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Help narrowing down first groovebox?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 

Help narrowing down first groovebox?

Edited and bumped.

Here's my situation: I'm a hobbyist with a pretty minimal setup right now: a Roland Juno DS61, Isla Kordbot, a couple of Roland boutiques, and an old Korg Kaossilator (the original little yellow box). I want something that can handle samples of varying lengths, preferably with some mangling/modification capabilities (long clips, loops, one-shots, and multisamples), sequencing, all the usual crap, with a reasonably intuitive and hands-on workflow. My budget isn’t huge, but I also know if I want something decent, I’ll get more mileage by waiting a bit longer and spending a bit extra instead of going with a Circuit or the like.

Before everybody does the usual thing and suggests I just use Ableton and a bunch of soft synths: No.

I don’t want a DAW, and I don’t really care if the thing I’m using has a DAW-like workflow. I write for a living (words, not music), and when I'm not doing that, I'm usually working with photography. That means I spend hours at a time every day in front of a computer, so I want something that gets me away from that. Besides, the times I’ve tried DAWs, it’s never quite clicked; for whatever reason, stuff that’s more tactile is easier for me to understand (besides being more fun — again, nothing against anyone who gels better with a mouse and screen, but that ain’t me, at least with music).

Anyways. I’m looking at four different boxes at the moment:

1010 Blackbox: Pros: sampling, sequencing, and the ability to play samples chromatically (the latter is important to me). From what I can gather, it seems like it should also play well with other gear if I decide to start here and get another box later. Cons: no synth engine, and I haven’t really seen much — reviews or otherwise — that really gets into the sample mangling capabilities it has (or doesn’t) -- FX seem pretty limited, so I'd probably have to do some of the work out of the box. As I understand it, I'd also have to do that with either of the Rolands below, and probably with the Deluge (which has FX, but even its most enthusiastic owners seem to feel the FX aren't one of that machine's strengths).

Roland MC 101/707: Yeah, I know, the synth editing is deeper on the 707, and there’s the immediacy of using 8 tracks all at once instead of bouncing tracks and feeling like I’m working with one of those old Tascams that took cassettes, but I otherwise see these as two sides of the same coin. Pros: Roland sound set (which I dig), looks like a relatively intuitive workflow in a way that the Live doesn’t*, and has a screen (which the Deluge doesn’t, unless you count the four-character thingy a display, which I don't really). Biggest cons: for one, from what I gather (based on a reply on another thread), soloing a patch requires a dedicated track even if you’re not otherwise using said track. The other thing is that I’m not sure how well this one will handle a sample-intensive workflow, since — like the Live — it doesn’t stream from the card and limits to about 6 minutes stereo/12 mono. And yeah, I know both companies have said they were going to introduce that capability, I know I need to shop based on what the machines can do now, not what could come later (or is equally likely not to, given Akai and Roland’s respective track records).

Akai Live: The Force is nice, but A: I can’t justify the extra $400, and B: as I mentioned, I want an instrument rather than a DAW in a box. The Live, like the Roland, has a distinct sound, a seemingly deep pool of patches to draw from, and seems to manage what samples it’s got relatively well. On the other hand, it doesn’t stream samples, the workflow seems DAW-like, and I’m wary of the long load times when switching stuff over. It’s not like I’m playing live right now, but I’d like to have the option a year or two down the road, and I get the feeling that could end up more frustration than it’s worth here.

Synthstrom Deluge: I came across the Deluge by accident back when I was looking at the Novation Circuit. Does it sound thin sometimes? Sure, but that’s what FX are for (and I’d probably end up using those with any box listed here). It streams samples, the feature set seems to grow exponentially and quickly, support looks great, and I could probably get my head around the workflow with some time and patience. Downsides: no screen (not even one of those two-line dealies like you’d get on, say, the MC101), not even an app that can be lined out to a mobile phone or tablet, which I tend to think would make sample management somewhere between difficult and nightmarish. Oh, and because I’m in the States and they’re in NZ, it’s not like I can walk into a local (or not-so-local) shop to try one out to see how we get along.

I know several of you own or have used more than one of these. I guess what I'm trying to be sure of is that I'm either not overlooking something, or asking the wrong questions. And speaking of questions, if there's anything I ought to be asking or taking into consideration as I gear up to gear up, let me know. Also, I'm disregarding any rumored or promised features (like Roland and Akai promising SD card streaming, which I won't believe 'til at least a month after I see it); I'm interested in each of these for what they are, and do, now, not what they may be capable of later.

*Before the Akai fanboys get all up in arms, I’m not slagging their product; just saying that workflow doesn’t seem intuitive to me, personally. Different strokes, and all that.

Last edited by Belldog; 6 days ago at 04:08 AM.. Reason: Edited for clarity.
Old 6 days ago
  #2
Gear Head
 

Bump
Old 6 days ago
  #3
Lives for gear
You may want to add the digitakt to that list.
Old 6 days ago
  #4
Gear Head
 

Dammit, I was trying to narrow my options, not widen them!

Seriously, though, thanks for the reminder. I'd looked at it a while back, but I seem to remember writing it off because as I understood it, it could only handle samples monophonically; either that, or the workflow to get to any kind of polyphony was a pain in the ass. I'll take another look, though.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
trick fall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belldog View Post
Dammit, I was trying to narrow my options, not widen them!

Seriously, though, thanks for the reminder. I'd looked at it a while back, but I seem to remember writing it off because as I understood it, it could only handle samples monophonically; either that, or the workflow to get to any kind of polyphony was a pain in the ass. I'll take another look, though.

I came in to suggest the Digitakt get a look as well. I'm not familiar with the new Roland boxes and I've never used the others you mentioned, but the Digitakt is a really fun and I think good sounding box. It's got immediacy, but it's also got some depth. There are still features in that box I haven't properly exploited.

I've personally never been bothered by the mono sampling.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by trick fall View Post
I came in to suggest the Digitakt get a look as well. I'm not familiar with the new Roland boxes and I've never used the others you mentioned, but the Digitakt is a really fun and I think good sounding box. It's got immediacy, but it's also got some depth. There are still features in that box I haven't properly exploited.

I've personally never been bothered by the mono sampling.
I'm not necessarily bothered by mono sampling; it's more the playback that I'm concerned with -- a Mellotron sample, for instance, or a pad created from shortwave noise, or something like that -- where I'd prefer halfway decent polyphony to monophonic playback.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
Gear Head
 

Something else that may or may not be relevant: the type of racket I'm looking to make with this would be along the lines of, say, Big Audio Dynamite, Pop Will Eat Itself, PSB, Carter USM, that kind of thing... but also some ambient-ish stuff that uses samples heavily. So a mix of samples, sequences, and a bit of live instrumentation.
Old 6 days ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 
A.I. Batule Chee's Avatar
The mc-707/101, the electribe sampler and the deluge seem to be the only real grooveboxes on the market right now (not counting circuit because it doesn’t really sample). If I were you, I would wait ‘til NAMM, I’m pretty confident new grooveboxes are going to be released there. Just a couple of months, no biggie.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by A.I. Batule Chee View Post
The mc-707/101, the electribe sampler and the deluge seem to be the only real grooveboxes on the market right now (not counting circuit because it doesn’t really sample). If I were you, I would wait ‘til NAMM, I’m pretty confident new grooveboxes are going to be released there. Just a couple of months, no biggie.
Yeah, I'm waiting 'til after. Has less to do with FOMO than with budgeting. Christmas is coming and I have other people to buy for before I go buying stuff for myself.
Old 6 days ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 
7Wave's Avatar
I know this isn't what you're going to want to hear, but I'd sooner buy an MC-909 or RS-7000 for half the price of an MC-707 -- mainly because 8 tracks and that small display on the 707 are kind of limiting. The 909 and RS7000 both sound amazing and have a better control surface than the 707 with more dedicated knobs and sliders on the panel for live remixing, etc. With the money you save, you could also pair it with a Korg Electribe EMX-1 and STILL have $150 left in your pocket.

I'm also pretty much convinced that Roland is going to release a bigger groove box that expands on the 707 (MC-990??), much like they did with the TR8 and TR8s.
Old 5 days ago
  #11
Lives for gear
They just added to the 707 so that sounds like your winner. If you are waiting until after NAMM then you should be able to get a used one at a decent price.

Id suggest adding a small keystep to that setup as well.
Old 5 days ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

I have an Mpc Live and I am happy with it.
It's an instrument by itself even if it was marketed as a daw replacer.
It takes a bit of time to learn the workflow but once you get it, it's fast and funny.
You cannot stream long files but you can use them as audio tracks.
It has good internal synths and very good effects by Air and you can use many of them almost everywhere.
You can import all your samples in it, and it is also a very good drum machine and an autosampler, so you can sample and use sounds from external synths quite easily.
Most of all, it sounds very powerful and detailed.
I am keeping an eye also on Roland Mc new grooveboxes, they just made a very good update and people are talking good about them.
Old 5 days ago
  #13
mp3
Lives for gear
 

Soooo.... Why don't you just use Ableton and a bunch of softsynths?

No but seriously, the MPC Live kind of sticks out on your list like a sore thumb, because, unlike the others on your list, it's a workstation. If you intend to build up tracks, and end up with a finished piece of music, and you refuse to use a DAW, then to me the MPC Live is no-brainer. The other boxes are more noodling than producing, in my opinion, and are better thought of as complementary pieces in a larger setup, as opposed to centerpieces.

Note; there's nothing wrong with a 'noodling' box, I have a few myself...
Old 5 days ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Deluge is fun to use. It’s a sequencer, sampler, slicer, looper that has a synth.
The sequencer is intuitive and easy to get ideas going. It also has a fantastic approach to stringing patterns into full arrangements. So simple.
The stereo sampler is pretty full featured in an old skool way- no velocity layering but lots of ways to mess up your samples. The inputs sound very good, the built-in mic is what it is.
The looper is new and I’ve yet to get my head around it. You can loop audio or MIDI.
The slicer can slice samples into up to 256 slices which can be rearranged. Slices can be repitched, muted, reversed, envelopes added, automated etc.
The synth engine is fun but sounds only fair. I’ve used a couple of Deluge synth tracks in finished pieces, but mostly I think of it as a sketch pad. There are YouTube videos showing users getting more out of the internal synth than I do currently, however.
The effects aren’t great on their own, but they’re fine and they sound great when you automate them. The whole track comes to life. I’ve used the sampler/slicer for many tracks, exporting the audio with the effects because it sounded so good.

If you are going to depend on the internal synth a lot, I don’t think Deluge would be my first choice honestly. I love it for everything else.
Old 5 days ago
  #15
Are out-of-production boxes fair game? Based on the bands you cite, my mind goes to an MPC1000 with JJOS, RS-7000, or even ASR-X. None of what I hear requires streaming long samples. Is there a composition reason you want that, or are you just apprehensive about loading times? I've done hour+ live performances with MPC or ASR and a synth alongside without down time, it just requires semi-judicious use of samples, but that's the fun of not using a DAW, right?

I'd just be nervous (esp w/Live) about ending up with a DAW-in-a-box that well... feels like a DAW. As an admitted hobbyist you're blissfully free to get a little weird and allow the tool to shape the output.
Old 5 days ago
  #16
Gear Head
 

Rather than a gazillion replies and quotes to the rest of this stuff, let me condense all of this into one shot.

Re: DAWs… I know that I’m probably going to get better results when it comes to finishing tracks if I do it in a DAW. I’m okay with using it for the finishing touches; I just have yet to find one that I really gel with as a creative tool.

Re: older / used gear: It’s crossed my mind, especially since there are a couple of older boxes -- like the MC-505 or MC-909, the MPC 1000, or the RS7000 -- that look like they'd fit the bill. Thing is, I’m always paranoid about stuff failing. Unlike some people on here, I’m not especially tech/electronics literate to a point where I can do my own repairs and mods, and the impression I get is that repairs for some of this stuff gets pricey. Speaking of price, some of this stuff is edging up on the price of something newer (I'm seeing the 909 for 700 or so on Reverb, but with condition issues that give me pause), and some other stuff, like the RS7000, is going on 20 years old. Given the age, how much longer can you realistically expect to get out of something like that? So I’m tending toward newer stuff because I’m assuming -- hopefully not incorrectly -- that it’ll be more reliable for longer.

As much as I've liked what I've seen of the Deluge, I find myself drawn to the 707, especially with the new updates (though still no sample streaming -- OTOH, sometimes limits are a helpful thing). If I'm being honest, the Blackbox also intrigues me, 'cause it looks like the kind of thing where you could make some interesting mistakes or stumble into something worthwhile more or less by accident. The Live looks like it may be on its way out, but I can't see Akai leaving a gaping hole in its place. Argh. As A.I. Batule Chee mentions above, it's probably worthwhile to wait 'til NAMM to see what drops then.
Old 5 days ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Oscar1's Avatar
Akai MPC is not necessary groovebox. Mostly it require your own samples, chopping, slicing etc...the included soft synths are non expandable and limited. It is simply an MPC.

As a proud owner of FORCE, I would suggest... MC707. Honestly, can't imagine more true groovebox, and it seems Roland is on the streak of quick and to the point updates. Instead AKAI is in a mode of adding catch-phrase updates instead of fixing and stabilising the workflow.
Old 4 days ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Belldog View Post
Rather than a gazillion replies and quotes to the rest of this stuff, let me condense all of this into one shot.
Re: older / used gear: It’s crossed my mind, especially since there are a couple of older boxes -- like the MC-505 or MC-909, the MPC 1000, or the RS7000 -- that look like they'd fit the bill. Thing is, I’m always paranoid about stuff failing...
Totally fair opinion. Have you considered something simpler like an SP404? I don't know how extensive the kordbot's sequencing is, but if you are happy MIDI sequencing from something else it might fit. It's current and easy to get a used one and flip it again if you don't mesh.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
Lives for gear
Akai Force
Old 4 days ago
  #20
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by brendanclarke View Post
Totally fair opinion. Have you considered something simpler like an SP404? I don't know how extensive the kordbot's sequencing is, but if you are happy MIDI sequencing from something else it might fit. It's current and easy to get a used one and flip it again if you don't mesh.
I didn't realize they'd implemented the sequencer in the Kordbot. It was one of those things I figured would probably be nice if they finally got around to it, but I'm not one of the people who's been waiting with bated breath for it to happen. I'll have to look into that. On the other hand, the Blackbox has sequencing built in, and I'm thinking it could pair well with the MC-101 if I find it wanting on its own.
Old 4 days ago
  #21
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lhm1138's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belldog View Post
Something else that may or may not be relevant: the type of racket I'm looking to make with this would be along the lines of, say, Big Audio Dynamite, Pop Will Eat Itself, PSB, Carter USM, that kind of thing... but also some ambient-ish stuff that uses samples heavily. So a mix of samples, sequences, and a bit of live instrumentation.
Hey, somebody else that’s a grebo fan! All those bands used pretty primitive gear by today’s standards. Don’t know about Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine or B.A.D., but PWEI used Akai S-series samplers a lot, and PSB’s earlier stuff was based around Emu Emulators. So it doesn’t matter much what you use.

There’s one option I don’t see mentioned. TBH it’s the best “groovebox” on the market. The iPad. Since I got my iPad Pro 2 & Beatmaker 3, my other stuff mostly collects dust. I don’t miss my MC909. I can take it to work with me with headphones. I can sit in my car sketching stuff out. If I want tactile rubber pads or keys i can connect my m-audio controller pretty painlessly thru $30 USB-Lightning kit. I can have tons of AUv3 instruments & samplers or just a few core ones. Because they cost $5-$50 they’re mostly not as complex as software equivalents but the fewer options & simpler interfaces is better for my workflow. If I were to use it as groove/DAW & everything else, I would be limited by the DSP but on some iPad DAWs freezing tracks is pretty easy. I wouldn’t want to really use it from start to finish for everything, but I have. One could use it solely, esp for more minimal or retro styles.

The only downsides is they don’t hold value as well as some dedicated gear...which I don’t care as they’re tools not stocks & bonds. The other downside is Apple is always trying to **** your **** up. Apple talks a big hippie greenie game but they seem to want everyone filling landfills with electronics every 2-3 years. Best route is to get your core apps, wait 3 or 4 months before downloading new iOS, then only update two or three times from issue date of your device so it will be frozen in a stable state & not bogged down by BS iOS “improvements”. My 3rd gen iPad is almost 8 years old & still gets used for apps no longer supported by devs.
Old 2 days ago
  #22
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trick fall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lhm1138 View Post
Hey, somebody else that’s a grebo fan! All those bands used pretty primitive gear by today’s standards. Don’t know about Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine or B.A.D., but PWEI used Akai S-series samplers a lot, and PSB’s earlier stuff was based around Emu Emulators. So it doesn’t matter much what you use.
Just wanted to add that I'm also a fan of PWEI. Even got see a good show BITD at the Marquee in NYC. I also recently came across my cassette of Box Frenzy. Sounds great on my JVC ghetto blaster.
Old 1 day ago
  #23
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by trick fall View Post
Just wanted to add that I'm also a fan of PWEI. Even got see a good show BITD at the Marquee in NYC. I also recently came across my cassette of Box Frenzy. Sounds great on my JVC ghetto blaster.
Reminds me, I haven't seen my copy of "Now For a Feast" in a while. Can't remember if I made the mistake of lending it to someone. Wasn't my favorite of theirs, but just on general principle...

Don't know why, but I thought the Marquee had closed. So many great venues in the city have shut down over the years.
Old 1 day ago
  #24
Lives for gear
 
trick fall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belldog View Post
Reminds me, I haven't seen my copy of "Now For a Feast" in a while. Can't remember if I made the mistake of lending it to someone. Wasn't my favorite of theirs, but just on general principle...

Don't know why, but I thought the Marquee had closed. So many great venues in the city have shut down over the years.

Oh that place is long gone. This was probably around '90****. Saw a lot of good shows there, but am still pissed I couldn't get in to the Blur show. I think it was the only show they did in NY for Leisure.
Old 1 day ago
  #25
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by trick fall View Post
Oh that place is long gone. This was probably around '90****. Saw a lot of good shows there, but am still pissed I couldn't get in to the Blur show. I think it was the only show they did in NY for Leisure.
That's what I thought, but when I Googled, there was another place with that name (and I couldn't remember where the old one was). There ought to be some kind of rule on retiring venues' names...
Old 1 day ago
  #26
Lives for gear
 
trick fall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belldog View Post
That's what I thought, but when I Googled, there was another place with that name (and I couldn't remember where the old one was). There ought to be some kind of rule on retiring venues' names...
Agreed......I believe it was 21st between 9th and 10th Avenues. It was definitely in that area.
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