The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is Novations newest mini MIDI controller and I have to say, I’m pretty pumped on it. We are starting to see more and more companies putting out mini controllers as they are great for beginners and extremely portable.
Pretty much every company has a mini controller option now, so the question is, does the Novation Mini MK3 match-up well against the competition?
Quick Look At Its Competition
I believe it does. There are a couple of really neat things with the MK3 and I believe it might be the most intuitive mini option currently available.
- Extremely portable & light
- 16 RGB-lit drum pads
- Includes Ableton Live Lite 10
- MIDI out
- Sustain input
- Lacks aftertouch
- Encoders aren’t endless (Can’t turn 360 degrees)
I highly recommend reading these reviews that I wrote about similar controllers and equipment below! I spent a lot of time on these and tried to make them as in-depth as possible.
- Komplete Kontrol Mini 32
- Akai MPK Mini MK2 Review
- Mini MIDI controllers
- Best Free DAWS
- Piano VSTS
- FL Studio Plugins
- Treble Clef (Informative breakdown for beginners)
- Arturia Microlab
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 Overview
The Novation Launchkey MK3 Mini has a sleek design that is similar to its predecessor, the MK2 Mini. With this being said, there definitely are some difference and improvements that Novation has made.
When you look from left to right, you are met with a pitch-bend strip and a modulation strip. I will get into this in more detail a little further into the review.
After the strips, you will see some control parameters and your classic octave up and down buttons. 16 RGB-lit velocity-sensitive pads take-up the middle of the controller.
Above the pads, you will find 8 encoders. The entire right side consists of your DAW controls such as recording, stop, play, and more.
On the back of the controller, Novation delivers with something that is unique to just the MK3 Mini, a MIDI output. This is unique to Novation, as no other mini controller that I’m aware of has this yet.
Another thing that I personally love with this controller is the sustain input. I personally love using a sustain pedal, even with smaller MIDI controllers. I’ve always disliked sustain buttons as they’re not very helpful if you’re using two hands.
- Keys – 25 mini keys
- Controllers – Pitch-bend strip, mod-wheel strip
- 8 control knobs
- 16 RGB-lit pads
- Transpose buttons
- Octave up and down buttons
- Play and record buttons
- Arpeggiator, fixed chord buttons
- MIDI out
- Capture MIDI functions
- Scene launch button
The overall design of the MK3 Mini is a win in my opinion. I like that it’s simply laid out and the light-weight, yet, durable build works out for Novation. You can easily place the MK3 mini in your backpack without having to really worry about it.
For this reason, Novation chose to go with the strips, rather than the knobs for the pitch-bend and mod-wheels. A lot of people have complained about the Akai MPK Mini MK2’s pitch-bend as it has been known to break quite easily and be non-responsive.
The whole purpose of mini controllers is to be portable and convenient for beginners or producers on the go. I know a lot of musicians who carry mini controllers with them when they’re traveling or on tour with their band.
The Novation Mini MK3 comes with Ableton Live Lite 10. Keep in mind, if you already own Ableton Live, you will need to have version 10 in order to use the Launchkey MK3 with it.
You are also given two months of Splice with a purchase of this controller. If you’re unfamiliar with Splice, it is easily the largest sample library and it is used to all over mainstream music today.
What I Personally Like About The MK3
I personally love the 16 RGB-lit pads. While this isn’t a new feature for the MK3, it’s really nice to have 16 pads that work seamlessly with your DAW from a mini controller option. You typically would need to purchase a larger MIDI controller to have all of those pads.
The MIDI out option is such a great addition to this controller as there aren’t many options that have this. You can control your favorite hardware synthesizers from your controller with this feature and a lot of synth players will appreciate this.
The Laucnhkey MK3 is probably the best controller for Ableton Live. The reason I say this is the fact that it has been carefully designed to work flawlessly and intuitively with Ableton Live.
With this being said, it still does also work well with all of the other major DAWS.
Although I just mentioned this above, the MIDI out is probably the greatest feature in my opinion. The other features are great, however, this is something that you don’t usually find from mini controllers.
I personally love using my own sustain pedal and not having to use buttons on a controller. The MK3 delivers here and I couldn’t be happier with this feature.
You have a pretty standard arp with the MK3, however, there aren’t too many mini controllers with arps out there.
You can control the arp directly from your controller and you can change the rhythm, and direction as well.
Against The Akai MPK Mini MK2
So, how does it compare against the giant of the mini controllers? I personally think they both are very comparable. There’s about a $10 price difference between the two and with this being said, here’s a couple of the differences:
Strips VS Wheel
The Novation MK3 comes with a pitch-bend strip and a modulation strip, whereas, the Akai MK2 Mini comes with a wheel.
I personally usually prefer a wheel over strips, however, strips are more convenient for travel as you don’t have to worry about damaging or snapping your mod wheel.
Strips are not always the most desirable in terms of performance, but they typically do work and get the job done, all while being easier to maintain.
The pads on the Novation MK3 take the cake over the MPK Mini Mk2. You have 16 RGB-lit pads versus the 8 pads on the MK2.
Overall, I believe the Novation actually slightly edges out the Akai. I think the addition of the MIDI out is the main reason why. Overall, they’re very comparable keyboards, with the Akai being a little bit cheaper.
If you think you will use the MIDI out function, then the Novation is your pick as it can do more than the Akai can in this regard.
Overall Thoughts On The Novation MK3 Mini
I think Novation definitely put the right step forward and, in my opinion, could’ve put their stamp on the best mini controller with a couple more additions.
Would’ve loved to see aftertouch, but totally get that not a lot of mini controllers have this feature yet.
The encoders could be endless, however, I believe that this would also drive up the price.
One last thing that the MK3 could’ve gone for would be an addition of a sequencer.
With this all being said, I do believe that this is the best option for a mini MIDI controller as it has the MIDI out, great functionality, and great pads.
What are your thoughts on the MK3? Would love to hear below and have a discussion!
Novation MK3 Mini