Ableton and Novation have announced the next controller for Ableton Live, the Novation Launchpad. I'm surprised that they are going this fast since it was just a couple of months ago that the AKAI APC 40 controller was released. I can image that people might have bought the AKAI and now are wondering if they wouldn't have been better off with the Novation Launchpad which seems to be less expensive.

Novation Launchpad Modes

Buttons

I took a look at the demo movie on the Ableton website and the product description and there were a few things I noticed. The buttons give me the impression they are velocity sensitive since they can be used as sequencer. But so far this hasn't been confirmed, so I guess not. If they are used for controlling the volume of a mixer you can very easily slide your fingers over them. This is definitely different then on the AKAI APC 40 where you can't do such a thing with the buttons.

The button grid is with 64 (8 x 8) much larger then on the APC 40 which I really like. In the way I use Ableton, I have more than 5 clips slots filled in one track which I would like to have direct access to without scrolling. With the larger grid this is possible without the need to duplicate the track like I do now. On the other hand I sometimes loose the overview on my APC with an 8 x 5 grid, imagine this 8 x 8 grid.

Novation Launchpad for Ableton Live

Red Rectangle

The very same red rectangle is used again for orientation. I do start to wonder why they keep this functionality closed, since it would be very easy of you would have that feature also with a Xone 4D for example. But any MIDI controller with a button grid would benefit from this.

USB Powered

I've seen many posts on the Ableton forum people asking why the AKAI APC 40 wasn't just USB bus powered. The answer was always that the APC 40 did have too much LEDs to use the USB bus, hence the additional power supply.
This controller with a larger button grid seems to have more LEDs, exception to the LEDs on the APC around the rotary encoders. So I'm surprised to read it will be USB bus powered, while the LEDs on the Novation Launchpad seem to be as powerful as on the APC. The LEDs on the demo movie do look a little bit instable but this can also be due to the sensitivity of the camera.
The LEDs seem to be able to do more, the controller states that is has 11 LED modes while The APC has only 7 modes.

The USB connector is on the side which in my opinion is a very bad position. You can't make a tight setup with other controllers and cabling is on almost all equipment done at the back.

Faders and Rotary Encoders

It does allow you to control this, but I think it is missing the precision and direct access. You have to switch constantly between the controller modes and it is hard to perform certain tasks in parallel.

Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition

Ableton Live Logo

The new controller also has its own specific version of Ableton Live called the Launchpad Edition. If I look at the comparison chart between this edition and Ableton Live 8 I think you get a nice version of Ableton for a good price.

AKAI APC 40 and Novation Launchpad?

I guess it is possible to use both controllers in combination with Ableton Live which could be a nice combination. I think that only a Launchpad for controlling Ableton is not enough, since it is missing faders and rotary encoders. You could of course combine it with another MIDI controller like the KORG Nanopads. I just stick to my AKAI APC 40 since that gives me for now the best total control possible at the moment.

Novation Launchpad Reviews

DJ Techtools did a review of the Novation Launchpad and also CDM did a review.