Novation music has really started to set themselves apart from the competition in terms of equipment and recording gear. Their MIDI keyboards especially have started to really grow on me, and this particular 25-key mini MIDI keyboard is getting some very positive reviews around the music world. For only $100 retail, this thing packs an unbelievably powerful punch. A huge plus of the Launchkey Mini is the plug-and-plug play and seamless compatibility with most DAWs, let alone the surprisingly smooth pads that are built-in to the machine.
Main features of the Launchkey Mini
- Retail price: $100
- USB powered (no adapter or power supply needed)
- Very lightweight (1.5 lbs)
- Dimensions: 15.5 x 9 x 3 inches
- 25 synth-style mini keys
- 16 velocity sensitive pads (three-color coded)
- Eight knobs
- Seven function buttons
- Comes with software: Ableton Live Lite 9 and 1GB+ of samples/loops
- Fully-integrated instrument with Novation iPad apps
This is one of the best compact mini-key MIDI controllers we’ve come across. At only $100 retail, we think it’s a steal if you’re on a budget. Works seamlessly with most popular DAWs, including FL Studio, Pro Tools, Cubase, Reason, Logic and Ableton Live (we’d hope, it comes with it…). The apps Novation offers is a big plus, however a bit pointless if you aren’t going to use it (I just use my DAW and studio).
Pad and key quality
Synth-action is a bit more springy but that’s preferred for more compact MIDI keyboards. The Launchpad Mini has smaller keys than normal, so it may take a while to get used to them if you’re conditioned to a regular piano or regular-sized keys. They do feel pretty nice once you get used to them — I can jam out pretty smoothly now. They aren’t semi-weighted like a lot of MIDI keyboard controllers out there, but because it’s compact and a little smaller than normal, they work as intended.
The pads are actually quite sleek. Also small for mini purposes, I can bang out some drum solos pretty well on them and they’re great in terms of responsiveness. The three-color theme is also beneficial in terms of aesthetics, looks really cool especially in a darker toned studio or stage — Novation has always impressed us in terms of the look of their equipment.
Functionality of the keyboard controller
The knobs and buttons on this work as intended — I’ve easily mapped them out on both Ableton and Logic Pro. Works out-of-the-box — just plug in your USB cable and you’re good to go (might have to install a few drivers but they should auto-install if you’re on a newer OS). Nothing to criticize in terms of functionality and compatibility. Knobs, button, keys and pads all assign via MIDI and work well with major DAWs.
Overall verdict of the Launchkey Mini
If you’re in the mood for a compact mini MIDI keyboard controller, the Novation Launchkey Mini is the way to go. We’re slowly giving our hearts away to Novation as we’re really starting to experience the overall stability their machines offer us. Some would say that this rivals the new Akai MKII Mini keyboard ($100), but the Launchkey Mini has better overall pad quality, although the MPK mini has a new thumb joystick for pitch and mod control — pick your poison.
Their addition of apps, support and included sample packs are a huge plus as well (something other brands tend to use in order to jack up the price). At $100 retail, this thing is great if you’re looking for an on-the-go MIDI keyboard with pads, whether it’s for a small space you need to fill up in your studio or for performing live. Once you get used to the mini keys it’s such a nice tool to have in your setup. You can also check out our Novation Launch Control XL surface review for their latest MIDI controller that’s out without keys, but gives you a few more options in terms of external FX and EQ control.
Here’s the Launchkey Mini getting started guide.