Novation announces Launchpad S with better MIDI support, we go hands-on (video)

A couple of years is a pretty good run in MIDI controller-land. It was 2009 when Novation's Launchpad turned the Ableton world onto its simplistic charms. It appears, however, the firm's decided it was long overdue a refresh, so that's exactly what it's done. Say hello to the Launchpad S. What does the S stand for? We're not entirely sure, but it could be for speedy, as Novation has ramped up the refresh rate to give a snappier response when you switch between modes.

It could also be for superior lights, as the brightness has been dialed up in response to user feedback. It's also worth noting these pads are entirely USB-powered, making it trickier than simply sucking down more juice. One other superficial change -- perhaps more to give it its own sense of identity than anything else -- is a change of color. It's out with the original's black, and in with an almost metallic gray. So far so good, but we're really thinking that S stands for "software." Why? Because thanks to standards compliant MIDI implementation, the Launchpad S is now plug-and-play with a whole host more applications, not least core-MIDI iOS apps such as the popular FL Studio Mobile. We took a few minutes to get to know the Launchpad S a little better, which you can see in our video past the break.%Gallery-185229%

As you can imagine, the Launchpad S is pretty much identical to the original it revises. But, given that that was four or so years ago, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves. First and foremost, it's still an Ableton controller, with those 64 multi-colored pads letting you control your sessions all from the small, lightweight device. There are different modes, so that you can cleverly use columns of the pads almost like faders (slide your finger up the squares, watch the lights follow). The new iteration claims to be have an improved refresh rate, which means jumping between these user modes should now be a much smoother ride. Sadly, though, the devices on the stand at the show weren't connected to the right software to either test this out, or show it off. The lights do, indeed, look substantially brighter, and this should go a long way to silencing folk who thought this was an issue with the original. As for the visual update, well, we're not sure if it's an improvement, or if we simply find it fresh looking after staring at the old black one for so long. Either way, it definitely remains a handsome enough device that we'd still be happy to include it in our set-up. If you agree with us, you'll be able to do so starting April, for $169. Keep heading south for the video tour.

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Novation Launchpad S
The no.1 Live controller: now brighter, faster and universal

Launchpad S is an update to the best-selling grid controller for Ableton Live: the Novation Launchpad. The 64 tri-colour pads can launch loops and clips, trigger drums and samples, and also control effects, volumes, mutes, solos and more. Launchpad S can do all this but has vastly brighter LEDs, a significantly faster refresh rate and is now plug and play with other software such as FL Studio. It also now works with iPad!

Key Features:
64-button music software controller: Launch loops/clips, trigger drums and samples, and control effects and volumes.
Brighter, faster and works with more software: Launchpad S is an update to the best selling original Launchpad.
Comes with Ableton Live Launchpad Edition: Feature-packed version of Ableton Live lets you create music straight out of the box.
Plug and play with FL Studio and other software: Now including custom software control overlays in the box.
Now supports iPad: Launchpad S connects to iPad® with the Apple Camera Connection Kit - no drivers required!
New #1 iPad music app: Trigger loops and remix on the fly with just a Launchpad S and your iPad

Launchpad S is an evolution of the ubiquitous Launchpad, the Ableton Live controller that re-defined the way we perform music with computers. A grid of 64 'launch' pads allows hands-on control of music software such as Ableton Live and FL Studio. It is especially designed for launching loops/clips and triggering effects as well as getting full mixer control including volume, effects sends, pan, mute, solo and track arm. The grid can also trigger drums and one-shot samples. A second user mode allows users to freely assign pads to control other software parameters.

Launchpad S comes with the Launchpad Edition of Ableton Live, so you can start making music straight away. It also comes with custom overlays for using other grid-based music software such as FL Studio.

Novation has developed a Launchpad iPad app that enables loop triggering and effects from your iPad, independent of Ableton Live. Launchpad S can be connected to, and powered by, an iPad using a standard Camera Connection Kit. The app features a 1GB sample pack of brand new hand-picked loops curated by Loopmasters, ranging from drum samples to artist packs across a variety of modern genres.