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Novation Imulse? Keyboard Controllers
Old 25th November 2011
Here for the gear

Does anyone have any experience with the Impulse and MPK49? If so, can you please compare the two? I am in the market to for a MIDI controller and I am torn between the two.
Old 26th November 2011
Here for the gear

I just went to GC and checked out the Impulse, and I must say that it feels cheap compared to the Novation and MPK.
Old 26th November 2011
Lives for gear
relis's Avatar

Garbage compared to MPK49. Sorry Novation. I love SN2 thoughheh
Old 28th June 2013
Here for the gear

Originally Posted by chrisp2u View Post
Well, my Impulse 61 just showed up. First, let me provide a bit of background leading up to my Impulse buy and the basis of my comparison so far. And for the record, while my experience with controllers is somewhat limited (messing around at local music stores here and there for a few minutes), I have played/owned a few keyboard/synth/workstations over the years. Also, I do not claim to be an accomplished pianist/keyboard player... mostly just a hack that uses such things as needed. However, I am very particular about how things "feel" in use.

A couple months ago, I got the itch pick up a USB keyboard controller to use for writing/composition/recording (something easier to hook up than my old Yamaha workstation, with the added DAW control capabilities that the newer controllers offer). Originally, I planned to get a small 37-key synth to double for live/recording use. Wasn't too impressed with the options available in that realm and decided to go with a controller and use VI's if I need to.

After researching forums, reviews and any info I could find online, I had narrowed it down to a few controller options (Novation, Akai, m-audio) in the price range I was comfortable with (under $400USD). As most reading this probably know, all of the available options seem to have their pluses and minuses as far as features/build/quality. My primary concern was the keybed/action. After reading of so many people raving about the action of the Novation SLmkII series, I decided that was the way to go and picked up a 49-key version. A week later, it was in my hands.

The SLmkII

Overall, after a couple weeks using it, my experience with that controller are mixed, but mostly negative and I can't believe it gets as many accolades as it does. Gripes...
  1. Controls too close/cluttered.
  2. The "touch controls" while a slick novelty at first, quickly became annoying because I'd accidentally touch things I wasn't intending to (see previous gripe). Maybe I'm just clumsy... I don't have particularly big hands.
  3. I couldn't get the X-Y pad to work with anything, so can't really comment on that.
  4. Not a fan of the joystick for the bend/mod, though it seemed to work well. Kudos to Novation for having the option to turn off the spring action on it.
  5. The build was decent, though not sure about durability.
  6. The pads were completely awful. After messing around with settings for a while, I was able to almost get them to a usable state, but still near useless.
  7. The keybed. Seriously, I don't know what people were playing before they had one of these that puts this unit toward the top of its' class for this. It leads me to believe that most of the other options ot there must be just completely awful. My 12-year-old Yamaha synth is way smoother, quieter and feels better. The SLmkII keys felt extremely plastic (in a not very durable kind of way), were wobbly, felt spongy, and were fairly noisy. Not in the least impressed considering the hype which I based my purchase upon (I know... my bad for not trying before I bought).
The things I liked:
  1. Power switch.
  2. Automap. I see a ton of people complain about this software, but it worked pretty much flawless for me on a Mac using Protools 9. Didn't have a chance to use any other DAW with it, but I had no problems controlling dozens of different plugins/VI's in PT.
  3. The LCD screen above the controls that labeled them depending on which mode/scene you were in.

Now, since this is a Impulse thread, time to get to that. It turns out, my SL had an issue with one of the keys. It actually made a "spring-sounding" noise when pressed/depressed. I ignored it at first because it didn't seem to affect the functionality, but later discovered that it would cause notes to stick. So, back it went to the dealer (and I was not all that sad to see it go... actually more relieved).

Looking around upon the return, I saw that Novation had just released the Impulse series. It seemed to have more of the functionality/features that I wanted... and also seemed to address of the issues I had with the SL. So, I decided to take a chance on it. Extra bonus, I was able to upgrade to the 61-key Impulse for what I had paid for the 49-key SL. Admittedly, this was sending up a bit of a Red flag for me, but I decided to take the chance anyway.

After a wait of a couple weeks for the 61 to finally ship, I'm happy to say that my first impression of the Impulse is much better than that of the SL. It's still early in the affair (I have yet to load up the new Automap and really put the board through its paces) but overall, it looks and feels pretty nice.

The Impulse

Some quick 1st impression thoughts on the plus side:
  1. It feels pretty solid/well-built. Moreso that then SL, IMO. Looks and feels more rugged to me.
  2. IMHO, the keybed feels much better than the SL series in pretty much every way. The tactile feel of the keys (the flat keys are almost a matte kind of finish rather than the typical glossy plastic), the tension (less spongy), and the solidity of the keyboard is much improved to me. It's also quieter when you play the keys. I have no idea if this is still a Fatar keybed... they don't seem to hype it as in the SL version, so I would assume not... and that's not a bad thing, FME.
  3. Pitch and mod wheels, though a bit small, feel smooth nice/solid with good action/resistance.
  4. Control spacing is much nicer and more comfortable/spread out than the SL.
  5. Addition of another (9th) fader for master fader or Hammond drawbar use.
  6. Dedicated transport buttons.
  7. The pads are a enormous step up. They feel like quality pads now. I have yet to really gauge how they perform. That report to come.
  8. Dedicated transport controls.
  9. All buttons feel pretty nice with a kind of rubbery feel about them.

On the questionable/wait and see/negative side:
  1. The faders feel a bit "gritty" for lack of a better word. Not as smooth as most would probably prefer faders to be. Maybe they'll break in a bit over time and this will be a non-issue.
  2. The knobs (with the exception of the detented "data" knob) feel really loose. Not in a "they're going to fall off" kind of way... they seem solid... just turn *extremely* easily, with absolutely no resistance whatsoever. I think a stiff wind might be able to turn them . I typically prefer a bit of resistance there. That's my preference though, some may like them as is.
  3. No power switch. Not a huge deal, I guess. I just like power switches on electronics.

Overall, I'm very happy so far... especially after the disappointment with test driving the SL for a couple weeks previously. I wasn't sure what to expect with the Impulse, but I think it will be a good addition to my little home studio. I realize that many of these things are subjective, so YMMV. I think it's a pretty good value... and while not really ground breaking in any way (as far as the hardware end), an improvement over many other options out there in its class.

I have to admit, the integration/functionality of the pads almost has me GAS'ing to update my semi-ancient (v5) Ableton Live software.

I'll report back with more thoughts after spending some time with it in use.

I ask for some information ( although with a significant delay on the topic ). I should buy a 61-masterkeyboard. I did not need the weighed or semi-weighed key. I would prefer a synth-action keyboard. In any case, after a long search on internet I found your post which is the only one where there is someone talking about a 12 year old Yamaha. I have an old DX7II that I played for a long time and now use it as masterkeboard for some vst (even with all its limitations). I use the Yamaha because of its mechanical keyboard is light and fast and I can play it with ease even fast parts. I have not found, in the current 61-masterkeyboards, a keyboard with a similar mechanics. I found them all hard, spongy, sometimes not playable because of their hardness. I have seen that you have mentioned an old Yamaha and you also have a Novation Impulse and a Novation Remote SL MKII. Could you tell me which of the two is closer to the mechanics of your Yamaha (and perhaps of my DX7II) ?
Thank you
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