Ableton Live is far and away the most popular DAW when it comes to controllerism—the process of performing using connected MIDI controllers. Its clip-based design and tempo syncing abilities have always attracted those wanting to create and mash up music on the fly. And while the app supports many hardware controllers, actually syncing them up has always been problematic. Some work in banks of eight tracks, some one at once and so forth. Actually using more than one, when Live gives only limited visual feedback about what each one is pointing at, can quickly descend into confusion.
That’s where LaunchSync Series 2 comes in. It’s a collection of three Max For Live devices that can be dropped into a project to synchronize and customize the behaviors of multiple controllers including Ableton’s Push, AKAI’s MIDI MIX, the BCR2000 and others. The way they essentially work is by supplementing the capabilities of Live itself, providing a way to link them up so that movements on your master controller can make other devices follow the same movements. It’s all about mapping: MIDI controllers are known quantities with specific sets of controls. If you can remap and reprogram them, you can make them do almost anything you want.
LaunchSync Pro XL is the most comprehensive of the three modules and lets you sync together up to six control surfaces, aligning their ring focus boxes as you wish, also featuring bi-directional communication between the master and slave devices. There’s a grid of 24 encoders that can be mapped to dynamically follow your ring box that shows which controls in a set are currently selected. LaunchSync Exclude allows you to launch scenes but exclude specific tracks and again has 24 editable encoders. OktoLooper lets you control the loop brace for playing clips across eight tracks and has a floating window for better feedback at a glance. It too is synced to the master controller, and there’s the ability to specify where each hardware unit is relative to the master: left or right, below, or mirrored, to more understandably map controls.
Being able to control more than one ring focus box (the colored squares in Live) apparently means working with Ableton to enable this but luckily these apps were developed in association with Novation who are pretty closely linked with the German developer, and so the integration is very good. There’s a great deal of tweakability in terms of exactly how you set your system up so whether you’re using it to sync your faders with your grid, expand the grid or just move all your grid controllers around at the same time, it’s a clever way to achieve it. You’ll need to be familiar with your hardware to properly follow what’s going on, but then this is quite a specialized add-on, and not something a casual user would buy just to see what it does. Invest a little time in setting it up, familiarize yourself with it and you’ll find it a great way to use more than one of the supported controllers with Live.
Pros: Clever solution to a genuine problem. Very customizable. Get maximum usage of the hardware you own. Inexpensive.
Cons: Needs Max for Live, which is paid if you don’t have the full Live Suite. Moderately technical to get to grips with if you’re a beginner.