The Novation Launchpad has been around for over 10 years now. Over the past decade Novation has developed the Launchpad to accommodate various size requirements as well as feature set improvements. Now in 2020 we have the Launchpad Pro mk3. How does this device improve on the previous versions? As a pad-based Ableton Live controller, how does it stack up to Ableton Push 2? Let’s find out.
Sleek and slim is the de facto design principle most manufacturers are trying to achieve. Slim doesn’t necessarily translate to better in many cases but, thanks to Apple going in this direction, many hardware manufacturers are following suit. In the case of the Launchpad, I don’t see any reason that slimming down the device has made it worse. The 64 pads are still large enough to trigger clips or for performing finger drumming routines. The Launchpad Pro now uses a USB-C jack which is slowly becoming the standard. USB-C to USB-A as well as USB-C to USB-C cables are included in the box. Slimming down the device makes it that much more light and portable.
Aside from the USB-C MIDI connector you also get traditional 5 Pin MIDI support via two outs and one in on 3.5mm jacks. Three converters for 3.5mm TRS to 5 pin MIDI is included in the box. The second MIDI out is not a second MIDI port. It’s a duplicate of the first one so you can plug multiple devices and assign them to separate channels if desired. The second MIDI port can also be used as a MIDI Thru. You also get a USB-A power adapter. This is useful when you run the Launchpad Pro MKIII in standalone mode.
There are tons of controllers on the market for Ableton Live, including the one made by Ableton themselves. I would normally recommend getting the Push 2 for anyone who needs a controller with deep integration with Live. Unfortunately the price tag of the Push 2 can deter most from investing in it.
The Launchpad Pro is in my opinion, the next best controller for Live! Aside from the 64 RGB velocity and pressure sensitive pads, there are 42 additional buttons to access a variety of controls. Further controls can be accessed by holding down the Shift button and tapping some of the function buttons. Play, Record, Duplicate, Clear, Quantize are just a few of the many Live related functions you can access. You can now even undo or redo! One of my favorite features is Fixed Length, which lets you decide beforehand how many measures you want to record and playback immediately after recording that, for a live-looping scenario. As far as I know the only other controller to also have this feature is Ableton Push.
There are 5 Modes on the Launchpad Pro mk3. Session Mode is for launching clips in Live. Note mode is for rhythmic or melodic/harmonic playing of parts. There are many layouts and scale options. Some of them are similar to the ones on Push. There’s a pretty novel chord mode that lets you perform chords on single pads. You get a collection of preset chords but you can also assign your own. Custom mode is for creating custom mappings, which can be easily created with the Novation Components software via a web browser. You get 8 separate custom modes. Lastly the Sequencer mode is used to access the standalone 4 track, 8 note polyphonic, 32 step sequencer. The sequencer can run standalone and can be used to sequence external hardware synthesizers and drum machines.
The Launchpad Pro mk3 is a powerful hardware controller for Ableton Live as well as a very capable standalone sequencer. There are many more features too. If you want to learn the functionality of the Launchpad Pro in detail, check out our course (here in the Ask.Audio Academy) that covers all the functionality and capabilities of the controller.
Price: $350 USD
Pros: Excellent build quality, with velocity & touch sensitive pads. Doubles as a standalone sequencer.
Cons: No dials or sliders for continuous control. The pads along with velocity sensitivity are unused to create the appearance of continuous control.