy this. With the lower pad series, you can stop tracks or focus solo, mute, or record. The pads can also be used to trigger the sounds of a drum rack, individual MIDI mappings are also possible.

Novation Launchkey Mini – MIDI Controller (MK3)

€99.00

There are also various options for the eight controllers. You can use it to control the parameters of an active Ableton device, such as the wavetable synthesizer or echo effect, as well as mixer functions such as volume, panning, and sends of the selected eight tracks.

There are also customized scripts for Apple Logic Pro X and Reason, while other DAWs can be controlled using the HUI protocol.

Conclusion

Conclusion: This in-depth integration with Ableton Live does not currently offer any other mini-keyboard. A great new edition!

Test
Product Launchkey Mini MKIII
Manufacturer Novation
Price 110 €
Website novationmusic.com
Per
  • stand-alone arpeggiator, MIDI output, multi-colored pads, improved feel
Contra

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