Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best in class (end of 2011, maybe new Akai fall 2012?), November 15, 2011
This review is from: Novation 49 SL MkII USB Midi Controller Keyboard 49 Keys (Electronics)
UPDATE (9/27/2012):

I was able to exchange for a new SL under warranty when the touch sensitive knobs started going whack. The replacement has worked without a hitch for 9 months now.

I still love this controller and especially the keys, but the new Akai looks like it could be very worthy competition.

UPDATE (December 2011):

A few weeks in and still LOVE the keyboard, faders, and knobs. Still liking Automap as I use it more. The controller is deserving of some complaints now that the new gear feeling is passing.

First, one of the touch sensitive rotary knobs is constantly triggering like it has been touched even when I don't touch it. The only "solution" I have found so far is to disable the touch sensitive button pushes, and that was difficult to do because the "stuck" button kept putting me into the wrong sub-menu to disable it.

My second big complaint about the controller is the feel of the xy pad. It requires an extremely hard touch to get any response, so much that I find it completely useless. It's not at all like a notebook computer touch pad. I thought it was actually broken at first, but I found many threads on the Novation forums with angry owners having the same complaint.

Almost wish I'd have gone with the Akai APC-40 and a cheaper keyboard, but I don't think anything cheaper would have as nice a keyboard as the SL MkII.

ORIGINAL (November 2011):

I don't write many reviews, but I am loving this controller!

SOFTWARE:

First off, I was not aware how awesome Novation's Automap was going to be when I picked this keyboard up yesterday. Linking it up to Ableton was very easy. The only small problem I had there was setting the MIDI options correctly in Live's options menu. Pay close attention to the naming of the various MIDI entities associated with the SL and follow the Novation Automap wizard! Automap switches the rotary knobs to control the 8 macro knobs of whichever Ableton device/effect is selected and displays the macro label right above each knob on the LCD screen, all with nothing more than the fairly painless initial setup wizard.

KEYS:

The keyboard is top notch. I believe they're manufactured by Fatar, if that means anything to you. They are synth style and feel very different from piano style hammer-action keys. I was not sure I would like the synth action, but I can already tell that my playing is more accurate on these keys than it was on the M-Audio Axiom 25 it replaced. The Axiom's keys were not hammer action, but they felt closer to a piano than the SL. I already prefer the SL's keys, by a landslide.

I have not played with any sensitivity settings yet, but I think I will need to adjust the velocity curve just a bit for my playing. I have a somewhat light touch and have found it just a bit difficult to trigger higher velocities. That said, the board has enough of a sensitivity range to detect all the dynamics of a performance (easy to trigger a full range of velocities from 0-127), I have not noticed any difference between black and white key response, and the default sensitivity is something I could get used to without a problem. (Making it "easier" to trigger high velocity notes on a keyboard could make it more difficult to precisely control the velocity on all softer notes because the dynamic range is reduced, so adjusting the default may be best.)

DRUM PADS:

The drum pads are on the small side and seem like the only potentially weak point of comparison to similar controllers. I view the pads as a very low-priority item on this type of controller, however. It's not much more money to add a Korg Nanopad, Akai MPD18 or other dedicated pad controller to your setup. If the pads really are a priority item for your playing style, I believe a more high end dedicated pad controller like an Akai MPC would be a better choice than any controller which is primarily a keyboard controller. You may be tempted to choose the Akai MPK over the SL if the pads are a priority, but I really feel that would be a mistake because all other aspects of the SL seem superior to me.

ROTARIES, FADERS, ETC:

I'm coming from a first-gen Axiom 25, so my bar is probably a bit low, but the rotaries feel great to me. I can finally do a credible filter sweep with the rotaries! I have not had any equipment with truly high end faders, but the SL's feel very smooth to me. They are much smaller than the Akai MPK's, but I prefer the smaller faders on the SL because it is easier to adjust multiple faders at the same time.

Possibly the best thing about the rotaries, faders, toggle buttons, and pads is the sheer number of them. The endless rotaries, faders, and many of the toggles are usually assigned to DAW parameters through Automap. That still leaves eight standard (0-127) rotaries, 8 toggle buttons, and 8 pads free to be assigned for additional MIDI control!

WISH LIST FOR FUTURE VERSION (aka GETTING GREEDY):

- Second LCD screen above the faders.
- Add a 9'th fader.
- Motorizing the faders would truly set it apart (but likely set it to a new price range too)
- Move the standard rotaries below each fader (so they can be Automapped to pan when mixing) and replace the current standard rotaries with endless rotaries.
- Maybe add a cross-fader.

BOTTOM LINE:

It's a 5-star buy. Best keyboard of all its competitors, great Automap functionality (at least in my Ableton Live testing), and it has the most assignable controls of its competitors. I consider the Axiom, Axiom Pro, and Akai MPK it's competitors. This is the cream of that crop.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 4, 2012 2:29:19 AM PDT
sophie777 says:
Does this work with SL Studio? I can't seem to get a concrete answer to this question. My son needs a keybard to work with this FL software but it is like a minefield trying to find out what midi-controller works best?

We were told that the axiom pro is no good fo FL software as the automap function on the axiom is not compatible.

If you have the answer - please contact me through contact form on - http://canidoit.org
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