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Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3 Complete Review

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Novation’s Launchkey line has long been a popular option for compact MIDI controllers, and the Mk3 is the latest and greatest iteration.

With its updated design and improved hardware, the Launchkey 25 mk3 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality, versatile MIDI controller.

It offers seamless Ableton Live integration, 16 backlit performance pads, transport controls, and much more.

We’ll take a deep look at this MIDI keyboard’s features and help you decide if it’s a good choice.

Here’s an overview of what we’ll discuss in this post.

Overview 

The Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3 has 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys. It seamlessly integrates with Ableton Live to give performers and producers a comprehensive, hands-on control solution for making music. 

With its velocity-sensitive pads, 8 rotary encoders, a built-in arpeggiator, and a host of performance modes, the Launchkey 25 MK3 gives you everything you need to create tracks quickly and easily. 

It also comes with a copy of Ableton Live Lite 10 and is compatible with Mac and PC.

What We Like About the Launchkey 25 Mk3

We like how the Launchkey 25 Mk3 makes producing with Ableton Live more efficient – once you get the hang of it. 

We also appreciate the arpeggiator feature, which can add some much-needed variety to your productions. And the fact that you can save custom mappings and chords is a huge bonus.

In terms of negatives, you won’t get the most out of this MIDI keyboard if you’re not an Ableton user. Plus, it can take a while to learn how to navigate all the controls and features this model has to offer.

Here’s an in-depth look at the Launchkey 25 Mk3’s keys, features, and software to help you decide if it’s a good investment.

Novation Launchkey 25 Review

Keys

Synth-Action

The Launchey 25 Mk3 has 25 full-size velocity-sensitive synth-action keys.

Synth-action keys use springs to provide resistance as opposed to weights.

The advantage of these keys is that they’re sensitive to touch, making them faster and more responsive than weighted keys.

The downside is that they don’t have the same level of resistance as piano keys, making them feel less natural to play.

While we prefer semi-weighted keys, the Mk3’s keys offer just the right amount of resistance for non-keyboardist.

Velocity-Sensitive

The Mk3’s keys are also velocity-sensitive, allowing you to play with more expression.

Velocity-sensitive keys respond to the force you apply to them as you’re playing.

In other words, the harder you hit a velocity-sensitive key, the louder its sound will be.

Notable Features 

1. Ableton Live Integration

Novation and Ableton have teamed up to create a MIDI keyboard that gives you hands-on control of your Ableton Live sessions.

For instance, the Launchkey’s 16 backlit pads sync with Ableton Live’s Session View. 

Ableton Live Session View

If you’re unfamiliar with Ableton Live’s Session View, it displays your MIDI tracks and song arrangement in the form of a grid. 

The vertical columns represent instruments and other sounds that make up your track. 

You can record a MIDI clip in any block in the Session View.

Each row of MIDI clips represents a sequence of sounds that make up a section of your song. These rows are called Scenes.

Session Mode 

You can access Session mode by holding “Shift” and pressing the first pad on the bottom row (Session). 

Once you do so, the backlit pads will display a colorful view of your Ableton Live Session View grid.

Here’s what you can do in Ableton Live in Session mode: 

  • Switch between instruments and sounds with the Track Arrow (left and right)
  • Switch between Scenes with the Up/Down Arrow buttons (to the left of the pads)
  • Launch clips using the pads (each pad corresponds to a MIDI clip in your Session View)
  • Launch Scenes using the Right Arrow button (to the top right of the pads)
  • Stop, Solo, and Mute Clips within a Scene with the button to the bottom right of the pads
  • Use transport controls to play and stop your tracks, record new parts, and loop certain sections
  • When you have Capture MIDI enabled, you can capture the notes you play on theMk3 without having to press record
  • The Quantize button automatically quantizes you’re recorded MIDI
  • The click button activates the metronome
  • Use the Undo button to undo your recorded MIDI clip

The Mk3 also fully integrates with Logic and Reason and has native functionality with nearly every DAW.

2. Modes

Besides Session mode, the Launchkey also has a Drum, Scale Chord, and User Chord mode.

Drum Mode

You can hold “Shift” and press the second pad on the bottom row to turn the pads into a drum machine. 

The Mk3’s pads are velocity-sensitive and offer great dynamic control for drumming.

Scale Chord Mode

The Launchkey 25 Mk3 can lock into eight different scales. 

If you hold Shift and press the Scale button, you can choose between the eight scale options. Once you select a scale, the Launchkey will only play notes within that scale. 

Also, you can hold “Shift” and select the third pad on the bottom to access Scale Chord mode. 

This mode turns the pads into various chords within the scale you selected. Once enabled, you can use the pads to play complex chord progressions without music theory knowledge.

User Chord Mode

User Chord mode lets you save custom chords.

To access this mode, hold “Shift” and select the fourth pad. 

Next, hold down a pad and play each note in the chord you’d like to save. 

The Launchkey will save your chord to that pad until you hold the Stop, Solo, Mute button and select the pad again to delete it. 

You can repeat this process for each slot.

3. Arpeggiator

The Novation Launchkey 25 mk3’s built-in arpeggiator is a great tool for creating complex and interesting rhythms and melodies. 

You can set the arpeggiator to various modes, each with a unique sound and feel. 

You’ll find the controls for the arpeggiator above the keys. These controls let you adjust the Arp type (Up, Down), rate (1/4, 1/8), octave, and rhythm.

There are also several parameters you can adjust further to customize the sound and behavior of the arpeggiator. 

For instance, you can Latch your pattern by holding Shift and selecting the Arp button. Plus, you can use the encoder knobs to adjust tempo, swing, gating, mutations, and deviations. 

These settings either change how the pattern plays or randomize notes to create unique variations.

Takeaway: Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3 Review 

The Launchkey 25 Mk3 is best for Ableton Live users, live performers, and producers who want a compact, powerful MIDI controller.

It has 25 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, 8 pads, and 8 rotary knobs.

You can use the pads to trigger drums, control Ableton Live’s Session View, and control virtual instruments. They’re also ideal for launching loops and samples.

This MIDI keyboard is plug-and-play with Mac and PC and comes with Ableton Live 10 Lite. It also works with all other major DAWs.

The only downsides are its pricey for a 25-key MIDI keyboard, and it can be a bit difficult to navigate initially for beginners.

However, we highly recommend the Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3 if you want a compact MIDI keyboard with all the bells and whistles.

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