My year of grooveboxes and "toy" synths

Want to talk about music hardware or software that doesn't include Reason?
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jayhosking
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Post 02 Dec 2018

Hello! This is the year I really got into hardware, and I thought it'd be a good excuse to put together a list of small machines that can really inspire the songwriting/soundmaking process, including in Reason. I was hoping maybe others could point out other interesting, cool little units that may be similarly inspiring. So without further ado:

Novation Circuit: A spectacular little groovebox, probably the best value and most intuitive of all the ones I'll list here. Two polyphonic synths and four drum tracks (which can have multiple sounds each, just not at the same time), with excellent effects and sequencing capabilities. Every firmware update has vastly improved the machine, and it's hard to describe just how well thought-out each aspect is, how much fun these are to play with. Switching between the dedicated synth, drum, effects, sequencing, mixing, etc. pages is quick and perfectly laid out. Lots of stereo width options, from within the synth (e.g. chorus), to the reverb and delay effects (surprisingly great), to mixing in the stereo field. Having a master filter is fantastic for builds and progressions. The biggest drawbacks are that a) it's so much fun you wish it had twice the number of tracks and units, and b) the accompanying software is no fun to use.

Teenage Engineering's Pocket Operators: If you had told me I'd have a $100 sampler I could carry around my neck and power with AAA batteries, I wouldn't have believed you. But the PO-33 is simply stellar. Its limitations, like a four-sample polyphony (if that's even the right term), mean it can't really be used a standalone machine, but it is the ultimate little inspiration device. I was climbing the stairs in a very reverberating stairwell, pulled out the PO-33, sampled me whistling in it, and five minutes later I had a song and beat to go along with it. The real special feature on these Pocket Operators are their performance effects, and how they can take a two-bar phrase and make endless variations out of it by stuttering, filtering, detuning, etc. After that I picked up the PO-32, which is fine, but shines for its performance effects, and a PO-20, which has this brilliant chord-progression feature that allows you to take short phrases and turn them into full songs. Altogether, the PO-33 is a must-have for me, and the others are just some fun toys to tinker with. And all three are cheaper than even a Circuit!

Elektron Digitakt: Not for me! It's a sampler and sequencer with some neat effects parameters, but I found the workflow to be very slow and fiddly, sampling and file management wasn't super simple (compared to the PO-33 above), there were troubles with chaining together patterns into longer songs, and all of the samples were mono. Still, as a sequencer for other hardware, plus for its effects and its "return to basic state after cranking everything crazily", there were some neat features to it. I sold this one after a couple of weeks.

Teenage Engineering's OP-1: If you're looking for a device that makes you write things you'd never write otherwise, the OP-1 is it. With nine (!) different synth engines, drum machine, sampler, and weird onboard effects, you can make standard subtractive or FM synthesis, but a standard approach leads to weird, playful sounds instead. In lieu of MIDI sequencing, it has a four-track "tape" recorder, with easy cutting and pasting functionality, which means that it's much less about sequenced data and much more about playing your tracks. There are some severe limitations to the device, including having only four tracks to work with, and all the tracks/sounds are mono (though you can stereo pan them), and some of your bread & butter effects aren't well represented (e.g. reverb). It's also very expensive. But for all its shortcomings, it makes fantastic and weird sounds that aren't easily reproducible anywhere else, whether you're slowing down the "tape" to get a beautiful Boards of Canada feel, or cranking up the Cow effect (a sort of flanger/phaser/delay thing) and watching the cow light up, or simply generating ambience by tweaking one of its arpeggiators to an extremely fast rate. Plus, when it's time to export these sounds, you can plug the OP-1 into a computer and it is recognized as a hard drive, so you simply drag the "tape" tracks off. Putting new patches and samples onto the OP-1 is similarly easy. All in all, a one-of-a-kind music maker that quickly allows you to bring inspiring ideas into Reason.

Maschine MkIII: Not strictly a groovebox, but rather an interface for using sounds on computer software. As such, it's much less portable than the others and requires a tether to a laptop at all times. But it's amazing how well the Maschine MkIII captures the groovebox experience, while also greatly expanding modularity (e.g. stacking effects on effects), sound library (the Native Instruments sets, plus many compatible VSTs I already own and love), and editing features (quantizing, moving MIDI data around). The main reason I bring it up is for a feature that most people, including dorks on YouTube, fail to mention when talking about Maschine: 100% of your workflow can be on the hardware device itself, never requiring you to look at your computer. The main reason I got into hardware and grooveboxes this year was because I was sick of staring at my computer for fun (after a day of staring at my computer for work), so the Maschine is a great way to get the benefit of the "box" without looking at said box. The only time I need look at my laptop is when naming files and when changing out of 4/4 time signature; everything else is handled wonderfully by a piece of hardware that feels sturdy and looks like a great hardware machine. If you don't need the portability, the Maschine MkIII is arguably the most powerful choice.

Synthstrom Deluge: Often referred to as "the Novation Circuit on steroids", this boutique groovebox from New Zealand is pricey but powerful. The expanded grid (8x16), plus zooming in/out, make sequencing super easy. Unlike the Circuit, where you only have access to eight parameters on the hardware, the Deluge gives you access to all elements of the oscillator, filter, envelope, effects, etc. And the most important selling feature of all: it has unlimited tracks, well, until you sufficiently tax the little CPU in it. This means that it could potentially circumvent all the frustration of working on a Circuit, having multiple synth and drum lines all in one box. But ultimately I haven't been super happy with the Deluge. Its build quality feels cheaper than the rest here, its default synths and drums are very bland, and there are a number of choices that only hinder the experience (like mono mod effects, or no way to effect your entire drum track at once, or dull reverb algorithms). Most importantly, its workflow is far less intuitive than the Circuit, which means I spend more time looking at the manual to pull up commands, or navigating around within its menus, instead of making music. I thought this would be the best of all of them, an über-Circuit, but ultimately I think I'm going to sell it, since I don't love the sounds or the workflow. And instead, I'm going to pick up another Circuit.

Teenage Engineering's OP-Z: Not much to say here, as this one is in shipping, but it seems to have some of my favourite elements from TE's Pocket Operator series (e.g. the performance effects), plus some stereo sounds and effects, plus its own distinct sound/vibe going on. I'm hopeful.

Ultimately, my favourite part of tinkering around with all these little devices is how they become the starting point for songs I finish in Reason. I'll be posting some on the forum once my semester is over and I can mix some tracks.

How about you? Any secret hardware grooveboxes or synths or music-makers that you find super inspiring or useful in later producing music in the box? I'm curious about the Critter and Guitari Organelle, or the reissued classic drum machines, or even some of Arturia's hardware with sequencers. Anything you're in love with right now?

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aeox
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Post 02 Dec 2018

I've been planning to buy a "flagship" synth in the future when I've got the money. Deepmind 12 has had my attention for a while but would probably do fine with the 6 voice variant.

I'm still having a lot of fun using stompboxes on Reason synths! They are fairly cheap too. It's no secret or anything, people do it all the time :) I just find it very inspiring to run digital stuff through analog boxes. Even just running something out of the interface back into the interface preamp can be useful for some things, then you can distort the preamp of your interface as well. Lots of fun!

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jayhosking
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Post 02 Dec 2018

aeox wrote:
02 Dec 2018
I've been planning to buy a "flagship" synth in the future when I've got the money. Deepmind 12 has had my attention for a while but would probably do fine with the 6 voice variant.

I'm still having a lot of fun using stompboxes on Reason synths! They are fairly cheap too. It's no secret or anything, people do it all the time :) I just find it very inspiring to run digital stuff through analog boxes. Even just running something out of the interface back into the interface preamp can be useful for some things, then you can distort the preamp of your interface as well. Lots of fun!
It was a good year for musical equipment for me, and getting a "flagship" synth has been super inspiring. Honestly, though, it's as much for the tactile set-up as it is for the actual sounds. Makes me consider getting Omnisphere if only so that I keep the tactile interactions but get the bonus of overcoming specific limitations of each synth (e.g. polyphony).

And, embarrassingly, I've never been able to quickly figure out how to route audio out of Reason, into an external effect, and back into Reason. I'm sure it's not so hard, and I've done it aplenty in other DAWs, but something about the Reason set-up isn't intuitive for me. It's something I'd like to amend this month, since I have a couple of effect pedals I'd love to take advantage of in the Reason environment. Time to read the manual, or find a video on it.

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aeox
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Post 02 Dec 2018

jayhosking wrote:
02 Dec 2018
aeox wrote:
02 Dec 2018
I've been planning to buy a "flagship" synth in the future when I've got the money. Deepmind 12 has had my attention for a while but would probably do fine with the 6 voice variant.

I'm still having a lot of fun using stompboxes on Reason synths! They are fairly cheap too. It's no secret or anything, people do it all the time :) I just find it very inspiring to run digital stuff through analog boxes. Even just running something out of the interface back into the interface preamp can be useful for some things, then you can distort the preamp of your interface as well. Lots of fun!
It was a good year for musical equipment for me, and getting a "flagship" synth has been super inspiring. Honestly, though, it's as much for the tactile set-up as it is for the actual sounds. Makes me consider getting Omnisphere if only so that I keep the tactile interactions but get the bonus of overcoming specific limitations of each synth (e.g. polyphony).

And, embarrassingly, I've never been able to quickly figure out how to route audio out of Reason, into an external effect, and back into Reason. I'm sure it's not so hard, and I've done it aplenty in other DAWs, but something about the Reason set-up isn't intuitive for me. It's something I'd like to amend this month, since I have a couple of effect pedals I'd love to take advantage of in the Reason environment. Time to read the manual, or find a video on it.
Tactility is important for sure! Makes music creation more fun and human. I don't have any hardware synths or grooveboxes of that nature but I do have a midi controller with 16 knobs/8 pads that is really great for recording automation on filters, etc.

This is how I do external effects:

Make sure to activate the outputs and inputs if they aren't activated already. Then I use an entire mix channel just for the external effect and route the mix channel to a second channel. This way you can use delay compensation pretty easily.

Image

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jayhosking
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Post 04 Dec 2018

aeox wrote:
02 Dec 2018
This is how I do external effects:

Make sure to activate the outputs and inputs if they aren't activated already. Then I use an entire mix channel just for the external effect and route the mix channel to a second channel. This way you can use delay compensation pretty easily.

Image
This is WAY easier than I was trying to make it. Thanks! I'll try it this month. (I'll also finally be recording vocals on that song we discussed!)

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aeox
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Post 04 Dec 2018

jayhosking wrote:
04 Dec 2018
This is WAY easier than I was trying to make it. Thanks! I'll try it this month. (I'll also finally be recording vocals on that song we discussed!)
Glad to hear that!

prophecy
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Post 07 Dec 2018

Well now I want to buy loads of things! I'm really tempted by a Pocket Operator and the OP-1, maybe there'll be a January sale.

EDIT - Just seen the OP-1 is almost £800! That's not happening.
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jayhosking
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Post 07 Dec 2018

prophecy wrote:
07 Dec 2018
Well now I want to buy loads of things! I'm really tempted by a Pocket Operator and the OP-1, maybe there'll be a January sale.

EDIT - Just seen the OP-1 is almost £800! That's not happening.
Hah, AND the OP-1 just got discontinued, so it probably won’t even be around for you to buy!

But I would really, really recommend the PO-33. That thing just makes inspiration fast and accessible. You can take a two-bar beat and sample and make endless permutations of it. And for under a hundred bucks! Pretty incredible.

prophecy
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Post 07 Dec 2018

jayhosking wrote:
07 Dec 2018
Hah, AND the OP-1 just got discontinued, so it probably won’t even be around for you to buy!
What luck!
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jayhosking
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Post 27 Dec 2018

Update:

Teenage engineering's OP-Z: Just superb. So many intelligent features built into it that I don't know where to begin. You get four "drum" sounds (I say that loosely, because at least one has chromatic samples that are great for playing as notes) and four synth sounds (which are designed around bass, melody, arpeggiator, and chords). The drums are a marked improvement from the OP-1's stock sounds, but still very much their own flavour (vs. stock 808 or 909 sounds, etc.). The sequencer is fantastic, with the ability to change step resolution (steps at 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16, and many fractions in between), steps length (1-16, for polymeter greatness), string patterns together in complex ways, and so much more. The OP-Z has built-in stereo reverb and the ability to pan tracks by LFO, so there's lots of stereo imagery in the sounds, a marked improvement from the OP-1. The chord-progression feature, a smart advancement of the function in the Pocket Operator 20 (Arcade), identifies (or creatively misidentifies!) the key of the music you're making and can intelligently transpose the song to any chord within the key; it's hard to make clear how brilliant and exciting this is. And the performance effects can be played, sequenced, and separated by track, or by section (drums vs. synths), and they're mostly all really excellent. Notable drawbacks are the single, lacklustre reverb sound, the non-stereo delay, and limited number of effects. Potentially a drawback, but for me a feature, is that it has a characteristic sound unlike other synthesizers (similar to the way the OP-1 does), which means you're not going to do straight subtractive synthesis with this thing. Overall, you could probably play a whole set using this device along, and it sounds great enough to record to tape. Teenage Engineering has done a really stellar job.

Synthstrom Audible's Deluge: Before I was pretty harsh on the thing, and while my opinion still holds, I've recently wired up all my gear and I'm finding great value in it as a MIDI controller and sequencer for some of my other hardware synths. The fact that it can output 16 channels of MIDI to other instruments is a real feature (compare it to the Novation Circuit's 2 synth and 1 drum MIDI out). So I may not sell it after all.

OverneathTheSkyBridg
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Post 09 Jan 2019

Your assessment of the Digitakt was blasphemous! Lol jk, here's my sampler journey that has ended so far with the Digitakt.

Started out with a Volca Sample, which I still have. Love the lo-fi sound of that little thing, and it's quick to get basic beats together on it. Didn't take long before I wanted more in that department so I thought I'd spring for the MPC1000. I enjoyed it for the most part, but the workflow felt pretty dated and I got a lot more done in Reason, so I sold it.

After that I went for the Korg Electribe 2 Sampler. It's a shame that Korg abandoned this cool little box cause it really could've been something great had they given it the attention that Novation gave their Circuit. I still miss the portability of it, but the numeric sample editing, filesystem and voice stealing was irritating.

So I sold it and now have a Digitakt. Doesn't sound like OP gave it much of a chance. I agree that the mono sampling is a bit of a drawback, but the sequencer on that thing is amazing. It can very much be used as a standalone box capable of creating full songs. It has a bunch of single cycle oscillators that when looped can function as a pretty versatile mono synth (per track).

Thought I'd talk about how I use it in tandem with Reason here with the USB MIDI connection. First off, I create an EMI to send note data from my MIDI controller as needed to the active track on the Digitakt. The Digitakt is set up to both receive sync from Reason and send it, depending on what I want.

The Digitakt has 8 MIDI tracks with up to 4 note MIDI polyphony, which I separate to MIDI channels 1-8 over USB into Reason's Advanced MIDI section. Now I can create a couple of Reason instruments and control them from the Digitakt. Make note of the MIDI implementation values for the instruments and use the CC parameters from each MIDI tracks available 8 knobs and you can get some pretty kickass jams going.

Once you've banged a bunch of patterns together you can designate the Reason instruments mix channels as recording sources, make corresponding audio tracks as well as an audio track for the Digitakt and record everything in real time.

To get around it's song mode limitations you can actually send program changes which select which patterns to play and setup the automation from the EMI.

Anyways that's it for my insights!

Sent from my SM-G955W using Tapatalk


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Emian
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Post 09 Jan 2019

i'm looking a lot at the Behringer Neutron lately, will probably be my next buy...


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jayhosking
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Post 10 Jan 2019

OverneathTheSkyBridg wrote:
09 Jan 2019
Your assessment of the Digitakt was blasphemous! Lol jk, here's my sampler journey that has ended so far with the Digitakt.
Hey thanks for contributing to this! I did give the Digitakt a pretty fair shake, but it turns out that that's not my workflow style. I recently picked up a Roland TR-8S and I found it did much of what the Digitakt does, but in a different way (it certainly can't do all that sequencing you mentioned, though!). Here's something I wrote somewhere else about it (and an update in the constant pursuit of perfect performance tools!):

I've had both the Digitakt and the TR-8S.

I sold the Digitakt but still have the TR-8S. The Digitakt sounded good, the build quality was superb, but the workflow was really slow for me, the samples/sampling were only mono, the file navigation was pretty awful, the stock sounds were so-so, and I spent more time fussing with sound than I did actually making music.

The TR-8S, on the other hand, has phenomenal sound out of the box, a fantastic set of kits that are mostly ready to go, both synth engines and (stereo) samples, a much wider ability to effect the sound (e.g. way more effects), a digital audio interface that creates separate tracks when you're laying music down to tape, multiple output options, easy ability to lay down flams and trills and such, easy to insert fills and semi-random performance options, and in general a much much more immediate and fast workflow. Downsides to the TR-8S include a cheaper build quality than the Digitakt (the TR-8S's step buttons feel awful), still more menu-diving than I'd like (honestly, I shouldn't have to dig in a menu to pan a sound), and still a slower workflow than something like the Circuit.

Honestly, with a set of samples you love, the Circuit is the fastest of the bunch, but also the shallowest. I love my Circuit and still reach for it when I want to make a beat quickly. But I think the TR-8S is hard to beat for a dedicated drum machine. But then, everybody else here is saying Digitakt, so don't necessarily listen to me.


The sequencing features really stand out for the Digitakt, granted, but for sequencing I'm currently finding the Synthstrom Audible Deluge is fitting all my needs. Plus, the Deluge has a grid-based sequencer where you can set the number of steps as short or as long as you'd like: you can make phrases many, many bars long, or in any time signature configuration, or easily with polymetric arrangements, and so on. By comparison, I never connected with tabbing through the Digitakt's or TR-8S's steps 1-16, 17-32, etc., and I appreciate being able to see the steps for all instruments on a track at the same time. (Same reason I never connected with Redrum as much as just using the sequencer!)

Thanks so much for letting me know about using Digitakt with Reason. I love the idea of sequencing out to Reason's instruments. I'd love to hear some of the end product!

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jayhosking
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Post 10 Jan 2019

Emian wrote:
09 Jan 2019
i'm looking a lot at the Behringer Neutron lately, will probably be my next buy...
Oh man, I could write a whole other thread about synthesizers... I haven't picked up a Neutron (I can't get over its faceplate, though I'm seeing some awesome faceplate cover replacements these days) but it sounds pretty great and has a lot of smart modern sensibilities.

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Data_Shrine
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Post 11 Jan 2019

I just wanted to add that my groovebox of choice is the Electribe 2. It got a lot of bad press. But I made an album with it. And i'm very satisfied (it's not out yet). It's a great machine, sounds great, workflow ain't bad once you get the hang of it (there are many shortcuts). Plus it's price is pretty low compared to other modern grooveboxes.

I'd like to get a Digitak one day.

The only hardware sampler I have is the Korg ES-1. Cool thing. Sampled some drum kits in it (using ReDrum).

fretshot7
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Post 11 Jan 2019

Data_Shrine wrote:
11 Jan 2019
I just wanted to add that my groovebox of choice is the Electribe 2. It got a lot of bad press. But I made an album with it. And i'm very satisfied (it's not out yet). It's a great machine, sounds great, workflow ain't bad once you get the hang of it (there are many shortcuts). Plus it's price is pretty low compared to other modern grooveboxes.

I'd like to get a Digitak one day.

The only hardware sampler I have is the Korg ES-1. Cool thing. Sampled some drum kits in it (using ReDrum).
yep ill 2nd this, i have the electribe 2 sampler, its sweet as, very underrated 👍🏼

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jayhosking
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Post 11 Jan 2019

Data_Shrine wrote:
11 Jan 2019
I just wanted to add that my groovebox of choice is the Electribe 2. It got a lot of bad press. But I made an album with it. And i'm very satisfied (it's not out yet). It's a great machine, sounds great, workflow ain't bad once you get the hang of it (there are many shortcuts). Plus it's price is pretty low compared to other modern grooveboxes.

I'd like to get a Digitak one day.

The only hardware sampler I have is the Korg ES-1. Cool thing. Sampled some drum kits in it (using ReDrum).
I've been meaning to try this one for ages. Glad to hear it's loved by some! My impression was that it was slower for creation, but I imagine those shortcuts really speed things up. I'll keep my eye open for a used one at a decent price!

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O1B
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Post 12 Jan 2019

BOOM! Sold all my Volcas and most Boutiques (kept JP-08, JX-03, and A-01) and E'tribe Sampler 2

BUT - I kept my (underneath the MicroKorg WHITE)
MK-White w ET 2.jpeg
Drums n Synth Voices for Days.
Electribe LIKES:

- TEMPO. Tap, Tight, .x resolution (.xx would be perfect, Digitakt is .xxx)
- Tunable (If you Guitar, use the pitch wheel any, or play to any Mary J Blige songs, you must have detunability.
IMO, it's between the keys where all the ACTION is.
- Nice Drums. The last Program ...201 i think.. type-Live Sounding.... Das Nice.
**** the drums map out to scale for proper TOM TOM TOM floor TOM ACTION. Boom!

- Synth FUN with some serious POWER
- Korg knows EFFECTS
- Korg knows SONICS

The Digitakt is a BEAST, but it can't fill E'tribe 2.0's niche.
Data_Shrine wrote:
11 Jan 2019
I just wanted to add that my groovebox of choice is the Electribe 2. It got a lot of bad press. But I made an album with it. And i'm very satisfied (it's not out yet). It's a great machine, sounds great, workflow ain't bad once you get the hang of it (there are many shortcuts). Plus it's price is pretty low compared to other modern grooveboxes.

I'd like to get a Digitak one day.

The only hardware sampler I have is the Korg ES-1. Cool thing. Sampled some drum kits in it (using ReDrum).
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chimp_spanner
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Post 12 Jan 2019

I have all 6 Volcas and 3 Boutiques (JP, JU and JX). So far I've struggled to really integrate them into my setup, for a number of reasons. Firstly I just don't have enough inputs. Secondly, the Boutiques are USB but the Volcas aren't, so to have them all running involves a Frankenstein setup where I have a USB hub for the Boutiques, a MIDISport 4x4 for the first four Volcas, a MIDISport Uno for the fifth and the MIDI out of my interface for the sixth. Plus a 5-plug mains chain and an extra single power adapter. Which is pretty unsightly, and a pain in the ass to have constantly set up.

The Boutiques also have an unbearable amount of latency; around 15ms, making it very hard to work with in a project unless you apply negative slide to the tracks.

They also use different sync formats, with the Volcas using clock pulses and the Boutiques using MIDI clock sync (complicated further by the fact that you can only send MIDI clock to one device, at least in Reason).

So right now they're all on my desk looking pretty but aren't connected. My plan at the moment is to just get them out one at a time and play with them when the mood takes me. Hook the Volca Beats up, program a beat, sample it, put it back on the rack. Take the JP out, dial in a crazy sound, sample it, use it in Grain (or whatever). Maybe use two or three Volcas at a time sync'd up to work on small loops on my desktop then record them in and manipulate them in Reason. I think that's a more viable workflow for me.

I do enjoy hardware, and I do wanna make it work. I'd like to get a more complex synth like a Neutron, and maybe a Model D although if I'm totally honest with myself I'm just suckered by the knobs and lights. When I'm in Reason using Complex-1 or Legend or VK-2, I'm basically doing the same thing without wires.
Enjoy!

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jayhosking
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Post 13 Jan 2019

chimp_spanner wrote:
12 Jan 2019
I have all 6 Volcas and 3 Boutiques (JP, JU and JX). So far I've struggled to really integrate them into my setup, for a number of reasons. Firstly I just don't have enough inputs. Secondly, the Boutiques are USB but the Volcas aren't, so to have them all running involves a Frankenstein setup where I have a USB hub for the Boutiques, a MIDISport 4x4 for the first four Volcas, a MIDISport Uno for the fifth and the MIDI out of my interface for the sixth. Plus a 5-plug mains chain and an extra single power adapter. Which is pretty unsightly, and a pain in the ass to have constantly set up.

The Boutiques also have an unbearable amount of latency; around 15ms, making it very hard to work with in a project unless you apply negative slide to the tracks.

They also use different sync formats, with the Volcas using clock pulses and the Boutiques using MIDI clock sync (complicated further by the fact that you can only send MIDI clock to one device, at least in Reason).

So right now they're all on my desk looking pretty but aren't connected. My plan at the moment is to just get them out one at a time and play with them when the mood takes me. Hook the Volca Beats up, program a beat, sample it, put it back on the rack. Take the JP out, dial in a crazy sound, sample it, use it in Grain (or whatever). Maybe use two or three Volcas at a time sync'd up to work on small loops on my desktop then record them in and manipulate them in Reason. I think that's a more viable workflow for me.

I do enjoy hardware, and I do wanna make it work. I'd like to get a more complex synth like a Neutron, and maybe a Model D although if I'm totally honest with myself I'm just suckered by the knobs and lights. When I'm in Reason using Complex-1 or Legend or VK-2, I'm basically doing the same thing without wires.
Funny, I've bumped into some of the same problems. If somebody had told me that I'd be running more 5-pin MIDI in 2019 than ever in my life, I would have never believed them!

My solution was, as nerdy as it is, to start with drawing a schematic and choosing a "brain". I've had a couple of different configurations, but I've currently got the Synthstrom Deluge at the centre of my hardware setup. It sends sync out to Pocket Operators (and could do Volcas too without issue), and sends MIDI and transport to the rest. Anybody who can't play along, even though they're great, go into that same pile you mentioned—noodle with them, record that noodle, and then back into their corner. So even though I love my OP-Z, I don't bother with it in the hardware set-up.

Considering that your Volcas are all supposed to play well together, and can be hooked up super easily, it sounds like the main problem is making the Boutiques play friendly with them? Or maybe you need a brain, like the Deluge or an Elektron unit, to send signal to both Volcas and Boutiques along different streams?

Finally, the audio input thing led me to getting a mixer/audio interface combo. The Soundcraft Signature mtk units are great, as is the Allen & Heath Qu-16, and Tascam's unit will be out soon, I think.

Anyway, if you're curious to see how I have things set up, here's a live video I recorded, jamming with only hardware. I recorded into Reason, of course, but all the sound is hardware except for compression and limiting on the master.



Considering I spend most of my waking life staring at screens, it's a real joy to tinker with actual physical objects. I could make these songs with Reason, but I'm currently very inspired by hardware.

ivralivra
Posts: 1
Joined: 20 Mar 2019

Post 20 Mar 2019

I just find it very inspiring to run digital stuff through analog boxes

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cognitive
Posts: 163
Joined: 25 Apr 2018
Location: Los Angeles

Post 26 Mar 2019

So many toys, so little time. :D

I've been trying to keep it as minimalist as possible so I can easily do live "plug and play" with quick setup and reasonably intuitive performance tools.

I had been doing "two Circuit" setups with a couple of Novation Circuits as decks, plus a mixer and sometimes an Arturia Keystep and/or iPad in the mix.

Now my weapons of choice are an MPC Live and a single Novation Circuit, clock synced with the Circuit audio running into the Live for monitoring so that all audio is reduced to a 1/4 stereo pair for the house PA.
IKEA_stands.jpg
I can do entire shows with JUST the MPC Live, but the Circuit adds some additional flavor, as the MPC Live stuff can sometimes sound a little "polished". Also, the different workflows of the devices seem to encourage different sounding music on each device. I also like having the additional Nova synth engines to play with or sequence with MPC Live material, or I can also simply crossfade back and forth between the two devices the same way I was originally using the 2 Circuits as "decks".

Either device by itself is great, but putting them both together is really upping my "fun" factor.

That said, this thread is giving me GAS. :o
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jayhosking
Posts: 585
Joined: 28 Nov 2016

Post 27 Mar 2019

cognitive wrote:
26 Mar 2019
So many toys, so little time. :D

That said, this thread is giving me GAS. :o
This is an awesome set-up. I've definitely gone the other route, buying and trying lots of things (and offloading them, too), with the notion of having many types of set-ups. But I recently got the Akai Force, as we discussed, and I can imagine that, a little mono synth with knobby control (e.g. a Minitaur or a Model D), and a groovebox would be a fantastic, small set-up. Also, I really need to get some of those Ikea stands! They look great.

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jayhosking
Posts: 585
Joined: 28 Nov 2016

Post 27 Mar 2019

cognitive wrote:
26 Mar 2019
So many toys, so little time. :D
Oh, and the OP-Z makes a hell of a groovebox to add in for some different flavour:


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O1B
Posts: 1493
Joined: 26 Jan 2015

Post 28 Mar 2019

That Mix puts the "P" in Presence. Nice.
jayhosking wrote:
27 Mar 2019
cognitive wrote:
26 Mar 2019
So many toys, so little time. :D
Oh, and the OP-Z makes a hell of a groovebox to add in for some different flavour:


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