What do you get when you cross a Nova with a Launchpad? why Circuit of course. Ok, so it’s not that simple, but it’s not far off.
After the premature leak of the unit yesterday, Novation has officially launched Circuit - a grid-based groovebox. The unit features 6-voice polyphony with a 2-part Nova-heritage synth engine and 4-part drum machine.
According to Novation, Circuit is an inspirational groove tool: “The basic idea behind Circuit was to create a groove instrument that you can use to make a tune in 2 minutes. It is designed to inspire and lead you to discovering new musical ideas quickly and easily.”
We’ve already had our hands all over its pads and rotaries and we can confirm it is feasible to make a tune in two minutes. However, the quality of said ‘tune’ would be debatable.
But there are certainly reasons to love Circuit - in fact, we’ve come up with seven.
1. The grid
The Launchpad got it spot on with its grid sequencing for Ableton Live, and Novation has squeezed in a 4x8 formation of RGB velocity-sensitive pads. As you’d expect, the grid’s functions change depending on the view you are in.
In Drum mode, you’ll be able to sequence two parts at any one time, with each one occupying two of the eight rows for 16-step sequencing. This does make whipping up beats a lot quicker than having to select each part individually.
Synth mode gives you a two-octave keyboard across the top two rows and a 16-step sequencer across the bottom.
In Scale mode, the grid will light up in a keyboard-like arrangement where you can select from up to 16 different scale types and the root note. This will affect both synth parts whilst playing and recording. Already we can see that you’ll be able to explore more complex synth patterns and progressions with ease.
2. Instant sound
As soon as you switch Circuit on, it's very easy to get your ideas flowing. The main interface layout is very clear, and Novation has done well to keep everything quickly accessible.
Most controls have dual functions with the aid of the Shift key, and certain controls are only lit when the Shift key is pressed, so you'll be fiddling about for a little while trying to work out what does what.
That said, we feel the learning curve is pretty shallow and haven’t needed to reference any manuals in order to get some tunes going.
3. Patched in
Being a Nova-derived sound engine, the sounds are all digital, and there are plenty of useable noises here.
Circuit offers a total of 64 patches per synth part, so it will be a while before you’ve exhausted all that's on offer.
4. Sonic exploration
It’s not just the grid that benefits from being menu specific. The eight numbered macro encoders will also perform different functions depending on the menu state.
The fact that the knobs are labelled with nothing other than a number feels like it makes those 'happy accidents' really easy to achieve, especially when you are in Synth mode. Envelope, tone and effects controls are all there to be played with and results are instantly satisfying.
The only labelled knobs are the Master Volume and Filter. Both are very self-explanatory, and we do like the dual control of high- and low-pass filtering.
5. Out of the box
Circuit offers MIDI In and Out via mini-jack sockets (breakout cables are also bundled in the box) and USB.
So, should you wish, you can hook up to your DAW via USB and sequence your hardware at the same time, which certainly makes this little box that little bit more useful.
Another natty feature is that you can sync up two Circuits using just a 3.5mm-jack cable in the MIDI ports, running one as a master to the other’s slave.
6. Your sound anywhere
We know a fair few people may disagree, but if you're jamming out ideas it's quite handy not to have to bother with plugging in your monitors, or sharing a pair of headphones.
Just think: you could get together with a bunch of friends and some Yamaha refaces, Korg Volcas and Roland Boutique instruments and earn a fortune busking down your local shopping centre.
7. The future
Updates, updates, and more updates… we hope.
There is no official word as yet, but it is hoped that Novation will be bringing out an editor for Circuit. Then who knows? We could be seeing some sound packs and other content made available.