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Rating and Reviews: Novation 49SL MkII USB

This controller has it all: 49 semi-weighted keys, touch-sensitive knobs and faders that map to your DAW, and a huge LED display for your MIDI assignments.

User Ratings
Overall
Sound
Features
Ease of Use
Quality
Value
Manufacturer Support
The Wow Factor
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"A perfect investment." submitted October 20, 2009

By a customer from gmail.com
Overall
Sound
Features
Ease of Use
Quality
Value
Manufacturer Support
The Wow Factor
Musical Background: Active Musician, and Aspiring Producer
Music Style: Jazz, Classical, Drum n' bass, Techno. Alt. Hip-hop, trip-hop, big beat.
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SPOTLIGHT REVIEW
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Sound: The keys are dead near silent, as is everything else. No clicky-clicky like some other controllers out there. Feature: Sixteen, count-em, sixteen assignable knobs, a transport section, twelve faders, eight nicely sized drum pads, 24 assignable buttons,mod and pitch stick, AND even a morph pad. This thing can control nearly every facet of a reasonably complex soft-synth like FM8, or several simpler synths. Automap 3 is great, and the intuitive templates make things a breeze. The included Ableton 7 lite, 1gb of samples from loopmasters, and Bass-station soft synth are just icing on the cake. Oh, and it's USB powered! A real plus for a college dorm kid! Traditional midi ports, a DC jack...you just can't go wrong here. Ease of Use: I had a hell of a time setting this up in Ableton. The "DAW instructions" provided by Novation were nigh useless, as was their online database. Thankfully, I finally fiddled my way to success. But alas, the troubles weren't done, then you have to select the correct template out of a eight strangely named preset templates, and finally you're good to go. Once past the initial stumbling blocks using this thing was a breeze. Literally just "click and assign". It's easy to forget which functions are assigned where though if you're using the blank "learn" template, so edit those control parameter names using the software or something. Automap is also a pain to get working at first. Quality: This thing is built like a tank. the body is plastic, but it still fells hefty and durable. The upper eight knobs fell SUPERB, no clicking, but a nice graphical display makes up for it. All the knobs are also quite solid, and don't feel like they're going to snap off. The keyboard itself has a nice, heavier synth action. It's not sterling like my s90, but still has a natural, playable feel. Glissandos don't hurt either, so thumb away my friends! All the controls are fantastically responsive...maybe even a bit too responsive. Literally all you have to do is hold you hand over one of the knobs or fader and barely tap it and it's ready for use. The display screen is nice, easily readable, and well protected. The drum pads, though small, don't have that cheesy action of the axiom, or that hard feel like the MPK. As for software-side, Automap 3 is solid, but a bit awkwardly implemented. As far as road-use goes, I'll be getting a case for this thing, but it fells solid enough to take some serious knocks and come out on top. Value: The 49SL MK II is an expensive controller, there's no doubt. But so far, I believe I can say it's really worth every penny. The 49 key is really the perfect size-price ratio. I've tried out the APK49, AxiomPro 49, and several other new controllers. They're all pretty much the same price nowadays, so it's safe to say that this is the best of the bunch. Sure, it doesn't have motorized faders, or that infamous MPC-pad feel on the drumpads, but the thing is that the SL MKII is so much more versatile than these other controllers. Only the Yamaha controller gives it a run for its money when it comes to price-quality-features. Manufacturer Support: I'm really docking Novation here for their lackadaisical setup guide, and poor online database. Most all the information applies to the last generation of SL controllers. It also sort of teed me off a bit when I saw the only way you could contact them was by e-mail. The Wow Factor: This thing is....so damn sexy. It looks like something from a bond film, or a slick Sci-fi movie. I think it was the red LEDs around those top eight knobs that really got me. I mean, you look at this thing and think...wow...it's got so many knobs...I could really use that. Then there was that morph pad, and that pretty much sealed the deal (being an FM8 lover). But then I played it and the action was so good, I nearly payed an extra hundred for it on spot in the store just so I could carry it back to the dorm that day. Overall: The 49SL MKII is a great midi-controller. It can literally control your entire set up (both hardware and software) without so much as batting an eye. Despite some strong setup issues, once you get this thing running, good luck tearing yourself away. It's good to be hard finishing my homework assignments now that I have this beauty sitting on my desk. As I said before though, the 49 key is really the perfect size for the price.
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"Pretty but Flawed" submitted May 17, 2013

By Rob P in Provo, UT
Overall
Sound
Features
Ease of Use
Quality
Value
Manufacturer Support
The Wow Factor
Musical Background: 20+ Years Jamming and composing. Keys, guitars, etc.
Music Style: electronica, ambient, meditative, etc.
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VERIFIED BUYER
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Overall: PROS: The keys are about the best quality of any controller on the market, the design layout is very functional, and the Automap software is great. CONS: The unit's build quality is severely lacking in several key areas. The endless rotary controllers are inaccurate and useless. If you physically twist the knob 100%, the software registers probably 60%. It feels like they slip- giving unpredictable, inconsistent results when using them. The X/Y pad requires so much pressure as to be entirely unusable. In the words of Novation support, "A common misconception is that the X/Y pad will function like a laptop mouse pad", apparently meaning that they *intended* for your thumb to turn white when you use it. You shouldn't have to physically get leverage when controlling a softsynth. The drum pads are unplayable, unless you are using a ball peen hammer, and you can forget about velocity accuracy. The joystick feels cheap, and the sliders are fragile plastic. The buttons are OK though. NOVATION SUPPORT: Fast and helpful as they possibly could be, but understandably in denial about a potentially amazing product that failed in the usability department. VERDICT: I *SO* wanted this product to work well, because there really isn't anything else out there that matches it's design implementation. But as far as usability goes, it just doesn't deliver. Total disappointment.
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"WAYY OVERPRICED" submitted December 19, 2011

By a customer from gmail.com
Overall
Features
Ease of Use
Quality
Value
Manufacturer Support
The Wow Factor
Musical Background: 25 years
Music Style: electronic, darkwave
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Sound: Sound N/A it is a controller. Feature: Its automap features are bettern than having none at all but I still find the unit a bit cumbersome as it does not switch back and forth from 'Automap' mode (controlling DAW and softsynths) to 'Advanced' Mode (controlling external hardware midi modules) as smoothly as its user manual implies it does. You must finagle with it a bit and it is NOT a simple 'once touch point and click' operation that Novation would like you to believe. Ease of Use: Its features are good but not nearly worth the 500 dollar price range the name tag implies. For 500 bucks it should automap to every single softsynth under the sun or at least come with templates setup for it but alas, it does not. What are the designers at novation doing if not working on templates for the sofsynths out there that most users are going to use? I still have to use midi learn and map alot of stuff that should already have templates for them, Like G-Force Imposcar and some of my NI stuff, still have no templates for them, shame. Automaps been around, for what, 10 years now? Quality: I am going to give this low scores because mine took a slight drop off a 3 foot keyboard stand when I got up from my desk as my leg caught the midi out cable plugged into the back of the Remote and pulled it off the shelf. it hit my foot and the floor at a 45 degree angle...ouch! After limping around and rubbing my foot in pain, I noticed to toppermost key stop had broken and the highest register key was now broken, sitting too high up in relation to the other keys I am like what, from a 3 foot , 45 degree edge stop with my foot breaking alot of the fall? You have got to be kidding me!. Mind you, it still played and registered a note when pushed but come on, a little better plastic and this would not have happened. I would never tour with something this flimsly and plasticky. Look at the weight specs for a keyboard and match that to the dimensions and you can see that a 31" by 12" by 2.5" keyboard at 11 lbs 7 Oz is pretty lightweight. Hell, my 18" x 16" x 3 1/2" MPC 5000 weighs in at 18 lbs, for comparison. I own the older Remote 25SL and its build quality is light years ahead of the flimsy crap Novation has churned out of late. Value: For the build qulity and the quirkyness of using it with BOTH hardware and software, the unit is overpriced. If I were going to do this again, I would have gotten the Arturia Analog Laboratory controller as it has wooden endcaps and the case is metal. As well, the keyboard feels nicer than the Novation stuff..lastly, I would simply use the Midi learn features of the various softsynths out there and just assign controls to the Analog Labroratory then save as a template as it is pretty much what you have to do with hardware midi gear with the Novation anyway, so its 60 of this and 40 of that, depending on which way you are swinging with either the Remote or the Arturia gear. That said, the Arturia build quality KILLS Novations made in china trash and just feels nicer, all around, PLUS you get the GREAT analog Laborartory software to go with it and for a street price of 350 you get so much more Manufacturer Support: Wouldn't know on warranty work as I havent had to use them but I did email them once about the lack of templates and go no response The Wow Factor: Its an OK product with a lot more hype then it deserves to be quite honest. Overall: I will keep it for a while but the qulity is so poor I don't see it lasting anywhere near ten years.
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