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Tools of the Trade

Increased response time and brighter LEDs make the new Novation Launchpad S a winner

By Sagar Vashishta
Launchpads

Four years after the release of what would become one of the definitive MIDI controllers for Ableton Live users, audio-manipulation-interface manufacturers Novation have unleashed the new Launchpad S, a revamped model of the Launchpad that boasts tons of new features on top of those that made the original unit such a huge success. Being huge fans of Novation’s controllers, we were very excited to unwrap the Launchpad S and take it for a test drive.

Features
As expected, the Launchpad S carries all the exact same functionality as its previous iteration: a 64-button music software controller that you can use to launch loops or clips, trigger drums and samples, and control effects and volumes, but we noticed some welcome new additions and upgrades. The biggest upgrade comes in the form of brighter, faster LEDs (as we understand it, this was the number-one request from users). If more lights isn’t your cup of tea, you will also find the device to now be fully compliant with general MIDI, making it a viable plug-and-play solution for a whole array of applications outside of Ableton. You will also find iPad support on the new model: Launchpad S can connect to your iPad with the Apple Camera Connection Kit, which we found to be pretty cool.

Layout/Interface
The interface looks and feels almost identical to the original Launchpad, and it’s very evident that Novation opted to stick with the “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” approach with this iteration, though they did change from the original black to more of a metallic gray color.

Performance
The response time has been significantly improved in this new iteration and it is quite noticeable right away. The addition of general MIDI support will also likely result in a more smooth performance across many applications. Aside from that, we did not notice too many differences in performance from the original Launchpad.

What we like
The fact that all the same functionality we’ve grown used to in the original Launchpad is still in tact is awesome, making the controller feel comfortable and familiar right out of the box. The new daylight-bright LEDs are pretty awesome as well (who doesn’t love more LEDs?). As mentioned, the new LEDs also have a much better response time. Lastly, for those of us who need more than 64 buttons to trigger, Novation has added a handy little customizable hardware ID so that you can easily daisy-chain multiple units into your setup.

What we don’t like
It’s hard to find too many things to complain about with the Launchpad S, given that Novation has iterated on an already stellar product. However, we would have loved to see the inclusion of velocity-sensitive pads.

Overall
You would be hard-pressed to come across a better MIDI controller for Ableton Live. Novation’s years of experience in building specialized controllers with a user-focused design are quite evident in this model and we can highly recommend the Launchpad S as your go-to controller.