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 2023, 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 2023? Or not the phenomenon it was made out to be? Read on to find out.
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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 2023…
- Weight: 1.4kg
- Dimensions: 330 x 173 x 41mm
- Sustain port for pedals: Yes
- Drivers needed: No
FYI: The majority of midi controllers will require a firmware update on a regular basis. This has the ability to improve their functionality even further!
- 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…
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)
Cons of the Launchkey Mini MK3 (AKA the bad)
How does the Launchkey 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
- 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.
- 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.
NOTE: Since writing this review, Arturia has released a new version of the Minilab. If you’re considering the Minilab MK2, be sure to also check out our Arturia Minilab 3 Review.
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 VS Akai MPK Mini MK3
- 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.
- 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 2023, 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.
Grab your Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 today…
Enjoy this Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 review and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Guides To Midi Controllers, as well as 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 49 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…