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Novation 61 SL Mk II Reviews

4.0 stars based on 9 customer reviews
  • Jon
    from los angeles June 19, 2015Music Background:
    Hard Rock Guitar Player turned occassional keys guy.

    Cool Piece of Gear!

    I am really happy with this keyboard! The Automap software is really cool and really intuitive within logic pro x.
    The keys are nice. I am upgrading from an M Audio Axiom and honestly, the keys and action feel much, much better on the Novation.
    I didnt give it a 5 star because Akai and Nektar are both including a much nicer view screen on their flagship offerings. I would like to see Novation include that in their next iteration.
    That said, the view screen on the Novation gets the job done.

  • Ken Vaughn
    from USA March 31, 2015

    Still the best one.

    No other synth keybed feels this good. I don't know if it might be made by Fatar The faders are cool and the automap does a good job with all my software. The pads need to evolve. The touch sensitive feature is amazing. The screen is actually readable and follows your software per parameter or whatever. The pitch stick is great. There is a switch to release it from the spring. I forget the thing has a track pad. Maybe I will play with that later. If you want a good synth feel with after-touch I don't know if you could do better.

  • Larry Handley
    from Louisville, KY May 31, 2014Music Background:
    Bassist, Composer, Producer

    A Great Device, But Not 5 Stars

    This review is based on my initial impression, so please take that into account. In my time recording in my own studio, I have used now eight different keyboard/controllers, most from different manufacturers.

    First, given the price of the 61SL MK II, I think Novation should have included a power supply (minus a quarter of star for that).
    Second, there was no owner's manual included, either in the box or on the disc (and there's plenty of room on the disc) or not even at least a direct link to an online manual; I personally, actually LIKE reading owner manuals before I delve into a new piece of hardware (minus a quarter of a star for that).
    Third, a couple of design flaws: The control surface should have been tilted toward the user. As it is, it's hard to read the LCD without leaning over the keyboard and it's also a bit inefficient reading the positions of the LED's on the continuous encoders. The other flaw is the location of the faders. On the 61-key model at least, they would have been better off located to the right of the buttons currently below them; that way they could have had a longer throw. Quite a bit of wasted space there (minus a full star for the two design flaws).

    All that said, I'm not significantly dissatisfied with the 61SL MK II. In fact I think the keyboard 'action' is about the best of any I've had and once I devoted about an hour or so of slightly more than mild frustration, I have most of the controls set up to work the way I want them to in Pro Tools 11.02. Automap is powerful stuff, but if you're new to its functionality, a bit of patience will pay big dividends. I also much prefer the joystick-style controller for Pitch Bend and Modulation rather than wheels, which was in fact one of the important deciding factors for me. Overall, the device lacks some intuitiveness but makes up for that in power, flexibility playability and build quality.

    The one real problem I do have is that, if the SL MKII is connected and turned on, when I launch Pro Tools, it consistently fails to initialize my MOTU Audio Express audio interface. None of the three other controllers I've used with Pro Tools have caused this problem. I managed to figure out that I have to turn the SL MKII off, launch Pro Tools, then turn it back on as soon as the audio interface has initialized; everything then works without issue. I'm still troubleshooting that, and I'll be generous and not knock off any stars for it just yet, unless I discover that there is no solution.

    Still, I would not hesitate to recommend this device, just make sure you're aware of it's drawbacks and be honest about whether, given the price you'll pay, you're okay with living with those drawbacks.

  • Science
    from NYC October 2, 2013Music Background:
    Pro musician

    SL MK 2 zero after months of use

    I don't normally write reviews, but this controller deserves it. I am not a fan or user of automap. Everything I do is custom, but the zero mk2 provides a good amount of buttons and faders/encoders. The editing software makes this very easy to use. It took me a while to get up and running, but once I did there was no looking back. This unit is flexible, durable, and affordable. I am deliberating whether or not I will get a second or add the keyboard version. Either way, I'm coming back for more. Novation gets a win on this.

  • Brent Lewis
    from Joshua Tree, CA December 14, 2012Music Background:
    Record producer

    novation 61 sl mk 11

    great action on the keys and very simple to use. i love it

  • Customer
    from Atlanta USA November 11, 2012Music Background:
    Professional musician, audio engineer and home studio owner

    Took a chance. Glad I did!

    I was a bit skeptical at first based on some of the reviews I had read. I had a detailed conversation with Mike Badonado, (always helpful). I decided to go with this controller instead of other considerable options. Perhaps all others are great devices as well, but I am very pleased with my purchase. The sl mk II is well constructed and delivers on solid, smooth rotary encoders and sliders. It integrates well with Ableton, Reason and DIgital Performer so far. To really dig into this controller, I can see that I may have to put in some time, both with it and my DAWs/Instruments. However, I have found that this always leads to the development of a stronger skill set. An endeavor that I welcome.
    After loading drivers, I was using this product with great success right out of the box.

    I would recommend this product to anyone who wants comfortable, capable keyboard/control of there "inside the box" functions. I have used a few other controllers along the way, and though they were just fine, the sl mk II is my favorite. Adding real advantage to my workflow.

    As always, I am very happy with Sweetwater, their staff and services.

  • William Mcknight
    from Nashville, TN February 5, 2011Music Background:
    Production, Recording Engineering, Home project recording studio

    Take a little time

    Ok I have read all the bad reviews about this line of controllers. The truth is if people would take a little time to research these controllers before they buy them, they would not be so upset when it doesnt do what they want it to. Look automap is a relative program, while it may not map exactly the way you want it at first it is highly custonizable and taking a day or to to customize it to the soft synths you use is not too much trouble and you wont be dissappointed. Now it doesnt work great with all DAW's but hey its a keyboard controller if you want it to control your daw then buy a control surface. All I am saying is this thing works great with all my vst instruments, and is a joy to play. The keybed is very similar to my MPK61(which I highly recommend for Reason users). I use this for FLstudio where I sketch all my production with my high Q VST instruments. I have yet to have a problem with it.

  • Vlad
    from New York December 27, 2010Music Background:

    It doesn't save your time vs. mousing.

    The bottom line:
    It's cool but it doesn't save your time vs. mousing.

    Each knob/fader of any software instrument or plugin has a name; with SL Mk II you have to memorize where is it. Even so, with a mouse I can control what I need faster that with SL Mk II.

    Plus, I have problems with automap - each third-second time I use Logic 9.1.3, the keyboard disconnects from Logic without any noticeable reason = no sound. In order to revitalize it, I have to go through many steps of re-registration with Logic and then I have to restart Logic because without restarting it doesn't work, but according to the manual and video it should work without restarting.

    Automap is working even worse (Note: my Novation software is up-to-date) - most of the time even default for Logic settings, like Mixer, disappear without a trace = i have to re-assign everything again. And the default feature of SL Mk II is upsetting - with each new project you must to re-register SL Mk II with Logic again because Novation decided to save money on Drivers.

    You can see the display of SL Mk II only if you are standing = it's very inconvenient. Is it because they are trying to save money on the tilting option or what?

    Novation tech support replied me once and when I answered them that their advice didn't work, they disappeared (I checked my Junk box).

    Thus, for me the automap is useless.

    By itself, the keyboard is better than other keyboards in this price range; it's a little stiff, but it's OK. The Joystick is worse than, e.g. the Korg's one - it doesn't do the same quality job - you cannot get same level of pitch or modulation as you can get it with the Korg or M-Audio.

    If I would be Novation, I would produce just a plain same quality or better keyboard with an improved joystick and Drivers (to eliminate the multi-step connection to a DAW). Please, provide an option with no automap, but if someone wants - provide an option - integration of the ZeRO SL Mk II block into the keyboard.

  • Travis Estrella
    from Vienna August 8, 2009Music Background:
    Amateur Musician

    A Pro Grade Controller Keyboard

    I've had my SL MkII keyboard for over a week now and I have to say, it is the best controller keyboard I've owned or played. It has brought back the joy of programming my soft synth patches.

    The software brain of the controller, Automap Pro (at writing, version 3.2) is phenomenal at using Reason and handling Ableton Live. It's also a joy to work with some of my VSTi's such as Rob Papen's Predator, although I reassigned some of its parameters to my liking. The included Bass Station VST is a nice bonus. The fact that I can configure any parameter on any MIDI compatible device and save it as template washes away any hassle of complicated configuration that I've experienced with other controllers.

    The touch sensitive controllers took a short while to get use to. Any metal encoder or fader will "focus" the 144-character display to that parameter at the slightest touch of your fingers. Also, you have the ability to have Automap automatically popup in your computer's display as a semi-transparent window as you adjust to get an instant overview of assigned parameters. The Speed Dial knob will automatically map to any knob you have in focus in the DAW.

    Other things I enjoy about this controller include the x/y touchpad (works wonders with cutoff/frequency filters!) and the aftertouch, which is quite firm. I like the option of hooking up an expression pedal, although I haven't tried it yet. The second MIDI out port which will come in handy when I buy that rack synth I have my eye on. And even with all the LEDs and display, Novation has kept the controller bus powered. Amazing.

    The feel of the semi-weighted keys is quite spectacular. Even without the gazillion other features the SL has, I would almost pay the same amount of money for just the keys. They feel solid and seem to made out of a tougher plastic than other controllers I've played on. The keys feel like they can take quite a bit of abuse. The construction of the entire controller itself feels solid and substantial.

    The small gripes I have are inconsequential. The endless encoders feel strange, like it takes more or less rotation than necessary to change values. The LED rings around the encoders are a bit useless (although really cool looking). They don't convey the actual value in sort of meaningful way. Plus, from a seated position, the top LEDs in the ring are hidden behind the knob - so you do have to lean over the keyboard to see them. It doesn't matter anyway, since the actual value is in the display above it. The display itself is rather small for my liking. The way it truncates the parameter names takes getting used to - I find myself using the Automap heads up display instead.

    All in all, this is a wonderful controller. I'm glad I bought it.

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