The most pronounced and obvious thing about the Novation Impulse is that it feels luxurious, an extremely rare phenomenon within this price range. They have obviously put the time in to make sure that the semi-weighted, ultra-sensitive keyboard not only plays well but feels and looks like a piano keyboard, you'll be left wondering if how they did it. The Impulse feels robust with its chunky sides, but is in fact surprisingly light. The knobs, the buttons, mod and pitch wheel are all solid but tactile with their neoprene-like finish. The low profile faders (nine on the Impulse 49 and 63, one on the Impulse 25) feel firm which bodes well for longevity. It is clear that Novation wanted to develop a versatile controller, that was also very simple to use. This can be seen in the way that the Impulse's screen is always telling you what's going on, or indeed what it expects you to do next. If that wasn't enough, by hitting the HELP button the Impulse asks you to touch a fader, knob or drum pad and it tells you what you can do with it.
Of course, not everyone wants to use it as a DAW controller though. So fortunately, the whole standalone set up is very inviting. A clear screen and template editing, being able to split the keys into (up to four) zones and even preview what assignable knob, pad, button, fader is being assigned to what CC.
I really dig the arpeggio on the Impulse too, it has some unique features with warp and beat roll, which to my mind are enough to make the Impulse a very desirable object. The pads also have a luxurious depth and feel for beats, as well as allowing you to integrate with Live for some clip launching, and feature tri-colour back-lit action, making them stand out for stage use.
Automap 4 is a vast improvement on Automap 3. (which is multiple award winning software in its own right) Automap 4 is much more polite, and just pops up with a little window in the top right of your screen to tell you what’s going on. The new set up wizard is a darn sight easier than reading a pdf too. There’s just step by step instruction on how to set it up with your (supported) DAW: ProTools,Live, Logic, Cubase, Reason/Record and Sonar as well as Studio One, Garageband, Reaper and FL Studio
All in all, I’m very impressed by the Impulse. My only niggle being that the LEARN and SHIFT buttons are the one and the same thing. I really had to concentrate on not messing up and shifting when I wanted to learn and vice versa.
After little time you’ll find yourself integrating with the Impulse and controlling your DAW and other gizmos like second nature. By utilising the Impulse’s unique and nifty features such as the arpeggio warp and beat roll you’ll also find that the Impulse has some off the wall ideas, even if you’re running out of them.
A worthy purchase if you are in the market for a quality, do-it-all MIDI controller keyboard with a little extra besides. In not the lowest priced controller on the market, but in this case, the features justify the price.
Available now (street prices) Impulse 25 £199 / $249.99 Impulse 49 £249.99 / $349.99 Impulse 61 £299.99 / $399.99