Novation has unveiled its newest innovation which I believe is a total gamechanger: the Launchkey 88 MK3. After owning the MK3 37 key for the last year, I got word about the MK3 88 and was able to get my hands on it early.
The Novation Launchkey 88 MK3 provides touring musicians with an affordable yet powerful and dynamic 88 key keyboard that is built for the road. Keyboardists will want to get their hands on this to add to their rigs. The Launchkey 88 MK3 sets the standard for an affordable 88 key MIDI controller that is highly reliable in a live setting.
The Launchkey MK3 is perfectly streamlined for gigging. In addition to being light-weight, it gives you incredible reliability and capability night in and night out.
When it comes to gigging and being compatible with Ableton Live, Novation always kills it. The MK3 88 doesn’t let you down in this department. If you’re like me, an 88-key MIDI keyboard is essential for part of your keyboard rig. While I came into this review knowing I would dig the MK3 88, some things surprised me.
Table of Contents
Overview Of The Launchkey MK3 88
My first thought upon opening the box was that the Novation had set out to make a tour friendly 88 key option. This keyboard is one of the lightest 88 key controllers I have felt, yet the build construction is solid.
When touring, I noticed that most keyboardists had either the Launchkey 49 or 61 as part of their keyboard rig because Launchkeys are powerful, lightweight, and reliable.
This is the same case with the Launchkey 88, and I believe we will start to see this keyboard as part of many keyboardists’ rigs.
With nearly all the positive things to say about the Launchkey, I want to touch on my main concern before trying it out. The Launchkey MK3 88 comes with semi-weighted keys rather than weighted keys.
I will touch on this in full detail later in the article, but I will say, the keys felt much better than I had anticipated.
- Fully compatible with all major DAWs directly out of the box
- Drum pads have aftertouch and feel a lot better than previous models
- Nine faders
- Affordable price
- Slim and sleek design
- Lightweight (18 lbs)
- Lacks fully-weighted keys
- No aftertouch on the keys
The MK3 88 packs some great features and includes bundled software; let’s look.
- Fully optimized for Ableton Live – One of my favorite Ableton MIDI controllers
- Maps to almost all major DAWS
- 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads with aftertouch
- Pitch bend/modulation wheels
- 8 knobs and 9 sliders
- 5-pin MIDI out
- Transport controls
- Includes USB cable
- Includes Ableton Live 10 Lite
All in all, the Launchkey MK3 88 has a solid design. I like the placement of the mod wheel and pitch bend as I can easily use my left hand when using them.
You will notice that Novation kept it very simple with this controller. I believe the key focus was to provide musicians on a budget with a reliable yet affordable piece of gear, and they did just that.
The following are the dimensions of the Launchkey:
- Height: 3.43″
- Width: 50.0″
- Depth: 11.26″
- Weight: 18.lbs
I had expected the key action to be rough. But, to my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all. While the keys aren’t fully-weighted, some decent key action still allows for complex runs and solos.
You also don’t feel that you’re going to break the keys when playing aggressively. The keys also get back to their static position reasonably quickly, which is not always the case with semi-weighted boards.
The MK3 88 brings on scale mode, which is a mode that allows you to play in modes that you might not be familiar with otherwise. This doesn’t surprise me, and I think it’s a neat feature since not all music producers have a solid music theory background.
While I have a background in music theory, it was still fun to mess around with this a little bit when riffing with one of my bass VSTs.
Importance of 5-Pin MIDI Out
You can control a hardware synthesizer or external device from your MK3 88 and I think this is really neat whether you’re in the studio or performing live.
Note* I don’t remember this being a feature on older models of the Launchkey.
Perfect For Touring
The light-weight and sleek design of the MK3 88 makes it extremely tour friendly. While it is lightweight, it still has a ton of features and capabilities, as well as moderate durability to withstand the road.
Vs. The Competition
When comparing the MK3 88 vs. its competition, there are a few things to note. The most important thing is that there’s nothing really in this price point with 88 keys that match it.
In my opinion, if you’re looking to spend under $500 on a MIDI controller with 88 keys, this is the best choice currently available.
Like any piece of new gear, there are a few requirements for the Launchkey MK3 88.
Below are the crucial requirements:
- Mac:macOS 10.15 or later
- PC: Windows 8.1 or later
If you’re looking for an affordable 88 key option, I recommend the Launchkey MK3 88 over the Nektar or anything near its price point.