Novation’s Launchpad, its affordable (<$200) "grid" controller, may have a big Ableton logo on it. But underneath, it's just a MIDI controller. Bi-colored LEDs, containing a red and green element for red, green, and amber output (amber = red+green), can be triggered using simple MIDI note and control messages. That means, whether you're looking forward to Max for Live or you're sequencing in a tracker or writing Processing sketches, you can use the Launchpad just like any other MIDI controller. One of the things I thought was a major demerit for Akai was the fact that they failed to ship a MIDI implementation for the Akai APC40. MIDI implementations are the charts of MIDI messages we've had since the very first MIDI devices came out in the 80s. They're usually printed in the back pages of the manual, and even the cheapest gear has often had one. launchpadillus

Score: Novation 1, Akai 0. Novation has done the MIDI documentation, and then some. Its MIDI “Programmers Reference” is out even before the official Launchpad ship date. And rather than just doing a MIDI chart and assuming people know how to read it, they’ve taken the care to fully explain the way MIDI messages work, how to calculate the right messages, and how to really use this. Experts will have all the information they need, but newcomers will also find they can spend a little time and learn how to do what they want.

Launchpad Support with Downloads (see Programmer’s Reference at the bottom)
Via: Novation released Launchpad Programming Guide, and Protocol [Nezoomie’s Zen Wave Blog – great read]

It’s listed as “for Max/MSP programmers,” but anyone using MIDI will want to have a look; that’s obviously relevant to far more than just Max. (In fact, there’s not a single mention of anything specific to Max in the document.)

What might people do with stuff like this? Well, as of just four hours ago, Matt DiFonzo lets us know he’s written a simple monome emulator. It’s even got a clever name:

nonome – monome emulator for Novation Launchpad

There’s some bad news mixed with the good. Even with something as simple as a grid of buttons, MIDI isn’t as friendly as it could be. I still would like to have a MIDI editor for the Launchpad so you can reassign buttons if you like — that’s a feature, incidentally, available on rival Ohm and Block hardware from Livid Instruments. Also, the documentation reveals that Launchpad uses “a low-speed version of USB,” which runs at a maximum of 400 messages per second, thus taking 200 milliseconds to update a Launchpad’s LEDs. (There are some workarounds, but they’re … more work. Clarification: Once you double up messages, though, you can get this to a more acceptable gap, and that’s for updating all the LEDs, not the latency of input messages.)

Also, here’s a hint to Novation: use a Creative Commons license for that document. That way, your users will be free to document even more ingenious solutions and friendly guides. You win, and your users win. For instance, I have the illustration here, which I should be able to do for purposes of reporting on this story. But can I write my own how-to guide using your guide? Why not make it explicit to encourage me to do so? (They list the PDF as “proprietary,” though there’s no explicit license, and I think they just mean “proprietary” as in “what we’ve done on our hardware.”)

That’s a difference between open hardware and closed hardware, but I don’t even want to belabor the point — CC licenses are something a commercial company like Novation could easily use. In fact, if anyone at Novation or Ableton would like to talk to me about why I think it’s a good idea, I’d like to extend an open invitation. I’m no legal expert, but I can explain what it means to me as a user and developer, and connect you with some of the right people at Creative Commons and the CC-using community.

But those gripes aside, kudos to Novation for getting this documentation out here. I think it’s really good news for people experimenting with grid controllers. And we’ll be looking at how all of these tools, hardware and software, fit together, and how open source development can make them more powerful.

Patchers and coders and hackers: if you’re interested in working on interoperability between all this stuff, let us know.

  • I have had that document for a little while now. I definitely applaud Novation for providing a lot of information about their device. It has made the task of programming all the more easier. I have already started to program a bunch of stuff in Max For Live and By Peter's recommendaation, I have even started to program some video integration in processing. Thanks Peter, for the recommendation. I am finding processing very easy to program in. To get back on topic… I strongly believe that the Launchpad is going to be the device that becomes a catalyst for new interest in the grid controller arena. I think that a lot of people that did not get into the controller market before because of cost prohibition, will do so now at 199. Once they realize all of the possiblities they may choose to seek other alternatives like Livid's Ohm64 or Block, or the may feel the Launchpad does everything they need. In the end, I think this is going to be the year of the grid controller for many people and there is enough room in the market for all types of devices.

  • Danny P

    now hopefully this inspires Akai to release some sort of midi-map editor software for their APC40, But i'm not keeping my fingers crossed.

  • First: Nonome. Nothing more to say about Hack and fuck off open solutions like monome. Sad day.

    Second: Peter, please share your ideas with Ableton. I'm doing it now and they are very "comprehensive"

    Third: Time to focus into Octint (again).

    Just my2cents.

  • <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn"> which runs at a maximum of 400 messages per second, thus taking 200 milliseconds to update a Launchpad. (There are some workarounds, but they’re … more work.)

    Can you clarify what takes 200ms to update? The config for the entire device?

  • @Mudo: Well, the thing about "open" is, it's open. It's open to people investing time hacking compatibility with the Launchpad. I know there are people in the monome community who are unhappy about proprietary hardware supporting the monome patches they've contributed. But if you're committed to things being open, that ought to include permitting people to do what they want, even if that's supporting the Launchpad or the APC.

    That said, the problem with hacking is that it can be a time suck rather than a time *investment*.

    I think the Launchpad works pretty well as a MIDI device. But I'd like to see more with OSC, of course. My philosophy: keep hacking, and let the best solution win.


  • @Daniel — sorry, see the description in the doc, I muddled that a bit. Yes, if you send updates one pad at a time, it takes a full fifth of a second to update the entire device. You can halve that, I think, with the hacks they suggest (updating two at a time), but that's still rather slow. I don't think it'll be a big deal to a lot of people, but it means you're unlikely to do any animation on the Launchpad's array. 😉

  • RichardL

    I recently got an earful when I mentioned the forthcoming Launchpad. It's "a commericalized ripoff of a Monome!"… followed by it's closed system "It's Ableton or nothing at all. No Open Source hooks."

    There seems to be a lot of rage at the idea of the Novation Launchpad. I don't get it, and I don't agree, but it can't be discounted.

    It's interesting that Novation has managed to produce this documentation which addresses most of the technical concerns about the Launchpad before even shipping the product. I wonder how much that is a response to monome/open source reactionary romanticism.

  • @RichardL

    I think that there is a definite awareness about the Monome community. Novation and Ableton understand this. However, In discussion with the Designers of the Launchpad, they stated that Max For Live was the big push for the docs that were provided. There is definitely going to be a lot of interest in this area. As i said, this is going to be the year of the grid controller.

  • Martin

    @ mudo

    First: Nonome. Nothing more to say about Hack and fuck off open solutions like monome. Sad day.


    there are emulators for the chaos pads and other devices too, the monome community receives them very well usually, as they are mostly introduced at the monome forum anyway.

    I think there is always a place for monome, laumchpad just isn´t the same, i just have a look at my poor (fo the software) novation nocturne and relaize that i don´t want to have a launchpad sitting next to it and my 40h.

    anyway, it´s a good move from novation to go open source.

  • Whoa — hold on, Novation did NOT go open source. They just published documentation, which is something we've expected from MIDI manufacturers since the 80s. It's a standard, and to really meet that standard, you NEED to document what MIDI messages you're using. It's nice that they make the document so friendly and detailed; that's above and beyond the call of duty. But Akai failing to include a MIDI spec is actually the anomaly. I have cheap Behringer gear that does that.

    Also, they didn't really make this Max for Live-specific. I mean, again, it's MIDI. It works with whatever you want. They don't have a single patch illustrated in the documentation. Now, you could go through and write a "how to program Max for Live MIDI patches with the Launchpad" tutorial, and maybe they'll do that down the road. But the actual communication with the device is no different. And, of course, this is the universe we've lived in for over 25 years.

    That said, yes, I think there's some confusion about the relationship between the Launchpad and Live. There's absolutely nothing that ties the Launchpad to Live. You can use it with Pd if you like. There's also a misunderstanding of the hardware "handshake" used by the APC and Launchpad when plugged into Live. This actually is more of a Live problem than a hardware problem; it means that the controller mappings used by Live and its little clip-highlighting rectangle *aren't available to other hardware*. There's nothing locking you out from the hardware itself, because all of the things that are implemented there can be accomplished with MIDI. The problem is really that you can't take advantage of these features with the monome, that the monome can't emulate a Launchpad if that's what you want to do.

    No, the real difference between the Launchpad and the monome / open hardware in general is that:

    1. This uses MIDI, not OSC.

    2. You *are* tied to Windows/Mac because there's no MIDI class compliance support.

    3. You can't open the case. That's a big deal, actually – you can open up your monome and repair it or install tilt sensors or make a custom case for it.

    4. Documentation is not available under an open license, so you can't be sure whether you can write your own documentation. (though, as I said, they could address this.)

    5. You get specs on MIDI messages, but not on the hardware itself. So a Launchpad is always a Launchpad.

    In addition, it's not entirely fair to compare a Launchpad at $199 with the monome or Livid at higher prices, because the latter use domestic production, sustainable materials, and often simply higher-quality components. That's nothing against the Launchpad — it's light, it's thin, it's likely to get broader international distribution, and it's an easy thing to toss into a backpack. But you do get some return on your dollar with the other choices.

    But open source development has always included support for non-open hardware. At least in this case, with the exception of the driver and missing Linux support (which is possible with the class-complaint Akai APC, by the way), you have support for the open standard, MIDI. That means so long as your open app supports MIDI, it works with the Launchpad.

  • Woieyr

    "But i’m not keeping my fingers crossed."

    The Numark/Akai/Alesis company hasn't even released the midi documentation for the Alesis Micron from 2004!!!!!

    While I was with the company we had our own tech support people trying to reverse engineer their own company's product just so we could find out what NRPN's were what.

    Don't EVER expect any decent software support for any of their products. Their attitude is that once you buy something from them, it is your problem now.

    In fact, they didn't even release this midi info to people who were trying to do their company a FAVOR by writing a good editor program for the Micron, and now here we are with Akai Re-releasing the Micron under a different name with a new coat of paint.

  • @Woieyr: Well, this is why I think Novation does deserve some credit here. This is the best possible documentation here — standards-based, detailed, complete, and written in plain English. (You often get some of those things, but not all of them.) Sitting down and doing that takes time, irrespective of whether something is an open project or not. Akai may not be trying to keep things secret; it's an actual effort to go and do this.

  • s0undc10ud

    ohh come on guys! its a 180 usd midi controller! i mean, its AMAZING for the price! name it a monome rip off, name it a cheap apc40 alternative. its always ok for people who cant afford expensive controllers to have access to open devices and do more and more with them. And for people demanding more from a 180 u.s.d. controller: No offence, but wake up, you cant buy the entire midi world with 200 usd. i think novation did a wonderful job here for the price. And i am speaking as an akai apc40 owner. Maybe not going to buy one of these as an apc40 owner, but they did an amazing job for the price, i will give them that! 🙂

  • s0undc10ud

    @Peter: Thank you once more for all the info about launchpad. You were there to inform us before its arrival, and even share photos with us. Please try this with more future controllers (if possible). You are a great info pool! cheers!

  • My sad is about the hipocresy of "this is not a monome rip-off" and then somebody makes a translator and it is.

    If you want to emulate a monome almost give credit and respect.

    When you buy a monome, you are buying a "concept". When you make an arduinome, you are supporting a "concept". I'm open to improvements but I'm totally opposed to "stoled" profit. (I said stole becoming non politiquethicaly correct, great concept! X6)

    Try to create a "concept" and then look how to "corps" steal it, then be happy with affordable hardware for the people. (Horray!)

    At last is the people who has the responsability. Become a musician is being compromised with Social, Education, Justice and Natural Enviroment.

    These kind of rip-offs are done only for money like fast food.

    At last, Peter you are right… it's time to leave Ableton, they are the most closed.

  • Michael Coelho

    Glad to see Novation "gets it". I just ordered a Launchpad to tide me over while I continue to debate about getting a Lemur.

  • Well, let's just be clear on what the emulator does: it maps messages to OSC-style messages. *Because* monome uses OSC, this is easy to do — in fact, this emulator otherwise uses a QWERTY keyboard, which some monome programmers will use so that they can, say, work on their monome patch on the bus!

    There's nothing getting ripped off here. The Launchpad, like the monome, is an array of light-up buttons. Those existed before and after the monome. My whole point was that there are some advantages to the monome, of open hardware and software, that can't be "ripped off," stuff that's priceless. The Launchpad is a good buy, but there's also value in the monome that it doesn't duplicate, and it's worth appreciating both.

    The fact is, the monome's use of an open protocol is one of those things. It's flexible. It's easy to map other inputs to a monome patch. That's a GOOD THING. It really shows the power of these monome patches, which come from the monome community's ingenuity and not from Novation, Akai, Ableton, or anyone else.

    You can set up a webcam and make a big monome on the floor and have people dance around to press the buttons, too. That's the nature of open standards. Via MIDI, it's the equivalent of swapping one music keyboard for another, or a MIDI guitar for a MIDI keyboard, etc.

  • I have ordered one and it has shipped to me. Unfortunately, I am running Live 7 and not all the functions are implemented when running in Live 7.

    Ableton & Novation's published specs simply state "requires Live 7 or higher". What they meant to say was: "requires a forthcoming update to Live 7 to enjoy full functionality… and we're not sure when that update is coming."

    If I'd have known that, I'd have held off buying it.


  • @Leon: that shouldn't be right; do you have the latest version of Live 7?

    Also, have you tried installing the included Live Launchpad Edition software? When I did that, even though I didn't intend to use it, the installer magically made these control scripts work in my full version of Live, too.

  • Redoom


    The monome was left open on purpose and if the creator had a problem with clones he should have done the opposite. He gets a lot of credit for recharging a section of the controller market and fueling hundreds if not thousands of DIY innovators. Anyone who emulates the grid concept isn't ripping anything off anymore than the next midi keyboard controller that comes out …period.

    P.S. Ableton Rocks!!!!

  • Mudo : I think the limitation of the Launchpad (the "slow" update for example), because it use MIDI and not OSC, made it a very specific tool and not a general one like a Monome. And without even speaking about the launchpad not even being a class compliant midi device or what else.

    The Monome is still the better choice. Inacessible, rare, and not cheap. The launchpad is a toy compare to it !

  • @Peter – I should have been more specific, which is ironic given what I was criticising Ableton/Novation for! The item has 'shipped' from the supplier, and is on its way to me. I haven't got it yet.

    However, there are threads on the Ableton forum where users of Live 7 are saying they can't get it working with full functionality. These users say they can get it working with the version of Live 8 that comes with the Launchpad, but not with Live 7.

    I will need to report back once I have used it myself, of course. But if it doesn't work with Live 7 I view that as misrepresenting the product. I have been shouted down on the Ableton Forum for suggesting this. But personally I will not be happy to have to wait for an update to Live 7 (with no suggested release date) when the specs clearly suggest it should work, with full functionality, with Live 7.

    See this thread for more:

  • Oh, yes, as I understood there was an update for Live 7 that was supposed to coincide with the launch at the beginning of this month. I'm not sure who's complaining about it as I thought it had only just begun to ship. At least if I'm to believe what I've been told, there should be an update that makes this work.

    I would be surprised if that is *not* the case, as the scripts and such are pretty close for 7.x as what you write for 8.x. (Version 6.x was more different.)

  • s0undc10ud

    @Mudo: Leave Ableton??? And then what? Cubase? Logic? trackers? As for Ableton, i think its the most "open" among all the dominating sequencers. They also added you the "max for live" feature. What else could you ask? How more "open" could it be? its been less than a year since ableton 8 with the "max for live" feature is released. i am sure more and more max patches for live are going to follow. if you think you can find another more flexible sequencer than Ableton, let us all know. Cauz i was really trying to find an Ableton alternative all these years with no success.. As for the monome "rip offs". This is how market is moving since trade begun. someone makes a revolutionary product, then they all follow. just think about iphone. since iphone got released, 99% of all the other mobile phone models are just iphone "wannabes" (am i wrong?).. So this is how market moves. Either we like it or not. And i didnt say i do. .

  • Well, wait a sec – there are plenty of choices when it comes to the two things Live does, namely live performance and sequencing. For the former, I do find that sometimes I enjoy working with *just* a patch rather than a whole app. And for the latter, there are indeed some great sequencers out there. So let's not get carried away. Choice is good – good for Ableton, good for everyone else.

  • For my needs:

    Live looping and Scratch


    Mainstage + maxmsp/pd.

    I acomplished Ms. Pinky into Live. The other "gear" I'm working will be for other DAW.

    Blame on Ableton, wait Serato release and pay for nothing.

    About monome integration in other DAW/secuencer… well it is time to learn a bit maxmsp/pd (and talk with my friends hehe)

    We will see.

  • Prevolt

    Kind of a shame about the slow update rate. This leaves people who use Live's session view with quantize turned off kind of out in the cold.

    If you have a low-latency setup, it's fun to just drum clips in as close to the beat as you can and tolerate a little drift off the main project timing every so often. It introduces a little humanity to it all. But you have to keep your latency under 11 ms for that to work. 200 ms is flat-out useless.

  • anonymous

    prevolt, i think what they're saying is that the device receives/responds to messages at a rate of 400 per second, this means if you're updating the led state of every single button it will take ~200ms to perform that entire update operation. not that the device itself has a 200ms built in latency.

    monome apps heavy on lighting up the leds may be a bit sluggish on this device, not only because of the added layer of translation (nonome or other emulator software), but also because you can't take advantage of the led_row and led_col messages for example, which in the monome protocol update an entire row or column with one message. the emulator will need to convert these to 8 individual led messages. not to mention the 'frame' command, which granted not any monome apps i can think of use currently, but assuming they did it would have to translate one frame message into 64 individual led messages. this means each emulated frame message would take the full 200ms to update on a launchpad whereas it would be only a few ms on a monome (not sure exactly how much.. probably less than 10ms).

  • Jimi

    Hold up, there's a 1/5 second lag on the launchpad's LEDs? Isn't this rather horrifically limiting? Did I misunderstand?

  • anoymous is correct — the lag is to change all the values of the LEDs, not an input lag, and not the lag to change a single LED. You can reduce this with some workarounds.

    If you're curious, it's best to read the PDF. I just wanted to summarize what you'll find.

  • anonymous

    jimi, as much as i, as a devoted monome user, would love to see that kind of FUD propogated, i feel compelled to provide an honest answer based on my understanding of what i read above…

    the device receives/responds to messages at a rate of 400 per second, this means if you’re updating the led state of every single button it will take ~200ms to perform that entire update operation (64 updates). not that the device itself has a 200ms built in latency.

  • I haven't tried it yet, but the double buffering seems to be able to almost half the amount of time it takes to respond to messages. From what i understand you always have one button state lit and another in the buffer and then quickly switch it. I could be wrong about this as i just quickly glanced over this. If this is true, then you just always send one to the buffer first and then switch buffers to update. I will have to try this and see how it works. UI really did not notice a lot of latency while using my M4L Monome emulator patch with the Launchpad and mlr… I really did not perform anything intensive though. As I program more with it, I will definitely keep people updated on my findings.

  • That's right. I haven't done any measurement yet, but using double-buffering you can halve this. 100ms is reasonably acceptable; that means you can get 10 fps, and these are lights, not a screen. 😉

  • Jackie Moon


  • 2. You *are* tied to Windows/Mac because there’s no MIDI class compliance support.

    that is disappointing. not to mention lame.

  • Just like i wrote in my blog.. it was just a matter of time before someone wrote a monome emulator for the Launchpad.

  • Genjutsushi

    Im personally looking forward to the Monome emulator for the Launchpad. Monomes are virtually impossible to get hold of new, and there are very few on the UK second hand market for good reason. The emulator will help me get into some of those cool patches…. maybe more people will start developing more of them and put back into the Monome community using the emulator, thus ADDING value and not taking away?

    Anyway, the grid thing is old hat – what about the Akai MPC, trigger finger, Kaoss Pad3, rebuilt qwerty keyboards etc etc. People have been using grid style input devices for years – its just the lights that are the new thing! (And all nerds lose perspective when an LED is involved)

  • amounra

    Haven't got my Launchpad yet, but I have a nice blue ring around the grid I'm controlling through the novation MIDI Remote Script and MaxMSP. How nice! a lot of people will be very pleased. Cheers, Novation! 🙂

  • velocipede

    Novation has gotten very good at supporting their users since folding into Focusrite. Not sure I'm going to by the Launchpad, but this is an exciting product.

  • mao mao

    The Live 7 update including Launchpad Support (Live 7.0.17) will be released next week at the latest.

    Development of Max for Live and other cool stuff has slowed down the Live 7 update.

  • arween

    Peter i would like to know if i can use launchpad jus like any other midi controller with other softwares or am i tied to use it only with ableton..

  • arween,

    The Launchpad is a standard midi controller that can be used with an software.

  • Some1Else

    Please guys. Who are you kidding. Monome and MPC do have the grid in common, but you have to admit that Monome was a very original concept, while APC and Launchpad are much less so. APC obviously has roots in Monolake's custom controller, but Launchpad is more or less a clone. Absolutely nothing on the Launchpad is new (RGB Arduinomes exist in the wild for quite some time now). It's just Novations entry to the grid controller market.

    And while Monome was fostering an open ecosystem, the corporations are making their walled gardens. Not being able to use Monome like an APC or Launchpad, while many people in the Monome community are either indifferent or supportive (basically adding value to Live, Launchpad and other grid controllers with their patches), feels like a slap in the face.

    As a Monome owner, I have no intention of giving money to Novation, Ableton or Cycling 73 until: Max4Live can be used as a runtime, other grid controllers can be used as the new kind of control surfaces, and OSC is supported natively.

    Of course my opinion is biased, and many will probably not understand my point of view, but I assure you it's rational and becoming more and more prevalent among people who understand the benefits and value openness.

    I wish there was PureData4Ardour, and all the capital went back to knobs and faders. The magic, yuo are killing it..

    I'll just go back to my patches and scripts and let you guys have some cheap grid controller action in the meanwhile. Hopefully they will fortify, not diffuse the spirit of the Monome community, and invite you all to join in.

  • Ashley

    Yeh so im installing live 8 launchpad edition 8.0.6 and will see if that works as at the moment im on live 7 and it doesnt work.

  • @Some1else:

    99% in wave with you.

    Big up!

  • Ashley

    p.s i have a monome as well

  • @Peter Kirn: quote: "Well, let’s just be clear on what the emulator does: it maps messages to OSC-style messages. *Because* monome uses OSC, this is easy to do — in fact, this emulator otherwise uses a QWERTY keyboard, which some monome programmers will use so that they can, say, work on their monome patch on the bus!"

    Wait, does this mean that I can download the emulator and test some monome apps with my laptop keyboeard (only problem can be that I'm from Belgium and we use AZERTY ofer here)?

    Can the emulator run SevenUpLive? I want to test some monome apps just to check if monome is something for me.

    And an other this: why not compare monome with Launchpad?

    Price of a monome sixty four: arount500$ (I know that the also sell a monome kit, but I'm to lazy to build the thing myself)

    Price of a Launchpad less than 200$

    Why the price difference? Build quality? Whe should I buy a Monome instead of a Launchpad?

  • It is possible to get a monome, though it is very possible you'll be doing some of the building yourself. (Now, they're not the hardest builds, and that can be more fun – depends on whether you like making things!) Here's the current situation.

    Pre-built monome — next short run (100 units) in January at $500.

    Kit monome 40h — figure $300-$350 once you work in the cost of the enclosure, etc. Not available now, but a new run expected soon.

    Arduinome — roughly the same price as a Launchpad in parts, available worldwide, make it yourself, all parts available now:

    In other words, if you want a KIT, you can easily choose the monome, though if you want the pre-built version, they have gotten a bit behind on production.


    I think for this reason, some of this argument is moot. Most people looking for a ready-made controller are likely to gravitate to the Launchpad. On the other hand, if you want any customization of your controller at all, you'll look at open hardware like the monome (or other open hardware, with or without grids). And if Ableton really wants to fully support their community, they'll continue to be mindful of both — which I hope, in the long run, will include real OSC support.

    I do think that we'll be able to get a pretty robust OSC implementation going *without* Max for Live using the Python API. I've been staying away from it personally just because of limited time, and the knowledge that there have been some API changes in preparation for the release of Max for Live. My sense is, it's worth doing a proof of concept with that API to demonstrate what's possible, to Ableton and to other commercial developers.

  • I think a lot of people are naturally comparing the Launchpad to the Monome. The launchpad is a grid controller, but that is where it ends. The fact that they give you a user1 and user2 mode is definitely nice. This gives you the ablitity to use the midi formatted output in order to do, "stuff" with teh user modes. I think that the Monome is a great device. I do have a Monome. But, at the end of the day, there needs to be devices that are available at a lot of price points so that many people can gain access to the technology.

    This really helps everybody. Now you have a device that is at a low enough price point that people can use right out of the box and in addition can create applications in their preffered programming environment.

    The fact that people quickly make a Monome emulator for every grid based device is a testament to the Monomes user community who has fostered a great interest in the device and it's associated applications.

    In terms of Max For Live… I have been hearing a lot about not supporting a closed standard like Max For Live. Don't get me wrong I love and use open environments like PD and now processing. However, I do not see any other major company integrating a programming environment into their DAW. This should be seen as a good thing. Do i think it would be nice to allow Max For PD or other apps? Sure. But, they are a company and as such need to make a profit.

    What I beleive people should focus on. And, this is just my belief. I believe we should all consider the following… What device has the functionality you need at your price point? What software or programming environment will do what youy want at your price point? If there are already options that suit your needs than we are all fine. If there are not, then we should stop complaining that there are no non-commercial options and start creating whatt we think is needed.

    Just my little rant. 🙂

  • Michael, actually, Reaper has a programming API, and FL Studio integrates SynthMaker (though the latter, while bundled free, is also commercial).

    I think there are likely two issues bothering folks:

    1. Cycling '74 added Live support, but they eliminated VST/AU support at the same time. That means better integration with one DAW at the cost of all the others, and understandably frustrated Max users reliant on Max as a development tool.

    2. A lot of users (myself included) have hoped that Ableton would embrace OSC to allow free control of the interface with a variety of tools and hardware.

    More generally, I think some people have an impulse to use open source tools for their development work. As brilliant as Max is, you'd expect at least *some* people to reach that conclusion, just as you'd expect others to choose the commercial tool.

    I think all of this is okay; clearly, there's a need for a balanced set of tools, and Max for Live and Ableton Live don't suit everyone's needs all the time.

  • Note, as well, I see some discussion regarding scripting of OSC access to Ardour:

    Given Ardour's extraordinary support for JACK (which makes it fairly easy to integrate Pd and Ardour already), I think this is promising.

    My head spins keeping up with all the tools we already have (partly because I've had some obligation to test them), but I understand people wanting more choices that work for them. I think that's a normal phenomenon.

  • aikah

    <blockquote cite=""> I do not see any other major company integrating a programming environment into their DAW. This should be seen as a good thing<cite>

    FL studio integrate synthmaker, not as powerfull as max, but been done.

  • I did not know about FlStudio's Synthmaker or Reaper's API. I will have to check those options out. I can understand people having issue for something that is not in a product. However, Would you rather Ableton not integrate a visual programming language in their environment? I do think that Cycling74 should have discontinued support for Pluggo. But, that is a seperate issue.

    In terms of OSC… I am using it right now with M4L. I do agree that it would be nice to have it supported in the core application instead of going through another abstraction layer. However it is working fine for my needs. You can just place a single M4L patch on any track and control anything in Live. No need to place it on every track. The free python API actually works very well too. I use LiveOSC with some of my current patches on the Lemur. So there definitely are some other options.

    Again… I am definitely for variety and belive in choice. I just don't think we should get angry that some solution does or does not do something. Just pick the solution that works best for you and use it.

  • Just a quick clarification: the monome is faster not becuase it uses OSC, but because it uses a much faster USB-Serial chip. The monomeserial program talks to the monome hardware at up to 300KB/sec (based on specs for the FTDI chip – real throughput probably much lower), and talks to other programs via OSC.

    In contrast, the Launchpad seems limited to 1.2KB/sec (400 messages per second x 3 bytes), which seems incredibly slow, slower than the MIDI spec supports. Don't know why they did this – can't have saved them that much money.

    That said, the MIDI implementation on the Launchpad is very nice, very simple. Took only a couple of hours to write a monome emulator (and I don't even have a monome).

  • Got mine today, very pleased so far. Tho im not sure if theres a minor oddity regarding timing. If your trying to trigger clips at 16th note quantize, the 'session' view triggering seems sluggish, with more chance of messing up your timing. Where if you map the same clips in 'user 1' view, the timing is fine. Tho maybe im missing something, anyone else experience this?

  • Dave Onions

    Bought one of these yesterday and cannot put it down. This is a great product for people like me who had no hope in hell of ever justifying the expense of buying an APC40.

    I use Live exclusively and this is a fantastic fit for me. Highly recommended.

  • Matt Gnarly

    I'm eagerly awaiting my Launchpad and have a question, is Max/MSP required to use the monome patches that are out there?

  • @Matt Gnarly

    You can use the runtime that is available free. You would have to run a launchpad Monome emulator and the monome patch.

  • Matt Gnarly

    Thanks for the clarification Michael

  • The Lauchpad looks great! I think it will make an excellent addition to a live dj style setup. I plan on using it side by side with my APC40. I might buy a second one to run visuals.

    Low cost, high value = GOOD 🙂

    The incessant whining about grid type controllers and their relationship with the monome is lame. The momone is not the origin of the grid, look it up, it's true. I find that some monome users have a strong brand (group)association that makes them feel warm and special inside. They forget to focus on the output of the tool, not the tool itself.

    "This is my special and rare instrument that makes magic music!! It even has this thing called OSC, its sooo limited that you cant even buy one if you wanted to!"

    I own a monome and I prefer to use Live and the APC40 for my productions and live sets. Simpler is sometimes better.

  • Hmmm i Kinda like it check out the Vid

    P.s. Mike hit me up

  • Picked up a Launchpad and rattled off a Max patch to play with it… (grabbable from so far it gives me lots of new buttons (on top of the Remote-SL & padKontrol).

    In other news, the Max4Live and Live 8.1 betas are available!

  • Jeff Larson

    I've been working with the Launchpad for a few days. I don't intend to use it with Live, I'm writing a "driver" for it to be used by the Mobius looper. It's a very simple device which makes it easy to work with.

    People have commented that that the Akai isn't "open" because they haven't published their MIDI spec. They should of course, but it should also be rather trivial to reverse engineer it by inserting a MIDI monitor and watching the dialog between the APC and Live. It's just MIDI. If Akai doesn't do it soon, someone will.

    On using the Monome with Ableton, I don't believe Ableton is locked into using the Launchpad MIDI device to receive Launchpad commands. When you configure the Launchpad you have to tell it which MIDI input and output device to use. In practice this is always the Launchpad device but you could also select another device that just happened to send and respond to the same MIDI notes. If you had a MIDI device driver that interfaced with the Monome, then you could make the Monome look just like the Launchpad. You could also do this without device drivers by writing a normal application that was wired in with MIDI Yoke.

    I too don't get the backlash from the Monome tribe. Do they have a patent on backlit grid controllers?

  • Jordaan

    Akai finally released the midi documentation

  • Jordaan

    They also released an image with the cc/note numbers overlayed on the apc 40 in their latest news letter but I have no idea how to link to it. So I guess it is not a break through completely but good to see some steps being taken.

    @Peter perhaps was when you finally put the spot light on the issue that Akai started to get a move on. Thanks for your efforts!

  • Jordaan

    Sorry about leaving multiple posts but here is the image I had issues with. They had a placeholder .gif image that you click to link to the actual image.

    Anyway, it is worth looking at:

  • Jeff Larson

    Correction: I played around with splicing in a Launchpad simulator with MIDI Yoke. There is indeed somethig "special" going on with the Launchpad MIDI driver that Live requires. It doesn't appear to be in the MIDI stream, it's either something about the driver it expects, or something lower at the USB level. I'd be willing to bet you can spoof this but it might require writing a device driver.

  • Jeff Larson

    Correction2: Does two wrongs make a right?

    I think you can spoof this. I wired MIDI-OX & MIDI Yoke in between

    Live and the Launchpad and watched the traffic. Live was opening

    MIDI Yoke devices, it did not have direct contact with the Launchpad.

    Everything was going pretty much according to spec until this:

    00014D85 1 — B0 11 60 1 — Control Change

    00014D88 1 — B0 12 12 1 — Control Change

    00014D88 1 — B0 13 1C 1 — Control Change

    00014D8A 1 — B0 14 00 1 — Control Change

    00014DA6 13 — F0 Buffer: 8 Bytes System Exclusive

    SYSX: F0 00 20 29 06 7A 31 F7

    CC's 11-14 are not documented. Mysteriously the Launchpad responded

    with a little Sysex. This seems to be the key.

    The next step is to write an application that simulates this handshake

    without the Launchpad even being connected.

  • Jeff Larson

    Oh how clever. There's some amount of crypto in here.

    The little block of CC values changes now and then as does

    the last two bytes of the sysex response:

    Send: 43 1B 21 12

    Return: 22 7B

    Send: 1D 40 41 13

    Return: 55 30

    Send: 4F 6E 46 07

    Return: 55 63

    Send: 61 5E 5F 11

    Return: 4F 3A

    Send: 60 67 65 00

    Return: 29 12

    Okay crypo guys, what's the pattern? 🙂

  • Esol Esek

    I bought the APC40 , disliked it and sold it. I get better scene functionality from my qwerty, yes that's right. Plus I can keep staring at my laptop because my qwerty is right there. The APC is on its way to being a paperweight. I'm gonna try the Novation soon. I think it will be much better.

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  • Aeddon

    Great article. I’m very interested in how you could use these as stand alone hardware for synths and modular gear. Any ideas?