Launchpad mini vs x

Launchpad mini vs x DEFAULT

Review: Novation Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini Mk3

Price £179.99 (X) – £99.99 (Mini)

The original Novation Launchpad was designed to be a physical representation of the clips and scenes available in the Session View of Ableton Live. Since then, the ‘Launch’ range has developed, while at the same time competition from other companies has intensified. Now, Novation celebrate ten years of the Launchpad by releasing the Launchpad X and the Launchpad Mini Mk 3. Let’s see if these new Launchpads have future-proofed the concept for the 2020s.

Launch sequence engaged

Each package contains the relevant Launchpad and a USB C-A cable. The Launchpad X is the larger of the two devices, measuring 241 x 241 x 17.5mm, which is still pretty svelte. There’s USB C and Kensington at the back, and a mini jack for MIDI out. Navigation and mode buttons are arrayed along the top – from left to right, they run: Session, Note, Custom, followed by a new Capture MIDI button. Use the buttons down the right to launch scenes, or to access mixer functions for Volume, Pan, Sends, Stop, and Mute.

Both Launchpads include a downloadable software bundle, featuring the inevitable copy of Ableton Live Lite. For existing Live users, the bundle includes other enticements, such as two months’ subscription to the Splice online sound library, Sound Collective membership, and various plug-ins from AAS, Klevgrand, Softube, and XLN Audio.

Upon connection, both Launchpads appear as USB storage devices; there are links to online help material inside, as well as downloads for the software bundle, extra sample content and any firmware updates. Extra functionality is available through the Novation Components web page or downloadable app. The app is preferable because the web version only works on Chrome and Opera browsers, and I don’t want to install an extra browser just to update a bit of hardware. It’s also possible to obtain manuals and firmware updates through the regular Novation support pages.

Novation Connection Screen

Happy birthday

The X is indeed super-thin, but not at the cost of fragility. Impressively, the pads now transmit velocity, pressure and aftertouch, making it a more useful and playable proposition than might be expected. Pressing the Session button cycles between Session and Mixer modes (illuminating either green or orange) so the pads can be used for mixer functions including volume, pan, and effect sends. Given that we’re talking about simple rows of eight square pads, the mixer functions work pretty well – tapping with greater velocity will create faster fades or pans. Also, tapping the top pad in any column gradually increments the relevant values in smaller steps, shown by increasing brightness levels, which is an interesting workaround.

Novation Launchpad X

As the value reaches maximum, it cycles around and begins again. I’d personally prefer if it was possible to progress up to the next pad with a continuous movement. Pressing the bottom right button cycles the bottom horizontal row between Track Stop, Solo, Arm, and Record. Note mode allows the selection of different scales and pad layouts, and specifying root notes. Note mode settings are accessed by pressing/holding Note, then tapping various pads to choose Scale, Root Note, and MIDI Channel. When playing keyboard parts I prefer to use the Custom 2 layout, which presents four mini one-octave piano type keyboards on screen.

If you’re noodling around playing notes, don’t forget you can use the top right Capture MIDI button to invoke Live 10’s excellent Capture tool, which will recall the last phrase you played. When in Note mode, a drum layout will appear if a track containing a Live drum rack is selected, and this is where the velocity sensitivity can really start to pay off. In use, the Launchpad X scores by being mobile, and by being – very importantly – playable. You get used to switching modes very quickly, and it’s surprising how useful and effective the mixer functions are. The addition of MIDI out will definitely make this more attractive to those of us with hardware in our studios.

Size really doesn’t matter

Turning to the diminutive Launchpad Mini Mk 3, this smaller sibling measures 180 x 180 x 14.2mm – it’s a bit like a coaster with some lights on it! Once again it features a Kensington lock slot and a USB C port. As usual, the bulk of the surface area is occupied by the 64 RGB pads, while the top row and right column consist of further buttons relating to navigation and the selection of different modes; Session, Drums, Keys, and User. At the very bottom right is a button which switches the bottom row between Stop, Solo, and Mute, behaviours. The Mini now gets RGB full-colour pads, which nicely reflect the clip colours in Live’s Session View.

Forget about velocity or pressure sensitivity on something this size, these behave like simple buttons, with basic up/down/on/off action. Keys Mode defaults to the piano layout I mentioned earlier, and despite the small size it’s still good to have. The Mini also has Drums mode, but of course without the benefits of velocity. Overall the Mini Mk 3 is not functionally too different from the X, although it’s more dependent on the Components web page or application for enhanced customisation; for example, there’s no default mixer mode available without using Components to set it up.

Launchpad Mini MK3

The Launchpad Mini Mk 3’s about as small as you can get and still be usable. True, the X is more fun for finger drummers, and more ‘playable’ in general thanks to the superior pads, but for basic clip and scene launching, and drum triggering, the Mini works fine, especially now clip colours are visible.

Both devices have an extra Programmer mode, which allows access to almost everything. Customisation extends to LED behaviour like brightness adjustment and on/off, as well as velocity curves, aftertouch settings and override of the default MIDI mappings. It’s even possible to disable USB mass storage mode (so it doesn’t show up on your desktop) and assign different device IDs to multiple Launchpads, which would be useful for installations or group performances.

Pad boys for life

As we said in the introduction, the basic Launchpad design is over a decade old now, and that says something about how popular and adaptable the platform is. Launchpads work for newcomers or more seasoned types who need a portable way to trigger clips and scenes. These maybe aren’t worth abandoning your current grid controller for, unless you really want the Mini’s clip colours (or the X’s MIDI out), but they are viable candidates if you’re starting out and budget and/or mobility is important to you. The Launchpad is a well-established name and the inclusion of Ableton Live Lite means that you can get busy immediately. These two ‘pads are incredibly compact and portable. Who knows, perhaps the next incarnations of these will have to be foldable!

Do I really need this?

If you’re using Ableton Live, with its grid-based Session View, you’ll definitely benefit from a controller that reflects the layout you’re seeing on your computer screen, and lets you trigger clips without reaching for the mouse or trackpad. What clinches the decision between one grid controller and another is usually size (which is also reflected in price). The Launchpads are at the compact end of things, and you can see how that’s important to Novation because they have made these even slimmer than previous versions. Otherwise you might upscale to something significantly larger like Akai’s APC 40 mk 2 or their Force, or Ableton’s Push.

Key features

Launchpad X

  • Slimmed-down sleek design and USB-C power.
  • Larger pads, with velocity, pressure, and aftertouch.
  • New note mode with 16 scales and MIDI capture button.
  • MIDI out port for use with a wider range of hardware.

Launchpad Mini

  • Full-colour RGBs for Ableton Live clip colours.
  • Three custom modes for use with more software.
  • Even more low-profile design, with USB-C power.


Akai APC 25

APC Key 25 £70.00

A great little USB-powered device that manages to fit a keyboard, knobs, and a set of launch buttons into a very small footprint. I’m a big fan of this versatile layout. Drum pads? You can’t have everything. Includes a copy of Ableton Live Lite and a plug-in bundle.

Novation Launckey

Launchkey Mini £97.00

Sometimes you want keys instead of pads. Or both! Another compact device, opting for fewer, but larger, pads over the competition. Includes arpeggiator and chord mode, and of course a copy of Ableton Live Lite and a plug-in bundle. Importantly it has a MIDI out for use with hardware!


Novation just announced two new Launchpad grid controllers: Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini Mk3. Meant to be used with Ableton Live running on a laptop, both devices come with 64 RGB backlit pads, and controls to navigate Ableton Live’s Session View and to launch rows of clips. The main differences between the two are size and pad sensitivity: the Launchpad X is a full-sized grid controller (similar to the Launchpad Pro) with velocity and pressure-sensitive pads, while the Launchpad Mini Mk3 has a smaller build and smaller pads without the sensitivities.

Apart from the aforementioned controls, both Launchpads have the ability to toggle between Note and Drum modes for the grid, letting you use the pads for creating melodies / chords, or for playing drum grooves respectively. Both come with a copy of Ableton Live Lite to get you started making and performing music straight away.

Novation’s Launchpad has been around since 2009 and has been used by countless electronic music producers and performers. We reviewed the Launchpad Pro a few years back and gave it top marks for its deep integration with Ableton Live surpassed only by Ableton’s own Push 2 (which, to be fair, has an OLED screen and more controls onboard as well as a higher price tag).

The Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini Mk3 are for new DJ/producers who want to use Live onstage and want hands on clip launch control, or for those who want to replace their ageing or beat up grid pad controllers.

Check out the promo videos below.

• The Novation Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini Mk3 are available now for €199 and €109 respectively. Check the Novation site for more details.

What are your thoughts on these new Launchpad models? Want to add one of them to your music production or live performance set-up? Let us know below.

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Review of Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini mk3

Over the last year or two years, I started to perform more and more with Ableton Live. To be honest, in the beginning, it was a struggle to learn Ableton Live mainly as I was used to DAWs like Studio One, Logic, and Cubase. The concept of Live follows a very specific approach and method which can make it harder to get started when you feel at home in a different DAW.

When I first connected the devices to my iMac my chrome browser was assisting me with the setup process.

Also, both Launchpads show as USB storage devices on my MAC. Once you’ve plugged in your Launchpad you start the online Easy Start tool. Through this process, you can easily register the device.

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When I plug Launchpad X or Launchpad Mini mk3 into my MAC both devices start a fun light show using colors of the rainbow. The Launchpad X has an 8×8 grid of pads and on the side of the device, you can use two rows of parameter/navigation buttons. The Mini also includes an 8×8 grid of pads plus one row on the side.

Ableton Live Control

After I got my head around the way to use Ableton Live I was looking into the market to understand how I can launch clips and manage the handy grid easier with an external device. I ended up asking Novation to send me a review unit for their new Launchpad X version, and the updated Mini (mk3).

For me, the main use of the Novation Launchpad is to manage with sensual feedback my prepared clips and scenes that I define in the Session View in Ableton Live. Novation Launchpad X and Novation Launchpad Mini Mk3 did become my personal two unique clip starters.  

The volume and pan control was not utilized often, that could be personal preference on how I work. I do see that in a dark room I would use volume and pan more as it is easier to use when performing live where it is generally speaking dark.

As I am a keyboard player I tent to use the midi keyboard to play the piano. The Launchpad can be used to play an instrument in the desired scale. On the other hand, the Launchpad shines when playing drums. The scale selection are unique to the Launchpad X and not available in the Launchpad mini.

Performance with Launchpad

My personal number one use of any Launchpad is that I completely control a composed music track and perform with loops single or in groups in an extremely easy way. When you play with a Launchpad your live performance.

Pressure Sensitivity Pads

With the launch of the new version, one of the new features of the Launchpad X is that Novation added velocity and pressure sensitivity to the pads. These enhanced pads turn the Launchpad X into a more meaningful controller for example when performing drums.

As before there are mixer controls that are manageable through the pads. You can mix the different sounds when managing their volume or pan.

The Launchpad X includes 64 Velocity Sensitive Pads with Polyphonic Aftertouch, the mini mk3 comes with 64 Pads which are not Velocity Sensitive.

Launchpad in other DAWs than Ableton Live

Novation actively supports you when using the Launchpad controller in other DAWs. You get access to excellent video tutorials like the one below.

Launchpad Pro MK3 Alternative

Besides the Launchpad X and Launchpad Mini mk3 Novation also relaunched their Pro Launchpad as an MK3 version. Launchpad Pro MK3 highlights a thinner body, additional MIDI connections, and larger pads. One of the killer features is the step sequencer available in the Launchpad Pro MK3. Using the Pro with AE Modular, Euorack, synths, and semi-modular positions the Pro because of the sequencer as the more desirable launchpad of the three. You can easily pair the Pro with a 1010music Bitbox mk2, Bitbox Micro, Mutant Brain, Hermod, and many other modules in the Eurorack world. When you go full DAWless you can use the Launchpad Pro as the central brain to manage and control your semi-modular, modular, and synths.

Do I need a Launchpad?

To start with the main use (at least for me) the grid-based Session View in Ableton benefits the most from this controller. Changing the launched samples in the grid by Launchpad is controlled by the available arrow keys. You can also combine two Launchpads to launch different rows of clips. When performing the Velocity Sensitive Pads of the X makes all the difference.

Rating:  Five Out of Five Stars

As I was new to these kind controllers for Ableton I did slightly adjust my personal playing style and in return used a very flexible and helpful midi controller or let us call it an instrument that can do more than just firing clips.

When do you choose which one and what is the deal with the Launchpad Pro? I will look at the Pro in the coming months. My take away on the Mini and X is that the Launchpad Mini Mk 3 is all about the size, it comes with a small footprint and is still usable. When I look at the X and having in mind that it supports 64 Velocity Sensitive Pads with Polyphonic Aftertouch the X is better suited when playing drums or an instrument.

Both devices are excellent for launching new clips. The design of these Launchpad controllers is delightful. They are thinner than the previous generation. The pads are enlarged, the function buttons encompassing the edges are now square. The pads are sensitive, come with useful light action, and the X includes pressure sensitivity and aftertouch.

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Thorsten Meyer


Novation Launchpad Pro, X & Mini MkIII

Major updates to Novation's third generation of Launchpads improve both form and function.

The announcement of the new Launchpad Pro at NAMM completed Novation's line-up of MkIII Launchpads, with a new slim design, USB-C connectivity and enhanced features. Each model has levelled up: the Mini is now full colour, and the standard Launchpad (the 'X') gains velocity sensitivity and some of the Ableton integration seen on the original Pro. Which leaves the new Pro to venture into uncharted territory with upgraded Live control and impressive stand-alone sequencing powers.

As well as the hardware refresh and individual enhancements, all the new Launch-pads offer next-gen user customisation via Novation's Components web-based system. This includes an editor for creating user pages, complete with drag-and-drop 'widgets'.


Customer On-boarding is a fashionable term in the tech industry for the process a user goes through to get started with new gear of software. If I ever run an On-boarding workshop and you attend, I'll simply hand you one of these new Launchpads and ask you to plug it into your laptop. (If you want to break into groups and write on a big pad knock yourselves out, but you know, please don't).

When connected, the Launchpads mount a tiny storage partition containing a link to Novation HQ. This takes you straight to the product registration page (where the serial number of the unit is auto-filled!) and a setup video. Slick.

Connection (and power) is via USB‑C. A single B‑to‑C cable is included with the X and Mini, and you also get a C-to-C with the Pro. It was a delight to connect directly to my MacBook Pro, without the usual rummaging for an adaptor.

Launchpads can be generic MIDI controllers — even more so now with customisation and the Pro's sequencer — but they are designed with Ableton Live in mind. Control scripts for the units on review were already installed on my version of Live 10. The Mini and Pro auto-configured with no help from me, while the X required selecting in Live's settings.

Low Profile

The hardware design on these new Launches is lovely. They are way slimmer than the previous generation. The pads have been enlarged in area and the pitch between them reduced. The mode, scene and function buttons around the edges are now square instead of circular, as on all previous models.

The pads on the main grid of the X and Pro have a super-sensitive, light action, and you can adjust the pressure sensitivity and aftertouch threshold. They are simply the best grid controller pads I've ever used for playing instruments and synths. For finger drumming I initially felt I preferred the more solid pads on the original Launchpad Pro, but came around quickly.

The mode and function pads have a definite travel and a click, giving a reassuring button-like response. Labels are now all embedded in the buttons, and light up only when available in a given mode or context.

The Mini in particular is insanely cute, but all the Launchpads are highly portable. In fact, over the last few years I've clocked up much more time on the Launchpad Pro than Push, purely because the former fits easily in a bag and is happy on USB power.

The new models have the square rubber foot that runs around the bottom of many Novation devices. These are normally great for stability, but there was a definite wobble from the Mini on my desktop. Holding it up I noticed it wasn't flat, showing a bend along one of the diagonals. I was able to gently twist it into shape and all was good from then.

In Session

The Launchpads present a dedicated Live/DAW port over their USB connection, and they default to an Ableton-focused mode when Live is running. All have a Session mode that lays out the classic Launchpad clip launcher representing Live's Session view. You can launch playback or recording on individual clips or whole Scene rows.

The level of control over other aspects of Live varies widely across the range, as does the way you access those controls. The Mini simply has three additional Session view track functions: Clip Stop, Mute and Solo. These take over the bottom row of the grid, with the mode cycled via a single button.

On the X, these functions are part of a dedicated Mixer view, toggled from the Session mode button. Stop, Mute and Solo are joined by Volume, Pan, Sends and Track Arm, selected from the Scene buttons. It's a clever use of the available pads, but it means that you lose access to Scene launching when Mute, Solo or Stop are active, which you don't on the Mini or Pro.

The Pro has always had a distinct advantage in having dedicated buttons for accessing mixer functions. The MkIII gains a set of track select buttons under the grid, which allow you to flip your MIDI input between tracks without having to enter Rec Arm mode. They also work in conjunction with the other mix (and Sequencer) functions, meaning you don't sacrifice a row of clip pads and you can still access these functions while in Note mode.

In Volume, Pan and Sends views the pads of the X and Pro become vertical or horizontal bar graphs representing faders or knob values. Continuous controllers that work in the same way can also be dropped into user pages on all three of the Launchpads. Tapping a pad sets the level. The X gets the Pro's ability to use velocity to set a glide speed between values. You can switch this off and use the new sensitive pads almost like touch sliders for direct control, although you then lose the smooth interpolation.

In the previous generation of Launches control resolution was limited to the eight possible values represented by the pads columns, but Novation have improved this with a new 'nudge' feature. After setting a value, you can now tap a pad up to four times to increment in smaller steps.

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Vs x mini launchpad

Novation Launchpad X, mini are the latest take on the hit music grid controller

Novation’s new grids remain straightforward, but now offer updated expressive and portable versions. And a separate bonus – DIYers wanting to make custom apps for these grids will find it easier than ever.

It’s now a full decade since the first Launchpad burst on the scene. There were grids before, and certainly a multitude of grids since. But what set the Launchpad apart has always been its focus on the task at hand. Launchpads are ultra-rugged, lightweight, simple grids that do just that. So, you’ll probably still want some knobs and faders, but the Launchpad was always the go-to for an a la carte 8×8 set of friendly squares. And they’re simple, lean, and light enough that you can also toss one in a backpack – especially if we’re talking the mini.

Novation today are revising two of the most popular models:

The LaunchpadMini [MK3] is an adorable, tiny grid that now has RGB lights. It’s really hard to overstate how portable and useful that is; I got a test unit and have started taking it everywhere. US$114.99.

The Launchpad X is the latest middle-of-the-road model, which now boasts more expressive, playable features for its pressure- and velocity-sensitive pads. US$229.99.

Both now have USB-C, as we gradually usher in the age of the latest USB connector, and both continue to work out of the box easily with Ableton Live.

There’s a bonus twist, though – Novation adding a standard API which will make it easier than before to integrate Launchpad with your own custom software inventions and hacks.

I’ve tested both controllers, and immediately find them invaluable.

New hardware

Okay, so first – if you don’t know the Launchpads, yeah, these are grids. (Full credit to the original, independently designed monome much that predated it by a few years, though those aren’t available broadly like the Launchpad!)

What Novation has managed to pull off in the intervening years is to make a string of variations and regular iterations without sacrificing simplicity, and compact size and weight. Later versions have added pressure and velocity sensitivity, color, and portability, plus the ability to operate without drivers. (The very first Launchpad won’t work with iPad, Android, or Raspberry Pi, among others; newer models will.)

Part of the advantage of the Launchpad line is that these generic grids could work with anything. But there are dedicated triggers for Ableton Live when you want them, and that remains the most popular use case. Both Launchpad X and mini MK3 will launch clips and scenes and control the transport. Plus, while you don’t get continuous control as with faders or knobs, you can still control the mixer and other parameters from the grid a unique, one-touch fashion.

Launchpad X

  • More responsive velocity- and sensitivity-sensitive RGB pads
  • Drum and Note modes for programming drum kits and melodies, respectively. And they’re really simple, like dedicated buttons that say “Drum” and “Note” on them
  • Capture MIDI button which lets you immediately store an idea even if you forgot to hit record, as found as part of the latest Ableton Live. (I uh envy those of you tapping out these brilliant ideas; I need the pressure of the record button, but hey… )
  • Dynamic Note and Scale mode for keeping stuff in key
  • Dedicated stop, solo, mute, record arm, levels, pans, and send

You can find all of these things elsewhere, but Launchpad X literally fits on my desk when other gear won’t, and it’s uncommonly easy to find those one-button tools versus other more complex controllers.

Plus, having tested the Launchpad X, the performance is now really fantastic and expressive – something that generally requires more money or (again) more space and complexity. It’s fantastic to have a truly expressive Launchpad.

LaunchpadMini MK3

The mini also has Drum and Dynamic Note modes, still has dedicated controls, but now adds USB-C and RGB light-up pads to the existing mini design.

I always loved the mini, but it felt like a throwback going to those monochromatic pads – and visual feedback becomes somehow more important since you sacrifice velocity and pressure.

And extras

Both tools also give you membership to Novation’s Sound Collective which delivers a free plug-in a few times a year, plus a bunch of additional plug-ins (AAS, XLN, klevgrand, Softube).

Both products:

Here’s KiNK playing live with the mini:

DIY delight

Here’s where things get interesting – you can customize everything. And since the Launchpad is driverless and relatively simple, you can quickly plug it into your Raspberry Pi or PC or some custom hardware you’re building and quickly prototype. And you won’t be tripping over buttons that you can’t customize because they’re tied to specific software from the same company.

These customizations will exist on a number of levels:

Custom MIDI mappings. There are three custom modes on mini and four on Launchpad X, which lets you send MIDI CC, notes and program change messages, and use rows or columns as faders.

That means multiple pages of control you can map to whatever you want, via Novation Components. So, for instance, put the mini alongside a compact controller with faders and knobs, and you get a controller rig you could fit into a purse, let alone a backpack.

MIDI API. Everything the Launchpad does is also available as a programmable API – in both directions, so output from the device, plus the ability to light the pads. This will allow third-party developers to make all sorts of new integrations with popular software, or for hackers and artists to try their own custom creations for tools like Pd, Reaktor, Max/MSP, Processing, and VCV Rack.

r_cycle – like a hardware module for your software. Okay, so given this all runs on MIDI, what if you could be a live coder or patcher with access to the Launchpad grid directly from . I mean, sure, you can do that with MIDI, but that means ly referencing MIDI CC numbers and other awful things. What if it were more elegant?

That’s the vision of an open source project called r_cycle that will build on the API and work with your favorite DIY tools. It’s not part of Launchpad in its officially supported use, but – that’s not really the point. The point is, you’ll be able to quickly spawn, say, a colored grid that plays a particular synth you’re live coding or patching in software.

This is obviously exciting and worth a deeper look; expect more on this soon.

But yeah, the idea of just live coding hardware? That’s pretty excellent.

I was already starting to play with the Launchpad mini MK3 with VCV Rack, and I’m keeping it with me while I work with Pd and other tools.

More on all of this soon.

Tags: grids, hacking, hacks, launchpad, launchpad mini, Launchpad mini MK3, Novation, USB-C

Novation Launchpad X и Launchpad Mini MK3 - Распаковка и первое впечатление. Что в комплекте?

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