Just how "sensitive" is "sensitive"?

Hi everybody.

I’ve been trying some devices lately to start with fingerdrumming. I’ve read a lot about devices and pad sensitivity. In the end al the reading has been useless.

  • Launchpad X is said to have generally good pad sensitivity with some variation depending on the unit.
  • MPD218 is said to have good or bad sensitivity also depending on the unit.

The problem I’m seeing here is… how much sensitivity is “sensitive”?
Right now it’s measured subjectively like “I feel they’re just a bit more than” or “not as good as”. It is impossible to know if the unit you received is on the good side, the bad, the perfect, the awful… unless you have a lot of experience yourself – wich I don’t have, so maybe I have my expectatives too high, or too low, or… I see videos of people playing like they were caressing the pads, and I don’t know if their pads are just that sensitive or their fingers are so strong that they seem to play without hitting the pads as hard as I need to.

It would be desirable to find a measurable way to express it so I can find out if my Launchpad is trash, just a bit less sensitive but not so much as to deviate a lot from the good units or “hey, I got a good one”. This is my problem I’m facing right now.

I’ll refer just to the devices I mentioned above.

  • MPD218 was all over the place. I tried two units. Both of them were not what I was expecting when I read it was quite a good device. I located just one pad that had what I would call sensitive. The rest ranged from somewhat close to the good one to a pad designed for Fingerdrummer Hulk.

  • After that now I’m triying with a Launchpad X, spending more than I should really afford… and results are also not what I expected. Launchpad X has less variation between pads, though a row is notably harder than the rest and a couple of pads are a bit more sensitive than the others. But… I find they are less sensitive generally speaking than the good pads on the MPD218.

And all of this is subjective. Unless I have one of you try the unit I have I will never know if this is what a good Launchpad feels like but I just have to get used to it, or I have a bad unit and I should send it back.

I’ve been thinking about how a user without proper tools could find out numerical data that can be compared but I don’t know how much this approach could be trusted to compare data against. If this were at least a ballpark aproximation, well, then it woul not be really exact but it would give you some idea about what your results mean.

So… what does everybody have at hand? Something with mass. From mass you find weight, which is just gravitational force, and with force and area you can calculate pressure. The problem I can’t solve is how to measure all of this accurately enough.

Weight is trivial, surface is quite easy, but finding the vertical componet of the weight force is not. Or, in other words, depending on how you center the object on the pad, vertical force and point of pressure will vary and therefore we can measure different pressure using the same weight just depending on how we placed that object.

I don’t know how accurate could we get with a method like this. Therefore I don’t really know if these variations would be within an acceptable deviation percentage so we can at least have an approximate range to compare

E.g, I placed coins on an MPD218 pad. I needed 23 coins, 192 grams of weight, to activate the pad – placing 23 coins accurately is not that easy – so measuring coin area I could find pressure in Pascals. But maybe finding how much weight is needed could be close enough? I don’t know.

So… I’m posting this to put this idea out and see if better minds than mine can evaulate the idea and see if it can be a feasible way to compare our devices’ sensibilities – or find a better solution, of course.

PS: In the meantime… really, subjectively, how sensitive is a good Launchpad X? Caress, touch, tap, hit, firmly hit, smash, jump on it? :thinking: :sweat_smile:

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I do have a pretty similar issue. I just bought a Launchpad Pro MK3 but I do get double triggers when I play soft. And no matter how I set the aftertouch it always directly chokes. So I disabled it for now.

Not sure if it is a pandemic QC issue, I just got a lemon or it is working as intended… I am not experienced enough to evaluate that. It just frustrates me.

And in the end, I will need two devices side by side. I was initially thinking about the Launchpad X as it is smaller but that got mixed feedback for consistency over devices so I went with the Pro.

I want to use the controller not only for finger drumming but also to control other instruments and while a Linnnstruments seems awesome for that, it is so expensive and not great for percussive instruments. Plus I am still trying to explain to my wife that I “need” a “USB MIDI Breath and Bite Controller 2” to control virtual flutes etc. :wink:

It would be great if there would be a place to buy QCed devices or if the new MPE devices would be better for our needs.

I’ve completed a test using a highly questionable methodology.
Results, therefore, are to be taken for what they are – a guesstimate that tries to measure what so far have been expressed as “feelings”.

Next image shows the hi-tech and very expensive tools used.

That’s right. Coins, a 2x2cm square of Polyethylene foam and a very accurate chinese scale.
(No, really, the scale at least is quite good)

So I used double sided tape to fix the foam to a coin, centering it as best as possible. Then, I place the foam+coin on a pad and pile coin over coin upon coin until the pad activates.
I have coins weighting around 15 grams and some other items weighting less, trying to be as accurate as I can. Once the pad activates, I lift it carefully and put it down slowly… and only then I count it as “activation”, because I’ve observed that when I put a new coin for the first time, the pad tends to activate with less weight (gravity acts while dropping the coin) and it remains activated even removing a coin sometimes.

As you see, a very elaborate way of doing a probably useless measurement.

The thing is… results really reflect what I feel.
On the very sensitive pads, 15 grams of weight difference approx. really show what I feel – one pad needs slightly more force than the other one.
On less sensitive pads is harder to notice that small difference. I’d say I feel a pad needs more force to activate only on pads that are around 30-40 grams apart.
On the less sensitive pads it is really difficult to notice differences between them.

I’ve created a map and a color scale to visually represent the results I’ve got from my Launchpad X unit… and it really shows what I feel when using it for playing drums (or even more noticeable, strings or piano).


Where extremes of the color ranges are closer is difficult to notice differences in pad sensitivity from one pad to another, but I had to quantify it somehow. I could have used maybe just 4 or 3 levels.

I’ve tried a different unit I bought before this one and that unit is less sentive overall but seems to have less difference from highest to lowest sensitivity pads. It also follow this pattern – the upper buttons need clearly more pressure, and there are some pads with very different sensitivity side-by-side, so that makes it VERY noticeable.

As it seems having a full Launchpad with very sensitive pads, I guess the best we can hope for is having a Launchpad with pads with similar sensitivity be it high or low.

And here we are. Trying to decide what to send back, what to keep, and how many Launchpads do I need to try before I find The One.

Launchpad X - Unit A

Launchpad X - Unit B

And now an AKAI MPD218 I’ve just tested.

Very present double-triggering. Bigger pads allow for different activation pressure within the same pad. My measurements are for the center of the pad. Borders need generally less pressure.

I find easier to control pressure levels on the bigger pads but I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it because I can achieve same control on the Launchpad X (on most “soft” pads, not the “hard” ones".)

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Launchpad X - Unit C