Novation Digital Music Systems

Novation Digital Music Systems Ltd. is a British musical equipment manufacturer, founded in 1992 by Ian Jannaway and Mark Thompson as Novation Electronic Music Systems. Today the company specializes in MIDI controllers with and without keyboards, both analog and virtual analog performance synthesizers, grid-based performance controllers, and audio interfaces. At present, Novation products are primarily manufactured in China.

Novation's first commercial product, released in 1992, was the Novation MM10, a portable battery-operated keyboard controller with full-sized keys, designed to operate with the Yamaha QY10 music workstation. It was based on a device called the MidiCon, which was never released and was the first hardware controller the company made. The MM10 combined with the QY10 arguably constituted the first completely portable modern music workstation.

In 1993 the company released the Novation Bass Station (also known as the Bass Station Keyboard), today regarded as a classic synthesiser. Influenced by the Roland TB-303 Bassline, a portable compact synthesiser designed for instrumental accompaniment, Bass Station used digitally controlled analogue oscillators (DCOs), LFO and filter to replicate the sound of a traditional monophonic twin-oscillator analogue synth.

The core technology of Analogue Sound Modelling (ASM) was introduced in 1995 with the Drum Station, which modelled the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines using digitally synthesised models of the original waveforms.

Novation's first technical director was Chris Huggett, who designed the Wasp and OSCar synthesisers and wrote the operating system for the Akai S1000. While working for Akai, he gave Novation's founders advice and support, contributing to the design of the Bass Station and Drum Station - the former featured both the filter and amplifier Huggett had designed for the EDP Wasp - and joining full-time in the mid-1990s to design the Novation Supernova. He has been a consultant to the company ever since and has been involved in the design of many of the company's products.

Supernova, released in 1998, was a 3U rack-mounted polyphonic synthesiser with 16+ note polyphony and multitimbral operation, an important feature being the provision of multiple effects units which could be assigned to each timbre, allowing a much richer sound than had generally been possible with a multitimbral synthesiser. Supernova and its successor, SuperNova II, have been used by a wide range of artists including Orbital, ATB, The Faint, Sin, Jean Michel Jarre and A Guy Called Gerald.

Having produced controllers since the beginning and synthesisers from the early days, the company added USB-based computer audio interfaces and in 2004 produced the X-Station, intended to provide a complete music production environment with the addition of a computer/sequencer, microphone and monitoring. This was followed by MIDI controllers featuring no keyboard at all, but instead offering varying numbers of buttons, pads, control knobs and sliders, all sending MIDI messages. With the introduction of the SL range in 2005, this was complemented by Novation Automap, a software system that automatically detects and maps the controllable parameters of a plug-in or software application and configures the control surface to address them. Automap has continued to be developed to the present day and is available in a number of formats including an iOS app.

In August 2004, Novation was acquired by Focusrite Ltd. and became a subsidiary named Novation Digital Music Systems Ltd.

A keyboardless MIDI controller, the Novation Launchpad, was launched in 2009 with an 8x8 grid of large illuminated buttons that could be used to trigger sounds, loops, effects and other parameters, initially in conjunction with the Ableton Live music performance application. Launchpad was one of the first grid-based performance controllers and this area expanded over the subsequent period to become a significant aspect of the electronic music hardware market. There are currently 3 variations of the product, the Launchpad, Launchpad Pro, and Launchpad Mini. The Launchpad was out of the top two best Novation makings.

The company expanded into DJ controllers initially with the Novation Dicer in 2010, which consisted of two sets of buttons designed to be attached to a turntable or laptop, and then a full-blown DJ controller in 2011 with Novation Twitch, which differed significantly from then available devices of the type in that it used twin touch-strip controllers instead of the more common turntable emulation, providing additional control capabilities. The product has been discontinued since.

All these different areas of synthesis and control have increasingly combined in Novation products to create hybrid instruments and devices such as keyboard controllers with miniature grid launchers and on board synth and vocoder capability, for example the Ultranova (2011) and Mininova (2012).

Novation synthesisers have been used by a range of electronic acts including drum and bass/Rock group Pendulum, French composer Jean Michel Jarre, Steve Hillier of Dubstar and British group Orbital.

In the track "Triumph" by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, Novation is referenced by Wu-Tang member RZA.