Novation Launchkey 49
Novation Launchkey 49

Launchkey 49, 49-Key MIDI Keyboard from Novation in the Launchkey series.

aswilliams 09/15/2014

Novation Launchkey 49 : aswilliams's user review

« Useable but feels too cheap... »

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I purchased the Launchkey 49 after enjoying Novation's Launchpad S controller for a few months. I really like the Launchpad S and thought the idea of a keyboard controller with its own pads would be a wonderful device.

I imagined that having the pads and keys all on one controller would make for a quick workflow and would be more convenient to transport around with only my iPad as a sound module using the supported apps.

The positioning of the knobs, sliders, pads, and pitch/mod wheels also looked very pleasing to me. Some midi controllers don't have a great layout and things can be difficult to access in a dark room on the fly. The layout of this controller is pretty convenient.

The Launchkey has 9 sliders, 8 knobs, 16 lighted pads, transport controls, octave +/-, pitch and mod wheels, a sustain pedal input, and USB output.


Setup of the Launchkey is as simple as it gets- you plug the USB out into your computer and use it as you would any comparable midi controller (Alesis, Arturia etc).

There is no need for a manual if you are familiar with using midi controllers, but Novation provides adequate support on their website if you find you need help or have questions.

Unfortunately, the controls are non-assignable. You are locked in to using the CC settings Novation has arranged for the keyboard, with no option of reprogramming the unit. I don't fully grasp why they would intentionally limit the controller like this. You may select different midi channels to transmit notes on, but everything else is stuck. Even the pads must remain on their own channel (10) and can't be assigned elsewhere.

This can be redeemed by using the Launchkey with a software that can learn midi transmission and assign it to whatever you like, but if your software doesn't have this feature you are out of luck. This truly is a bizarre limitation.

The controller is plagued with an all too common cheap plastic feel. The unit looks very nice, but it feels like a toy. This is a problem considering I purchased it for the sake of using it in more portable settings. I'm afraid it could break at any moment every time I bring it somewhere. So far it has held up, so maybe the quality goes beyond the way it handles. To me the keys are awful in use- some are stiff and have a limited range, while others feel loose and feeble.

The pads are nice to have, and feel very similar to those of a Launchpad S. They work as advertised with the Launchkey App, Launchpad App, and Ableton Live to trigger sounds and loops. No complaints here.


I want to like the Launchkey, with its great layout and convenience, but the limitations mentioned above keep me from using it often.

If you want a good pad controller, I highly recommend Novation's own Launchpad S, as it is a wonderful little device. If you are looking for a good, low-cost midi controller with similar features (and even pads that can be used in a similar way) I would stay away from this one and check out Alesis QX 49, M-Audio Axiom, or Arturia Keylab. They offer very similar features but are much better built and have more programming flexibility.

Hopefully Novation releases a high-end version of the Launchkey with more features and a stronger build for the serious musician. Right now it is fairly obvious that the Launchkey is aimed at hobby musicians, beginners, and teenagers because it is very much a fun toy at a low cost.