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Designed by Novation in collaboration with Ableton, the Launchpad’s primary intended function is as a hardware control surface for triggering clips in the latter’s ever-popular Live DAW. To that end, there’s a cut-down Launchpad edition of Live included in the box.
The unit is solid yet incredibly lightweight, and the flat, square form factor is appealing, with four extra-grippy feet preventing it from sliding around. A USB port on the top right-hand corner connects the Launchpad to your computer, handling data and power.
When partnered with Novation’s excellent Automap 4 software, the Launchpad becomes a universal controller capable of interacting with plug-ins in most current DAWs, and with its impressive array of 64 trigger pads, arranged in an 8x8 matrix, it almost makes you wish you had a few extra fingers.
Unfortunately the trigger pads aren’t velocity-sensitive, which makes them far from ideal for programming expressive patterns. Extra buttons along the top and the right-hand side that handle page and mode selection when used with Live become additional trigger pads when used with Automap, and note numbers can be reassigned fairly easily using the software’s Mapping Editor page.
Ultimately, although the Launchpad works brilliantly as an extension of Live, the impressive number of pads that it features just isn’t enough to make up for its shortcomings as a generic controller for use with other applications.
If you’re not using Live, or just want it for programming beats, it’s probably best to look elsewhere, as this is really intended to be a clip launcher - a job, we should add, at which it excels.