Mad Zach Reviews Launchpad Pro

Novation had enormous success with the original Launchpad thanks in large part to viral Youtube performances from artists like M4SONIC and Madeon. However the Launchpad started to show it’s age with the release of the AKAI APC40 MK2 and Ableton Push. Novation has finally released a true successor to the original launchpad, the Launchpad Pro with RGB velocity sensitive pads, note mode, and several new mode buttons for extra control. Is it worth the upgrade? Mad Zach puts the Launchpad Pro to the test.

Launchpad Pro Review

The new Launchpad Pro is basically the same as the original launchpad, with some substantial improvements to quality and feel of the pads, a few new function buttons, an orange bottom plate, and an array of ravey RGB leds. Its larger than the original, and also features an optional power supply, and midi in/out ports for use with hardware.

Overall it would be an improvement over the original for finger drummers. However, they implemented (rather thoughtlessly IMO) a row of buttons at the bottom which contain train wreck buttons like “stop clip” and “volume” which – if accidentally pressed during a live moment at a show – could VERY easily result in an absolute trainwreck. These function buttons are positioned directly next to some of the most critical pads which I typically use for the drums and core bass sounds.

New And Improved Pads

The main improvement here is the texture, density, and elasticity of the buttons, which are not only way more playable, but also now offer velocity sensitivity and aftertouch. As a button connoisseur, I can say with confidence that these buttons kick ass in terms of feel. However, they are still much too small for me. I’d love to see buttons with this same feel, but on a slightly larger scale (think midi fighter sized buttons with a slight rectangular shape ala the Push).

Personally I don’t really use velocity or aftertouch, but the feel and playability of these buttons is great. They’ve also added RGB Led’s to each button – which can be programmed from Ableton or Max/MSP. You could use this feature to make some flashy colorful light shows if you’re into that.

New Launchpad Pro Features

I like the new buttons on the left as they make recording and looping live stuff really hands on and much more “live” than before. Its an improved workflow if you want to record a clip, layer some stuff over it, make new clips, switch instruments, and build up a song idea on just the controller. Buttons like record quantization, undo, delete, and record could keep you pretty focused on the controller vs. constantly having to go back to the computer.

I also dug the velocity sensitive sliding for parameter adjustments, but I can’t say I’d use the launchpad to control parameters. Device mode could be fun and useful IF you set up good macro’s in advance, but in terms of the automap for this view I found it to be kind of useless. My biggest complaint is definitely the placement of the bottom row of function buttons as mentioned before. These bottom row function buttons would be pretty useful if they weren’t in the way and potentially dangerous for a performance.

Software Integration

I found it to be truly plug n’ play. The Launchpad Pro worked smoothly without any installations. I also thought the velocity sensitive parameter change speed thing was cool but – I would never use it for that purpose. I also experienced several “freezes” where everything would freeze and stop working until I unplugged and plugged back in. This was disturbing to say the least, and made me skeptical of using it in a high pressure situation.

Final Word

At $299 compared to $169 for the original launchpad, I’m not sure its worth the extra money. The buttons are better, yes, but if you’re after the nice buttons, then you’re probably wanting to finger drum, and if you’re finger drumming, the row of show stopping function buttons at the bottom would potentially negatively outweigh the gain of the nicer pads. I also found the orange theme to be tasteless.

Furthermore, if you’re traveling for gigs – its a bit larger and heavier than the basic model. The midi port is cool but if you already have a midi port on your audio interface then that won’t really be a big deal.

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AbletonlaunchpadLaunchpad Pro Reviewmad zachMad Zach ReviewnovationNovation Launchpad Pro
Comments (29)
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  • Scoox

    Also, the gap between the buttons and the edge of the case is a bit too wide, which makes the unit look bigger than it should.

  • Scoox

    I am thinking of getting this one because I need more pads than my Korg padKONTROL’s 4×4 grid provides, in order to play large drum kits. The padKONTROL has a tapered front edge which makes it very comfortable to play I must say, while the LP Pro is the same thickness all around. However, if you are hitting pads beyond the first (nearest) row, there is still a chance you might hit those too, so it’s the same problem. In practice this is not really an issue. I have a small piece of wood which is about the thickness of my pad controller which I use as a palm rest, this makes tapping the first few rows more comfortable.

    Regarding the non-slip orange feet, I have to agree with Zach on this one. It *IS* tasteless, obscene and in-your-face. They started this orange “theme” BS with the Impulse MIDI keyboard, one of the ugliest and bulkiest controllers ever made, intended to look bad-ass when it’s basically hollow plastic. The Launchpad S looks loads better even though it has orange feet, because the feet stick out a mere 2mm from the casing, which means they are hardly visible. Also, I prefer the rounded edges and corners of the Laundhpad S (at least in the pictures the LP Pro does seem boxier).

    Apple’s success has proved many times over that people appreciate minimalistic, simple and elegant designs, and yet some companies keep screwing up…

    Still, the LP Pro is a great controller IMO and these “cosmetic” issues probably won’t deter me from getting one.

  • Rick

    the buttons can be disabled, just like the original and other older versions.

    map some controls to them that wont be used for anything.
    blank track with an empty rack.
    map the buttons to the unused macro knobs.

    mapping a control on any controller that has a mapping programmed and installed to live.(listed in the MIDI sync tab in options) overrides the default mapping.

  • nukage

    Two features this review entirely missed and I’d like to know more about: Firstly, my impression is that this Launchpad can work without Ableton, or even a computer, if you want to use it to control hardware synths, etc. RIght now I think this is the only grid controller on the market that can do this. Secondly, there was no mention of any push-like keyboard mode, and this is another very attractive feature to me. I understand that the review is catered toward finger drummers, but lots of producer/dj’s would find these other features very useful and I can’t believe they aren’t mentioned here at all!

    • Alexander Gregory

      EXACTLY! you nailed it , thats’ what it’s all about! It can do it beautifully, scales and all – but what about the buttons – quality? How easy / comfy is it to play on it. Heard you have to hit hard, and until firmware – playing synths is mediocre. True?

  • CUSP

    I’m curious why no one has made a larger (studio centric) 8×8 grid of Machine / MPC-sized button pads. I’m certain that size and portability has a lot to do with it, but there has to be a market out there that’s willing to pay more for bigger buttons. Some of us have big hands.

  • BoomDraw

    I’ve had my Launchpad Pro for a couple weeks now and my opinion is this. I personally don’t think the pads are too small for finger drumming (I’ve had ALOT of fun rocking out on the drum racks from 64 Pad Lab) and the pads also do feel very very nice, I’ve also used it in a Live/Gig situation and never found that I would hit any of the function buttons at the bottom by mistake (Although the possibility is definitely there, I don’t think it’s all that likely). The weight/size isn’t much of an issue for me either,having to pack it into my gig back along with my laptop, interface, headphones etc(Although I am waiting on Novation to release a sleeve for this one since the original Launchpad sleeve is too small). Bearing in mind that Zach has relatively long fingers as well as a little propensity to tilt his controllers a bit when playing, I can see why he has a couple gripes with it. Also the Orange+Black colour scheme is par for the course with the Launchpad series, I don’t see how it’s really tasteless per say. I do agree with him on the glitches though, when I just got it and set it up I was experiencing some connection issues where it wouldn’t be recognized by my computer, or it would become unresponsive(sometimes) if I already had an Ableton project open and then I opened a new one, but that was solved by turning it off and on again. That problem was when I just got it, since then the problem seems to have gone (Maybe the issue was with the new Ableton 9.2, because I was having serious issues with it when it just came out before they did some bug fixes). So yea, thats my 2 cents wall of text lol. Been gigging with it on a weekly basis for 4 weeks now, using it to trigger one shot sounds and old-school style Dub Sirens with some midi-mapping to cause a lightshow when a pad is pressed. Been solid so far. I got it at a discounted price of $250 from a connect at GC and I haven’t regretted it (Or maybe that’s my Gear Acquisition Syndrome talking hehehe.)

    • BoomDraw

      Also if you’re worried about the possibility of hitting the bottom buttons by accident. Using the LP Pro in User mode causes those function buttons on the bottom to be blank and able to be mapped to your liking. or just left inactive

  • gotta say it

    clearly not sponsored by novation — compare this to your NI reviews on DJTT — not as cushy

    • Aken

      Lol so neat 😀

  • Nic Boileau

    You know, if Native Insturments could ever quit being so stingy and give us MIDI out messages for the cell colors of the Traktor Remix Decks this could be mapped into a killer controller for either 2 remix decks with scrolling, or one entire remix deck with the second half of the cells on the right side…

  • coolout

    Seems like the LP Pro just isn’t the controller for Zach since he isn’t using any of the new additions: velocity, aftertouch, the midi ports, etc. Like others have said the LP Pro is geared more toward production and Zach’s performance is just one specific style. I would liked to see how the buttons responded to velocity and aftertouch while connected to virtual and hardware synths.

    I have an original LP and a LP Mini. For a while, the LP Mini w/ J74’s ISO mapping has been one my favorite ways to quickly play bass and lead lines. Of course the LP Mini doesn’t have velocity, but there are workarounds. I’m happy with Maschine for finger drumming. The Launchpad in my opinion is better suited as a alternative keyboard, so I’m still looking for someone to demo it in that use.

    • Alexander Gregory

      exactly my point! we need a class complaint MIDI grid controller with sensitive pads! enough about this “finger drumming” beginner noob talk! I can play complex synth bass lines on a chromatic grid – and need to know how much those pads will annoy the edges of my finger nails, if you get my drift! …. Done hammering little beats on pads, no need for a 64 grid controller for that.

  • Scott Frost

    You compared it to the Launchpad but not the S which had improved buttons over the original Launchpad… Also, what about the Launchpad MK2?

    • Bannazkit

      The mk 2 uses the same kind of buttons as the pro version – just without the velocity.

      • Rick

        the buttons on the mk2 move when pressed. on the pro they dont move (negligible).

  • Zykill

    It’s written “connaisseur” and not “connoisseur”. Good review besides this 😉

    • BIJ


    • couic

      both are ok

  • Paul

    That was a great review. I think novation places this controller as a studio tool, a lite and cheaper push but not as a real launchpad replacement for performances. It should’ve been called the push light, but the launchpad pro sort of sounds better.

  • Ben Sherman

    anyone looking for a near new Launchpad S? … :/

    • Justin Thomas


      • Justin Thomas

        Also I have a Apagee duet I would trade or sell cheap .