The best all around synth action keybed and controller, even after all these years!
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!