on October 10, 2011
While Novation just released Impulse which looks good on paper, 61SL MkII is still their top of the line keyboard controller. Key action and overall build quality on Impulse is lower than 61SL MKII. Keyboard action on 61SL MkII is much better and seriously good. Very close to Korg Trion / M3 action. And if it's important for you 61SL MkII keys are one of the most silent semi-weighted keys I've ever played. Go for it!
on November 7, 2011
These other reviews are not giving the praise this product deserves. I have owned it for over 3 years, hauled it, used it, (lightly abused it,) and it is still %100 since the day I bought. Poster above says too complex? Too many functions? I beg to differ. Look at it this way, you can go spend a $100 + on just a midi keyboard, then maybe you want some faders and knobs later, another 100+, then maybe a drum pad..keeps adding up. You wanna talk about complex? By 3 or even just 2 seperate midi products and get them functioning properly with Reason, FL Studio, Ableton Live, Garage band ect. Talk about complex and frustrating. Trust me, I've done it.
I use this with my laptop, FL Studio (fruity loops), and Adobe Audition. It is flawless. It will do whatever I want it to do. I can link knobs/faders/samples in my software and assign them to a knob/fader/drum pad with literally 2 clicks of the mouse. Oh yeah, and when I save and reopen the midi links are remembered. If you are just beginning making beats or mixes, or want something to do some live work as well, or you've been in the game for a while and looking for a nice little midi rig. Man I cannot highly recommend this product more. Like I said, until your mixin for Lil Weezy or something and want to have more equipment to look cool, you will not need anything else. Hell, I'll show up any hiphop/dubstep producer any day with this product and my laptop alone. Don't go blow a bunch of cash on a bunch of equipment, get this product because it has everything you will ever need, 1 cable, 1 plug, 1 piece of equipment.
Quick Update: Still using this product today :) one of my knobs has dented in a little bit after stuffing it in my luggage one to many times. Still works perfectly though, imagine that. I love this thing, I will give it all the praise it deserves because it's been an indispensable tool for my music creations. I love it still to this day.
- College Kid
on August 23, 2011
I bought this keyboard specifically for use with ableton live, but with intention to use it with other daw's (Pro Tools, Logic) as well. I wasn't sure what to expect out of automap and the template for ableton, but I was thoroughly surprised to see that I hardly use automap.
The keyboard is well built, sturdy, and lightweight. The keys feel awesome and respond well, accepting dynamic playing, and activating aftertouch is easy and controllable. It controls ableton beautifully. I am soo pleased with the level of control I have. Everything is very intuitive.
The only thing I haven't been pleased with is automap, but that's honestly because I haven't spent much time learning how it's supposed to work, and the plugins I would use it for don't really have an intuitive way to use it. I don't need it much yet, but as I get into mixing more and using the faders for automation, I'll spend more time learning how to employ it.
Overall, if you're looking for something that can be used as a master keyboard controller that has a good key feel, then this is the board for you. I haven't found a product in any category that has this functionality that doesn't come with a built in computer. I'd recommend it to anyone.
on November 15, 2012
The Novation 61SL MKII is by far the best keyboard out there for music production. I previously owned an M-Audio Axiom Pro 61 which I sold to get this. Best thing I ever did. I have owned this keyboard for about 6 months now and still absolutely in love with it!
Unlike the other reviewers, I use the Novation with Propellerhead Reason 6.5 for both production in my home studio and for live gigs. Since I have a slower macbook that can only run Snow Leopard, I have yet to fully utilize its use with Automap (their latest version is only compatible with OSX Lion and up). That being said, it can still be used without Automap software at all--simply as a midi controller via usb. The first thing I noticed about the keyboard, as others stated, is the build quality. No other keyboard looks or feels as sharp as the Novation in my opinion. The keys are amazing (and thats coming from a piano player). Semi-weighted with after-touch. Quiet. NOT STICKY (like the M-Audio Axiom Pro) and seem to be able to take a beating without any damage after 6 months of banging pianos, pads and drum beats on them! Very easy access for controls you use often, put where you'd want them to be. Plenty of assignable buttons/faders. The faders were well done compared to the Axiom Pro. I noticed on Axiom Pro when I would assign knobs or faders to the keyboard and move them there was a distinct lag if moved too quickly. It would miss that I even moved the fader--not good in a live setting! The Novation has excellent mapping and does not do this. Very real-time controlling. You move quickly, the fader moves quickly.
Honestly, I have very little bad things to say about the keyboard. It's simply amazing. Worth the extra $$ hands down. I'm going to have this thing for a very long time to come.
-Best quality build of any midi keyboard out on the market
-Tons of buttons/faders, an X&Y pad, Pitch/Mod stick
-Seamless use with any DAW, especially Reason 6.5
-Touch sensitive buttons and faders. When you literally just touch a fader or a button the LCD screen switches to show the values of the entire row that button/fader was on as well as putting brackets around the actual button/fader you just touched. VERY COOL FEATURE. Extremely helpful for live gigging when you want to make sure you are about to pull up the correct pad or piano sound before it's actually used or to check the midi values of something
-Excellent feeling semi-weighted keys with aftertouch, don't squeak or stick
CON's: (and I'm being nit picky)
-The 8 black "drum pads" (lower left) are extremely stiff and require quite a hard punch to get any result. It would be hard to trigger a loop (accurately) or make beats with these (especially if touch sensitivity is important for your recording needs). Not nearly as good as the pads on a M-Audio Axiom Pro or Akai competitors. This clearly wasn't a focal point of the features this keyboard offers. That being said I don't use them all that much so it does not affect my view of the keyboard
-Only 8 faders instead of 9. That 1 extra would have been nice to use as a master fader, but alas
-The mod and pitch bend is a unique set up. It works, but I feel it is really lacking only because of the mod aspect. The mod "wheel" or lever snaps back to zero when done unlike some of the other wheels on the M-audio Axiom Pro which stay put where you left it
-Automap takes some serious getting used to... a little too much in my opinion. Lots of things to assign correctly
-Your friends will be sincerely jealous
on October 16, 2010
The 61 key Novation SL MKII was a recent upgrade from a 25 key M-Audio for my project studio.The keys have a very good feel. The software mapping takes some study, but it works great with Ableton Live8. The only down side was having to upgrade the Automap software from the Novation website. Definitely a 5 star keyboard for music writing. Great feel, great touch. As with all new technology a learning curve is involved. But there is a very helpful "community forum" on the Novation website [...].
on July 15, 2015
I have had a bit of experience with many different control surfaces and keybeds over the years. Here is why I think this is the best:
1. Stability/age of product - at first I considered this a negative, but after trying some of the competition (the Panorama), and seeing how long it takes for updates to come out, I realized support for a controller is just as important as it ever was, no matter how flashy the marketing. The SL Mkii just works. Automap can take a while to customize to your idea of perfection, but at the same time, it gives very useful mappings with very little upfront work. I like to read instructions first carefully, and even so, it only took me an hour to feel like I knew how to use it all and customize as time permits down the road.
2. Keybed - I waited on getting this because it seemed like people were down on the keybed - they're wrong. This is a very nice synth action Fatar keybed. To me, it felt the same as the last line of Yamaha workstations (the ones without hammer weight keys, of course), which also use Fatar. I also used to have an Access Virus TI, which had a very wonderful synth action keybed. I seem to remember it having a very nice curved edge to the keys, but in terms of overall feel, this feels very close, if not the same. In fact, the keys on this Mkii feel even nicer than they keys on my Moog Sub37! Less travel, but less 'plonky'. This is the perfect addition for me to my Kronos weighted/hammer keybed. I don't really like middle ground/compromise keybeds.
3. Touch sensitive - I didn't even realize it had this on the rotaries on sliders until I got it - works just as well as my Push, showing you what's on offer for that row of controls instantly!
4. LCD - I do wish it could change contrast to be more easily readable from a rear angle, but it's not bad. Also, the number of characters is very usable. I know when I used to have a Mackie Control C4, it seemed to truncate labels way too often; on here, I feel there's just about always enough space for the label and value to be understood.
5. Faders - the small throw of the faders was a negative for me when researching, but to be honest, they're perfect - this is because they have a good bit of even friction to their movement. On my Panorama, the non-motorized faders have more throw, but they 'stick' throughout their travel - pretty much unusable for smooth movements. The faders on the MkII have enough friction where you can just slide them with one finger, nice and slowly and evenly. They're not loose at all. I think this gets missed in other reviews. Plus I'd rather have all the other buttons it has, and I wish Novation would come out with a motorized fader pack (in the meantime, I am keeping a close eye on the new Behringer motorized fader packs, they seem to be the perfect complement to this).
6. Encoders - it's perfect that they included both endless and restricted encoders. I know for some functions I'll want the varying acceleration of the endless (with the led indicator of overall value position), but for others, it's very nice to have a classic, restricted movement pan pot (such as for panning!).
7. Fit and finish - to be honest, while the Panorama seemed to look newer, and perhaps a step up in quality, having both in person, the Mkii actually looks more solid (to me - I think to most it would look at least equal to any other controller). I like that it's as slim as it can be (I slide it under my desk), and it doesn't look cheap or plasticky at all in person - it looks like a solid, working producer's controller. Nothing fancy, just a lot of quality, hands on control, waiting to be customized. I even like the fact that they didn't put predetermined transport keys - instead, there's markings for the buttons that would be used for those, but the buttons themselves are the same as any other button, so if you don't want transport controls on the controller, you can use them for anything without a visual cue that doesn't link up.
At the end of the day, the fact that Automap works with your plugins no matter what DAW you're in is the key. No one else is doing that still! (maybe M-Audio, but to me, their controllers' keybeds feel like toys) Panorama only works with third party VSTs in Cubase (maybe Logic also) - but they just don't have that many mapped, and if you use Live or Bitwig, it doesn't 'see' third party plugins at all. (I wish this was more upfront on the Panorama because I would have gotten the Mk ii to start with!)
The only negative I've found so far is that, on Mac, the Automap software doesn't let you specify a custom VST path. This is helpful if you want to automap your plugins hidden from your DAW(s) first, so that you can then just move the automap wrapper versions back into the DAW plugin path. So, unless your DAW can specifically block/hide certain plugins, you'll always see both the original and automapped versions of the plugin, on a Mac.
I would recommend this even if it still cost the same as when they were new on the market (or even twice as much as the current price). At the current prices, don't see it as a red flag of quality - just the mark of something that was built so well, it's endured for so many years without needing to be changed!
I've been using cheapie M-Audio keyboards for a while now and was always frustrated by the quality of the keys and the dearth of controls. Doing Hammond-style glisses on them felt like I was going to tear the keys off.
The SL MkII has a really great feeling keyboard. Almost as good as my Hammond M3. The high degree of programability of the keyboard makes it a lot easier to use it with Ableton Live 9, Logic Pro X and NI Komplete 9.
I wish I'd switched to Novation years ago. I'll pick up one more of these soon and give my M-Audio keyboards to my kids.
Update (8/21/14): The keyboard is still going strong. I've had zero issues with it and I've logged a couple hundred hours on it so far (estimate). If you plan on taking it traveling, buy a good case. It'd be tragic to tear off an encoder.
on March 18, 2011
I found it strange and unfair that this item didn't have a single review despite being bought so often. So I'm going to think that you guys are just being plain lazy :D.
On to business, this midi controller is awesome in many ways. Let's start with how its built. I've heard some people say it is cheaply built, but I found it perfect and I love the layout of the controllers. The knobs light up according to the parameters you set, which comes very handy in live performances, DJing and well, in general. The keys are as they described it, semi-weighted, and I found them so comfortable to play. The touch-sensitive controllers are a plus, and the LCD screen gives me a clear view of what's going on. The pitch/mod wheel is cool, I personally like this one instead of the two wheels, but that's just me.
So now let's go into the Automap feature. At first, I was like what is all this, but it turns out it is so simple to use. Unpack, install the automap CD (note that it will always tell you to download the latest version), plug in, open the DAW, and update OS. That's it, you are done and running with Automap. While I cannot say it is "perfect", it saves a lot of time. It also comes with Ableton Lite, and some plugins and packs. So far, I tested Automap with FL Studio 9 and Ableton 8, and they both run like a charm, you just have to follow the instructions specifically made for each DAW.
There's only one tiny minor flaw. The drum pads are not very good. I mean they work, sometimes you have to hit them a little bit harder, but I think the major flaw with the drum pads is their position. They are too close together and are small, with time you get comfortable with them anyways, but since this is a review I have to put everything so that you guys can decide and know what you are buying. However, if you use the drum pads as controllers for other parameters, they are perfect. If you want comfortable pro drum pads for drumming, then you are better off buying a pad controller, I mean, some midi controllers come with very good drum pads, but if you definitely want some good drum pads and well, still enjoy all the amazing features of the novation sl mkii, then yes you are better off with a drum pad. I personally use sometimes the keys for drumming, and if you look up in youtube.com you'll see videos of other people that do too, whatever fits you best.
Since the drum pads aren't a major thing, that is why I decided to give this product its well deserved 5 stars. Despite not having reviews, people seem to buy this product a lot so I thought as a way to thanks Novation, I'd write a review so that other users know whether this works or not. I hope this review helps you guys to decide whether to buy or not this midi controller (or the 29 or 61 version where the only difference is the number of keys) Thanks Novation for this amazing product!
on August 7, 2013
The keys are simply the best synth-action keys I've played. The controls are well-placed and easy to use. The drum pads are a little less expressive than I'd like, but they're not something I really use here anyway. The ability to switch the mod lever between spring-loaded return and not is very nice, too. Automap has really gotten better, and it's easy to assign controls. This is actually my second board - the first was swiped; I had no hesitation at all in buying another. I really couldn't be happier with this board!
on January 11, 2011
I am just getting the hang of this device, but very satisfied with the experience so far. The physical feel of the unit is of medium quality. Solid enough to take gigging, but you'll want to be gentle to its faders and knobs. The synth-piano-key action itself is very good (in my subjective opinion)
The device's main differentiating point, its LCD works as advertised. It's very useful not having to glance at that part of the Ableton interface. It does seem to flicker oddly, but nothing to interrupt your usage.
I do find the device's interface to Ableton Live a bit clunky, especially the setup (be SURE to follow the instructions. You'll never guess it). That said, it's extremely usable. Perhaps when I dig more into programming the unit the clunky-feel will be smoothed out - it seems the device is totally customizable.