July 3, 2014

Novation Launchpad S & Novation Launch Control Review

Before Ableton Push and Livid’s line of controllers, the APC 40 and the Launchpad were the go to controller solutions for performers using Ableton Live on the stage. They are arguably still the best controllers for the job when you consider how Push is built best for crafting and arranging your productions before hitting the stage. At NAMM 2014 Novation brought us two new solutions for performers using Ableton Live with the Launchpad S and the Launch Control. These devices work great for controlling Ableton Live but they are also able to connect to your iPad with the Apple Camera Connection Kit which will also power the Novation controller.

These are all redundant talking points if you have been watching these Novation controllers from afar, so it should be noted that there is some pretty fantastic integration between the controller and Ableton Live. Let’s take a look at how the controller’s features are integrated as well as review the build quality and overall performance of the Launchpad S and Launch Control.

Launchpad S

Novation Launchpad S

The Launchpad S has 64, back-lit LEDs with 3 different colors to denote what is going on inside of Ableton Live. This is especially useful for those using the Launchpad S in a dark club environment for performances. The pads all feel great and have a nice response to your most discriminating of touch. The top row of buttons allow for navigation inside of Ableton Live where you can move left, right, up, and down within the session view. You can also switch between your session and mixer controls with dedicated buttons. The inclusion of 2 user modes is great if you have your own MIDI mappings, or if you want use the Launchpad S to control your instruments inside of Ableton Live.

The construction of the Launchpad S is of a hard plastic and feels rather sturdy. With enough drops to a concrete floor, you could easily crack this unit into pieces but lets assume you are more delicate with your gear than that. It definitely does not feel flimsy so even the most aggressive of hits for clip launching or other performance moves will not leave you disappointed.

Launch Control

Novation Launch Control

The Launch Control is something new for Novation this year and it is a great compliment to the Launchpad S. While you can perform a lot of the functions of the Launch Control on the Launchpad S, you are rather limited in executing those controls when simultaneously launching clips in a performance capacity. This is why in my opinion the Launch Control is going to see lots of applications for performers who use the Launchpad S and Ableton Live. With the Launch Control you can have independent control over volume, panning, sends, and the ability to control the parameters of your instruments, all without interfering with your ability to launch clips in the session view.

The Launch Control has 8 pads and 16 knobs for controlling your Ableton Live sessions. There are 3 factory templates that are ready to load right out of the box, but you can also setup and control your own user templates if there are functions you feel are absent from the factory modes. Each mode is unique but they can share similar functionality depending on what you are doing. For instance factory mode 1 allows you to control volume, pan, and the muting of your tracks. Factory mode 2 allows you to navigate and launch your clips within the session view, but you can also control the volume and panning with this preset. Factory mode 3 is by far the most useful and expressive. This preset allows you to control the parameters of your instruments inside of Ableton Live. This has great live performance applications but can also be useful in the studio if you want to do some automation tweaking for your tracks.

The Launch Control has a very similar feel to the Launchpad S in terms of construction. One thing I really liked was the attention to detail of where the USB output was placed on the Launch Control. The Launch Control’s USB is on the left side and the Launchpad S is on the right side. This is perfect for those cramped setups you might run into while using both controllers and it helps to keep your USB cables in check when connecting to your laptop. A small thing to consider within the totality of what these controllers offer, but still advantageous nonetheless.


The Launchpad S is a great and super affordable solution for those using Ableton Live in production and performance. The ability to switch between session mode and mixer mode is great, but what really stands out is the user mode which allows you to use the pads as an instrument. This is great for those that feel comfortable performing on the 64 button grid and it can really clear up some desk space in your studio.

The Launchpad S was easily connected and recognized when I used Ableton Live 8 and Live 9. I tried connecting the Launch Control using Ableton Live 8 and it was definitely not plug and play. So if you are using an older version of Ableton Live, you might need to do some MIDI tweaking on your own. I was also not a fan of how short the knobs were. I did not feel like I had a lot of precision of control when grabbing a knob which could be annoying to some folks and a rather pedantic critique for others. I would argue that in the moment of performing the last thing you want to worry about is how delicate your touch should be, and the Launch Control took some time to get used to the short stubby knobs.

I did appreciate that the pads were considerably brighter on the Launchpad S when compared to the 1st generation Launchpad. The Launchpad S seems a lot more integrated with Ableton Live straight out of the box than its predecessor as well. If you are looking for a no hassle, affordable controller for Ableton Live then you really can’t go wrong with these Novation pieces.

If you want to see the Novation Launchpad S and the Novation Launch Control in action, go ahead and watch the video we have posted at the top. For more information on these controllers or to pick one up for yourself, be sure to visit us over at or post a comment below.



For this video we will be looking at the features of the Novation Launchpad S and the Novation Launch Control. These are two MIDI controllers that integrate with the Ableton Live software, but they can also be mapped to work with your preferred DAW or MIDI controlled software. The Launchpad S has 64 backlit buttons and brighter LEDs than the previous launchpad. It features buttons on the top for navigating inside of Ableton Live as well as the ability to switch between a session and mixer mode. User modes allow for your own custom mappings as well. Mixer mode allows you to control the functions for volume, panning, and your send parameters. The buttons on the Launchpad S have a great response and help to give visual feedback of your control with 3 different colors. The buttons are great for launching clips inside of Ableton Live, but they can also be used to control the instruments inside of Ableton Live. The Launch Control features 8 pads, 16 knobs, 4 navigation buttons, and buttons for factory and user templates. The 8 pads can launch clips, mute and unmute tracks, or perform any function you choose to map to them. The knobs can control volume, pan, sends, or be used to control the device settings inside of Ableton Live. Lets take a look at how the LaunchPad S and the Launch Control work together when controlling a project in Ableton Live. The Launchpad S is great for launching clips inside of Ableton. You can select your individual clip by pressing the illuminated button. You can also launch a row of clips by selecting one of the buttons on the right side of the Launchpad S. At the top are your navigation buttons for up, down, left, and right. The Launch Control has 3 factory settings that perform different functions. Holding down factory and selecting buttons 1-3 will engage one of the three factory settings. Factory Preset 1 allows you to control the volume of a track, the panning of a track, as well as muting and unmuting. You can also control your sends. If you want to see these controlled reflected on the Launchpad S, you can select the mixer button to have visual feedback for all of your controls. Hit the volume button on the right side to see the pad lights react to your volume control. Select the PAN button on the right side to see the pan controls. Selecting send A or send B will give you visual feedback of those controls on the Launchpad S. Factory preset 2 allows you to navigate your clips and trigger them from the launch control. Factory preset 3 allows for control of the device parameters inside of Ableton. For more in depth information on the Novation LaunchPad S, the Launch Control, and their integration with Ableton Live, be sure to visit the blog linked below this video. To purchase the Novation Launchpad S, Novation Launch Control, or any other Novation product, be sure to click the links below the video and visit You’re watching