Once you start using Ableton Live, it doesn’t take long to realise just how fast and fluid the software is. It allows you to take an idea and run with it, and before you know it, a new track is taking shape.
However, you’ll also quickly realise that, to get the best out of the software, you’ll need a hardware controller, but the last thing you want to do is get one that will compromise Live’s painless workflow and your creativity. Fortunately, you don’t have to, because Novation’s Launchkey controllers are designed to work seamlessly with the software without slowing you down.
Set up is as simple as it could be: just plug in the Launchkey over USB and you’re ready to go. The faders, knobs and pads are automatically assigned to those in Live, so you can start controlling your grid, instruments, effects and mixer right away. Power comes from your computer, and there are no drivers to install*. Your mouse will be able to take a well-earned break during your music production sessions, with the Launchkey becoming the beating heart of your Live control setup.
The standard Launchkey is available in 25-, 49 and 61-note varieties; in each case you get a lightweight synth-style keyboard that’s easy to play. However, it’s also velocity-sensitive, so you can add a touch of expression when you need to. The RGB-backlit pads are velocity-sensitive, too, so as well as being great for triggering clips, you can also use them for tapping out dynamic beats.
If you’re short on space or want something portable, take a look at the Launchkey Mini, too. This compact controller loses the faders and has mini rather than full-size keys, but both these and the 16 pads retain velocity-sensitivity.
Of course, Launchkey isn’t just for Ableton Live. It works great with any HUI-compatible DAW, and you can configure the setup via Novation’s InControl mode. That said, a copy of Ableton Live Lite comes with each model - as do several plugin synths and a selection of samples - so even if you don’t have any production software, you’ve got everything you need to start making music.
Find out more about the Launchkey series on the Novation website.
*A driver is only required for Windows users when using Launchkey MK2 with more than one program at the same time.