I bought the Novation Launch Control XL to use with Ableton Live. It was boxed up quickly after getting better at using the Ableton Push. Novation then released a firmware update and video demonstrating it can be used without a computer. Unfortunately, the accessory needed to make this happen is some what costly. The most popular USB to MIDI adapters for this set up is the iConnectMIDI4 and the Kenton USB MIDI Host. They keyword here is ‘host’. Some make the mistake of getting simple USB to MIDI adapter and discover they do not work. It has to be a MIDI host device.
I chose the iConnectMIDI4 since I had a 20% off coupon at Guitar Center to reduce the price. I also bought it due to the feature of audio over USB. With the growing popularity of synthesizer apps for IOS devices, I have the option of utilizing the iConnectMIDI4 between my iPad and DAW. The device also has several DIN MIDI ports and USB ports for complex routing setups.
My first attempt was to use the Launch Control XL (LCXL) with the Novation Circuit. Using Windows 10, I had a problem loading the custom mappings from Novation into the LCXL. It turns out Novation is aware of the problem. I was able to load the mappings using my Macbook Pro instead. Without needing to use the iConnectMIDI4 software, the devices started working together right away. Like the Circuit, I also have to remember what all the knobs do on the LCXL since there are no labels. The Launch Control XL became a true extension to the Circuit. The usage became somewhat unconfined with parameters accessible.
I look forward to discovering what other devices in my stable can be used with the Launch Control XL. The Launch Control XL and the iConnectMIDI4 combined nears $350 in just accessories. Find your own justification because $350 is a hard pill to swallow for me.
A groovebox is a self contained electronic music device that typically allows for the sequencing of a drum track and other synthesized sounds for lead and bass lines. A groovebox will also have builtin sounds ready for use whether it be analog, wave tables, or recorded samples. The term “rompler” is synonymous with the groovebox. A rompler has prerecorded sound stored in the ROM chip within the device. ROM stands for ‘read only memory’. The clasic Roland MC series are examples of romplers. A “sampler” on the other hand allows the musician to record new sounds into the device and sequence it. The classic MPC series from Akai Pro are some of the more popular samplers on the used market. Some grooveboxes have limitation that only allow the musician to compose short loops or kick start musical ideas. Other grooveboxes have enough complexity that will allow the musician to produce entire songs. Grooveboxes also have an assortment of FX to manipulate sound to make it your own. The Roland SP series has an abundance of FX and filters which makes them so popular.
As iPad apps and computer software continue to take away from stand alone music devices market, some companies still actually make grooveboxes. The Korg Electribe series has been a long standing product line that is continually evolving. The latest versions, the Korg Electribe 2 and the Korg Sampler, are compact, battery operated, and constructed in a durable metal case. Both units have a variety of built in sounds to cater to many music genres. The beauty of this device is the capability to export your work to an SD card for import into Ableton Live. So make a beat at the beach and finish it off at your home studio on the computer. The pads have a great feel and the connection option are generous with MIDI and SYNC, perfect for connecting the Korg Volca devices. The Korg Electribe products has a street price of $399 US.
Another groovebox recently added to the market is the Novation Circuit. The Circuit has three parts, 2 for synths and another for the drums. The patches in the Circuit come from the Novation Nova synthesizer. Unlike the 4 bar restriction on the Korg Electribe, the Novation Circuit allows for 8 bars. Patches are manipulated by predetermined macros as you turn the pots above the device. The Novation Circuit appeared pretty basic to me at first but with firmware updates and patch editing software in the works, it looks like Novation has big plans for the Circuit. I knew I was going to buy it since it runs on batteries. The Novation Circuit has a street price of $329 US.
Grooveboxes are great to get that beat out of your imagination and into reality. Depending on the device, you will be able to produce a full song or just a 4 bar loop. The sound design potential is higher in pricier boxes such as the Elektron products. The prices of current grooveboxes are the only turn off as they near the price of medium range tablets. The opportunities creating music anytime and anywhere might just be worth the cost.
Gonna buy a bunch of these $3 Star Wars bags from Subway and sell them for $20 on Ebay. Gonna call it “Custom Star Wars Novation Circuit Protective Sleeve!”
Subway recently offered a strange Star Wars themed bag included with kids’ meals. I call it strange because the shape looks absolutely non-functional to me. I took a wild chance and bought one hoping it would fit the Novation Circuit. As you can see in the photo, it fits just right although the flap doesn’t close completely. This can be fixed by applying some Velcro on the flap. I can’t really say this is very protective. At most, this will keep scratches off the body when packed with other gear. I would like to add the Star Wars graphics is a major bonus!