The Novation Launchkey 49 MKII is a beautiful MIDI keyboard that has been making a name for itself for the last few years now. Novation was actually the first company that I bought from when I started playing controllers in 2012. Since then, a lot has changed and I will address this below.
My opinion is that the Novation Launchkey 49 MKII is one of the best options for producers on a budget. It has a very moderate price tag and it also delivers all of the tools producers need. In short, I believe this is one of the best options for touring musicians as it’s affordable, works great with Ableton Live and it is super easy to use.
Note: Novation recently launched the Novation SL MKIII. I wrote about it in this article here. In short, this keyboard is more expensive but added some great improvements.
- Extremely Affordable
- 16 RGB Lit Drum Pads
- Best Software Package Available
- Not The Most Durable
- Lacks Aftertouch
With a low price tag and great MIDI functionality, how does the Launchkey 49 MKII stand up to its competition?
In my opinion, it definitely stands up to the other keyboards around its price. I also think that it defeats most of them, with a few exceptions that I will get into later in the review.
Here are some guides to MIDI controllers that I wrote about myself.
- Mini MIDI Keyboards
- Best 49 key MIDI Keyboards
- 61 Key Controllers
- 37 key MIDI Keyboards
- Bluetooth MIDI Controllers
- 88 Key Controllers
- MIDI Controller Guide
Let’s get into the review below.
The first thing that grabbed my attention would be the brightly colored drum pads. Before I purchased this, I owned the original Launchkey and there a couple of things that I was hoping that Novation would fix.
I had some serious problems with the faders on the original Launchkey. They would start to change the MIDI channel, which is located at the top left of the keyboard. It was weird because this would happen all on its own.
The build was also pretty cheap feeling all around, especially in the faders and rotary knobs.
The MIDI signal would also sometimes cut in and out due to the a cheap USB port on the back of the keyboard.
You’ll be happy to know that I believe Novation fixed most of these problems.
- 49 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys
- 16 colored RGB back-lit velocity-sensitive drum pads
- 6 dedicated transport controls
- 9 faders
- Pitch-bend/ modulation wheel
- 2-octave buttons
- USB B 2.0
- USB Powered And DC power
- Sustain pedal input
- 8 solo/mute buttons
- 2 track buttons
- LED Display(Shows 3 characters)
Novation made some nice improvements here and came in with a aesthetically pleasing design. The brightly colored drum pads are great for playing live as they light up the room.
The build overall feels much more durable. I still don’t think it competes with the durability as the Arturia Keylab MKII or the Akai MPK2 series, but it is an improvement for sure. Keep in mind, this keyboard is much cheaper than both of these keyboards. Costs have to be cut, and I believe Novation chooses to cut in the build department, rather than other areas.
Here’s a video of someone unboxing and going through the Launchkey MKII 49.
The software department is where Novation really killed it. They pack in some incredible software for free. Some of these are the free versions, however, they still allow you to check each out.
Let’s take a deeper look below.
Ableton Live Lite
The ever-popular free version of Ableton Live. This is one of the best free DAW’s that you can access. This gives you all the tools you need to instantly start writing your next hit song. It is also fairly easy to use as there are hundreds of tutorials on youtube.
I recommend taking advantage of this software as it comes for free. You don’t need anything other than this, especially when you’re just getting started.
Novation Bass Station
This is a great software VST that is modeled after the Novation Bass Station synth. If you haven’t heard of this synth before, it’s a great hardware synth that packs some amazing bass sounds.
You can view some of my favorite synthesizers in this article I wrote here.
The Novation Bass Station is a great VST that actually costs a pretty good amount. This alone, in my opinion, makes the Novation Launchkey 49 MKII a good purchase.
Novation V-Station Software Synth
This is a polyphonic synth that works for PC and Mac. The Novation V-Station is extremely easy to use and comes with 400 different locations to save patches.
It comes with 400 user patches and 200 pre-sets. You will also find 3 oscillators available to tweak with this VST.
I am honestly shocked that Novation includes this with their Launchkey 49 MKII. This is an expensive plug-in if you have to buy it. Addictive Keys is a super powerful piano plug-in that lets you get super in-depth.
Note: This is a powerful software that requires a lot of space. Be sure you have a fast computer.
Loopmasters Loops & Samples
You get 4 GB of free loops and samples. This is an absolute steal. A lot of modern songs are made from using samples and loops nowadays.
You will get some free keyboard lessons from Melodics with the purchase of the Launchkey 49 MKII.
The keys are your classic synth-action controller keys that you would expect to find. In my opinion, they’re not bad at all.
This is easily the best MIDI keyboard for the DAW Ableton. If you’re a musician who is touring frequently, the Launchkey MKII 49 is a perfect choice. The most popular DAW to use for touring is Ableton Live because it is so user-friendly.
You will find that this keyboard is color-coded to match Ableton Live. This makes for extreme ease of use.
My overall thoughts on this keyboard is that it is definitely a solid choice for both the studio and live performance. With the Launchkey 49 MKII, you’re getting hundreds of dollars worth of software all for free. This is really a bargain that has yet to be beaten.
What are your thoughts on the Launchkey 49 MKII? Do you think it has stood the test of time well? I personally do and I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section!
*Images courtesy of Novation