What's your preferred groovebox?

Discussion in 'Keyboards' started by sixesandsevens, Mar 11, 2018.


  1. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    My next purchase is likely to be a groovebox. I know the workflow from box-to-box seems to change quite a bit, so I thought I'd appeal to you good folks: which groovebox has been your favorite over the years for getting to a rough arrangement quickly?

    While the "right" answer is to buy a top-rated one used and dive in and then sell it once I know what I like and don't like, I figured I'd at least try to get some advice while I'm working up to that first purchase. :) My "short list" for now has been the Electribe 2, the Octatrack, the OP-1, the new TR8S, or the Digitakt, but having never worked with any of them in earnest, I'm struggling to make a decision that isn't "cheapest first".

    Thoughts?
     
  2. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Comments on what I own:

    Octatrack - Pure sampler, so to put together a rough arrangement quickly with bass line, chords, etc., you'd have to use it like a regular multi-track recorder. It does come with a starter sample library, so you could put together a drum sequence using the sampled drums somewhat quickly, but if you want to use the synth samples to play melody lines or bass lines, you'll have to use parameter locks to set the note on a per-step basis, and that could get old pretty fast. Octatrack is fantastic for processing the living hell out of loops, samples, etc. but being a groovebox is not its greatest strength, imo.

    OP-1 - This will get you that rough arrangement much more quickly than the Octatrack, because you have several onboard synths to choose from, as well as a drumsynth and several sampled drum kits to choose from. If your drum beats are in 4/4, the Pattern sequencer will let you put the drum parts together in no time. If they're in an odd time signature and/or you want polyrhythms, then you may want to use the Endless sequencer instead or just play the drum parts manually. Finger sequencer is good fun but the grid looks really tiny there for serious editing. The virtual Tape is 4 tracks but you can overdub as much as you like on any track. There's a 6 min. limitation though if you're recording in stereo. Feel free to fire any questions you have about this little beast, because it does have some quirks/imperfections to go with its strong points. Until the Synthstrom Deluge came out, I was saying this is the most complete mobile workstation you can get without resorting to a tablet/laptop.

    The Roland TR-8S and the Digitakt are part of a new generation of groove machines that don't try to be all-in-one grooveboxes at all, but are instead meant to be synced with other machines. It's kind of a return to the 80s when Roland sold you multiple machines instead of a single workstation - a drum machine (TR-606/808/909) for drum parts, a bass machine (TB-303), and a synth. I don't own either machine so can't comment much on them, other than I'm pretty interested in the TR-8S to take over the role of central drum machine, and I admit the sounds of my childhood (eg 808) factor into that. The Digitone actually interests me more than the Digitakt, as fellow Elektron fanboys (lol) say it's got the faster workflow out of any Elektron, and I like how it sounds.

    The aforementioned Deluge may be worth a look.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2018
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  3. huutevar

    huutevar Member

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    I used to have the Electribe V2 but I eventually got bored with its sounds, which I thought were adequate but not great. At the time there was no pattern chaining or song mode, and that was kind of a bummer, but I think Korg have added pattern chaining since then. There is also some menu diving and that can get tedious.

    I don't think the TR-8S is out in the wild yet, but it looks fun.
     
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  4. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    The TR-8S is out, but not all stores may have it in stock yet. Just read a post yesterday from a guy who tried it at his local GC
     
  5. Astronaut FX

    Astronaut FX Member

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    Octatrack is one of the most full featured, slickest on the market. It does however, as do most Elektron devices, have a really steep learning curve.

    You might want to include the Pioneer SP-16 in your short list of considerations. Super easy to get up and running, and sounds really good.
     
  6. huutevar

    huutevar Member

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    I guess I have a visit to GC in my future :).
     
  7. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Unique product and I love it, but I doubt it matches the OP's understanding of what a "groovebox" is, which I think is a box you can use to sketch out a dance tune (drums, bass line, etc) without other gear.

    For example, to make a bassline on the Octatrack without external gear, you would have to find a bass/synth bass sample, insert sample triggers for it into sequencer, then tune each step on the sequencer to the note you want, using a knob. Compare that to entering bass notes with a pads or keyboard.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  8. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    Yeah, I want the sketching part, but I write mostly traditional songs or live looping stuff. The Octatrack is on my radar from the live looping side. :D

    Dance tracks are the least of what I'll do and I'd like to be able to get the track going and then get back to guitar or bass and layer parts over top, etc.
     
  9. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Yeah, the term "groovebox" is kind of awkward, because grooveboxes are not that much different than keyboard workstations; the controls are just laid out more for a DJ/producer type person than your Hans Zimmer types.

    Because of this "groovebox" implies dance music. But in real life, some peeps are using grooveboxes to make very chill, beatless ambient music, or other musical forms that don't necessarily belong in a bangin' club.

    I guess we're just stuck with it.
     
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  10. kiki_90291

    kiki_90291 Member

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    A groove box that's close, but not quite there yet (IMHO) is the iPad. Tons of great apps, but sometimes a challenge to get them to work together or to put them into a reliable workflow. If someone can build an Ableton Live for the iPad, it would be perfect.

    Some good solutions available now:
    Cubasis is great as a linear sequencer, Launchpad is great as a clip player, but they need something to integrate both (Garageband gets close, but is a closed system). The Modstep developers are supposedly beta testing a refactored app that addresses a bunch of it's issues - if they can get it to work, I think that will be it. Beatmaker 3 also gets good reviews as an MPC style groovebox app.
     
  11. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Speaking of iPad, this is a really fun groovebox app - some feel it's more like an Electribe than the official iElectribe app. It's kind of a walled garden like Garageband.

     
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  12. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    An example of a groovebox being used for ambient music:

     
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  13. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    So last night a buddy of mine started the hard sell on getting me to go software with Ableton Push 2.

    That thing is so freaking fun.

    I'm not crazy about getting back on a computer, but if I can find a workflow that's more like live looping then maybe I can make it work.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  14. sansui

    sansui Member

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    i always was an MPC user and it's still the centerpiece of my studio and it's really fast to work with. never tried the octatrack or digitakt because 2 outputs are a dealbreaker for me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
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  15. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    Is the output thing because you'll want to load it into a DAW later or is there another reason?
     
  16. sansui

    sansui Member

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    the new mpcs (live and x) can export directly to the software, which is convenient, but i try to stay away from the box as long as possible and rout all the channels to my mixer for processing and mixing.
     
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  17. redchapterjubilee

    redchapterjubilee Supporting Member

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    I've used various Roland and Korg grooveboxes and never liked them. Now I'm happy as a clam with Korg's iPolysix on my iPad. If I could import drum samples it would be PERFECT for the way I perform electronic music live. It's already a great writing tool.
     
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  18. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I totally get sticking with what works for you as an MPC user, but I'd like to point out that the Octatrack actually has 2 cue outs as well as 2 main outs, for a total of 4.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
  19. sansui

    sansui Member

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    thanks good to know, for me thats not enough to mix and process a whole drumset and some additional samples. but yeah sure that‘s just my personal, rather „oldschool“ workflow i guess. i have a more dub-like workflow going on, where i like to add effects and mix on the fly with the mixer as an instrument and i have and love a lot of outboard gear.

    no doubt, octatrack and digitakt are magnificent machines. op1 also is fantastic and really inspiring. electribes and tr8(s) on the other hand i find very boring and limited. it just really depends on what you want to use it for and if you‘re using it on it‘s own or how you integrate it in your setup.

    and just to give a perspective, i was also working with roland, kurzweil, emu, ensoniq, zoom and sci samplers. and yes akai might not be the greatest for sound mangling like emu, kurzweil or elektron, but i feel like it’s the most immediate, practical and fun to use as a sampler, drum machine, sequencer and midi hub for synths of the whole bunch.

    but again thats just my experience and really depends on how you like to use it ;)

    anyhow, for me it was really important and fun (and sometimes expensive :confused:) to try all those different machines and workflows to find my own and i encourage everyone to do the same :)

    and what ever it might be, have a lot of fun with your weapon of choice! :D
     
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  20. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Admittedly, only 4 outs on the Octatrack has been a complaint for some users who prefer outboard gear to the internal FX.

    There are a few who pair an Octatrack with an MPC for various reasons. Just saw a post on Elektronauts from one who said he just picked up a used MPC 500 because he felt it was easier to sequence chord progressions on the MPC.
     

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