Some five years ago Novation presented us with the Launchpad, a truly dedicated MIDI controller for Ableton Live. It paved the way for a range of controllers to be developed by other manufacturers, right up to the inception of the Push controller released by Ableton themselves a couple of years back. How with the increasingly popularity of the grid style controller, Novation has delivered a much anticipated update to their unit. This was unveiled at this year’s NAMM show and is sure to have a lot of long standing Launchpad users eager to get their hands on one. So, it is with the impatience of a child the night before Christmas that we now have to wait for the release of the Launchpad Pro.
Bigger And Better
Now, I’m sure many if you reading this will have already heard about the Launchpad Pro from the news updates that are available online, and those that haven’t will no doubt be checking it out shortly after reading this. What you will notice straight away is the bigger and more solid frame this new controller is built into. This makes it a tougher and sturdier looking unit that will be a definite centre-piece in a studio workspace. It features additional rows of eight buttons both down the left side of the unit and along the bottom. Plus, the inclusion of additional connections with a MIDI in and out supplied as well as the USB connection. Although this may be seen as a negative by some users who really enjoyed the slim and compact design of the original, especially when slipping it into a laptop bag for live work. I am sure the added features will far outweigh any logistical hiccups you encounter due to the slightly larger size.
At this stage, I haven’t been able to get my hands on one of these units, nor have most people. But, from what Novation has made clear about the Launchpad Pro, there is going to be a range of improvements in how this device works with Ableton. The row of buttons along the bottom of the unit allows for the user to jump into a certain page within Mixer mode and make adjustments from any mode and jump back after the button is released making it really handy for mute, solo, volume and pan adjustments on the fly without needing to go to your computer. The multi-coloured pads really are a major bonus with this new unit. When in Session Mode each pad lights up to match that of the corresponding clip. If you make any changes to the colourcoding of your clips with the mouse, it is instantly adjusted on the unit to help you keep track of your workflow. This not only makes for a visually stunning work surface, but one that is intuitive and easy to navigate. One big bonus of the Launchpad Pro is the fact that it will pull you away from the mouse more than the original ever could. It has been designed to allow you to access and control as many features of the software as possible by only interacting with the unit itself. The extra row of buttons down the left side of the unit allow you to access a range of regular use features like Record arming, Doubling, Duplicating and the all-important Undo and Redo options. Holding these down with a combination of the pads to achieve the required result speeds up the workflow and removes your need to attend to the computer via the mouse. On top of this, each pad is pressure and velocity sensitive allowing them to work in a range of functions depending on what mode you are operating in. For instance, when making volume adjustments in mixer mode, a gentle press of a pad in the appropriate column will see the volume fader slowly move into that position. However, a sharp tap of that pad will see the fader snap straight to it. It essentially does away with the need to have a controller with physical faders as you can make these adjustments with the pads. At this stage I have no official release date that I can confirm for the Launchpad Pro, and when that happens, I am sure there will be the usual rush to get units. There will no doubt be a short supply that will see many Ableton users unable to get a hold of one right away. Obviously, getting in early with a pre-order is going to better your chances of securing one, but inevitably some of us are going to have to wait a while. Fingers crossed all of you reading this will be in the lucky group to get in first.