Grids in key, with Novation’s new Launchpad Pro scales

A piano keyboard or fretboard is set up with a particular mapping of pitch in mind. But the major advantage of any undifferentiated grid is the ability to work with scales. You can have any tuning and modes you like. A new free update to Novation’s Launchpad Pro adds that functionality to their grid controller – and that transforms how you’d use it musically. Now, Novation’s grid controller is far from the first such hardware to add the ability to map the pads to scales. Native Instruments’ Maschine (4×4) and Ableton’s Push (8×8) each have scale modes for their grids. …


Make Novation Circuit your own, with updates, browser tools

When Novation’s little Circuit came out, it was already an appealing, simple box for making music. You got two polysynths and a four-part drum machine built in, coupled with a step sequencer, RGB pads and encoders for control, and MIDI, all for just a hair above $300. At the same time, though, you were restricted to the built-in sounds. Today, Novation are unveiling a bunch of updates that open up the machine to more customization – to personalizing it for your own use.


Novation’s LaunchControl XL now works standalone – hello, modulars, gear

Tired: controllers that need computers to operate. Wired (literally): controllers that work happily standalone. MIDI, CV – all good. I’m still bleary-eyed but happy after a day yesterday of overwhelmingly cool Novation Launchpad Pro hacks, most of them standalone. The idea: hack into the firmware, and make the Launchpad Pro do whatever you want in your rig. Now, today, Novation themselves are out with clever videos showing off the fact that a firmware update has made the Launch Control and Launch Control XL work on their own. (Note the the Launchpad Pro is preferable in that it has onboard MIDI. …

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Launchpad Pro Grid Controller: Hands-on Comprehensive Guide

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is here. It shares the same compact footprint as earlier Launchpads, but adds full color, pressure-sensitive pads, and MIDI inputs and outputs, plus the ability to operate without a computer. So, with other grids to choose from, where does this one fit? The Launchpad line of controllers has always been about simplicity. Even when the original Launchpad was introduced, it did less than its nearest rival, the AKAI APC. But it was popular partly thanks to being simple, light, small, and affordable. That fits many users’ needs, and can be nicely combined with other hardware. The Launchpad …


How to Sequence on a Budget with the Arturia BeatStep and MeeBlip anode

It’s no step backward. Standalone hardware is now smaller, lighter, more affordable, more capable, and easier to use than before. So why not help focus on a live gig or creating musical ideas by getting away from the computer now and then? This video from Meta Micro Labs shows how easy it is to plug in and get going – even if you’ve never worked this way before. And it stars the MeeBlip anode, our own humble monosynth (co-produced with CDM), featuring our gritty bass sound with analog filter. The timing is right, as we’ve just put anode on sale …


The Best Little MIDI Fader and Knob Box Just Got Better

I just can’t hide my affection for the Faderfox line, and one unit in particular: the UC3 was pretty close to perfect. While there are other MIDI controllers with faders, the UC3 stands out by combining a healthy assortment of encoders and faders (plus one crossfader) in an ultra-compact, lightweight package. Nothing comes close to saving space either in your bag or in cramped performance setup situations. Every component feels smooth, solid, and premium, in contrast to rivals that have generally favored low price over quality. And it’s USB class compliant, so drivers aren’t issue. Well, the UC3 was nearly …


Maschine and Komplete Kontrol Updates Make Them Way More Useful

The changes are subtle. And if you’re looking for some kind of splashy way of integrating Maschine with Traktor or transforming how you play plug-ins, this isn’t it. But some point updates to two flagship Native Instruments production tools are worth applauding. They make these tools not only more useful, but give them more longevity. Maschine sounds better. Maschine and Komplete Kontrol play better together. And whereas hardware/software integration sometimes seems designed solely to lock you in to certain products, Komplete Kontrol now not only works with your host and other gear, but works even when it’s unplugged from your …


How Does Novation’s Launchpad Pro Stack Up Against Ableton Push?

One of last month’s more predictable NAMM announcements was, at long last, an update to Novation’s Launchpad line that adds RGB color support and pressure sensitivity. But that means that it’s easier to compare the new Launchpad Pro with the spendier (but also more powerful) Ableton Push. It’s been a few years since the original Launchpad first commercialized the “grid performance instrument” concept popularized by the monome. Since then, we’ve seen Novation’s LEDs get brighter and the body get slimmer, plus the welcome addition of class-compliant support (opening up iOS and Linux compatibility and driverless operation). But the Launchpad itself …


How Akai Advance Could Best NI’s Komplete Kontrol in Smart Keyboards

Smart keyboard controllers that integrate with software have been something various makers have tried frequently over the years, with various degrees of success. Propellerhead helped lead the way with Automap in Reason, which could cleverly link on-screen controls to devices. But by the time this was translated to multiple pieces of software, the resulting “automatic” features could be harder to use on than off. I tried at various points Novation’s ReMOTE, M-Audio’s Axiom Pro, and Cakewalk’s A-PRO keyboards, and found them all to be perfectly nice hardware – once I gave up and turned the automatic stuff off and just …


Knobs, Encoders, and a Crazy-Powerful Step Sequencer: Latest Faderfox Hardware

If you want a tiny, well-built box with loads of encoders or knobs, Faderfox has you covered with its latest round of hardware. (Previously, too: faders!) But with the SC4, the Hamburg, Germany-based builder adds something else: a brilliant step sequencer you can use with software or standalone hardware. Faderfox has two new controllers this month – the knob-laden PC4, which is basically a bunch of pots, and the encoders-with-display SC4. Both work as general-purpose controllers. But the SC4 adds a step-sequencing firmware. The SC4 then becomes more than just a flexible, do-anything controller. It’s about the most step sequencing …