GAK REVIEW: Novation Circuit Standalone Groove Box

Novation’s first foray into the Groovebox market has culminated with the release of their impressive Novation Circuit. The groove box is made up of a four-part drum machine, two six-note polyphonic synths and a very impressive sequencer. Novation have stated that they would like to see people use the circuit to “embrace a new way to make music” and with all the innovative features that’s exactly what is going to happen.

If you’ve used Novation’s Launchpad Pro before, the Circuit design won’t be alien to you at all, a lot of the design has been lifted straight from that unit. There are however a number of differences, most notably the lighter, plastic feeling chassis.

On the unit you will find a stereo pair of ¼” jack outs, a USB connector, 3.5mm MIDI In/Out ports and a 3.5mm headphone out. On the underside of the unit there is also a built in speaker, which is surprisingly loud for its size. The circuit can be powered by AA batteries, so combined with the speaker it’s well and truly a portable instrument. If you’d prefer you can however connect straight to the mains.

Inside the Circuit you will find the same powerful engine taken from Novation’s Nova Line synthesizers. The big difference between the Circuit and many other competitors is that Novation have focussed on creating a clearly digital sounding synth, where as other similar products are set on emulating vintage analog sound.

The two in built synths have 64 presets each, with a wide range of sounds ranging from atmospheric pads to plucky leads. Drum wise there’s a bank of 64 sounds split into four groups (kicks, snares, cymbals and percussion.) There’s a wide range of drum sounds on offer, from the budget sounds of old grooveboxes to more modern digital drums.

On the front panel you will find eight rotary controls with multiple uses from tweaking sounds to adding effects. It can be difficult to decipher which controls affect which parameters due to Novations decision not too include labels. In their words this was to encourage happy accidents. For some this may be fun, however for others this may be very annoying indeed.

There’s two ways to use the units sequencer. You can either play in and record sequences using the pads or you can input them individual using the step-by-step sequencing. Once recorded it is then possible to edit note, velocity and gate for each individual pad. Automation can also be recorded on the Macros, mixer and individual FX’s.

The Novation Circuit is very feature rich and it will take a while to get to grips with everything that is possible with the unit. There’s a fantastic sound bank that is fully editable, a sequencer that inspires creativity and variation as well as a workflow that is designed to get you creating quickly and easily. If you’re looking for a way to get yourself out of that musical slump, the Circuit could be the ideal tool to inspire your productions.