Launchkey 88 brings a luxurious keybed to a budget MIDI controller

Novation already makes 5 completely different variations of its venerable Launchkey collection of MIDI controllers, starting from the travel-friendly Launchkey Mini all the way in which as much as the studio centerpiece Launchkey 61. However for some, 61 keys is not sufficient. And a critical piano participant would possibly balk on the unweighted keys. However now Novation presents the Launchkey 88 with a semi-weighted keybed.

The most recent addition to the household basically bridges the hole between the budget-minded Launchkey and the higher-end SL collection, which begins at $600. The Launchkey 88 retains the price to simply $400 by leaving out extra superior options like CV outputs, colour screens and built-in sequencer. However, in the event you’re primarily producing in-the-box you most likely will not miss the extras that a lot.

Novation Launchkey 88

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

That is to be anticipated, and it isn’t a con, however the Launchkey 88 is big. It isn’t the controller for you if area is at a premium. I actually had bother discovering room for it in my small attic studio. That being stated, the keybed is superb. I am not a piano participant, and don’t have any explicit allegiance to weighted keys, however these have been clearly a step above your common MIDI controller. They lack the springy bounce of the cheaper members of the Launchkey line and I discovered it a lot simpler to get nuanced velocity response.

In any other case, the {hardware} is principally the identical as the remainder of the Launchkey line. It is all plastic, however feels stable sufficient. The 16 velocity delicate pads are satisfactory however nothing to write down dwelling about. The faders have a wonderful quantity of resistance, however are a tad wobbly. And the knobs are extremely stable however a tad small. The pitch and mod wheels are pretty although, full cease. The resistance is ideal, and so they’re rock stable. Going again to the contact strips on different controllers appears like punishment.

Novation Launchkey 88

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

After all, the massive promoting level of any Launchkey gadget is its tight integration with Ableton Dwell. It isn’t fairly adequate to go utterly mouse and keyboard free, however you may get quite a bit achieved straight on the controller. You possibly can launch clips from the pads, management macros with the knobs and blend your tracks with the faders. You’ve got management over ship results, the panning, and there is a devoted button for looping a portion of your monitor to jam over, in addition to a seize MIDI button in case you play one thing really impressed however forgot to hit document. You are able to do fairly a bit with trying on the laptop, although it may be a bit robust to navigate bigger initiatives.

There are some odd quirks proper now, although, that may seemingly get ironed out in firmware and script updates fairly rapidly. Particularly, Dwell will get confused by enjoying within the higher octaves. There’s a few useless zones, from G4 by way of E5, for instance, and a few keys within the highest octave set off numerous recording modes as an alternative of notes.

Novation Launchkey 88

The arpeggiator remains to be unimaginable, although. The Random, Mutate and Deviate options make it straightforward to create distinctive patterns and introduce a bit unpredictability to a composition. That is the function that has me coming again to the Launchkey line repeatedly in my private studio. And the five-pin MIDI DIN connection lets you carry that top-notch arpeggiator to {hardware} synths. Nevertheless, I nonetheless suppose the controller is greatest suited to a primarily software-based setup.

Novation Launchkey 88

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The Launchkey 88 isnt a real luxurious MIDI controller. It is actually an inexpensive workhorse. Nevertheless it does go a bit past a few of its extra inexpensive rivals, and even its siblings. The expansive dimension most likely is not crucial for many producers, however the semi-weighted keybed does make an enormous distinction in playability. And I might like to see Novation carry it to the smaller family members just like the Launchkey 49, which might be a bit extra my pace (and simpler to shove on my cramped desk).

The Launchkey 88 is out there now for $400.

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