We’d maintain that, even five years after its release, Novation’s Circuit groovebox is still one of the best-value standalone music-making devices on the market. A second Circuit, the Mono Station, was released in 2017, but it's Circuit Tracks, which has just been announced, that looks like the spiritual sequel.
Novation is also teasing another member of the Circuit family, Circuit Rhythm, that'll be released in the summer.
Offering a new look and feel, Circuit Tracks once again features two polyphonic digital synth tracks and four drum tracks, along with a suite of effects to season them with. Back, too, are the velocity-sensitive pads, along with eight macro knobs for speedy sound sculpting.
One of the great things about the original Circuit was the number of firmware updates it received - adding the likes of microtiming and probability - and these are included here. You'll also find a new mutate feature.
There’s still no screen, but Novation says that this is in keeping with Circuit Tracks’ intuitive workflow, in which feel and instinct are more important than keeping your eyes on settings and scrolling through menus.
While the original Circuit could be powered by batteries, there's now a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery, which promises up to four hours of life. This should make on-the-go usage even more convenient. There’s also a microSD card slot for loading samples, which can be shaped and sequenced on the four drum tracks.
While Circuit Tracks can certainly be used on its own, it’s also designed to play nice with other bits and pieces in your studio. The two MIDI sequencer tracks can be used to control external gear - in the original Circuit, if you wanted to do this you had to use the synth tracks - and there are new audio inputs so that you can bring sounds in. As well as the full-size MIDI In/Out/Thru ports there’s also analogue sync out and audio outputs.
If you want to dive deeper into Circuit Tracks you can make use of Novation’s Components software, which runs either in your browser or as an app. This gives you control over the synth engine and enables you to create patches with custom macros, load samples, make MIDI templates, back-up projects and get new sounds.
Speaking of which, Circuit Tracks ships with hundreds of artist-made presets, which can be used as they come or as creative starting points. You can find out more on the Novation website. Circuit Tracks costs $400/£360.
Details regarding Circuit Rhythm are thinner on ground, but we do know that you'll be able to sample directly into this one and that it'll have a strong performance focus. You can sign up for updates on the Novation website.