Hardware groovebox?

Thought I'd ask here, since I'm stuck. I've been looking at using hardware instead of computers / iPads, since I already spend too much time in front of a screen and I'm easily distracted by other apps.

It has to be 1 box, ideally battery powered which I can take and just start making music with. I like to create electronic beats, so I need something that can generate drum and synth sounds, maybe also with the option of PCM. Good effects and a song mode should be likewise in the package. So far, the electribe 2 seems to check all the boxes.

Here comes the problem: I want to be able to jam, but also see the notes, make corrections, etc and I can't find anything that offers this. Electribe 2 + the OP1 pattern sequencer would be awesome, but this product doesn't exist or I can't find it.

I've looked at the MPC Live (very nice, but no synth), Elektron Analog 4 (no visual sequencer), Workstations from Roland or Yamaha (sound generation and sequencer seem really cumbersome), the Novation Circuit (unlabeled "universal" knobs, no screen at all), Electribe 2 (no visual sequencer).
The E2 seems to be very nice, but I'm not sure I would be comfortable using the pad lights for sequencing.

P.S: if you're wondering why not iPad - because I always end up reading a book, or watching tutorials or browsing the web. Yes, I am weak :P

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Comments

  • edited October 10

    Best groovebox I've ever had was a keyboard. Yamaha Moxf (baby motif). Once it clicks you can fly through making complex tracks on it.

    Edit: it integrates phenomenally well with ios too using just a single usb cable for midi and audio.

  • How retro do you want to go? In my opinion the golden age of grooveboxes was a decade ago and the best one I have used/owned is the Korg Electribe ESX-1 (basic synthesis could be done by using single-cycles waveforms).

    Today's grooveboxes are all a bit too vanilla "4x4-pads-with-a-big-LCD" for my taste, although I must confess being intrigued by the Digitakt as an all-in-one concept.

  • If we're talking old school boxes, I'd say rs7000. But it's the exact opposite of portable.

  • i used the e2 for around 3 yrs, mainly on its own. it's a really enjoyable GB. but it does have some limitations, which is why i'm thinking to get a mpc live. can't hack my playing being quantized. if you're not bothered by that, then i'd say give one a whirl. they're pretty cheap second hand. if you like to input notes by numbers, it's definitely not enjoyable for that. i never used the note editor. there's not a load of modulation options but i got some really interesting sounds out of mine. the 2 things i love about it- 1. un/muting with real pads, arranging progressions on the fly. great fun. 2. when in mono mode the sequence notes can be choked, so you could cut into or embellish basslines etc. similar thing with the 4 note poly limit too.

  • yeah, the elektron digi's look pretty sweet. seems digitakt for tweaking, digitone for playing

  • edited October 10

    MPC Live. If you’ve got an iPad you can sample your synths.

    It’s battery powered, comes with 16 gigs storage and 9 gigs of factory sounds with expandable SD memory.

    I think the other groove boxes are to simple, Electribe, or too complicated, Electrons.

    If I wasn’t so invested in IOS I’d be happy with the MPC Live.

    Have you tried Groove Rider? Try it for 30 days as your default app. It is really growing on me now.

  • There is a gap in this niche for sure.

  • edited October 10

    Even tho mpc live doesent have a literal synth engine, you can load single cycle waveforms, have filter, lfo, envelope and tons of effects. So you can do synth on it. For example I found a free program that has all presets of some old juno remade from samples. You can ofc sample anything into single cycle wave and make a synth sound from it. You could also naturally sample ios synths to it and make programs from them. Bluetooth receiver and ableton link also makes it a nice ipad companion. You could for example easily record midi to the mpc from ios sequencers.

    Naturally using mpc live as some pseudosynth wont be as powerful as most synths, but i dont think it should be a dealbreaker, especially since you can at least occasionally hook ipad to it.

  • Or go further up the $$ chain and look at the Elektron Analog Four MK1 (used) or 2 (new).

  • Korg original electribes can be modded to be powered by 9v DC. I regret getting rid of the EM-1, that would be my retro groovebox of choice. Second hand they are asking $200 which is too much, for that I would prefer the Novation Circuit, not as many knobs/control but def the best non-sampling groovebox for me. Im really starting to love the synth on it.

    I have a rs7000 in storage which can do almost everything the modern grooveboxes can do but its a big learning curve and a bit heavy and no battery option but its the last sequencer you will ever need if you have patience.

  • @Richtowns said:
    Korg original electribes can be modded to be powered by 9v DC. I regret getting rid of the EM-1, that would be my retro groovebox of choice. Second hand they are asking $200 which is too much, for that I would prefer the Novation Circuit, not as many knobs/control but def the best non-sampling groovebox for me. Im really starting to love the synth on it.

    I have a rs7000 in storage which can do almost everything the modern grooveboxes can do but its a big learning curve and a bit heavy and no battery option but its the last sequencer you will ever need if you have patience.

    Forgot about Novation Circuit...

  • My vote was going to be for the Circuit as well. Crazy synth power for the price, it's easy to use, and the lack of display and consistant knob assignments really forces you to use your ears and just experiment. Great portable sequencer for other gear too.

    The (newest) Korg Electribes on paper look to be more powerful, especially on the sequencer front. But overall I found them much less enjoyable to use compared to the Circuit.

  • Deluge, don’t have one yet, but I will one day.
    https://synthstrom.com/product/deluge/

  • Oof. Looking at the crazy modulation posibilities of the E2 (or really any other synth) makes me quite reluctant to go for the MPC, even if it offers by far the closest DAW/single bix experience. e.g:

    Re the moxf, I couldn't find any videos of the step sequencer, but tbh I don't have high hopes based on the pictures. There's a video of a Korg Kronoss sequenecer on YT () which looks very powerful and about as fun as Windows 95. :smile: Workstations seem to be a bit of a lost cause, even though I had such high hopes when I first heard about this class of instrument.

    It's amazing, but gadget seems to spank all of the hw grove boxes feature-wise. Too bad it doesn't have knobs and pads... and nanoStudio is not a replacement unfortunately, the quality just isn't there :(

    P.S: Don't want to go retro, just want a song making machine with a passable visual step sequencer.

  • What about a Roland JD- XI. Not exactly a Groovebox- but it does have a four track pattern/ loop sequencer along with analogue synth, drums, synth (with downloadable patches) and a vocoder.

  • After I got the Volca Bass I'm starting to have a super annoying itch to get the Volca Sample but I'll do my very best to resist it...

  • Love my Electribes (EA, ER, EMX). And my MC-303. And the SP-404 and Sampletrak :wink:
    But the most portable (although not really a groovebox), the QY-70

  • If you want a fun sequencer, try an rs7000. Real-time midi effects (that can quickly be "printed" to tracks), awesome arpeggiator, step-sequencing, groove-grids, etc.... It's so old, but nothing has been able to touch it as far as fun, immediacy, and creative inspirato.

  • @raz said:
    Oof. Looking at the crazy modulation posibilities of the E2 (or really any other synth) makes me quite reluctant to go for the MPC, even if it offers by far the closest DAW/single bix experience.

    And the E2 is much smaller!

    It's amazing, but gadget seems to spank all of the hw grove boxes feature-wise. Too bad it doesn't have knobs and pads... and nanoStudio is not a replacement unfortunately, the quality just isn't there :(

    Have you tried the Nanokey Studio hands-on?
    Granted, it's an overpriced piece of plastic, but this plus an iPhone and Gadget might be one of the best portable options, as are KORG's E2 and E2S.
    I must say I've never felt like needing or even trying a hardware controller for GR-16 and Gadget, an older iPad mini is my way of making the grooveboxes portable and that works well for me, including a better battery lifetime :)

  • @senhorlampada said:
    Love my Electribes (EA, ER, EMX). And my MC-303. And the SP-404 and Sampletrak :wink:
    But the most portable (although not really a groovebox), the QY-70

    The QY series are indeed about the fastest tools available for capturing ideas outside the house, but I wouldn't want to go back tbh. They're optimized for getting your tracks recorded with basically a GM set of sounds, but it's the sound tweaking facilities and choice of instruments that make the more recent products and apps so exciting.

  • @rs2000 gotta agree :smile:
    Although I used the QY-70 to sequence some other stuff (including iOS apps), what I want to do now is export some of its (and Roland PMA's) midi to Xequence :wink:

  • edited October 10

    @raz said:
    Thought I'd ask here, since I'm stuck. I've been looking at using hardware instead of computers / iPads, since I already spend too much time in front of a screen and I'm easily distracted by other apps.

    It has to be 1 box, ideally battery powered which I can take and just start making music with. I like to create electronic beats, so I need something that can generate drum and synth sounds, maybe also with the option of PCM. Good effects and a song mode should be likewise in the package. So far, the electribe 2 seems to check all the boxes.

    Here comes the problem: I want to be able to jam, but also see the notes, make corrections, etc and I can't find anything that offers this. Electribe 2 + the OP1 pattern sequencer would be awesome, but this product doesn't exist or I can't find it.

    I've looked at the MPC Live (very nice, but no synth), Elektron Analog 4 (no visual sequencer), Workstations from Roland or Yamaha (sound generation and sequencer seem really cumbersome), the Novation Circuit (unlabeled "universal" knobs, no screen at all), Electribe 2 (no visual sequencer).
    The E2 seems to be very nice, but I'm not sure I would be comfortable using the pad lights for sequencing.

    The Novation Circuit covers most of the features you wanted I’d say. No song mode though, effects are only okay and limited. The unlabeled “universal” knobs aren’t a problem if you make your own sounds/edits then you just use your own standard. There are free and paid packs online that also have standard mappings each preset. The lack of screen is not an issue really.
    The biggest problem with the Circuit is you will need to use a computer to load stuff into it, but I go months with the same sounds loaded. There are only 32 patterns so if you need to save the patterns you’ll need to hook it up to a computer to dump the patterns. The sequencer is also extremely limited as it’s step sequencer only, but you can do odd step sequences and they chain perfectly.

    Check out Synthstrom Deluge. It’s supposed to be some holy grail of grooveboxes, but I don’t know enough about it really.

  • Maybe the new novation keyboard?

  • @Dubbylabby said:
    There is a gap in this niche for sure.

    Circuit then what?

    As far as analog digital type w samples?

    My bday is approaching and I wanted something to compliment Circuit.

    Besides Mono Station..what?

  • Get ya some volcas and build them into a portable box/case of course you'll need something to record your audio into but they are small and battery powered...

    The circuit is good, and not hard to learn, deff an all in one option

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