Novation Launchpad Mini Review – USB MIDI Controller, MK2 Version

At first glance, Novation Launchpad Mini is just a smaller and more affordable version of the popular DJ Controller Launchpad (large). But don’t jump to conclusions!

First surprise: Launchpad Mini is designed for iPad-app Novation Launchpad. The box even has a special inscription “Launchpad for the iPad generation”. And the Ableton logo is removed from the device. What is that? The Novation’s answer to Ableton Push? Quite possible!

Of course, Launchpad Mini still has a full integration with Ableton Live 9 and FL Studio 12, also works as MIDI Controller for all audio sequencers, but now Novation slowly begins to advance its own interesting ecosystem: hardware controllers Launch and two apps for them: Novation Launchpad for iPad and Novation Launchkey for iPad.

We reviewed carefully these products and now we can take responsibility and say: this is quite a powerful step by Novation, and clearly with great potential. To create a complete ecosystem, Launchpad Mini or the S only need to be combined with a Launchkey Mini and LaunchControl (we also have Novation Launch Control Review – here you can to check it). All three controllers connect to iPad and, together with signature software Novation, turn it into, not speaking modestly, a sufficient instrument for performances! And most importantly, the price is super-attractive.

Along with this, it’s possible to use it customary with any popular programs that are controlled by MIDI. As proof, the set includes Ableton Live Lite. However, all the possibilities of Ableton Live 9 version continue to be a lot for recording studios and geeks. A mass user uses only 10% of all features of the program, and, during performances, uses nothing but a few buttons and a couple of filters. We’ll talk about that sooner. But first, let’s start from technical specifications.

Specifications 

  • Buttons: 64 square buttons (8×8 grid)
  • Button Backlight Colours: amber, green, red, no color
  • Full integration with the Ableton Live and FL Studio software
  • Novation Launchpad Mini is able to work with any other DAW as MIDI Controller
  • The possibility to work in pair with LaunchKey and  Launchkey Mini, as well as with Launch Control
  • Just “Plug and Play” / Driver installation is not required 
  • Power Options: MicroUSB cable powered, including iPad 2 or newer
  • OS Compatibility: Windows 7,8,10 / starts from Mac OSX 10.7 and greater, iOS 6 or greater
  • Package Bundle: Novation Launchpad Mini MKII, MicroUSB cable, Manual, Ableton Live Lite 9, Lightning to USB camera adapter not included
  • Dimensions: [W] 185mm x [D] 185mm x [H] 16mm
  • Weight: 420 grams (1.3 pounds)

Overall Build and Features

Unlike its predecessor Novation Launchpad Mini MKI, the updated model MKII has a slightly modified look and improved quality of the overall build and some components. In comparison with the large Launchpad, a new Launchpad Mini MKII has a 37% smaller surface area, but all of the 8×8 buttons with color illumination are fully preserved in its size. Instead of fixed symbols on the case, you will find in a package bundle special stickers for Ableton Live, FL Studio and the ones with empty fields for any software user.

The case of Launchpad Mini is made of firm plastic. The entire lower surface is completely covered with rubber to avoid slipping of the surface.

The Launchpad Mini doesn’t have a separate power connector – all powered by the USB bus. There are two modes of luminescence of buttons – economical and standard. Firstly, iPad battery deteriorates slower. Secondly, the eco mode in dark conditions of a live performance is quite enough. There is also a microUSB cable on USB in a set, but, unfortunately, it’s impossible just to connect to your iPad and start working with it – it requires an adapter from Camera Connection Kit or USB Camera Adapter. Also there is Kensington security slot located in the left part of the housing.

Novation Launchpad Mini USB

As optional accessories for Novation Launchpad Mini we recommend you to buy Novation Launchpad Sleeve – it’s a zip case for your Launchpad Mini, which will help to protect it from dust and it’s just a great carrying case. Also we recommend you Sabrent 4-Port USB Hub, which can be useful in situation when you have multiple controllers and you do not have enough USB Ports in your Laptop (if you are MacBook owner, you’ll understand what we are talking about).

iPad Software Features for Novation Launchpad Mini

Free Launchpad app for iPad contains several libraries of sounds in different styles. To upload your own samples, you’ll need to buy the Audio Import Feature Upgrade for 5$ directly from the app. It’s not the only possibility of extension. You can also buy ready-made branded sets for 1,99$ each. You have the option to listen to library before purchase. The Launchpad app for iPad is very simple, with a good set of filters and excellent integration with Launchpad Mini and LaunchControl. But that’s not all – you can SIMULTANEOUSLY download Launchpad for iPad and Launchkey synth for iPad! Both apps are synced automatically to the tempo and significantly enhance a performance, because hardware controllers in this case do not duplicate iPad, but complement it very well. So, when you switch to the Launchpad app you clearly see visible labels on the buttons – what kind of sample is loaded. For example, it’s just Drum, but the name and the type of sample – loop or trigger. And when you switch to the synth all of the iPad touch screen is used to control a dozen filters, and it gives excellent results, not at all unattainable without iPad. One should admit: finally, there is a decent application for iPad and it’s not just a fashionable and must-have device anymore.

Novation Launchpad App

Novation Launchkey App

Novation apps for iPad are free, so anyone can run both programs and test their capabilities. There is a question: why would you need controllers? The answer is very simple: firstly, in a creative impulse it’s possible to damage iPad touch screen. That’s what the hardware buttons are not threatened. Secondly, the hardware buttons reply faster and, in general, it’s possible to play without looking, as there is a nice tactile feedback. Small buttons of Mini have a definite advantage. In a larger version of the pads, the buttons are pressed two times deeper and a double click is felt with clicking on pad (due to the characteristics of the button). The Mini has no such issues, but if a style of play involves pressing simultaneously multiple buttons, the Mini is out of competition!

Final Verdict on Novation Launchpad Mini

Novation has managed to create perfect symbiosis of hardware and software and professional results are available for any beginner. What is also important – there is no need in customization and training. It’s only necessary to guess how to use it all at once, not individually. It should be mentioned that the size of the Novation Launchpad Mini is very difficult to guess by photos. In reality, the size is not that small, it’s slightly larger than iPad by dimensions, and it’s comparable to iPad by surface area, so that bundle looks quite harmonically.

Pros

  • Novation Company created an excellent ecosystem, where each device when used in a pair with another device from “Launch Series” perfectly complement each other, extending the functionality of performer in several times.
  • Due to compact housing, this device takes up little space in your DJ bag or on the desktop.
  • The ability of working with any DAW (full integration with Ableton and FL Studio Software).
  • Plug and Play, no drivers require
  • It does not use third-party power supply / powered by the USB cable and can be powered by iPad.

Cons

  • If you want to connect your Launchpad Mini to iPad, you need an Camera Connection Kit adapter or Lightning to USB Camera adapter, which sold separately from original package bundle.
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Global Novation Launchpad Mini Rating
  • Overall Build and Features - 9.3/10
    9.3/10
  • Versatility - 8/10
    8/10
  • Design - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Ease of Use - 7/10
    7/10
8.5/10