Novation Launchpad S
Novation Launchpad S

Launchpad S, PAD Controller from Novation in the Launchpad series.

aswilliams 07/25/2014

Novation Launchpad S : aswilliams's user review

« Great product, with a few limitations »

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The Launchpad S is an updated improvement to Novation's original Launchpad. It provides you with an 8 by 8 grid of quality rubber pads that allow you to trigger loops, sounds, and functions through midi messages via USB.


It's simple to operate and pleasant to look at. The unit is well built and can take plenty of abuse in live situations without any failure. Don't be afraid to really dig into the pads when you're in the heat of a high-energy performance- this thing can handle it!

The Launchpad S is housed in a strong, lightweight plastic case. There are four rubber feet on the bottom with pointed grooves that provide a strong grip to just about any flat surface. I've never had a problem with it sliding around or slipping.

The pads are thick and sturdy. They run deep in the plastic casing and have some extra give after being pressed down to prevent your fingers from damaging the internal components. Depending on the messages being sent and received, the pads light up red, green, or yellow.

One slight problem- the USB port is on the right side of the case, and seems to be a little weak. It does keep a fair grip on the USB cable, but I think it could be better. This has made me nervous during performances that it might come loose. The best way I can explain it is that you can suspend the unit above the ground by only holding onto the cable, but a gentle tug when it is sitting on a table will pull the cable out. (Note- holding the unit with the USB cable alone is not recommended.)

I previously was using pads on a different midi controller, and they were very inconsistent and one even broke from gentle studio use. That is why I looked for a better solution and found the Launchpad S. If you need a low cost pad controller, this unit is a good choice.

In Use:

To use the Launchpad S, you simply plug it in to your computer or ipad and wait for it to be read. Unlike the original Launchpad, this one doesn't need any special drivers to be pre-installed before running. It is intended to be used with Ableton Live and works best in that environment. Novation provides Launchpad S Automap information to use with Live and FL Studio. When set to Automap, it will run with no problems. Assigning the pads to different tracks, loops, and commands is straightforward. You can also navigate the software with the buttons surrounding the pads and use them to send transport messages. Ableton Live Lite software is included with the unit, so you can begin experimenting with different controls right away.

My only problem with the Launchpad S is that it doesn't work near as well in any other software. It is only really intended to be used with Ableton Live, FL Studio, or the Launchpad iPad App. This is a puzzling limitation, because it communicates with a computer using standard midi messages.

I was able to map it to Cakewalk Sonar's Matrix View to trigger loops and one shots with great ease, but there is very limited visual feedback on the pads, if any at all. Why would Novation limit their customers to two DAWs and an App? I think they could make this a much more common device in home studios everywhere if they wrote a short software that allowed a user to map the visual feedback of the lights to any DAW they choose.

When used with the iPad App it behaves in a similar manner to its Ableton Live functionality. You use it to trigger sounds by pressing on a pad and navigate by using the side buttons.

Additionally, there are grid modes that work in the App, Ableton Live, and FL Studio that turn the pads into a light up mixer. The buttons create an image that represents sliders and you can swipe your fingers up and down the pads to increase or decrease the values.


Overall I am very pleased with the Launchpad S. It is built well and works for its intended purpose. Unfortunately it does have its limits when it comes to being a complete solution for a pad controller for all of your software, but if you use it with Ableton Live or FL Studio it will keep you happy for years.