Novation recently announced its SL MkIII Midi keyboard and controller. It’s the latest update to its venerable SL controller series, and it comes in 49-key and 61-key versions. Its standout feature is its ability to sync hardware / outboard synthesisers as well as DAWs and software synths, becoming the centrepiece of a DJ/producer studio or live performance rig. It’s got USB for plugging your laptop, MIDI In and Out jacks, and sockets for sending control data to analogue synth gear. It comes with five full-colour displays for viewing parameters, 16 velocity-sensitive pads, eight encoders, eight faders, a plethora of buttons as well as transport controls. It integrates tightly with Ableton Live, but it also works with other DAWs.
The SL MkIII lets you synchronise hardware and software to a single clock signal – this lets them all sync to the same tempo. It has two sets of CV Pitch, Gate, and Mod outputs which can be used to control hardware synthesisers and drum machines. It also has a built-in eight-track sequencer and arpeggiator onboard.
As music production software becomes ever more powerful, hardware synthesisers have also become more appealing in terms of price: while still more expensive than plugins, accessible hardware and analogue synths have flooded the market in the past few years. This is especially true in the niche space of modular synthesisers where you can now build a small system for under US$700 as opposed to a relatively princely sum that would rival that of a four-door car (or a college loan depending on how voracious your appetite is).
If you’d like to dabble in a hardware synth or two while still living mostly in the digital audio workstation space, the SL MkIII looks to be a unique controller that lets you do just that. An onboard sound card would’ve made this a more compelling choice, but if you’re already buying synth gear you most likely have an audio interface already anyway. Watch out for our review soon.
Check the promo videos below.
• The Novation SL MkIII is available now for US$599 for the 49-key model and US$699 for the 61-key model. Check the Novation site for more details.
What are your thoughts on this keyboard controller? Want it for your home studio? What hardware synths do you use? Let us know below.