Faders. Knobs. Done.

Faders. Knobs. Done.

Sometimes, you just want to grab a fader.

Maybe it’s not about elaborate custom parameter assignment, or clip launching, or playing an in-tune Phrygian scale on a colored, light-up grid as you solo on a bowed marimba sample. You know, you just want to fade a track.

There are surprisingly few controllers out there tailored to this application. So, that makes the new LaunchControl XL from Novation a potential stand-out. It’s just faders and pots: 8 faders, with three knobs each. Each column also gets two triggers; these are switchable when used with Ableton Live to control mute, solo, and record arm functions. As on the Launchpad, Novation also provides separate user/factory templates you can access with a push-button, and switches for selecting tracks and sends, all mapped to Ableton Live.

The upshot is, you’ve got a MIDI controller that makes it exceptionally easy to mix eight tracks. And this being a Novation controller, it’s also lightweight and compact: the footprint is the same as the Launchpad, and it weighs in at under a kilogram. You can use it anywhere, because it’s bus-powered and driverless, so it works with iOS, Windows, OS X, and Linux.

I expect Ableton Live will be the most popular use case, though, so let’s begin with how Live integration works.

LCXL

Ableton Live Control

It’s hard to remember, but a few short years ago when Novation unveiled the original Launchpad, there weren’t any mass-market controllers dedicated to the software. (Boutique maker Faderfox, for instance, was a pioneer.) Now, they’re all over the place. In addition to Ableton’s deep and beautifully-made Push hardware, Akai alone has three new additions to its APC family introduced just this year. Ableton works in collaboration with some of these vendors to make integration work so well, and it shows.

When you want dedicated mix controls, however, many of these devices disappoint. Ableton’s Push is a great example: you can adjust track parameters, but only on encoders (not faders), and it requires switching modes. That can be confusing if you’re in the middle of playing and just want to reach for a send or volume. Others will provide faders and knobs but in combination with clip launching. If you use an iPad for clips, or you have another hardware controller, or you focus on instrumental playing, that’s overkill.

That’s where the LaunchControl XL hits a sweet spot. Its main selling point is its eight 60mm faders. These aren’t the fanciest faders you’ll ever encounter – they’re single-rail and so you’ll feel some slight wobble, as on nearly all controllers in this price range – but there’s enough resistance to mix with some accuracy. Each strip is coupled with three rotary pots. These have center detents so you can use them for pan (oddly, all three of them, not just the one labeled pan). That detent is subtle enough that you can also ignore it – for example, if using as a send – though that makes me worry slightly about wear over time. There are simple LED indicators below each to see which is active.

Each strip also has a Track Focus switch for quickly moving Live’s display to a particular track, plus a second trigger that mutes, solos, or record arms tracks. For device control, there’s also a Device switch, useful in conjunction with Instrument, Drum, and Effect Racks.

One obvious pairing is the LaunchControl XL with a Launchpad, though it's just one option.

One obvious pairing is the LaunchControl XL with a Launchpad, though it’s just one option.

There’s no Ableton logo on the LaunchControl XL as on the Launchpad, but it definitely feels like a Live controller when used with that software. There’s literally no setup whatsoever for Live. Plug in the hardware, start a compatible version of Live, and you’ll instantly be in control. There’s not even so much as an installation; you only need to download something to use the custom editor.

I love Ableton’s Push, but the LaunchControl XL quickly addresses some of its shortcomings – particularly when used live. You’re never more than one button away from selecting a track you need, or two buttons away from quickly record enabling. (The latter is essential to me as a keyboardist for switching instruments.) And until Ableton comes up with its own mixing-friendly controller (Ableton Fade, perhaps?), LaunchControl XL is essential.

The LaunchControl XL isn’t limited to mixing, either. Thanks to the User/Factory template switch, you can assign one layout to something like a custom instrument or Max for Live device, and another to the main mixing functions, then toggle between them easily.

For studio work, then, I like having the Novation kit alongside Push as much as the obvious application of sitting it alongside a Launchpad. For live performance, since I don’t necessarily need to play on a grid, it’s quickly become the one thing I always put in my bag, just because it’s light, it’s rugged, and it does something you almost always want. For Launchpad owners, too, it’s likely to be a no-brainer, and you can fit this and a Launchpad into a bag with less weight and girth than a Push. Not to offend Ableton here; Push is great. But I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to leave Push on my desk for starting tracks, and take along something more basic for live gigs, especially since I sometimes focus my performance on hardware or a keyboard. It’s just another example of how diverse live rigs can be.

A live rig application - the LaunchControl XL joins keyboards, Faderfox UC3 in a collaborative setup with me and Robert Lippok on the 4DSOUND system at Amsterdam Dance Event.

A live rig application – the LaunchControl XL joins keyboards, Faderfox UC3 in a collaborative setup with me and Robert Lippok on the 4DSOUND system at Amsterdam Dance Event.

Dude, Where’s My Track?

There’s just one feature missing, and it’s a big one: the absence of a display means it’s too easy to get lost. If you have more than two sends, you have to toggle using the Send Select up and down buttons. If you have more than eight tracks, you use the Track Select buttons. (You can only move by one at a time, too, not “pages” of eight at a time.) In each case, the only feedback on the hardware is the colored LEDs that show send and track state, which don’t give you very clear bearings.

Onscreen, things aren’t much better. You can tell which sends, pan, or volume mostly only by twiddling knobs or moving faders – and then, it means looking at the computer display rather than the hardware.

A Ring Focus Box, the colored rectangular outline that provides a visual indication of which clips are currently mapped to a controller, might help. It would still mean looking at your computer screen, and the LaunchControl XL is selecting tracks, not clips. But currently the Ring Focus Box is made available to hardware out of the box for the APC and Launchpad devices as part of a support collaboration with Ableton. (iPad apps use their own custom installers.) CDM is working on possibly providing a custom hacked script to those who want it unsupported.

This is what Ableton Live shows you so you know which track you're on, in place of the "red box." Not... remotely helpful.

This is what Ableton Live shows you so you know which track you’re on, in place of the “red box.” Not… remotely helpful.

This isn’t just a LaunchControl XL issue, though; it’s generally an issue with keeping track of larger sets, visually and mentally. And it’s compounded when you have more than one person playing (I now work in several projects that are collaborative). For now, my approach has been to limit some live performances to eight tracks, which is conceptually simpler as well as solving control issues. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

If you are using the LaunchControl XL with another piece of kit – like the Launchpad – there’s an excellent solution, so long as you have Max for Live (included in Live Suite). It’s called LaunchSync, and it moves multiple controllers in tandem. So, if you change which clips are active on one controller – via Push, APC, Launchpad, or even Livid Base – everything else moves. This solves both the visual feedback problem and the question of getting confused with multiple controllers.
Free Launchsync Max for Live plugin [Isotonik]

From comments – yes, you can combine more than one LCXL for fixed assignment (for instance, 2x LCXL = 16 tracks).

As a Generic MIDI Controller

Another reason to buy the LaunchControl XL is that its usefulness isn’t limited to Live’s own interface. It’s also a terrific generic MIDI controller, which opens up both custom control applications in Live and giving it utility with other software.

To be honest, at first I didn’t realize there even was an editor for the hardware’s mappings because it’s pretty useful out of the box. Without any drivers, you can connect to a computer and start sending MIDI, or even connect to an iOS device with a Camera Connection Kit.

The LaunchControl XL is especially nice in that nearly everything is MIDI-assignable. The send and track toggles on the right send MIDI messages away from Live (or in Live, with the User template). Once you do open the editor, each assignment is customizable.

The LCXL's editor is huge and exhaustive - and means you might consider the hardware even if you never touch Ableton Live. If you want hardware to do double-duty rather than be a single-tasker, it's perfect.

The LCXL’s editor is huge and exhaustive – and means you might consider the hardware even if you never touch Ableton Live. If you want hardware to do double-duty rather than be a single-tasker, it’s perfect.

Novation has gone one better, too. Not only have they made every single colored LED addressable via MIDI, but they’ve done two implementations (one with MIDI notes and one with System Exclusive data), and written a handy programming guide that clearly explains how to do it:

Launch Control XL User Guides

This is the way hardware should work; I’d love to see more manufacturers adopt this approach, and the only way to convince them to do so is to loudly reward those who do.

If you can spare some extra weight and cost, the DS1 from Livid is the other gear to consider. The biggest advantage: enough dedicated sends/EQs that you don't need bank controls.

If you can spare some extra weight and cost, the DS1 from Livid is the other gear to consider. The biggest advantage: enough dedicated sends/EQs that you don’t need bank controls.

The Competition

I had to double-check that I hadn’t lost my mind and forgotten something, but in fact there aren’t many direct rivals that do what the XL does. That said, the number are rapidly growing.

The Akai APC is probably what most people will consider. An APC40 does the job reasonably well already, even before looking at the recent mk II model (hint: it’s flatter). And if you just want faders, there’s the inexpensive APC mini, though the build is much more satisfying on the (more expensive) Novation gear. But what you won’t get is sends right next to the channel strip, which for a lot of us is hugely desirable. The APC line wins on all-in-one functionality with clip launching, but the LaunchControl XL is a better mixing surface.

Ableton’s Push, as I said, is brilliant stuff. But it’s too complicated to use as a generic programmable controller, and mixing means twisting encoders and using toggles to get at the settings you need. It’s just hardware that solves a different set of problems.

If it’s only faders you want, there’s the Faderfox UC3, which is tiny and has a brilliant build quality, plus encoders with pages of assignments. You could even use that crossfader as a master fader and ignore the fact that it’s sideways. But you only get eight encoders, and no toggles for Live integration, so I like the UC3 better as a controller for devices and synths and so on rather than Live’s mixer.

Livid has a couple of offerings to look at, too. The Alias 8 is a great solution, and has a master fader, which the LaunchControl XL lacks. The faders are shorter-throw, but feel really good. You’ll mainly sacrifice the convenient toggles on the LaunchControl XL for Ableton Live integration.

Livid’s DS1, made in collaboration with Dubspot, is probably the most robust competition as a mixing control interface, with both a master fader and tons and tons of knobs. In fact, the DS1 is the only controller I know of that allows either a bunch of sends or dedicated EQs for each strip. It was designed specifically for this digital mixer use case I describe. But I’m not getting one. Why? Apart from cost, I’m just happy having something lighter and smaller, so I’m willing to make some sacrifices to use the Novation.

Behringer’s BCF2000 is of course major competition, with motorized faders, though it doesn’t have the dedicated send controls of the DS1. Again, it does add weight. I would choose the extra sends of the DS1 over the single rotaries on the BCF, but the motorization is convenient and street prices of the BCF are around US$200. It lacks faders, but with tons of rotaries, there’s also the BCR2000, made more appealing by the recent availability of a terrific step sequencer.

Behringer’s newer controllers also have something to offer though I haven’t gotten my hands on them yet; in particular, the X-TOUCH Compact refreshes the BCF2000 notion with more controls than are available on the Novation and motorized faders. And while, like the BCF, you get just one encoder per channel strip, a new bank of eight endless encoders on the right should more than make up for that – especially with LED feedback on all the encoders.

Finally, there’s Novation’s own original LaunchControl. If you just need some knobs for sends and/or device control and toggling track state, it’s cheap and tiny. But, of course, the XL is for those of you who wanted faders, so that’s no question.

Cats love it. From a session with my Alchemic Harm project.

Cats love it. From a session with my Alchemic Harm project.

Conclusions

I didn’t really appreciate how much I wanted the LaunchControl XL until I lived with it for a while. Sends plus faders plus track toggles plus lightweight and small equals stays on my desk and in my bag and doesn’t go on my Shelf of Lost Gear.

It’s not perfect. Finding which track you’re on is a chore, which makes me long for displays – though the Max for Live sync plug-in is certainly helping. And there’s hardware that feels a bit better (Livid, Push, Faderfox).

US$249.95 list is a bit high by Launchpad standards, though that’s hitting a street of about US$200. (Similar street pricing is available in Europe and the UK.)

All in all, the LaunchControl XL might not be alone, but it’s for me uniquely perfect. Never underestimate the value of faders you can easily drop in a bag.

LaunchControl XL product page

  • tebjan

    whish it had endless rotary knobs… looking since ages for a more compact replacement of the Behringer BCR2000. anyone knows of one?

    • The Faderfox UC3 I mention has endless rotaries, for one. So does a new Faderfox with step sequencing features, coming in a review soon. but you mean in the same layout?

      • tebjan

        yes, just a whole lot of rotary knobs, with value indicator (which the faderfox don’t have) and nothing else. layout would not be that important, maybe some buttons to mute/trigger stuff and switch pages. that’s all i wish for, for a compact mobile live setup. but most controllers seem to be optimized for production…

        • Well, then, *this* Faderfox –
          http://faderfox.de/sc4.html
          – which does all that you just described. It doesn’t have faders, but you could pair a UC3 with an SC4 and you’re still smaller than the footprint of even the LaunchControl XL.

    • Apeirophobe
      • tebjan

        oh, nice ones… looking forward to the reviews. but they also look like they waste some space, and have not enough rotarys.

        • Frank

          The rotaries on at least the Compact and Mini are not endless encoders…just pots.

          • Apeirophobe

            Not according to the marketing blurb. They all share the same rotary encoders.

          • Frank

            No, if you really read the blurb carefully, they talk about “rotary controls”, not ” rotary encoders”.Also to quote : ” with LED-collars” which, if you look closely, don’t go full circle.I guess, if they’d indeed be endless encoders they would specifically have menitoned it in their marketing text as endless always is a big selling point.

          • Apeirophobe

            You could be right but those look like X32 encoders to me (which also have LED rings which do not go full circle). That would make sense as the X-touch series are supposed to be remote controllers for the X32 rack. Also, why put LED collars on standard pots? Guess we will have to wait and see.

    • Sylvain Zerodebug

      livid code 2 is awesome but not cheap.

      • tebjan

        yes, its the closest thing so far… but too expensive and also the borders are too big for my taste… i just want a slick box, no space wasted.

      • Yeah, I left that out only because I’m thinking faders.

    • k
      • Apeirophobe

        Damn that looks great … and cheap too! Thanks for sharing.

    • Coming in the next review – this.
      http://faderfox.de/sc4.html

      Bonus: it’s a step sequencer, and it works standalone with MIDI in and out – which the MIDI Fighter Twister (also mentioned here) can’t do.

      • Paul

        Eagerly awaiting review!

  • tebjan

    whish it had endless rotary knobs… looking since ages for a more compact replacement of the Behringer BCR2000. anyone knows of one?

    • The Faderfox UC3 I mention has endless rotaries, for one. So does a new Faderfox with step sequencing features, coming in a review soon. but you mean in the same layout?

      • tebjan

        yes, just a whole lot of rotary knobs, with value indicator (which the faderfox don’t have) and nothing else. layout would not be that important, maybe some buttons to mute/trigger stuff and switch pages. that’s all i wish for, for a compact mobile live setup. but most controllers seem to be optimized for production…

        • Well, then, *this* Faderfox –
          http://faderfox.de/sc4.html
          – which does all that you just described. It doesn’t have faders, but you could pair a UC3 with an SC4 and you’re still smaller than the footprint of even the LaunchControl XL.

    • Apeirophobe
      • tebjan

        oh, nice ones… looking forward to the reviews. but they also look like they waste some space, and have not enough rotarys.

        • Frank

          The rotaries on at least the Compact and Mini are not endless encoders…just pots.

          • Apeirophobe

            Not according to the marketing blurb. They all share the same rotary encoders.

          • Frank

            No, if you really read the blurb carefully, they talk about “rotary controls”, not ” rotary encoders”.Also to quote : ” with LED-collars” which, if you look closely, don’t go full circle.I guess, if they’d indeed be endless encoders they would specifically have menitoned it in their marketing text as endless always is a big selling point.

          • Apeirophobe

            You could be right but those look like X32 encoders to me (which also have LED rings which do not go full circle). That would make sense as the X-touch series are supposed to be remote controllers for the X32 rack. Also, why put LED collars on standard pots? Guess we will have to wait and see.

    • Sylvain Zerodebug

      livid code 2 is awesome but not cheap.

      • tebjan

        yes, its the closest thing so far… but too expensive and also the borders are too big for my taste… i just want a slick box, no space wasted.

      • Yeah, I left that out only because I’m thinking faders.

    • k
      • Apeirophobe

        Damn that looks great … and cheap too! Thanks for sharing.

    • Coming in the next review – this.
      http://faderfox.de/sc4.html

      Bonus: it’s a step sequencer, and it works standalone with MIDI in and out – which the MIDI Fighter Twister (also mentioned here) can’t do.

      • Paul

        Eagerly awaiting review!

  • John

    What screen is there in the picture of your live setup? The one with Ableton Live and the white border on the top?

    • Actually, it’s Robert’s – and nothing fancy, just a standard display lying down! (We can keep dreaming of a touchscreen.)

      • John

        Ah, well…

  • John

    What screen is there in the picture of your live setup? The one with Ableton Live and the white border on the top?

    • Actually, it’s Robert’s – and nothing fancy, just a standard display lying down! (We can keep dreaming of a touchscreen.)

      • John

        Ah, well…

  • Robin Parmar

    For those of us who hate to be restricted to Live… How does it work as a general MIDI controller?

    • You did read that section of the review, right? 😉 Works just fine. You only lose the shift functions. And everything is assignable in both directions.

      • Robin Parmar

        Ah, very good! For this reading deficit I have to blame Old Reader, which inexplicably skips around in posts. I should find something better.

  • Robin Parmar

    For those of us who hate to be restricted to Live… How does it work as a general MIDI controller?

    • You did read that section of the review, right? 😉 Works just fine. You only lose the shift functions. And everything is assignable in both directions.

      • Robin Parmar

        Ah, very good! For this reading deficit I have to blame Old Reader, which inexplicably skips around in posts. I should find something better.

  • wndfrm

    now they need to make a mini version =D

  • wndfrm

    now they need to make a mini version =D

  • JohnMcQ

    Nice in-depth review, I hadn’t paid much attention when it was first released but the XL might be just the thing to complement the Push.

  • JohnMcQ

    Nice in-depth review, I hadn’t paid much attention when it was first released but the XL might be just the thing to complement the Push.

  • Peter, when controlling device params, can you bank switch to get to params 9-16 etc…?

    • Wait, now I’m confused – if we’re talking Racks, they wouldn’t have more than the first eight. Which parameters?

      • VST’s configured with many parms not in a rack but just in an Ableton device. Absynth for example does a nice job exposing all performance params plus ADSR without having to “configure”. Huge time saver. It would be a real shame to distill Absynth down to 8 for a macro.

        Push is fantastic as it it exposes more than 8 parms as pages labelled “Bank 1”, “Bank 2”, “Bank 3”.. Super fast to jump from say bank 1 to 3 params. As you know, older controllers like APC40, Remoe SL MK2.. support a bank switch to the next set of 8 params with a dedicated set of bank switch arrows buttons.

        I’d be interested in the Launchcontrol XL for situations where I wanted to travel light. You know, Launchpad + Launchcontrol XL. I’m asking because the latest round of Akai min’s don’t have a bank switch option for parms :^( So before I dish out $199. I was wondering since you had an XL if you could test the bank switch on a device with more than 8 params. Thanks buunches ;^)

        • mercury

          You can definitely switch through banks of parameters with the bottom row of knobs as the device control knobs (in the manual it tells you exactly how to do it, I am forgetting).

          What you can’t do, which would make much more logical sense, is use a User preset to assign the entire layout to one plugin, which would allow you to assign the 24 knobs and the 8 faders all to one VST synth at one time. Actually you can do this manually, but you have to reassign everything in each track, nothing is saved this way. Hopefully someone will create a script specifically for one of the User presets (or several separate scripts, ideally, for all of the User presets).

          • I see it now. Thanks to Robert Dorschel who just verified this via a Skype session. Just hold down Device button and press bottom row of track buttons to select param pages. Woot! So you can jump straight to say page 3. Note, the track control buttons do not light to give you any indication of how many pages are available in the device. Not a show stopper, but would have been nice.

          • Robert Dorschel

            The only things that were minor irks for me were: 1) you have to have the unit plugged in to its own USB port when using the XL Editor software; and 2) it a bit of a wait from when you hold down the Device Button for the lights to react. Sure it’s all of less than a second, but more than instantly; definitely noticeable. Otherwise, I’m happy with it so far.

          • Darren E Cowley

            Done 😉

  • Peter, when controlling device params, can you bank switch to get to params 9-16 etc…?

    • Wait, now I’m confused – if we’re talking Racks, they wouldn’t have more than the first eight. Which parameters?

      • VST’s configured with many parms not in a rack but just in an Ableton device. Absynth for example does a nice job exposing all performance params plus ADSR without having to “configure”. Huge time saver. It would be a real shame to distill Absynth down to 8 for a macro. Also, in the demos vids, they do show the use case of navigating and controlling devices – not just racks – so I’m really hoping that in addition to navigating the device chain, you can jump by 8 through the params in the device.

        Push is fantastic as it it exposes more than 8 parms as pages labelled “Bank 1”, “Bank 2”, “Bank 3”.. Super fast to jump from say bank 1 to 3 params. As you know, older controllers like APC40, Remoe SL MK2.. support a bank switch to the next set of 8 params with a dedicated set of bank switch arrows buttons.

        I’d be interested in the Launchcontrol XL for situations where I wanted to travel light. You know, Launchpad + Launchcontrol XL. I’m asking because the latest round of Akai min’s don’t have a bank switch option for parms :^( So before I dish out $199. I was wondering since you had an XL if you could test the bank switch on a device with more than 8 params. Thanks buunches ;^)

        • mercury

          You can definitely switch through banks of parameters with the bottom row of knobs as the device control knobs (in the manual it tells you exactly how to do it, I am forgetting).

          What you can’t do, which would make much more logical sense, is use a User preset to assign the entire layout to one plugin, which would allow you to assign the 24 knobs and the 8 faders all to one VST synth at one time. Actually you can do this manually, but you have to reassign everything in each track, nothing is saved this way. Hopefully someone will create a script specifically for one of the User presets (or several separate scripts, ideally, for all of the User presets).

          • I see it now. Thanks to Robert Dorschel who just verified this via a Skype session. Just hold down Device button and press bottom row of track buttons to select param pages. Woot! So you can jump straight to say page 3. Note, the track control buttons do not light to give you any indication of how many pages are available in the device. Not a show stopper, but would have been nice.

          • Robert Dorschel

            The only things that were minor irks for me were: 1) you have to have the unit plugged in to its own USB port when using the XL Editor software; and 2) it a bit of a wait from when you hold down the Device Button for the lights to react. Sure it’s all of less than a second, but more than instantly; definitely noticeable. Otherwise, I’m happy with it so far.

          • Darren E Cowley

            Done 😉

  • Virtual Flannel

    Finally some midi controllers with Knobs and Faders. Why did it take this long??? This is a nice product at a great price. A bit more interested in the Alias 8, but the price makes a big difference.

    • Robert Dorschel

      I have the Alias8. I like the response of the knobs and sliders better on the Alias8, but the software response is better and easier to use/make changes on the XL. They both have their strong points. Plus the XL has an extra row of knobs (a bonus)

  • Virtual Flannel

    Finally some midi controllers with Knobs and Faders. Why did it take this long??? This is a nice product at a great price. A bit more interested in the Alias 8, but the price makes a big difference.

    • Robert Dorschel

      I have the Alias8. I like the response of the knobs and sliders better on the Alias8, but the software response is better and easier to use/make changes on the XL. They both have their strong points. Plus the XL has an extra row of knobs (a bonus)

  • Robert Dorschel

    I emailed Novation; in case you’re curious, yes, you can connect multiple XL units and have a larger control setup, e.g. using 3 XL units to control 24 channels. You just need to set them up in advance as Track 1-8, and Track 9-16, etc, using either the factory or your own user setups. Which is a great thing for me. I bought the XL last week, and so far I like it. Think I’ll be plunking down another $199 (or less if another used one comes up on the ‘bay) so I can run 16 channels without switching. I just wish it were a little easier to custom assign the buttons for clip triggers.

    • Ah, chaining multiple XLs – that’s great.

      Clip triggers from the buttons … is that really optimal with this layout? I suppose you could just switch to the User template, which to me doesn’t seem so hard.

      • Robert Dorschel

        Yeah, clip triggers; or as custom on/off buttons for plugins. I never use the Mute function; I always use the “Channel Arm” feature, so there’s 8 used up right away. I would use the other eight to trigger, say, Stylus RMX patterns. That’s a custom MIDI assignment for sure.

        • So it is possible to make the buttons launch/stop clips through user assignment? I’d like to be able to switch to user mode and use the bottom 2 rows to trigger clips, perhaps set up another couple of buttons to scroll up and down through rows, basically like having to rows of a launchpad.

          • Robert Dorschel

            I’m not sure if what you’re saying is possible (I’m away from the unit at work), but it sounds like you could. Yes, you can use Live’s MIDI Mapping feature just fine.

  • Robert Dorschel

    I emailed Novation; in case you’re curious, yes, you can connect multiple XL units and have a larger control setup, e.g. using 3 XL units to control 24 channels. You just need to set them up in advance as Track 1-8, and Track 9-16, etc, using either the factory or your own user setups. Which is a great thing for me. I bought the XL last week, and so far I like it. Think I’ll be plunking down another $199 (or less if another used one comes up on the ‘bay) so I can run 16 channels without switching. I just wish it were a little easier to custom assign the buttons for clip triggers.

    • Ah, chaining multiple XLs – that’s great.

      Clip triggers from the buttons … is that really optimal with this layout? I suppose you could just switch to the User template, which to me doesn’t seem so hard.

      • Robert Dorschel

        Yeah, clip triggers; or as custom on/off buttons for plugins. I never use the Mute function; I always use the “Channel Arm” feature, so there’s 8 used up right away. I would use the other eight to trigger, say, Stylus RMX patterns. That’s a custom MIDI assignment for sure.

        • So it is possible to make the buttons launch/stop clips through user assignment? I’d like to be able to switch to user mode and use the bottom 2 rows to trigger clips, perhaps set up another couple of buttons to scroll up and down through rows, basically like having to rows of a launchpad.

          • Robert Dorschel

            I’m not sure if what you’re saying is possible (I’m away from the unit at work), but it sounds like you could. Yes, you can use Live’s MIDI Mapping feature just fine.

  • mercury

    This is one of my favorite devices and it has a feature that has been sorely missing in a lot of devices – a ton of faders and knobs in a small, inexpensive package. Even better, in addition to the Factory preset 1 for Ableton control, there are 15 other presets (Factory 2-8 and User 1-8).

    In theory, if someone created a proper set of scripts for this, you could get blue hand control over multiple VSTs or devices via use of the different user presets.

    For ex, want to control Sylenth, if its 128 parameters are already laid out you can save that as a rack. Every time you open it, you could right-click and click on a preset like User 1-2, for example, and control it almost like a synth. If you want to then open another device, you could do the same thing but assign it to User 3-4, for example. Ideally you would have about 7 scripts (each script utilizing to of the presets) and control up to 6 devices via blue-hand control (u can’t control 7 because ableton only allows you to drop 6 scripts in the preferences area).

    The only thing is…this script doesn’t exist. I’m surprised that Novation didn’t work on it because we already know what the preset MIDI faders and knob numbers are, they just need to turn them into a script. I wish I knew how to do it. It would make this instrument incredibly versatile.

    Instead, you have to reassign every knob and fader in User mode whenever you open a VST or device (even if you had already done that in the past) since they are not saveable.

    Does anyone know a solution? I would pay $100 for this alone.

    • Darren E Cowley

      Please send the $100 dollars to my paypal account…. If you have max4live we’ll have a solution for this for you…..

      • Sid Prakash

        ok what is ur paypal account, i’ll send it today. i do have max4live. u understand what i am trying to do though right? it involves the User presets and last time I asked someone at Isotonik in the comments to do this, they said it was not possible because the user presets are not accessible via max4live

        • Darren E Cowley

          Hey Sid, I’m Darren who runs Isotonik, we’re just working on a remote script max4live combination which will take over user 1 and extaned the parameter control of the currently in focus device to 32 parameters mapped to the physical controls of the LaunchControl XL!

          • mercury

            Holy crap, that sounds awesome. i will donate $100 to this project as agreed, just let me know when it is ready and where to paypal. i would also be happy to beta test it for you although u may not need it

          • Darren E Cowley

            You’ll be hearing about it’s release on CDM first 😉

          • Darren E Cowley

            http://isotonikstudios.com/launchcontrol-xl-step-sequencer/

            Version one with the red box out now…..

  • mercury

    This is one of my favorite devices and it has a feature that has been sorely missing in a lot of devices – a ton of faders and knobs in a small, inexpensive package. Even better, in addition to the Factory preset 1 for Ableton control, there are 15 other presets (Factory 2-8 and User 1-8).

    In theory, if someone created a proper set of scripts for this, you could get blue hand control over multiple VSTs or devices via use of the different user presets.

    For ex, want to control Sylenth, if its 128 parameters are already laid out you can save that as a rack. Every time you open it, you could right-click and click on a preset like User 1-2, for example, and control it almost like a synth. If you want to then open another device, you could do the same thing but assign it to User 3-4, for example. Ideally you would have about 7 scripts (each script utilizing to of the presets) and control up to 6 devices via blue-hand control (u can’t control 7 because ableton only allows you to drop 6 scripts in the preferences area).

    The only thing is…this script doesn’t exist. I’m surprised that Novation didn’t work on it because we already know what the preset MIDI faders and knob numbers are, they just need to turn them into a script. I wish I knew how to do it. It would make this instrument incredibly versatile.

    Instead, you have to reassign every knob and fader in User mode whenever you open a VST or device (even if you had already done that in the past) since they are not saveable.

    Does anyone know a solution? I would pay $100 for this alone.

    • Darren E Cowley

      Please send the $100 dollars to my paypal account…. If you have max4live we’ll have a solution for this for you…..

      • Sid Prakash

        ok what is ur paypal account, i’ll send it today. i do have max4live. u understand what i am trying to do though right? it involves the User presets and last time I asked someone at Isotonik in the comments to do this, they said it was not possible because the user presets are not accessible via max4live

        • Darren E Cowley

          Hey Sid, I’m Darren who runs Isotonik, we’re just working on a remote script max4live combination which will take over user 1 and extaned the parameter control of the currently in focus device to 24 parameters mapped to the physical controls of the LaunchControl XL!

          • mercury

            Holy crap, that sounds awesome. i will donate $100 to this project as agreed, just let me know when it is ready and where to paypal. i would also be happy to beta test it for you although u may not need it

          • Darren E Cowley

            You’ll be hearing about it’s release on CDM first 😉

          • Darren E Cowley

            http://isotonikstudios.com/launchcontrol-xl-step-sequencer/

            Version one with the red box out now…..

  • butter

    No actual midi ports on midi controllers makes the baby Jesus cry.

    • You know, if we had more gear with minijacks for MIDI instead of DIN, this might be more common.

      In this case, no complaints. It’s a basic USB MIDI controller but the fact that it’s bus-powered and class-compliant means that even without MIDI DIN, it’s usable with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, etc., etc., and the bi-directional implementation is perfectly well-documented. Where I start to get grumpy is when a basic MIDI controller requires drivers or proprietary communication to perform basic tasks.

      But here, no one has to cry.

      For MIDI connectivity, I love the Faderfox series and will keep talking about *how much* I love them – SC4 is the next review and has MIDI in and out, so stay tuned.

  • butter

    midi controllers without actual midi ports make the baby Jesus cry.

    • You know, if we had more gear with minijacks for MIDI instead of DIN, this might be more common.

      In this case, no complaints. It’s a basic USB MIDI controller but the fact that it’s bus-powered and class-compliant means that even without MIDI DIN, it’s usable with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, etc., etc., and the bi-directional implementation is perfectly well-documented. Where I start to get grumpy is when a basic MIDI controller requires drivers or proprietary communication to perform basic tasks.

      But here, no one has to cry.

      For MIDI connectivity, I love the Faderfox series and will keep talking about *how much* I love them – SC4 is the next review and has MIDI in and out, so stay tuned.

  • Will

    $200 isn’t exactly cheap (I’m getting really spoiled) but ableton aside 32 controllers + 16 buttons (x8 templates) in a well built small package is enough to control most soft synths and breathe life into older digital synths with MIDI control. Shortlisted. Thanks for the deep dive.

    and +10 for rewarding the MIDI+SYSEX+well written programmers guide. Let’s do that.

  • Will

    $200 isn’t exactly cheap (I’m getting really spoiled) but ableton aside 32 controllers + 16 buttons (x8 templates) in a well built small package is enough to control most soft synths and breathe life into older digital synths with MIDI control. Shortlisted. Thanks for the deep dive.

    and +10 for rewarding the MIDI+SYSEX+well written programmers guide. Let’s do that.

  • Sjakelien

    I recently picked up (for €100!) a second hand Emagic Logic Control, which is functionally quite similar to the Mackie MCU. While a lot clunkier than the LCXL, so probably less useful in live situations, it has several features that I think should have been part of this Novation product:
    1) Motorized faders: It’s not just the obvious fact that the faders are in sync with the software all of the time, so you don’t have to move them until they have the same value as on the screen, the fact THAT they are in sync, makes the need of a display less urgent. And it is extremely cool just to see them move.
    2) Transport buttons. I’m sure you can assign any of the the buttons to do FF/REC/PLAY etc. but these buttons should be clearly visible and dedicated. I’m not a real Ableton Live user, so maybe it’s less important with that software.
    3) Indeed, a display

    But I guess you would then end up with the Behringer, which is in another price class. (And I hear that the motorized faders are too noisy.)

    • freeks

      With Emagic text on it?
      We few broken ones. Don’t expect those to work long. Motors etc were not well built. Later ones with only Mackie text should be better. We have few broken Mackie expanders too. It was very nice setup when it worked: 32ch motorised faders! Now back on mousing.

      Behringer BCR series are good value when bough used. Easy to find for less than $100. A bit too big and heavy for live rig.

      For $150 i could use XL for VJ setup.

      • Yeah, I can second that – Logic Control haven’t lasted. BCR and BCF, interestingly, have. I don’t know about the new Behringers.

      • Sjakelien

        So far, it’s working fine with me. Indeed one of the faders got stuck, but I found a replacement fader quite easily. I read that the Behringer faders are way too noisy to have them around in the same space as where you are recording. Which in my cases may attic.

  • Sjakelien

    I recently picked up (for €100!) a second hand Emagic Logic Control, which is functionally quite similar to the Mackie MCU. While a lot clunkier than the LCXL, so probably less useful in live situations, it has several features that I think should have been part of this Novation product:
    1) Motorized faders: It’s not just the obvious fact that the faders are in sync with the software all of the time, so you don’t have to move them until they have the same value as on the screen, the fact THAT they are in sync, makes the need of a display less urgent. And it is extremely cool just to see them move.
    2) Transport buttons. I’m sure you can assign any of the the buttons to do FF/REC/PLAY etc. but these buttons should be clearly visible and dedicated. I’m not a real Ableton Live user, so maybe it’s less important with that software.
    3) Indeed, a display

    But I guess you would then end up with the Behringer, which is in another price class. (And I hear that the motorized faders are too noisy.)

    • freeks

      With Emagic text on it?
      We few broken ones. Don’t expect those to work long. Motors etc were not well built. Later ones with only Mackie text should be better. We have few broken Mackie expanders too. It was very nice setup when it worked: 32ch motorised faders! Now back on mousing.

      Behringer BCR series are good value when bough used. Easy to find for less than $100. A bit too big and heavy for live rig.

      For $150 i could use XL for VJ setup.

      • Yeah, I can second that – Logic Control haven’t lasted. BCR and BCF, interestingly, have. I don’t know about the new Behringers.

      • Sjakelien

        So far, it’s working fine with me. Indeed one of the faders got stuck, but I found a replacement fader quite easily. I read that the Behringer faders are way too noisy to have them around in the same space as where you are recording. Which in my cases may attic.

  • André et Michèle

    Nice review!

    Also worth mentioning is Livid’s Cntrl:r and its associated Live scripts: 8 faders, each w/ 3 associated pots, plus a 4×4 launch section (including moving red square focus), additional buttons for transport/arming/cuing tracks, etc., and an endless encoder section for device control. You also get switchable pages as well for most controls. Not to mention their sequencing Max for Live devices. Quite a lot in a pretty portable package, including actual midi ports 🙂

    Yes I’m a fan, it’s the heart of our live rig:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH37bd-nTNE

    That said, I def. would have considered the Novation stuff if the XL had been around when we went Livid . . .

    Will also be curious to see if the Cntrl:r works w/ Launchsync.

  • André et Michèle

    Nice review!

    Also worth mentioning is Livid’s Cntrl:r and its associated Live scripts: 8 faders, each w/ 3 associated pots, plus a 4×4 launch section (including moving red square focus), additional buttons for transport/arming/cuing tracks, etc., and an endless encoder section for device control. You also get switchable pages as well for most controls. Not to mention their sequencing Max for Live devices. Quite a lot in a pretty portable package, including actual midi ports 🙂

    Yes I’m a fan, it’s the heart of our live rig:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH37bd-nTNE

    That said, I def. would have considered the Novation stuff if the XL had been around when we went Livid . . .

    Will also be curious to see if the Cntrl:r works w/ Launchsync.

  • maxwelldub

    I wanna customize the remote midi script for this thing, how do I do it?

  • maxwelldub

    I wanna customize the remote midi script for this thing, how do I do it?

  • Narudh Areesorn

    we still need compact automated fader banks for mixing which is not Avid pricing $$$

  • Narudh Areesorn

    we still need compact automated fader banks for mixing which is not Avid pricing $$$

  • Darren E Cowley

    http://isotonikstudios.com/launchcontrol-xl/

    LaunchSync PRO now released, it gives 4 banks of 24 parameters to map to, the mappings will then dynamically follow the Master Controllers Red Box!!

  • Darren E Cowley

    http://isotonikstudios.com/launchcontrol-xl/

    LaunchSync PRO now released, it gives 4 banks of 24 parameters to map to, the mappings will then dynamically follow the Master Controllers Red Box!!

  • efada

    Since this article begins with the line, “sometimes you just want to grab a fader,” it might be off of me to bring up the Livid Base. But if you can stomach touch faders, it is a brilliant companion to Push and will give you quick control of mixing, launching, sends, sequencing, and device control, all in a completely portable package. I bought the DS1 a month ago to replace Base, and it failed to do so. The Base just does more than the DS1. The script Livid created for it is pure genius. And you can find the original Base for not much more then the Lanch Control XL these days.

  • efada

    Since this article begins with the line, “sometimes you just want to grab a fader,” it might be off of me to bring up the Livid Base. But if you can stomach touch faders, it is a brilliant companion to Push and will give you quick control of mixing, launching, sends, sequencing, and device control, all in a completely portable package. I bought the DS1 a month ago to replace Base, and it failed to do so. The Base just does more than the DS1. The script Livid created for it is pure genius. And you can find the original Base for not much more then the Lanch Control XL these days.

  • duncan speakman

    anyone got this to work with a usb-midi host of any kind? I’m trying it with a Kenton Midi USB host but no luck 🙁 really want to be able to control my Octatrack (Which is only DIN midi in) .. seems no mention of USB/Midi on any tech forums anywhere so hoping someone here might have a solution?

    • Frood

      The only solution that I’ve found is the iconnect4+, A pricey fix. it needs the new firmware

  • duncan speakman

    anyone got this to work with a usb-midi host of any kind? I’m trying it with a Kenton Midi USB host but no luck 🙁 really want to be able to control my Octatrack (Which is only DIN midi in) .. seems no mention of USB/Midi on any tech forums anywhere so hoping someone here might have a solution?

    • Frood

      The only solution that I’ve found is the iconnect4+, A pricey fix. it needs the new firmware

  • Andrea Barra

    hi guys , just a simple question…. if i have some audio effects on the master track how can i go on the master track and tweak them? … i have to manually map the master track effects to my user mode or there is an other way to do it? … on the APC40 there is the button to select (focus on) the master track… thanks

  • Andrea Barra

    hi guys , just a simple question…. if i have some audio effects on the master track how can i go on the master track and tweak them? … i have to manually map the master track effects to my user mode or there is an other way to do it? … on the APC40 there is the button to select (focus on) the master track… thanks

  • PeterHamlin

    Thanks for a great review — I’m pretty close to getting one of these. This overview was really helpful.

    I have a NanoControl — the biggest drawback is there isn’t a control script as far as I can tell. (Yes, I can make a simple UserConfiguration, but it’s not the same — and I don’t have the time/inclination to get into Python to create a real control script for it.)

    As to Livid — I have an Ohm64 and wish I could love it, but it just doesn’t work dependably. (For example, Live sometimes sees it, sometimes not — this doesn’t happen with any of my other controllers.) I haven’t gotten the conrol script to work, and support has just been completely non-helpful. It’s such a beautiful device but it hasn’t been dependable enough for me to make real use of it. Control surfaces I’ve had from Behringer, Novation and Korg, byt contrast, are rock solid.

    I thought of getting a Push 2 as well, but just can’t justify the price. I already own a Launchpad, so it looks like adding the XL will be excellent!