Ableton is considered one of the quintessential programs for DJing and making electronic music. Yet, if you’re not fully skilled on the hardware aspect of either, using Ableton ends up being a daunting task.

Ableton and Novation, for making Ableton Live more accessible, introduced the Novation Launchpad. Designed for DJing, live performances, and basic studio work, the Novation Launchpad is one of the more compact and portable devices out there, particularly considering all of its functions. The controller is a mere 239mm by 239mm with a 24mm profile and weighs just 717 grams. Rather than the standard power source, the Launchpad comes equipped with a USB port, making it less cumbersome as gig equipment.

Featuring a multi-color 64-button grid, the Novation Launchpad operates in four different modes. Session Mode allows the user to control clips in Ableton Live’s Session View, while Mixer Mode operates Live’s mixer function. Two User Moders provide for custom device controlling and configuration and are ideal for more advanced producers and DJs. As the Launchpad is in use, the buttons light up to indicate clip status: orange indicates what has been loaded, green shows the clips playing, and red is for recorded music.

Within these four modes are all basic functions of creating or mixing music with Ableton Live, and they provide the features of multiple DJing and producing devices in one piece of equipment. Mixer Mode, for instance, turns the Launchpad into a standard mixing desk, with the eight LED rows and columns designated as virtual faders, sliders, and knobs. User modes, in mixing and producing, provide unlimited possibilities. As these two can be customized, the Launchpad is able to become a drum pad controller, DJ effects controller, or similar device that suits your live or production needs, and creating a custom controller is relatively straightforward.

As the Novation Launchpad simplifies Ableton Live, communication between the hardware and software is crucial. Communication between the two is constant, with the Launchpad, by its LED buttons, indicating the function in use in Live, and the software outlining in red the part of Session View in use by the controller. Additionally, the software isn’t designed solely for one pad. Instead, multiple controllers – up to six – can run on the same system at once. If multiple pads are set up, multiple modes can run at once.

Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition is the default program for Novation Launchpad, which requires at least Live 7 or 8 to operate. Specifically corresponding with the device, the software includes eight audio and eight MIDI tracks, eight Session View scenes, and custom mapping. However, other software is compatible with the Novation Launchpad, including Max for Live. At the moment, users can easily download a Max for Live step sequencer patch from Novation, and more will be introduced in the future. Additionally, Automap control software operates with the Launchpad.

Essentially, the Novation Launchpad is ideal for a beginner or intermediate producer wanting to explore the capabilities of more advanced software with ease, and is additionally beneficial for the professional looking for a more compact, straightforward device that operates with the current version of Ableton.


Physical controls and Indicators

  • 64 (8×8 grid) square multi-colour back-lit buttons
  • 8 round multi-colour back-lit system buttons (assignable)
  • 8 round multi-colour back-lit function buttons (not assignable)


  • L-shaped USB 1.1 connector.

Minimum Operational Requirements

  • OS: 10.4, or later recommended
  • Computer: G4 or faster / Intel Mac
  • Memory (RAM): 512 MB RAM / 1 GB recommended


  • OS: Windows XP or Vista
  • Computer: 1.5 GHz or faster
  • Memory (RAM): 512 MB RAM / 1 GB recommended


  • Unit: W = 240 mm / 9.45 “, H = 20 mm / 0.79 “, D = 240 mm / 9.45 “
  • Box: W = 308 mm / 12.13 “, H = 90 mm / 20.98 “, D = 320 mm / 12.6 “


  • unit weight: 717gms /unit
  • boxed weight: 1kg/unit