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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Dec 2018 > NOVATION SL MKIII


Novation has just unleashed the latest in its SL range but, really, it’s like no other controller ever before. Andy Jones discovers total control for any studio setup

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Novation’s new SL MkIII is designed to be the perfect partner for whatever type of studio you use. The company is touting it as the ‘absolute’ hardware controller which can ‘easily integrate hardware with your DAW’, and so it comes with 64 Templates set up in such a way as to control pieces of current and vintage gear. Then there are the extras. The stand out is an 8-track sequencer derived from the one on Circuit (surely one of the easiest bits of hardware to produce music with) but this can be used to sequence all of that external gear together. There’s a fully-featured arpeggiator, a single Clock to rule all of your studio, plus LED feedback on your keys like NI’s Komplete Kontrol. Top DAW integration includes a focus especially on Ableton Live, although there’s also ‘deep integration’ with most others. Finally, you get all the hardware connections you could need for all the MIDI and modular gear you could own. It’s a controller keyboard, yes, but it’s also like some kind of overseeing school master (keyboard), helping connect your parts, looking after them and getting them all working together. But can it really be all things to all producers?


For a keyboard range to last in excess of a decade is rare in music technology but Novation’s SL range has been with us for the best part of 13 years. The new MkIII on test here bears very little resemblance to those early models but could be as revolutionary as the Automap technology that figured so heavily in its ancestors. Now that really was revolutionary; controllers that automatically mapped their actions to whatever software – DAW or plug-ins – you loaded up. It was the first serious almost AI-like interaction between hardware and software. And it’s not in SL MkIII. Instead Novation has designed this keyboard from the ground up so that it’s not being restricted by its past, but focusing on the present and the more hardwareorientated studios of today.

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