Novation’s Launch Control XL gives you hardware control over Ableton Live’s mixer section in a tiny footprint. Its the perfect companion to your Launchpad-S, giving you a portable Ableton Live rig with a tiny footprint that fits in your rucksack. For a small cash outlay, you can add physical controls in the form of a traditional mixer-style interface that certainly saves you from having to switch pages on your grid controller or using a mouse to tweak parameters like volume and pan.
First Impressions / Setting up
The layout will be familiar to anyone who’s used a traditional mixer, offering a total of eight tracks with three knobs, a fader, and two buttons per track, as well as a load of function keys on the right hand side of the controller. In factory preset mode, the knobs control pan, sends A and B; the faders control volume, and the buttons do track focus and track control, so in combination with the function keys you have access to the mute/solo/record arm controls. There’s also a Kensington security lock and, of course, a USB port. Notably, the faders are 60mm long and they feel great, especially for those times when you need to make precise adjustments, but not so great if you use them for rapidly turning effects up and down (eg the way a hip-hop DJ uses a crossfader).
It’s worth noting that all of the knobs do have a centre detent, which is useful for the pan control, but not so useful for sends A and B. In general, the overall feel of the controller is pretty good, and like the other controllers in the Launch range it seems robust, though you should be careful with those high-profile faders which will obviously be fairly delicate in your backpack.
Everything worked as expected, and I have to say that it’s really nice to have physical controls with certain effects (basically anything that is increased/decreased slowly, like a filter). I do have to say that using this without looking at your laptop screen is a bit of stretch; in the promotional video, producer Avec Sans doesn’t even glance at his screen during his performance, which seems a bit unrealistic in my opinion.
Because of the assignable functions and two templates (as well as a lack of visual feedback from the controller), I did find myself checking what was going on through the screen quite a lot.
Using my Launchpad to trigger samples and controlling effects with the Launch Control XL was a lot easier than using the Launchpad for both jobs, and I think that’s the reason Novation decided to release this controller. It’s a worthy addition to the range.