I got to spend yesterday working with the Launchpad; see the video above which I think should help you get a sense of scale and what it looks like. (Also on YouTube) We have additional videos from other sources below.

It’s only been public for less than 24 hours, but as we did with the APC40, I think it’s time for a superguide answering questions about the Novation Launchpad controller.

The Launchpad and the way it works reveals a lot about how controllers work with Ableton Live. You may be surprised to learn a lot of this doesn’t require a special controller and doesn’t require Max for Live – it’s standard Ableton stuff that works with MIDI. (Remember MIDI?) And I think some of these answers could be worth a read if you have interest in hardware control hacking in general.

There have been a lot of questions from myself and readers, so I’ve done my best to get answers. Realize, a lot of this information is developing and is based on my limited understanding, so it’s all subject to change. I’ll update this guide over the next couple of days if I get any corrections.

Side note: What about interoperability? I intend to talk more about OSC and the Live API (and each separately) in coming weeks. I think it’s impossible to judge the full picture of how Live can interoperate with other tools, though, until there’s some more information, so stay tuned on that.

Basic Questions

Q. What do you get with Live 8 Launchpad Edition, the bundled software?

New to Ableton Live, and wondering if you can get anything done with the “lite” Launchpad Edition bundled with the hardware. The short answer is, yes you can. The included edition has restrictions, but it’s still a reasonably capable version if you’re new to Live and want to experiment.

Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition vs. Live 8

The Launchpad Edition even comes with 1 GB of Loopmasters loops to get you started.

Most importantly, ReWire support for Master and Slave (Host and Client) is included. That means if you have an existing host and just want to play with Live’s non-linear clip launching features, you can stick with that host, using Live alongside software like Reaper and Reason. You may want to consider upgrading, though, as some cool features like the use of Racks and the ability to slice instruments, plus the “Complex” warp mode, are missing.

Q. What the heck is going on in the crazy Novation video demo? How do I do that myself?

There isn’t any Max patch or other voodoo in the video demo from Novation. It’s all just a standard Ableton Live set, and the fact that the Launchpad responds to MIDI messages as well as sending them (something useful if you’re scripting the Launchpad in software other than Ableton, too).

Matt Derbyshire of Novation put together the video. Matt’s an interesting guy musically when not working for Novation, too – he’s part of a DJ Shadow cover band, for one. He shares with CDM how he went about this:

It’s actually a very simple session.

1) There are four clips only for drums in the drumrack channel

2) Each clip is pre-recorded but EMPTY at 1 bar length

3) These four clips are the first four clips in session mode but for convenience I also learned these to to User 1 mode bottom four left buttons.  Basically setting this up removes the need to rush back to session mode to drop out of record

4) Obviously quantize is on ‘cos my playing ain’t that great.

LED feedback

In User 1 mode the bottom left button turns on/off LED feedback.

The important thing I want from the video is to show that I personally do not think the lack of velocity sensitivity stops drums being played. In fact, to the contrary, I think in creative electronic music it helps to even out the playing.

The still-simpler explanation:

So long as you use the User Mode to play, enable LED feedback, and route MIDI from Live back to the Launchpad, you can get interactive light modes, as seen on the monome and Tenori-On.

Q. Okay, the Launchpad can assign control to continuous values. But it’s got buttons. How do you get eight buttons to replace a fader?

Actually, thanks to an Ableton feature that works with any MIDI controller (not just Novation or Akai), this is quite easy to do. You can assign any range on your controller by holding it down.

From Novation’s Matt Derbyshire:

Step 1: Choose the slider/knob you want (i.e. cross fader)

Step 2: Select USER 1 or 2 mode on launchpad

Step 3: Select MIDI learn mode in Ableton

Step 4: Select the thing you want to control (ie crossfader)

Step 5: Select the range of buttons on launchpad

Note that this also works for playing clips.

Now, obviously, if you control something like a volume fader with a set of buttons, you won’t get continuous values. And unfortunately neither Ableton nor Novation has designed any sort of interpolation between button values (though DIYers could find a way to do that). But I’m kind of finding the angular changes in buttons to be fun to play with. If I want a knob or fader, I’ll use a knob or fader.

Q. What can you do with these User Modes?

There are two User pages. User 1 sends basic note values – minus any velocity sensitivity, just on/off. User 2 sends control changes. User 1 by default will play any active MIDI inputs listening to channel 1. In Ableton Live, User 2 only sends control changes once you’ve mapped it using the MIDI Map, to avoid accidentally triggering notes when trying to control something else. (See also the special behavior with Max for Live below.) Of course, in software other than Live, you’ll set up whatever layout you want.

You can’t rearrange the organization of pitches on User 1 because there’s no real editor for the device; everything is hard-wired. On the other hand, you can always make this adjustment in software, as in a Rack in Live.

Advanced Live Use

Q. How will Max for Live integration work?

Max for Live will use the User 2 page. The good news here is, Max by default will listen only to User 2 while the other modes get routed to Live.

Q. Can you control Devices dynamically using the Launchpad?

No. Unfortunately, while there are pages for mixer settings and a generic way to transmit MIDI control changes, you can’t click a device and have a page on the Launchpad automatically make its eight columns control eight parameters / macros. That’s actually a feature enabled by the simple scripts available for the Korg nano series here on CDM (see my post explaining how this works, follow-up script from reader Raymond).

Of course, because this feature is supported by the Korg with our scripts and it’s very, very compact, the nanoKONTROL and Launchpad could make a great, cheap combo. And if you have Novation’s ReMOTE, Nocturn, and the like, you can alternatively use them – so, for instance, a keyboardist could stick the Launchpad atop a keyboard.

Q. Can you edit MIDI assignments? Is there a MIDI template editor, in other words?

No. All the MIDI assignments are hard-wired. The good news is, everything appears to send MIDI, though I still need to investigate how that works outside Live. The bad news is, as with the APC40, a lot of functionality is organized around Live.

That would be my one potential criticism, which is that we’re moving away from hardware that’s useful everywhere to hardware that’s useful only in one program. But I want more time to see how the Launchpad performs outside Live before I pass judgment on the Launchpad in particular, especially as I don’t even have the final software yet.

I still like editors, though, Novation, if you’re listening.

Q. What if you still have Live 7?

Update – official word: Ableton’s Baptiste Grange tells CDM:

On Nov 1 we’ll release two updates: Live 8.0.7 and Live 7.0.17. These will both support Launchpad.

So, Live 6 and earlier would need to upgrade, but not Live 7.


Q. Will we get the full MIDI implementation and protocol for creating custom patches or custom setups with our own software? Will that be true outside of Live, too?

Novation confirms that they plan to release the full MIDI implementation and communication protocol for the Launchpad at launch. That’s something that was missing on the APC40, leaving us all to figure it out ourselves, so I’m looking forward to seeing that documentation. Part of the reason to use MIDI is to have a spec that everyone can read so power users can do what they want.

Q. Can you control the lights using MIDI?

Yep. This should be in the full documentation, too, but here’s a sneak peak. Bjorn from the awesome Covert Operators sent me the velocity assignments, which I’ll be using to hack my Launchpad setup:

Velocity 0 = Off
Velocity 1 = light red
Velocity 2 = medium red
Velocity 3 = full red
Velocity 16 = light green
Velocity 32 = medium green
Velocity 48 = full green
Velocity 17 = light amber
Velocity 34 = medium amber
Velocity 55 = full amber
Velocity 18 = light orange (Lighter > red / darker > amber)
Velocity 35 = medium orange (Lighter > red / darker > amber)
Velocity 31 = full orange (Lighter > red / darker > amber)

The Competition, and the monome

Q. How does this compare to the Akai APC40 / controller XX / the monome as far as Live integration?

The most important point here is that you can easily mix and match. You can even have multiple control surfaces active, operating dynamically, at the same time, as well as multiple MIDI inputs for instruments. Also, most of the features of the Launchpad are available to all controllers. Novation is emphasizing the mix-and-match functionality of the Launchpad. Basically, the feeling is, there is no one control scheme that works for everyone.

The Launchpad is quite similar to the APC40. The clip functions are nearly identical, if in a slightly different (8×8) layout – you get the red onscreen rectangle, the red/green/amber LED indicators, scene launching, the ability to page through clips, and so on.

Basically, the major difference with the APC40 is trading functionality for size and price. The APC40 has the ability to map to Devices automatically, as does Novation’s own ReMOTE series; the Launchpad does not. The APC40 also has encoders, faders, a crossfader, and a number of shortcuts. On the other hand, you can get a lot of the APC40’s functionality in other hardware, meaning the Launchpad can combine nicely with other gear you already have.

One significant edge the Launchpad has over the APC40, though, is that the Launchpad is set up to play drum racks.

The monome is also capable of nearly everything you see the Launchpad doing, with the exception of the clip selection rectangle (though I find that a bit hard to see, personally). In fact, the pages on the Launchpad are clearly inspired (directly or indirectly) by Pages, a GPL-licensed, fully-free, Java-based tool for monome which even appeared in action on David Letterman with Imogen Heap.

You certainly have other options that provide dynamic, automatic control mappings, including the M-Audio Axiom Pro series, the Korg kontrol and nano series, Novation’s ReMOTE line, the Faderfox series, and various others. You can see the built-in scripts available on the Control Surface menu, and anything that supports MIDI can be adapted for additional functionality.

I expect that with the release of Max for Live, scripting custom control for other controllers should be more powerful, even if you don’t have Max for Live installed. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I’ll be trying to get more complete information on this.

The Live API improvements should be especially benefit the monome project. And remember, the monome isn’t standing still. Because it’s open, it’s conceivable clever users could hack new features.

Q. Can I run monome software on it? OSC?

Yes and – no.

The Launchpad uses MIDI, not OpenSoundControl (OSC). That means you have to translate incoming, sometimes arbitrary MIDI numbers to useful information, and that the Launchpad can’t natively interpret messages in the way the OSC-native monome can. However, as noted in our APC40 hacking superguide, it is possible to use an emulator to translate between MIDI and OSC. That should also be possible with the Launchpad. One challenge is the extra buttons around the grid. I’m going to have to write some Java MIDI code that can map to an arbitrary array of buttons, huh?

Q. Does the Launchpad violate monome’s license and design? How is the monome licensed? How “open” is the Launchpad?

I don’t want to – and cannot – speak for the monome project. However, while the Launchpad is unmistakably similar to the 8×8 grid of pads on the monome, it is not a “clone.” It’s only superficially similar to the monome. Cloning isn’t necessarily healthy for design, but a certain amount of copying can be. Without the spread of keyboard layouts, for instance, we wouldn’t have any of the keyboard instruments we have today – and, indeed, before the standardization on the fortepiano, a lot of keyboard instruments were strange copies of one another. In modern design, the monome is itself indebted to the pad layouts on early drum samplers.

I mention the word “clone” because the Arduinome is an clone of the monome which is distributed non-commercially as a result. It actually duplicates major portions of the design, PCB, and protocol, which is not remotely true of the Launchpad. Because their intention was cloning (for the purpose of ready availability of parts), the creators of the Arduinome consulted with the monome project.

For the record, the monome’s software is released under an open source license, and it uses fully-documented, open protocols, including OSC. The hardware is not technically open source, but it is open to the extent that specifications for the hardware, PCB, and firmware are provided for customization and modification, and the construction of custom housing. You are restricted from using the hardware design to make your own commercial hardware, which means the monome doesn’t fit some more restrictive definitions of what qualifies as open hardware. But it does offer some components that are truly open source, and it affords a great degree of real-world openness for its users.

None of the “openess” of the monome is true of the Launchpad, which operates under more traditional and proprietary models. You can’t easily physically open the Launchpad case (and I expect you’d void your warranty if you did). It uses MIDI, an open protocol, but has a proprietary mechanism for interacting with Ableton Live (at least so far as I can tell). It uses USB, but does not support class-compliant operation – you must install your own drivers, which means you can’t use it with some devices (like Linux netbooks). And the process and operation of the Launchpad are not available or documented. That’s not to discourage the Launchpad, and you still have plenty of power via its MIDI implementation to keep you busy. But that does differentiate it from open hardware like the monome and the newer Livid Ohm64, and it’s worth considering how this difference impacts the ways you want to use the hardware. That issue is much bigger than any one piece of gear, and it’s one I hope we can cover in more depth.

More Videos

MusicRadar did their own hands-on:

Actually, judging by the LEDs, I think they were also working from a prototype and not the final production run. But you will also notice they have an L-shaped USB cord, which I believe is what the final unit will have. (And, heck, that’d be a useful thing to have around here, I may have to pick up some.)

Novation TV also has their own set of videos:


And DJ Tech Tools got a hands-on, too.

  • Lord Toranaga

    I can't wait. I want one bad

  • NightEater

    i believe this along with a bcr2000 will greatly improve my set up over just having one apc 40. the sad thing is said set up cost as much as the apc. now with this product i dont understand how anyone could want, wait or pay for the apc. so now i have a big ass, bulky apc i never liked but bought because it was the only dedicated controller for live. hmmm

  • udyan

    very nicely written!

    explains almost everything.

    unfortunately it wont be available in india for another 3 months

  • wow – the APC40 a few month ago and now the Launchpad… seems like the big companies start to understand what the user needs – after leaving us alone with these tons of USB-Keyboards for years! (it is a little bit like waiting for a concert to begin and 3 hours late the band appears….should I applaud? Well…the price is fine and finally they made it) I wonder how long they will take until touchscreen interaction – beyond the i-phone and cheaper than the Lemur – enter the mass market. Another 5 years? 😉

    Sorry for that ironic comment. As said: better late than never. Launchpad will hit the market hard!

  • ed

    thank you for expanding… this does indeed look like a very interesting piece of kit.

    sorry to harp on, but if compatibility with Live 7 is only partially likely, can we assume that compatibility with 6 is out of the picture?

  • Joe

    Looks like Rewire support – along with proper MIDI features including clock send – will make the bundled software rather more useful than the Lite versions of yore. It should be trivial to combine with other software and hardware. For the latter, there's no support for directly integrating external effects, but I bet there's a workaround using VSTs.

    Use with a KP3 and you have a veritable space shuttle cockpit worth of blinking lights to poke.

    Moar questions:

    Won't Novation Automap act as a MIDI assignment editor?

    Would I have to shell out on Automap Pro (pah) to use this along with my Nocturn? The free version of Automap, IIRC, only supports one controller at a time.

    Given the limit (in the bundled version) of eight scenes, is there a way to load a new session during a performance without too much of a gap in the action?

  • Fractal

    Waow !

    ok: sell APC40, good price ^^

    Na , i love my apc!

    But this baby is hot! 199 dollars (i don't know how much here in France, surely 199 euros…arfff)

    I can't wait to see some Max for live patch !!!to turn this in monome-like (more affordable and without this artificial limited availabality from Monome…)

  • Fractal

    I see the novation video: woot!!!

    what the trick with drum?(this part is awesome!)

    someone can explain it?

  • Will there be any way to use it a la mlr for example? Using the grid to trigger clips at any time inside them?

    By the way, this + nanokontrol should be definitely the most advanced/cheap combo you could need for live 🙂 Great news from novation ! Can't wait…

  • Esol Esek

    I own an APC40, so I'm loathe to slag it, but after looking at how this is being used, and knowing how the APC works, my gut reaction is yes indeed, this is both an Akai killer. Shhh, dont tell anyone in my town…Akai is gonna be sorry they took so long to deliver. Their guys just got called back from vacation…

    Novation is approaching this conceptually quite differently. By switching what the grid does into 4 or more modes, I think it will work far smoother than going to the fricking knob setups, which on the APC are not very fluid. Plus those pads (IF THEY FEEL AND RESPOND WELL) are like locked settings that can't be misnudged. THen again, hope they have enough sensitivity. But for everything but track volunme, sounds good to me. The faders on the APC are set too hot at max as well. I don't know if you can remap this.

    Who can say before you get your hands on one, but this controller matches the flow of the player's head – trigger files, jump to sends, jump to effects, jump to drum machine triggering (!). You have to CUSTOM MAP the APC40 to do that last one, and you don't get grid feedback on your effects like this. The Novation is smaller, and maybe less durable (they both only have a one-year anyway), but to me, it looks like it can eat the Akai's lunch. Plus automap works across other software, no matter the few it doesnt like. The Akai is Live, period. For the cost of the Akai, you can put two of these together, one in Reason, rewired into another in Live, and its off to the races…

  • This is ok Peter but when hack arrives all of these "diplomacy" will be a bit hurting for monomers.

    It's time to develop a "L" hotkeys monome companion.


  • hope they'll make a white version too!!

    btw amazing features for the price, loving the big buttons!

  • Thankfully Automap is not required nor used, correct?

  • Joe

    Thanks Peter, great write up 🙂

    It's just in that price range where you don't feel too bad about customising the case. Can't weight!

  • Paul

    I have been reading this site(read: stalking you) for a while it's good / weird to hear your voice

    I noticed more in this video how big this unit is and i am glad it is no grid behemoth

  • Jake

    Just to echo the questions above I'd really like to know about the automap implications in regards to this. It sounds like automap isn't part of the picture from what you're saying (great write up by the way, you've answered pretty much every other question I have) but as it's novation I'd assume that it would be at some point, the only obvious issue I can see is that you'd need automap to be set up to pass the live specific data pertaining to the session selector but surely that's not too hard to implement? And having automap support would certainly get round the lack of an editor for most people.

    Oh and surely a user config script could be done to listen to the default cc's to allow default device mapping on user page 2? Or is there some problem with the fact that they only get turned on when you assign them?

  • 7oi

    you know, as soon as I saw that I put my monome up for sale. don't get me wrong, I love my monome 64, but it's sadly collecting dust on my shelf since i never feel like launching all thos different programs that never really sync that well with live. this fits my desires perfectly! and the price difference between what i could get for the monome and give for this kind of seals the deal for me. could even get some cash for max for live too.

    plus, i saw that Recodd asked if it could be used like mlr. I see that happening very well right now, even without max for live. just with follow actions you can get some vertical mlr action. then, of course, max for live is coming. by the sound of it, i'd guess it's going to be released at the same time, even sooner. anyone notice the comment about the m4l made step sequencer novation made for the launchpad, which is "available for download" (going to be, i guess).

    fantastic work. i just recently discovered the full functionalities of the automap pro 3 with my remote 25sl, then this fantastic thing shows up.

    i buy!

  • "you know, as soon as I saw that I put my monome up for sale. don’t get me wrong, I love my monome 64, but it’s sadly collecting dust on my shelf since i never feel like launching all thos different programs that never really sync that well with live……"

    Bad point of monome!

  • Isn't comparing this to the monome a bit like comparing an Axiom 25 to a miniMoog? I mean, yeah, they both have keyboards for input devices but the functionality is completely different. I'm not sure that a matrix of 64 buttons is enough to say one is copying the other.

    I'd like both, in the end. Launchpad seems to be great at controlling Live. Monome is great for lots of other stuff. If one bought a Monome strictly for launching clips, that seems nutty.

    I'd like to know if the Launchpad has banks or programs for the user 1 and user 2. That is, can one set up the user 2 for one kind of performance and another user 2 for another kind and merely interchange them? Like a preset?

  • 7oi

    @dopo: well, it's how it is. I could basically do all the things I want to do on the launchpad, even program some fancy stuff for it in max for live (my monome doesn't have multicolored leds, f.ex.), and let someone else enjoy my beautiful little m64. I mean, I've done many programs in max/msp that I want to control live, but they're just never reliable enough. max/msp has so far been best used (in my case) as a standalone, no rewires or anything, or to make pluggos. that's why i'm excited about m4l too. kinda has to be more reliable when it's a part of live…

  • Tim

    For those who are testing it: Does the unit recognize incoming midi CC signals in standard midi controller mode? (so not in combination with live but as a standard midi controller)

    If so it would be a cool and cheap step sequencer grid in combination with something like Reaktor!

  • 7oi

    plus, I love the possibilities the monome provides. But when it all comes down to it, it is just a matrix of buttons that have on/off values to send and receive, which is the beauty part of it. Simplicity!

    The launchpad does seem to be just that as well, though… I mean, it sends and receives on/off values, plus other stuff. I mean, in all fairness Brian, it is kind of the same, except monome uses osc and MIDI, the launchpad seems to only use MIDI. I fail to see it as more limited than the monome, to be honest, although the monome just looks so much more sweeter.

    comparing axiom 25 to a minimoog is entirely different. one is a controller, the other one's a synth. monome and launchpad are both controllers. I do agree with you, though, in many ways. The monome is just so fantastic, it's hard to say anything wrong about it. I just think that, at this time, there's someone out there that needs it more than I do. I'd be rude to let it collect dust here, rather than to pass it on to the next gearslut.

  • Re MIDI – yes, the Launchpad responds to MIDI. Live in the scenario in the video is just sending MIDI; that same setup to light up the LEDs can be possible in other software.

    Automap – well, you don't *have* to use Automap to do any of this, that's correct; you only need the Novation USB driver. But the Launchpad does also support Automap; I just haven't had time to look into the exact implementation, but you can expect to use that with plug-ins in Live or with other hosts (Logic, etc.)

    Larger observation: I'm going to go out on a limb. There is nothing that that the Launchpad can do with Live that the monome cannot also do with Live, because of what's happening with the Live API and Max for Live.

    What's important there, though, is that this is true not only of the monome and the Launchpad and the APC but other hardware, as well. Let's say you're a keyboardist. You could keyswitch the bottom note of your 88-key piano controller and toggle your keyboard to a clip launcher.

  • @7oi: if a Max patch is not entirely reliable or stable outside of Live, there's absolutely no reason to expect it to perform any differently inside of Live, just as fair warning.

  • 7oi

    @Peter Kirn: True. In my case, though, the problem always seems to be the communication between the two, not to mention the ever complicated route of "which things to start up first to get it working properly". I'm guessing that will at least be easier with max running within the program. I mean, the pluggos I've made work fine within live (except for minor interface glitches that are easily fixed within seconds

    ). I'm also a big fan of instability. Gives computing the human touch of errors and mistakes. It's the same as with my guitar playing. If I make minor mistakes, they'll be in the final recording.

    There's always space for small errors and miscalculations. Just as long as they get to their destination.

  • @7oi: Oh, I see – yes, that should be a great deal more stable. And incidentally, the ability to hack OSC support into Live makes communication in general much easier.

    That said, just adding OSC alone isn't everything. We could really use some thought about how software in general will talk to each other, how it'll sync up, and so on, beyond just Live / Max for Live and these couple of controllers.

  • mpf


    how is the "limited availabality" of Monomes artificial? monome are just two people trying to do things the right way. read a little about Brian & Kelli and see if you still think that how they work is "artificial".


  • @mpf is correct. There's nothing artificial about monome availability. They're trying to use sustainable and local production, and they're paying for each run out of pocket. And those interested in making their own who had trouble getting one were able to work with them and even get help with how to do it.

    Try calling up Akai and let them know you were unhappy they didn't manufacture more APC40s over the summer and you'd like to make your own. See how they react. (And, hey, that's their right – but yes, there *is* a difference in approach.)

  • Leslie

    I want to buy it NOW.. 🙂

  • i just bought a used padKontrol


    i want green lighted pads instead of red HAHA

  • rorschach

    Ableton live is overrated. Sometimes, I have the impression that live plus some dozen flashing knobs are replacement for art, creativity and afterthoughts for some people. What can you do with these knobs that you cannot do with monome/ohm/akai whatsoever and cubase/logic/max/machine/ whathsoever. Boring.

  • @rorschach: Live is appealing for live use because of a) non-linear triggering of events (not something you get in Cubase), b) easy modularity of device racks and such, c) consistent interface design. But it would be equally absurd to say that you *need* Live to do some of these things. I think for live performance, the competition is really samplers and drum machines – things like Maschine – as well as DIY environments. In fact, I really wonder if, by the time you're patching things together in Max, if you wouldn't find more flexibility building your own tools without the weight and complexity of a host underneath. Live itself grew out of experiments in Max.

    So, let's ask these questions, absolutely.

  • cubestar

    I feel like Monome could have licensed the concept to other "cells" that could have built them (under the same guidelines) in order to get more stock out there. Either way, this device and the Ohm 64 have ended that exclusivity.

  • This will surely look cool alongsinde my Trigger Finger. Pads FTW!

  • Oh, forgot to ask: How does it behave with group tracks? I ssume a group shows like a single launch button, but I'd like to be sure about that.

  • Esol Esek

    rorschach – you're right in that the rarest commodity in music is convincing vocals, lyrics and riffs/melodies from guitar and or keys.

    There is a ton of musical self-fondling going on that pales in comparison to the organic nature of an acoustic guitar and a singer. Then again, there's plenty of hack traditionalists out there covering the same old tired ground. That's where the art comes in, the people that can take the best of both and merge them. THere's nothing in live that says you can't trigger a verse chorus bridge of a song of traditional instruments. You'd be surprised how organic it can sound. I think Live is good because it feels good, unlike most other software I've used.

    Do other people think this will wreck the APC40? Someone tell me why its worth keeping.

  • I think it's a lot easier to access Device Racks and mix parameters on the APC40 than the Launchpad alone, though it's a tougher call if you couple a Launchpad and a Korg nanoKONTROL (or ReMOTE SL Zero).

    But I'm curious, what is it about the APC40 that people are unhappy about to begin with? The size? I have to admit, I couldn't quite fall in love with the APC, from the beginning. I find the minimalism of the Launchpad really appealing, as I do with the monome. But I'm curious what it is that's swaying other folks.

  • Pats


    I'd like to know if/how the launchpad can work side by side with novation's automap products such as my remote sl zero (mk1)

  • essex sound lab

    @Peter Kirn: The turn off for me about the APC was that it attempted to be an all-in-one solution, but was compromised as a general control surface. In particular, I hated the non-motorized stubby faders and mourned the lack of track displays. So, I didn't like the idea of using all that real estate for features I would supplant with a "real" control surface…therefore leaving them for dead on the APC.

    With the Launchpad, I can string one or more Launhpads above one or more Euphonix MC Mixes and have a much more elegant solution for my needs.

  • Matt

    Hey Pats, Launchpad will just sit right along side your ReMOTE SL or any other Novation controller just fine. I guess that the ReMOTE ZeRO would be used for ableton mixer mode stuff and also device control (as the LCD display shows you what the knobs & Sliders are controlling), and that the launchpad would just control Session view, drums and user stuff. It'll all work just fine though.

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  • Freddy

    nice… if you like to be tied to a computer!

    The question is, will Novation or any other company take the leap towards a standalone version?

  • Well, the standalone version really was the Tenori-On.

    The thing is, the computers are getting smaller. Grab a netbook with your monome, and you'll hardly feel "tied" to anything. Put the guts of a netbook into the monome, and… you see what I mean. So I wouldn't wait for a vendor. I hope we can actually build that project.

  • Only having 5 scenes at a time is what turned me off to the APC40. I do alot of "jamming" in session, and 8 scenes is perfect. Not too much to get lost in, not too little to feel restricted.

    And i just don't prefer the layout of it. I understand they are mimicking the layout of the session view, but if you're going to have volume faders that far to the bottom of the controller, give them some more throw. And the placement of the navigation, plus the cross fader so close to transport controls? No thanks.

    For me, personally, the MPD-32 + Launchpad is an ideal solution. Faders and mutes above 16 velocity sensitive drum pads. 8 rotaries for controlling racks and devices, and the launch pad for launching clips. I like the idea of stepped fx sends, very fun sounds can be made.

    It would be nice if Max For Live will allow us to utilize the grid for something like clip envelope drawing. Being able to literally jam out sample offset ideas on that grid in realtime instead of using a mouse would be a dream come true for anyone interested in creative sample manipulation.

  • Joe

    Peter, can you reassign the pan controls? For me that is a completely redundant feature for live use. It would be great to have positive/negative control of xyz instead.

  • i'm not gonna be able to see the colours on this thing?

    i'm red green colourblind, and in the wild i could just about see the different colours on an apc.. and that was dark in a club, studio i wouldnt see anythin at all..

    i imagine these red,green,amber pad leds must be the cheapest around and easiest to implement. blue would be ideal for playing clips as only 1% of colourblind ppl cant see blue

    now if playing clips flashed, that would work… or if the orange loaded tracks were really dim, and the playing tracks bright.. that would be fine for playing out at least..

    its really annoying… i'll prolly have to get one anyway and hope for the best as its the ideal device for my needs.. i cant ever imagine companies building ones specifically for people with disabilities..

    the livid ohm has nice blue lights but isnt what i'm looking for. looks good tho

  • man. its so sexy.

    that + a bcf2k is like an apc on steroids.

  • @Tekkaz:

    You could search Octint Unsped project (rgb arduinome) or simply mod the leds to fit the color what you need/want

    I love arduinome/monome just for this. I know how to build my devices and I could do it custom.

    If your are interested, contact me.


  • Freddy

    Peter: I guess I forgot to add "controller" in the standalone part :), I should add "with better price than tenori-on" too heehe

    I mean, if the Launchpad is doing everything via MIDI ( no custom Live stuff if I read correctly), how hard would it be to:

    Include a good old MIDI out socket + external psu in the same box to be able to control any midi capable hardware or software you want to, without being connected to a computer.

    Enable CC# messages customization.

    Add some sort of velocity control.

    And, to make it more interesting, add a simple step sequencer engine, no synth inside.

    I know I'd pay the $200 + another $100, $150 more for a box with this features.

    Are all the processes running inside this box to heavy to go thru regular MIDI socket?

    "Put the guts of a netbook into the monome" not a bad idea at all but still you have to deal with the host OS, middle apps, synth/sampler/ etc. soft…

    Maybe some sort of USB MIDI to regular MIDI converter box between Launchpad and any other gear could do.

    Something kind of related: I think is a bad idea in general to invest heavy money into software/computers unless you are inmune to the never ending "software update leads to computer upgrade leads to software update leads to computer upgrade leads to…" loop 😀

  • Ben There

    I'm not unhappy with my APC.

    no drivers, it has faders, knobs, mutes, clip triggers that can be used at the same time, no mode switching which doesn't work when actually playing.

    You can get a BCR or something but then the setup is not smaller. I like one controller, one laptop, no hubs, less cables.

    I like the idea of the user mode on the Launchpad but APC's can be totally remapped in Live, using Max, Monome emulator or using Bome so it doesn't seem to matter.

    I like the price of the Launchpad but I wonder if it's made like the APC or crappy like the Nocturne. It looks like plastic top and bottom.

    The APC feels like a real piece of gear and not something that has a 1 year life.

    It is good to see companies are stepping up and looking outside of standard controllers. I wish the Tenori, Continuum keyboard, C-Thru Axis, and Lemur wasn't so expensive as I'd love to check them out.

  • Wow! Can't wait to get this one!

  • LeMel

    Clearly, Laurie Partridge was the first to rock a grid controller way back in 1973 (0:45 in this clip) (better image here).

    Hers had multi-colored LEDs, too.

  • @Freddy:

    Include a good old MIDI out socket + external psu in the same box to be able to control any midi capable hardware or software you want to, without being connected to a computer.

    It could be possible but not so simple and classical midi is serial and usb midi (when it is not emulated serial port) has better data transfer rate.

    Enable CC# messages customization.

    It depends in how the hard/driver comunication is done. If you want it standalone, you must use a software "programmer" (these kind of soft which remaps hardware) but in this situation Launchpad works with automap…

    Add some sort of velocity control.

    Truly difficult as a hack, a bit expensive as a design. Think on price of padkontrol and akai mpcs.

    And, to make it more interesting, add a simple step sequencer engine, no synth inside.

    You are talking a something like tenorion/8×8 mpc and you know the "corps" price.

    In the other hand you have ucapps/monome and…

    Rainbow project (monome clon rgb standalone)

    but my opinion is:

    mixed hard/soft solutions with laptop


    Roland/korg hardware capable of ableton live possibilities (more or less of course)

    but maxforlive is a great handicap to competition…

  • @Freddy: The lack of a MIDI port, which I criticized on the APC, is more defensible here. A port wouldn't *fit* on this device without making it thicker. It's also possible that it requires a computer host connection for its MIDI to operate at all (actually, quite likely). I think if you want something with hardware MIDI, check out the Livid Ohm line.

    But, generally, yes, I miss some of these features. I think if you would buy such a thing, well, we're going to see more grid-layout controllers…

    Speaking of which, that Partridge Family video is hilarious and awesome.

    " I think is a bad idea in general to invest heavy money into software/computers unless you are inmune to the never ending “software update leads to computer upgrade leads to software update leads to computer upgrade leads to…” loop"

    Can I print this out and frame it?

    I *report* the news, but I couldn't agree more.

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  • Freddy

    @mudo: I know, the most difficult part would be the velocity thing, it could be different to what we are used to though and not necessarily built right into the pads, for example there are some apps on the iphone with velocity sensitive function using the accelerometers inside to do it.

    And yes, I'm aware of Julien's Rainbow work and also have myself a growing collection of midibox stuff, but going DIY does not make it any easier and certainly not cheaper, cheaper being one appealing fact in a mass produced hardware.

    In monome and diy clones the amount of money you have to spend into the enclosure/pads is usually more than the electronics inside, that's were big companies are better suited for the task.

    @Peter: thanks for the extra info, it seemed thick enough to include the MIDI port, probably they made this and other compromises to keep the box being good at one job and cheap enough, which is a good thing for the target market anyway.

    And yes, print it and frame it, but send a copy! 🙂

    It always amazes me to see how I need to get into that loop like every 2 years to stay current and speedy at my work, but when going back to making music, hardware 20 or 30 years old keeps doing it's thing just the same.

  • @Freddy:

    Accelerometer sensing is good for iphones/ipod touch but not really accurate for play beats…

    If you know the DIY world and TheRainbow project is expensive… mmm… wait for Roland/Korg, maybe them could do this controller/seq that you want.

    Did you see the latest ucapps core? stm32…

    It is avariable now at smashtv store…


  • Esol Esek

    Gave the APC another chance, and what stood out mainly was the limit to five scenes, and the location of the bank shift button. Five scenes is just not enough, and that means moving it up and down, and that leads to confusion about which scene you are triggering. You 'learn' this and get better at it, but its not much fun.

    The sends are ok, but you have to be above the controller, not anywhere near horizontal, or you'll start moving other parts of the board.

    The effects contols are a lot of hunt and pecking, finding your location on the laptop.

    Also, some weird stuff was happening when I hit the transport stop button, namely I got a bunch of effects feedback, not good in a live situation. It was not a clean stop.

    I'm audi on this thing. I want separate controls. It does seem to be a durable piece, but who really knows.

  • ash

    I'd really love to see APC40 and Launchpad articles with breakdowns on workflow, ease of use, pros and cons, extensibility and user stories.

    A definitive guide for each device.

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  • What I'd really like is for the buttons to light up the same colour as the clips they represent. I realise the unit doesn't do this out of the box, but I wonder if it would be possible to somehow hack the velocity values listed to achieve this.

    Obviously you'd need to restrict the colours you use in Ableton to the ones the unit can reproduce. But being able to do this would be amazing as it'd remove some of the disconnect between an unlabelled button and a clip on the screen.

  • Zoom

    Another crappy Novation creation like the Nocturne!Its not fair to compare a "machine like" contruction piece as APC40 to this little crappy machine without faders,knobs and poor construction quality.It seems that Novation people are working very hard to make a "trend" about this crappy piece of gear!

  • EM

    What I’d really like is for the buttons to light up the same colour as the clips they represent. I realise the unit doesn’t do this out of the box, but I wonder if it would be possible to somehow hack the velocity values listed to achieve this.
    Obviously you’d need to restrict the colours you use in Ableton to the ones the unit can reproduce. But being able to do this would be amazing as it’d remove some of the disconnect between an unlabelled button and a clip on the screen.

  • @EM: Actually, that's eminently possible. You'd need RGB LEDs, more money, more wiring, and I believe more power, however. So look for a DIY project to pull that off before a commercial project. And if you do have that, maybe you get a small grid, like even 4×4, but organize your clips in a way that that makes sense.

    And, of course, it is possible with a Lemur – which means it could also be possible with a software "heads-up" display on any of the multitouch computers now shipping. Take your pick.

  • I'm not clear on one thing: Are you able to re-assign the buttons in user mode to any MIDI function in Live? I thought you said no, but this just seems unbelievable. Thanks for clarifying.


  • i'm gonna have to get one – see if i am totally blind with it and then look into modding it like Mudo suggested.

    actually having em the exact same colour as onscreen would be fantastic. really would help for us colourblind ppl.. as hardly anyone is totally colourblind – its a thing of varying degree's

    and yea would be great for quicker recognition of ya screen reflected in ya padgrid

    tho really..i just want to be able to see clips clearly and launch em, i wonder if novation would consider makin a cripple version for us 10% of users.. be worth an extra bit of cash for sure, cant imagine it happenin tho

  • Freddy


    I'm afraid I'm not that good at waiting for big companies to develop nice and usable hardware 😉


    "Did you see the latest ucapps core? stm32…
    It is avariable now at smashtv store…"

    Probably I was the first midiboxer to buy a couple of core32's from Smash store, I knew about them before he actually added the new goodies to the store 😉

  • Aaron

    Does anyone know if you'll need a previous version of Ableton?

    I know it says it comes with bundled software, however sometimes it also loosely suggests you need a previous version (Ableton 7/8) for this to run.

  • @Aaron: According to Ableton it will be compatible with version 7 and 8. And will be boxed with a stripped-down version of 8. I don't think you will require a previous version to install the bundled copy.

  • @Tekkaz: 😉

    @Freddy: Cool! I will not wait for developers neither… octint rules, faderboard tunned will rule, my own custom diy effects module controller will ruleee

    Arduino rulees


  • Martin

    Whatever Novation does, as lng as there i the automap sotware in sight it will be a pile of crap. This Nocturne i got totally drives me insane, doesn´t remember the settigns i did for my six-trak synth (lots of work, just lost) and is instabel and unreliable.

    Novation never ever again sees my oney, even if thy build a working "create superhit button"

    I really don´t understadn why companies like novation or NI get such good credis, they hardly ever released reliable software.

  • Martin

    Sorry for the typos, i was a bit out of mad driven 🙂

  • Martin

    And again …

  • Giacomo

    Can i use Launchpad with other DAW with the same facilities that comes with Live? I'm not interested in using Live, i'm a Logic user, but i simply love this hardware interface. For example: the fader functionality does it works in the same way like in Ableton Live?

    So my question is: can i use Launchpad instead of, for example, the Remote Zero SL mkII???

  • @Peter: Yeah, I realise it might well be technically possible, but would it be possible to tweak this device to achieve something like that? That's the question…

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  • Esol Esek

    Just sold my APC for a slight loss. I only got one response in a week, so I was happy to unload it.

    I discovered I could map on my qwerty the record button, the play/stop and track/channel ons are already mapped to F1-F8, and I mapped 4 return ons (and solos) as well. If my scenes are well prepped, I dont really need much else. I could never get use to using the APC for the effects, let alone the weird arrangement of the sends. To do an even x-y in the autofilter, you'd have to pull two knobs instead of just using the trackpad or mouse.

    The real clincher is that I can map 10 (and more) scenes, and switch between them without using that annoying shift button on the APC. Plus I'm looking at the screen and not back and forth to the controller.

    To be fair, only 6 (12 w caps) of the qwerty letters work. Anyone know why? However, ALL the numbers, including the keypad (desktop, not laptop) and the punctuation can be assigned. If you select a fader or knob, you can use the arrows. Granted, this is slow, but even.

    I'll check other controllers, and I know the APC's knobs can be remapped, but its five scenes and shift button was driving me bonkers. That and its inability to run inside of other software.

    The APC did seem well built, but it still had only a one-year on it. Its as vulnerable as anything else.

    I just figured the money was better spent elsewhere. I should've learned these lessons in 30 days and returned it, but pay to learn. Maybe some genius can use the APC40, but I found it mostly irritating. The fact that I find my keyboard more ergonomic in several cases is…idk, interesting.

  • olly

    i wonder if novation might have something like this in development, a real apc40 killer

  • now available the MIDI protocol and the reference manual! http://nezoomie.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/novation

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  • jaun manuek


    The launchpad is great indeed, however I cannot make live to send midi data to it for LED FEEDBACK. Any trick on this ?


  • It's a wonderful piece of kit and the extra rows over the APC's grid is the main advantage I think. Getting a decent control surface to run alongside will give you a great set of powerful controls for live use or even producing. Running it with something like the VCM-600 DJ controller or M-Audio's UC-33e at a more budget level will allow extra direct eq's over the mixing also as well as plenty of buttons and knobs to tweak. It's really good to see Ableton teaming up with more hardware manufacturers for dedicated controllers.