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Novation 49 SL Mk II Reviews

4.0 stars based on 5 customer reviews
  • Customer
    from July 15, 2015

    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!

  • Elo The Source Beatz
    from Ohio October 31, 2009Music Background:
    Producer / Recording Engineer / Sound Engineer

    One Of The Best I have Had !!!!!

    This Controller is Sick i have used alot of Controller but this one is in a space of its own not for the person who is just having nothing but fun this Controller is for rhe real hart to hart Music Producer ect.. it has all of that and some you must be ready for this Controller it need tou to give it a run rof its money novation put there foot down on this one auto map is real nice and user User Friendly its not a plug and paly from the box to the daw you can set what you want from the samml things to the big stuff I can go on and on about this Master Controller.

  • Greg Mackender
    from Kansas City February 25, 2012Music Background:

    A great desktop controller

    A solid feeling instrument. The keyboard has a good feel, quick action. Knobs and sliders have a good quality feel, not a given in $500-and-under price range. I needed physical midi ports as well as USB, and the MkII has a full compliment, including 2 out ports. Pedaling: Sustain AND expression (assignable). The pad controllers aren't as up-to-date in size and feel as some other more recent controllers, but surely usable. The Automap software is well thought out, and works fairly seamlessly in the background. Plan to spend a little time learning and making sure your version is current..there's a lot of depth (and potential) there. Finally, the display is great, and keeps itself updated in whatever mode you're in. A 'con' to the above 'pros' : Power supply is now optional, and pricey (USB powering works just fine however).

  • Luke
    from Chicago July 26, 2015Music Background:
    Music Producer

    More than I Bargained For...

    I got this keyboard because the action feels great. Unfortunately, this unit has become a nuisance. The automap software is just a disaster. It crashes ableton and slows down my system significantly. I also have problems with ableton not even recognizing the controller. I have to restart my system quite often. Seen similar issues on multiple machines.

    If you are busy doing sessions and need something bangin' out of the box this is not for you. I do not have the time to configure the hundreds of features this thing includes. The pitch and modulation joystick seems like a handy feature but it falls short of regular pitch and mod wheels in my opinion. it is inaccurate and therefore a pain to automate. I also had to send one unit back to sweetwater because the pitch joystick was defective and never returned to zero properly.

    At the end of the day, this is probably one of the better midi controllers. It definitely blows many out of the water as far as action goes. It has a nice look and is sturdy but I have had too many issues with it to give it a good review. If you have a powerful machine, and the time to configure automap software than this could be the unit for you. But if you need something that is plug and play and 100% reliable than perhaps and akai or m-audio unit might be the move.

  • Jason
    from Los Angeles, CA May 4, 2011Music Background:
    Longtime Hobbyist

    Quirky Software

    I suppose this is a step up from the other controllers I've tried, but it is really quirky and is definitely not worth $500 (maybe $250 or $300?). It works okay inside Logic controlling your plugins ... except that the sustain pedal port doesn't work at all, the drum pads are terrible (some trigger very low velocities, others very high --- no matter how hard they are pressed), and the Automap software is slow and buggy. It's next to impossible to use the x/y-axis pad, as well. This thing has to enter a separate mode to transmit standard MIDI --- not something that it is particularly good at --- so it is almost useless if you're trying to control Arturia or NI plug-ins in standalone mode. Finally, for some reason, two of the dials on mine will never work until you manually modify the parameters they're set up to modify using your mouse. After that, they work (no clue why this is so).

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