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Hands On Review: Novation Impulse

The latest USB keyboard controller from Novation, the Impulse aims to provide complete control over your entire rig, with a slew of controls and functions. Does it succeed in its goal? Let’s check it out!

There are three flavors of Impulse available: 25-key, 49-key, and 61-key. I received the 49-key Impulse for review. Aside from the number of keys, the controllers are all similarly featured. The semi-weighted keybed has assignable aftertouch, and it feels great under your fingers. The obligatory pitch-bend and modulation wheels are provided. A nice blue LCD screen gives you visual feedback for what you are doing.

But this controller is about more than just the keys. It’s decked out with eight assignable rotary controllers (knobs) and nine sliders. (The sliders are only available on the 49- and 61-key versions — there isn’t room for them on the 25-key version.) Having nine sliders allows for full control over tonewheel organ simulation, if that’s what you’re using them to control. They could also be assigned to control DAW mixer faders or other control applications. Each fader is accompanied by an adjacent assignable soft switch.

There are eight responsive groove-box-style pads for playing drums. Additional switches allow you to use these pads to do rolls, launch clips, or arpeggiate. A full set of transport controls rounds things out.

All of these controls, plus others, can be quickly and easily assigned to send out MIDI control change messages. As just a MIDI controller, the Impulse has all of the control and features you could want. But it’s when you install the included Automap V4 software that things get hopping. Automap V4 is an application that automatically detects what software you are running on your computer and instantly configures the Impulse to be able to control the parameters in that software — be it your DAW, a plug-in, or a virtual instrument. This feature is amazing, and it truly allows the Impulse to become command central for your entire virtual studio. It’s a joy to be able to get your hands on your software, whether you are mixing, tracking, playing, or processing. Automap V4 makes the process seamless and transparent.

The Impulse is one of the most full-featured controllers I have encountered, with a great-feeling keyboard and plenty of controls. Combined with Automap V4, it’s a stellar package that can take charge of any virtual rig.

Mitch Gallagher

About Mitch Gallagher

Sweetwater Editorial Director, Mitch Gallagher, is one of the leading music/pro audio/audio recording authorities in the world. The former senior technical editor of Keyboard magazine and former editor-in-chief of EQ magazine, Gallagher has published thousands of articles, is the author of seven books and one instructional DVD, and appears in well over 500 videos on YouTube. He teaches audio recording and music business at Purdue University/Indiana University, and has appeared at festivals, conventions, and conferences around the world.
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