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Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 Review 2022: A Next-Gen Midi Keyboard?

Is Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 good? Or has it changed the world of midi keyboards forever?

Before the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 dropped back in 2020, there were rumours of it being a midi phenomenon – a next-gen midi controller that would not only rival the likes of the Akai MPK Mini MK3 & the Arturia Minilab, but practically wipe the floor with them.

It was much the same story after it’s release. Troll about online and you’d see that the majority were in agreement. In the eyes of hardcore midi fanatics, cliques of geeky YouTubers and even complete beginners, the Launchkey was now ‘the’ new way to go. Put it this way, if we were to count the amount of times we heard Ableton users declare that “the new Launchkey Mini has done wonders for my workflow“, we’d very quickly run out of fingers… and toes.

Exactly why we’ve held back, and instead spent some time getting to know the Launchkey Mini before publishing this review. This ain’t a review off the back of hype! In fact, a year on in 2022, and we think it’s fair to say that 99% of that, has died down. So, what better time to pick apart this portable midi controller and see it truly for what it is! So, is Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 good in 2022? Or not the phenomenon it was made out to be? Read on to find out.

After something specific about the Launchkey Mini MK3? Or just wondering if a Novation Launchkey is good for beginners? Use the menu below to find the answers you need in one click…

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 Specs

Before we pit the Novation against its rivals, we thought it only wise to give you a rundown of the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 specs. That way when you go on to read the rest of this article, you fully understand what the latest Launchkey Mini offers, as well as some of its quirks and features that you perhaps never knew about.

All of which allows you to make a fair comparison and reach a conclusion yourself, about whether the Launchkey Mini MK3 is in fact the right choice for you and your setup. As much as we’d love for you to ‘take our word for it’, everyone looks for different things in a midi controller, so really you’ve got to take what us (or in fact any other website says) with a pinch of salt. Anyway, here’s everything you need to know about the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 in 2022…

Key details

  • Weight: 0.69kg
  • Dimensions: 330 x 173 x 41mm
  • Sustain port for pedals: Yes
  • Drivers needed: No

Please note: The majority of midi controllers will require a firmware update on a regular basis. This has the ability to improve their functionality even further!

Additional features

  • The Launchkey boasts 25 mini velocity-sensitive keys, which in our experience are almost identical to the size of those you’ll find on the Akai MPK Mini MK3. Saying that though, despite them not being full-size keys, there is some decent travel to them & don’t require much force in order to create sound.
  • This midi keyboard comes with a whopping 16 RGB velocity-sensitive pads, with channel and polyphonic aftertouch. The pads can also be backlit in various colours, all of which is useful for knowing what instruments are assigned to what pad.
  • And on the topic of the pads, the Launchkey Mini MK3 also features what’s arguably ‘the’ best integration with Ableton Live that you’ll find in any controller! A large part of which relies on the pads, which can be used to navigate your DAW, as well as all the usual stuff like show full or empty clips, as well as schedule a recording.
  • Novation not only gave the Mini MK3 a built-in arpeggiator, but they also included a really useful fixed chord feature, which takes all the notes of a chord and compresses them into one single key. A beginner’s dream!
  • The Launchkey relies on two touch sensitive strips for pitch and modulation, which we can’t help feel they ‘borrowed’ from the Arturia Minilab. Didn’t fool us, Novation!
  • You’ll find 8 knobs on this midi keyboard. Notice we say knobs and not encoders. Unlike what you’ll find on a lot of portable midi keyboards nowadays, the knobs on the Launchkey Mini are not endeless, meaning that they don’t continuously spin, but instead have a start/end point.
  • In contrast to some midi controllers, the Launckey does have a midi out port, so it can communicate with other devices in your setup via TRS. On the back you’ll also find a sustain pedal input too, which is a nice touch!

What’s the Lanchkey Mini MK3’s software bundle look like?

Ask us and the software bundle that comes with the Launckey Mini MK3 is arguably one of the best on the market. Now, we hate to jump to conclusions, but read on and you’ll see why we have.

Buy a Launchkey Mini MK3 and not only do you get access to Ableton Live Lite as well as Spitfire’s Audio LABS, but you can also access XLN Audio Addictive Keys (a fav of ours) and even get a membership to Novation’s Sound Collective. Oh and that’s not all! Sounds packs from AAS (session bundle) and Softube (Time and Tone) are included too!

What is the difference between Novation Launckey Mini MK3 and MK2?

So with the Launchkey being known as the MK3, by now you’re probably wondering how it compares to its predecessor. Has Novation completely overhauled the Launchkey Mini with the MK3? Or have they recycled the MK2’s design and just added a few extra buttons? Well, to help you see just how much Novation has improved the MK3, here’s a rundown of the major differences between the two…

  • Straight off the bat you’ll notice a difference in build. Look at the underside and Launchkey Mini MK3 is all black, whereas on the MK2, this came in a range of colours including a vibrant orange, green and even teal.
  • Head round the back and you’ll see that while the MK2 has just a USB port, Novation gave the Launchkey Mini MK3 a midi out port, as well as an input for a sustain pedal!
  • Both have 16 pads, however on the MK2 these are noticeably softer, whereas on the Launchkey Mini MK3 these feel far more supple, closer to what you’d expect from MPC pads. What’s more, the pads on the MK2 were also just limited to 3 colours. Yet those on the MK3 turn virtually every colour of the rainbow.
  • The old Mini MK2 didn’t even have transport controls – the MK3 does though!
  • The MK3 also boasts touch strips for both pitch and modulation. However with the MK2, there was no place (not even a wheel) where you could alter the pitch and mod. Big difference that!
  • The MK2 was also lacking a built-in arpeggiator, as well as the fancy fixed chord mode that you’ll find on the MK3. All things that make the Launchkey Mini MK3 a whole lot more beginner-friendly.
  • Onto the keys and you can also sense a dramatic difference. The keybed on the MK2 was actually quite uneven. We found it to have a slightly arched feel to it, which make it difficult to play. Whereas on the MK3, the keys are substantially flatter and when pressed feel like they have more intention.
  • As for the knobs, both controllers feature 8, however with the MK3 these are slimmer and feel far more premium. The MK2’s felt much similar to those on the Akai MPK Mini MK2.
  • Oh, and the sofware package which came with the MK2 is no match for that which comes with the MK3. Not that the MK2s was bad, but the MK3s is just better – take our word for it!
midi keyboard review 2021
Novation Launchkey Mini MK2

novation launchkey mini mk3
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3: the good, the bad and the ugly

Now you’ve got your head around the Launchkey Mini MK3 and its predecessor, you’re probably wondering which are the areas where the MK3 scores highly, as well as those where in perhaps doesn’t. All things that you need to be aware of before coughing up your card details and buying one of these nifty devices. That way you know pretty much what to expect, and aren’t just throwing your hard earned money around like it’s a lucky dip.

So to help you to reach a decision, we’ve picked apart the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 to ensure you’re well aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Therefore, here’s a speedy overview of the good, the bad and the ugly…

Pros of the Launchkey Mini MK3 (AKA the good)

  • Those 16 RGB pads are some of the best we’ve seen on a 25-key midi keyboard. Aside from the fact they feel super supple and have a nice response to them, they’re also multifunctional and can be used in tandem with the ‘shift’ key to control virtually every parameter of your DAW – Ableton especially!
  • That midi out port is proper useful for daisy-chaining your equipment together and getting it all working as one unit. A very clever way to improve workflow!
  • The Launchkey Mini MK3 is called Mini for a reason – it’s tiny! Safe to say it’ll fit in 99% of backpacks no problem. And what’s more, it’s light too, so it’s not like you need hench shoulders to carry it about either.
  • Although this midi keyboard is made entirely out of plastic, it’s not cheap-feeling. We’re pretty confident that you could casually sling it in your backpack 1000s of times over, without much worry about it breaking.
  • That built in arpeggiator and those chord scale features are a nice touch. The ideal tool for beginners!
  • To say the MK2 didn’t even touch on pitch and modulation, the strips work really well. The touch response is sharp, without lag ands you can really feel where the sound is going when using them. No guessing where they nicked that idea from… Arturia.

Cons of the Launchkey Mini MK3 (AKA the bad)

  • One of the major pluses of the Launchkey Mini MK3 is that midi out port. Yet a midi out cable is not included. Why, Novation? Why??!!
  • While those keys are a definite improvement on the MK2, those on the Arturia Minilab and even the Akai MPK Mini feel slightly better in our opinion.

The ugly?

  • Those knobs – they’re just knobs. At a time where virtually every new midi controller is packing endless encoders, this to us is a missed opportunity. The Minilab is 5 years old & it has them!!

How does the Launckey Mini MK3 compare to other midi keyboards?

Pop the champers! You now have a thorough understanding of the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3.

But don’t forget that the Launchkey is just one out of a whole range of portable midi keyboards, all in competition for the 25-key title. Hence why it’d be wise to consider how it compares to other midis on the market too. That way you can confident that the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is the midi keyboard for you. So here you have it – the Launckey Mini MK3 pitted up against its most fierce competition…

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 VS Arturia Minilab MK2

Similarities

  • Both the Arturia and the Novation have pads that can be backlit in multiple colours. Useful for when controlling your DAW.
  • Speaking of DAWs, both these midi keyboards are built around Ableton Live + have a good amount of in-daw functionality. However the Novation is (in our opinion) the better integrated of the two.
  • Whichever of these midi keyboards you opt for, you’ll get 25 mini-sized velocity-sensitive keys (2 octaves), although the Arturia’s are ever so slightly wider.
  • For controlling pitch and modulation, both rely on touch strips. Although we’d say those on the Novation are the most responsive.

Differences

  • The Arturia has just 8 RGB pads, with another bank of 8 that you can access through your DAW. Whereas with the Novation there’s no extra bank needed, as you get a whopping 16 pads on the controller!
  • When it comes to key-feel, the Arturia has a slight edge. Ask us and that’s partially to do with its keybed being the same as that used in Arturia’s more expensive Keylab series. But that’s not to say that the Novation’s keys are bad by any means – they’re a huge improvement on the Launchkey Mini MK2!
  • Choose the Novation and you’ll get access to 8 knobs. Whereas with the Arturia you’ll get 16 endless encoders.
  • An built-in arpeggiator is something the Arturia does not have – the Novation does though.
  • Neither does the Arturia boast any of the nifty scale features that you’ll find on the Novation. Beginners, take note!
  • If portability is what you’re after, then the Novation has you covered. Weighing in at under half the weight of the Arturia, it’s considerably easier to use ‘on the go’. Plus, it’s not like you sacrifice much because of it. the only difference we can see is that the Arturia has a metal base.

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 VS Akai MPK Mini MK3

Similarities

  • Choose either the Akai or the Novation and you’ll get 25 mini-sized velocity-sensitive keys (2 octaves). The Akai’s may be ever slightly wider, but only by a hair.
  • Both these midi controllers also boast in-built arpeggiators, which is a nice touch.

Differences

  • Just like with the Arturia, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has the edge over the MPK Mini on the number of pads. While the Akai makes do with 8 and a second digital bank, the Novation has the full 16. A finger drummer’s paradise!
  • Sticking with the pads, those on the Novation are functional beyond belief when compared to the Akai. That’s because aside from functioning as drum pads, they can also be used to control virtually every parameter of Ableton Live!
  • On DAWs, the Novation features seamless integration with Ableton Live. And while the Akai does work with Ableton, the integration is nowhere near as in-depth.
  • Although, a brownie point goes to the Akai for those endless encoders. While the Novation also boats 8 knobs, they aren’t endless.
  • Big difference here! On the Novation pitch and modulation are controlled by two touch strips. Whereas with the Akai they’re determined by a joystick. A method we found to be far less accurate!
  • The Akai comes in various colour waves, which is great if you’re after a custom look. However, you can’t get over the fact that they make it look a bit ‘kindergarten’.
  • Beginners have an easy time on the Novation thanks to its chord scale features. Something the Akai doesn’t have (tut-tut)

Is the Novation Launckey Mini MK3 worth it?

Short answer: yes.

If you’re after a midi keyboard in 2022, then the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 simply has to be on your shortlist. As for us, it’s right at the top – and for good reason!

Everything about this midi keyboard just seems so well thought out. From the DAW mapping and its functionality with Ableton Live, to those 16 RGB pads and the inclusion of that midi out port. Combine this with the fact that the Launchkey Mini MK3 is by far one of the most portable midi keyboards on the market, as well as one of the most well equipped thanks to that insane software bundle, and it’s really a no brainer.

Yes, other midi keyboards may trump the Launchkey in some areas, but fact remains that this highly-portable midi keyboard contains virtually all the core features that you’d expect. And in some cases, even exceeds them! Then consider how much more this MK3 version packs into what is essentially the same shell as the MK2, and you realise just how innovative it actually is.

So, Arturia and Akai can’t afford to get too comfortable. The underdogs have muscled their way to front of the pack and the looks of things, they’re here to stay.

Latest Price!

Enjoy this Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 review and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our Latest Music Kit Reviews, as well as the lowdown on all things Music Production. Recently we’ve also done a full in-depth guide to the Best Midi Controllers For Logic Pro X + the Best 25 Key Midi Controller, which may worth checking out!

Or if your heart’s set on the Novation Launchkey Mini keep reading to discover even more about this impressive midi controller…

The lowdown on the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 + midi keyboards in general

In the box? Not much.

In fact, the only thing you receive in the box, apart from the USB cable, is the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 itself. The included software bundle that includes Ableton Live Lite, Spitfire’s Audio LABS andXLN Audio Addictive Keys, all comes as a download.

Yep – for beginners the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is the ideal midi keyboard.

It’s straight forward to use, has all 16 pads on the top of the controller where they belong and even includes an impressive chord feature, that takes all the notes of a chord and compresses them into one key. Pretty beginner-friendly if you ask us.

What’s more, like with most midi keyboards, the Launchkey is ‘plug-in-and-play’ with the vast majority of DAWs. As a controller itself, it’s also lightweight and easy to take virtually anywhere. Perfect for any beginner who wants to make use of their spare time and take it with them ‘on the go’.

It does indeed.

But the best bit is that the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 not only works with GarageBand, but it also works with its bigger brother, Logic Pro X too!

Don’t be put off Novation by the fact the Launchkey Mini MK2 was a bit behind the times.

When it comes to brands of midi controllers, Novation is one of the best – the company’s definitely up there with Arturia and Akai as a market leader! In fact, in this instance they’ve come out on-top. Something you begin to understand once you take a step up to larger 49 or 88-key midi keyboards. Do so and the ingenuity, as well as the quality of a Novation keyboard really does shine.

While (like many brands), they are relatively new to the portable 25-key midi segment, don’t make the mistake of underestimating Novation. They may have failed to turn heads with the MK2, but this Mini MK3, isn’t just a vast improvement – it’s proof that Novation are ones to watch going forward.

Ableton Live not your cup of tea? Don’t sweat it.

The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has full integration with DAWs such as Reason and Logic. This crafty midi controller also works well out of the box with Studio One, Pro Tools, Cubase and more, via HUI.