Updated Ableton controller hits the right buttons

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If you have any interest in electronic music, or any recording in general, you’ll be familiar with Ableton Live. Or, more specifically, you’ll be aware of one of its main selling points; it’s clip-launching session view. Pieces of audio or MIDI are recorded into boxes which, when lined up, can be played back in whatever order you so desire. Perfect for writers looking to spark a bit of creativity, or as a way to experiment with new arrangements or structures. Hardware manufacturers cottoned onto what an intuitive and expressive piece of software it is, and began releasing controller surfaces dedicated to it. Even Ableton itself joined the rush by releasing its Push hardware, in association with Akai. But one of the first on the scene was Novation with its now classic Launchpad controller, which combined clip launching with the ability to record parts, automate effects and so on.

In the spirit of progress, Novation has recently launched an improved Launchpad, cunningly called Launchpad S. The new machine offers brighter backlit pads, perfect for performance use, along with faster refresh rates and class compliant MIDI so it could be used with an iDevice. Gradual changes, but clearly if it ain’t broke, why try and fix it.

The original tactile pleasures of Launchpad remain in place. The unit features modes for playing and recording instruments into MIDI clips, along with thoughtfully laid out ways of traversing your way around its other functionality. It’s truly a performance machine – the vast majority of Ableton’s in-built functions can be accessed without using a mouse at all, making it more like an all-in-one instrument, mixer and arrangement tool. You could, for example, use the unit to record a drum track, add and alter effects and filters, then add further instruments on top all the while mixing and creating exciting arrangements completely on the fly.

You may notice we used the word classic earlier in the article. It’s a word that causes much debate, but I think it’s fair to say that the Launchpad has earned this status. Novation did a sterling job of introducing something new, interesting, usable and very of the moment, and all at a price-point which meant it was accessible to anyone. The gradual improvements we see in the Launchpad S will ensure it remains in the hearts and studios of producers everywhere.