I am looking to pick up this particular unit so a review from a Renoiser would be a very relevant decision point.
Also is anyone using a BOSS DR 880 drum machine and Roland MC 808 Groovebox?
Seeing a Yamaha QY700 sequencer on OlX.in locally, if any of you have this unit maybe you could share your experiences.
An SP 606 sampler/sequencer unit much like the MPC is also on sale locally. This could be interesting for Beatmaking.
Yamaha RS 7000 also on sale, interesting how vintage dance music hardware still commands good price in the market despite being upgradeable and discontinued. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I used to have the MPC500 but I had to sell it for these reasons:
The screen is so tiny. Its irritating to use for sequencing.
It ony has 12 pads instead of 16. They are not sensitive enough ( needs underside taping or thick pads upgrade ).
Its uses out-dated compact flash cards.
It doesnt have much memory ( RAM ).
Its too expensive for what it is…
You have to use a computer to assign samples to pads quickly enough ( MPC_MAID ).
You have to cut up samples properly on the computer.
The editing buttons are so loud and clicky, your neighbour or flatmate will hate you when you are editing at night (should have been rubberized buttons).
Playing MPC500 on the knees was impractical (should have had rubberized side buffers to grip it between the legs whilst playing like bongos).
It did have some positive aspects:
It was portable and built like a tank.
The Q-Link slider was sweet.
It had pretty decent input and output.
It had midi in and out.
AKAI has been bringing out new MPCs recently, MPC LIVE is the successor to MPC500 ( battery powered ).
Roland MC 808 :
Dont buy it. Too old. Too expensive.
Yamaha QY700 sequencer :
Too old. Too expensive.
BOSS DR 880 drum machine :
Its made for guitarists who want to create a percussive backing track (and bass) to play along with.
It tries to sound like accoustic drums. Stadium rock, latin etc.
A few of the drum samples are O.K, with some extra processing they could be made into something nice.
SP 606 sampler/sequencer :
Its too expensive for what it is.
Its old school.
I had the boss SP505 way back.
It had a good tape echo effect, and some other good effects, but its not worth it.
To do pad drumming well I think the best pads are on the ableton live push 2.
Unfortunately its specifically designed for use with ableton so it has alot of unnecessary ableton control buttons.
It has an annoying feature where you cant play all 64 pads as drum pads.
They want you to use the 16 pads in the lower left for drumming and the upper two quadrants as a step sequencer…lame.
There is another mode in which you can play all the pads to trigger tonal instruments, but its locked to scales…lame.
(Hopefully you can choose chromatic scale and assign 64 drums in renoise keyzones that way)
AKAI MPD218 is so good for the price.
Nicely sensitive pads, once you wear them in a little they soften slightly.
They still don’t pick up the lightest touches, but you can play reasonably softly.
You do get the occasional crosstalk (very rarely).
I avoided the AKAI MPD232 because when you play on the pads the faders rattle annoyingly.
I heard Keith McMillen Instruments QuNeo has nice pads…although I havent tried it yet.
Seems to have too many extra features, maybe a bit thin.
Looks like its so thin that the pads wont trigger properly if you play ontop of a towel or a soft surface.
I have been told that the old korg padkontrol is still rated highly among pros, for its pad sensitivity and usefulness as a playable instrument. Others have said that the handsonic is nice as a midi controller.
Perhaps even the zendrum LT, zendrum zap2 or zendrum axis ( for people who can throw wads of money ).
The pankat, the drumkat, the trapkat ( for playing with sticks )…roland v-drums with mesh heads.
I’m hoping novation will bring out an ableton push 2 clone without the ableton control buttons.
Hopefully specifically for 64 pad finger drumming, rather than for clip launching with pad drumming as an afterthought…pad sensitivity is unplayable on launchpad pro for finger drumming.
the new electribes
Korg ElecTribe SX
novation circuit mono station
korg volca range
the new 303
But all that stuff is stupidly expensive.
A windows tablet running renoise with some midi controllers and an audio - midi interface is a better option for me.
If you have external synths and sample them into renoise its the best possible way, but if you dont have that kind of money or prefer to stay portable then a lot of VSTi are almost as good as, if not indistinguishable from real hardware synths…Money on hardware synths now can be a problem further down the line. Gear lust. I would say, most people only use a laptop and midi controllers these days. You see people with euro-rack breifcases and somesuch but really, there are virtual modulars inside laptops and they are cheaper.
That’s a very detailed reply, thanks.
I demoed the SP 606 and found it very limited on the track count (4) and chopping is kinda hit miss and crude with its automatic algo. The pads are no where near MPC though it has midi in for that stuff of required, it’s on board memory and sounds are kinda old school. But I did find the effects quite extensive (28) and you can control it live. You can sample with this unit, but in the end for its price and bulk it’s too limited and it does not run on batteries.
I really like the Q700 for its robustness and sound quality. It’s a thorough sequencer, even for today’s gear list. But it’s peripherals are very outdated and it uses floppy drives. I might get it later if I find a stable unit.
I ended up buying the DR 880 and it’s a good addition to my MPC 1000 and MPC Element in terms of portability and sound bank plus an added guitar FX unit and a pattern and song sequencer, fits right in my messenger bag too (1.4 kgs unit weight, size of an Akai MPC Element controller, small with a resilient multi-feature set ). I like the separation of outputs (kick,snare and others, and guitar FX) and it has midi in and out and I can also use it as a controller (chromatic keys). What surprised me was the number of pads first (20) instead of the regular 16 or 12 and it is also nicely laid out as bass guitar fretboard. It also has a built in chord progression arranger so that the bass pattern gets affected accordingly.
Second thing which surprised me was the realism of the samples laid out along the pad rows. I was finger drumming very realistic patterns and all my snare ghost notes and double kicks came out exceeding my expectations. I did a bit of reading earlier on each gear and found that DR 880 is notoriously good for live sounding drums and even requires the engineer to make other instruments sound as good or better to actually have a balanced record. I believe this now. For its pad sensitivity (configurable) it’s very responsive.
Recording and editing is very fast and all essential controls are in the front button panel. I like the fact that the last accessed menu item remains in memory by default which makes repeated recording deletions a repeat button press sequence which makes it very intuitive to use. It also has a dedicated groove control mode which adds extra ghost notes and velocity changes to your patterns. There are only two swing modes (1/8, 1/16) but their strengths can be set and there are various templates for each including various shuffle modes. The inbuilt bass module and sounds are very convincing even if the pallete is limited by today’s standards in terms of variety, so what we have here is quite resilient and future proof if live drums are a requirement.
Another thing I really like is that each sound had its own effects inserts and the most essential ones EQ (3band), compressor (works on limiter mode too) and a TSC or Total Sound Control mode which gives a collective reverb and ambience treatment are very handy even for sound sculpting, I could make the kicks more hip hop boom bap like and the snares more crisp, good before even I got the mixer panel in Renoise or MPC. There are very good 808 and 909 sounds too.
It’s like having a dedicated MPC template or project file with 440 drum (60 per kit, with 3 banks, 20 sounds per bank of 60 sounds total per kit) and percussion sounds all laid out with the hard work done for you, an added bass patch with 16 levels like feature for the pitch laid out in 3 octaves. Also each FX setting is done for you by default saving you lots of time in terms of the setup part.
I did some playing around the last few weeks and it’s very playable and addictive and you can do very good sounding songs right out of the box. I am very happy with purchase and there is a reason these machines like the Alesis SR 16 and 18 as well as this unit never really got out of style or business. Apparently they did their job well when it comes to being time tested. The best part is also when you use this in conjunction with a sampler unit like MPC because you can sample better bass playing from this unit or even via midi out for an MPC bass patch and also for live drum fills if finger drumming is your thing. Entire patterns built can be sampled straight to the MPC unit and chopped again. Getting live sounding drums from a sampler means and a lot of work in terms of zones and velocity layers and much like paying for a sample library the work done here makes it independent of a computer unit while giving the same playable functionality.
Since I am into hip hop like genres this has a unique value for my personal production style and is a great investment for that. Having a guitar FX unit that handles both electric guitar and bass and acoustic seals the deal for me. I am moving ahead in my journey as a jazz guitar student so a multi FX unit is extremely useful for me. I can use my electric bass for beats and basslines sounds and the fact that I get synth and sampled bass patches that can be in parallel mixed with live bass guitar from the same unit and sent over individual outputs is a priceless feature for me in order to sample variations and layers in Renoise or MPC. My iRig Pro takes the inputs exceedingly well with crisp sounding live bass layered over synth bass sounds from this unit. Can’t priase it enough:)
Seems the memory is rather limited to 20 songs in reality than the 100 songs being advertised and yes there is a note count limit but the songs and settings themselves can be backed up and the factory reset is just a button away when it does happen. This will ensure some pattern recording discipline and better song structures that maximise its use making patterns tighter and being critical with extra fluff.
I am seeing a lot of good sounding vids on the MC 505 especially for minimal and deep house styles on YouTube.I still think MC 808 has more features but I am unable to find a local unit, I called Roland centres in India for a unit but it’s long discontinued and I will have to use eBay to get one. The motorised faders and a separate mute track for patterns mean that it’s usefulness is not lost for hip hop style production, some sounds might be dated but with careful manipulation a saw tooth or triangle wave can be made to sound what you would like to have it regardless where it comes from. I won’t be buying the Q700 if I get either a 505 or 808 Groovebox. The Yamaha RMX series look great for Groovebox workflow even if it’s hopelessly obsolete.
The SP 404 is a nice compact sampler at a high price point but it’s still relevant and in production. Seems this is a better alternative to an MPC 500 at the very least. Enough FX and good for live manipulation as well. Many beatmakers seem to have this unit already even if none of them use Renoise.
I finally got to demo the MPC X and Live series and I am not very sold on it primarily because much of their functions is already replicated in my setup and Renoise does what it does perfectly. MPC gear still requires lot of sampler work if real drums are required and it’s totally geared for dance and hip hop production mainly. Also side chain is kinda missing surprisingly. And MPC X is definitely not portable. But if I had to give up all my gear one day then an all in one like MPC Live will be a great solution even if tracking won’t be a part of it. It’s expensive for duplicate functionality though and I have enough pads and sounds for now to play with. Maybe later.
I am collecting vintage gear now and I am on the lookout for grooveboxes. So SP404, RMX series and MC series are the ones to lookout personally speaking. All of the grooveboxes from every company have been largely discontinued in todays software oriented workspace. MPC is not a Groovebox, is a sampler sequencer combo with pads and it has its own niche. It is still in production and has great demand. For some reason the other Grooveboxes do not seem to have commanded ongoing demand for them to be in production. I hope new ones do come up.
Elektron has a couple of great sounding analogue drum machines that also sample and thus bring them into sampler category and being more useful in that sense. You can certainly do a full production in one of their gears. However nothing remotely Beatmaking like in terms of workflow and kinda looks and sounds all technoish and housey to me, even if their feature set is very robust. Workflow does matter, certainly in terms of tradition and technique.
The one important thing I noticed, is longevity in terms of software production stamina. If you look at a computer or laptop screen for more than 6 hours per day your eyes take a large hit. If you play a real guitar(s), play real keys and use an external sequencer or a dedicated unit(s) for either sampling, sequencing or rhythm programming, your stamina and mental focus shoots for miles ahead. The benefit of using Renoise is that it replicates that focus building aura even when in the software domain of things. Hardware pulls you away from a computer without sacrificing on chip based computing prowess. In the end you need to make music, if using hardware saves your eyes and makes the sessions very hands on and real and keeps your musicianship in its toes, then I would prefer a musician workflow than a programmer workflow.
Price is the only negative factor for many. A laptop is a relatively cheaper investment nowadays, but when it comes to ergonomics and musicianship, a glass screen and an alphabet keyboard hardly constitute a conducive and musical environment. That is where the software tries to make it all work, and to some degree it does succeed especially with Renoise. But I am slowly shifting to hardware for both musicianship priority and ergonomics reasons. Not to mention the zoning in feeling on dedicated hardware, priceless (Renoise will always be there though in my kit list, it’s a highly unique experience on its own).
Another thing, RAS like functionality is already there in any Yamaha keyboard like the DGX 660 or Tyros for that matter, both are very good in terms of song building and playability. Couple this with a multitrack recorder and other units for drums sequencing or bass programming etc like a regular studio with a focus on electronic styles and portability and you have a bevy of options to choose from,even vintage gear if required. For a majority of styles live instrumentation and singing is required from Gospel to RnB to Rock. So for ideal recording you still need external stuff not available yet in one’s laptop. For EDM stuff unless Reaktor or PD or Max is a large part of one’s setup with a focus on software usage, most of the functionality done in a laptop already has a precedent in a hardware unit. I feel that we are becoming more and more addicted to new sounds when it mostly feeds off our existing insatiable appetite for similar things like shoes and bags and t shirts. For some reason I am feeling a change in my attitude towards going all software crazy as is expectedly especially with awesome Kontakt libraries but barring those amazing choir samples, for the large majority of other project duties, spending less eye goggling screen time is certainly a welcome tweak and adapted change in my routine. It’s like using a pull up bar versus a treadmill. I am going old school but for very observable reasons and benefits.
Also a lot of current gear has dramatically reduced in size and weight even for hardware that used to take up space. Zoom and BOSS and others make some great gear with portability in mind for the contemporary music maker. The best part part is that our generation had the luxury to actually choose between having software and hardware and some form of both, rather than our earlier generations who had only hardware and very limited software or even earlier when there was no software or hardware. But with such power also comes some sense of balance and responsibility. Just like modern comforts have increased disease promoting sedentary lifestyles, modern music technology is making musicianship a secondary requirement and in the end a vestigeal remnant because if this is the path we take then machine does all the thinking for you eventually, worst part being that your skills atrophy in the presence of digested information that can be overwhelming in terms of correctness purely by analysis and nothing to do with musicality as humans own it. Even if the inner methods of how humans make music become common knowledge in time, I believe giving a machine its place and keeping it there is the best option since it was never human to begin with, it pays not to let a machine destroy your soul or be an agent in atrophying your mind and body.
I wouldn’t bother getting the SP 404 personally because it is only a phrase sampler, not that great for detailed sequencing. The pads are not velocity sensitive as far as I know so not good for finger drumming. Its good for triggering backing tracks for live instrument performances though and portable. very small.
Sounds like the dr880 has some cool features I didnt know about.
I used to have the dr670 but I sold it. The pads were pretty good on that as well, quite playable and sensitve.
I thought the pads were a bit small but if I wanted to do rolls with two fingers ( or one finger on each hand, two handed rolls ) I’d assign the same sound to two adjacent pads…It worked nicely. It halves the number of pads available but its like playing with big pads.
Its nice that its so small and battery powered as well, but I thought the sounds were a bit classic rock. You could shorten them and pitch them up and down though to make it sound more unique.
I think it could even take a keyboard pedal to trigger the kick drum, but I never got round to it.
Another thing that was cool with the dr670 was running it through the delay on my guitar effects pedal, pushing the pedal down to create “delay fills” and lifting it up again to stop the delay. It sounded really cool.
I’m thinking about trying geoshred for iphone. Looks cool for guitarists. Practising the highest three strings across eight frets looks do-able. Have you tried it?
The DR 670 is also good as far as reviews are concerned and nice to know more from you. Geoshred yes I knew about it and then forgot about it. I would like to use it again but since I have 6 guitars right now iO suppose it will stick with me for a long while. The screen is good for playing like a Hawaiian guitar and it’s kinda nice for electric solos and shredding, and possibly as a sound source for sampling as well (phrases, riffs, power chords), but I see it as a shortcut without getting finger burn Might be great for a lot of other styles though.
Regarding SP404SX you are right it has many features lacking but for what it is if I can get it at a bargain price this toy will fit somewhere right in my kit list, I can see a certain use for it. It does not have midi out and pads are fewer and not velocity responsive and sample editing is crude with a mostly numeric display. Akai MPC 500 seems to be the right competition that defeats it easily at this price point and feature set comparison. However it seems a lot of hip hop artists use it or have used it quite well since it came out in 2005, and end of the day it can seem to get some decent results if worked on well through and through and if the sampling is really well done, as those producers have spent their time honing their craft to do well on any gear whatsoever. It’s also a discontinued product so it’s just fine for having fun in order to spend some extra cash. An MC 505 seems the best bet for now it seems considering everything else, even if it does not support sampling.
Just saw this “Music Speed Changer” app for Android and it functions as a loop extractor, good EQ module, pitch changer and the best part, an Ableton like speed changer with a very very smooth curve and results. I was listening to hip hop tracks slowed down and it’s as if the drummer played the parts slowly keeping all the groove intact and no artifacts at very useful ranges. I tried 74% and it works beautifully for Neo Soul tracks, even the inter delays between trumpet sounds or vocal sounds play as if the delay also slowed down. No loss in clarity. Great app this. I think we should pay and support this developer. I can see how the phone can be a nice sample extractor tool, since many samplers take line or aux in, especially with the looping pre done on this app, no need for a computer.
I am also seeing a Yamaha SU200 sampler unit. Just went over the manuals and feature set is good, does all the core functions. It does not have a sequencer though that can be remedied with an external sequencer or midi keyboard. The SU700 is more MPC like but it seems to have lots of unaddressed issues whereas the 200 is still a rather budget friendly and well recieved piece of gear.
Your right about geoshred.
I bought it last night after watching the hype videos and yeah, its kinda lame.
I thought it was going to to have subtle nice sounds like hawaiian guitar and stuff but its all over the top leads and even ridiculous arpeggios.
I couldnt refund so, Im going to play around with it a bit more.
Probably I’ll be able to get a few nice sounds with sliding out of it in the end.
Got to work out how to turn on fretless mode for smooth slides.
Might be alright too sample sliding chords into renoise and sequence with those samples to spice up a track.
I think its o.k with 3 strings and 7 frets onscreen. Anything more is too small.
But anyway it seems reasonably configurable so Im going to mess around with it a bit more.
Its no substitute for linnstrument which is what i was thinking.
Definitey cant replace a real stringed instrument.
Most of the greatest electronic tracks, dub and hip hop Ive heard have sampled “real world” strings or flutes in them somewhere. Cant beat a real string or a bamboo flute, but also cant practise these things living too close to neighbours.
su200 looks like fun. Saw something like that many moons past with a scratch ribbon on it.
Have you checked out akai xr20? might be an alright choice just for fun if you can find it cheap. Its not a sampler, only drum machine…but who needs a sampler when you already have renoise for that purpose?
But to be crowned “king of all samplers” renoise would need granular pitch shift ( like MPC 16 levels ), toggle on / off mode and rubberband timestrech. Its already king of seuencers and sample editors in my opinon.
Ya I can understand how dummy purchases feel as I also have quite a bit of paid iPad apps that I don’t use anymore. However as you said the sounds of Geoshred themselves could be used in a track if sampled and performed properly with some care.
XR20 is a closed system rompler drum machine with a pattern sequencer. It does it’s job well for hip hop sounds mostly and it does have some pad issues from what I read. It is not a poor man’s MPC either since sampling is not featured though for its money at a cheaper price an added hip hop specific sound module would be a nice use of this gear. Maybe a little later for now. DR 880 has way more features than this even if the sound pallete is geared towards a different audience for each of them. Renoise is perfect for every thing sampling related once the laptop is opened up, no other sampler needed for sure, except Kontakt libraries for an extensive sound pallete, mostly is musicians paying someone else for doing the sampling and patch creation work At least with a hardware sampler I get to do some real time crate digging and get all touchy feely with the unit, keeps the skills honed and is fun as well.
Su200 might be the most limited sampler ever but it does it’s job pretty well. Seems to have some looping pops issues in the Loop Remix mode from what I hear. I will try it out and see for myself next week or so from a local buyer.Selling for just 100 dollars. Might be worth it in the end.
I’m getting tired of overpriced stuff.
If the AKAI XR20 was on ebay for under $60 I’d still buy one, just for the portability factor.
The only other really cheap options are the cheesey sounding drums of korg volca drums or VSTi 808, 909, 707, 606.
I kind of liked battery, but in the end thought it was not enough nuts and bolts nice drum sounds, and too much fancy schmancy, over the top drum sound design.
The 200 breaks pack in the forums here is real nice though, so much great material for further layering and processing…just to make it sound a little less fatboyslim and a little heavier.
Cool @Renoised: I want to know if the unit is sturdy. How does it record unquantized real time input, or does it record only quantized events? Does the floppy disk unit actually work ? The input keyboard is not velocity sensitive but I am sure an external midi input would be available.
How are the onboard sounds and patches. Regarding drums are they very midi’ish or can they be salvaged for dance genres as well? How is the pattern sequencing experience overall? How many songs does it store? Is the LCD panel ergonomic and good to work on?
Finally are you happy with this unit and how much did you pay for it?
@Renoised: Wow that is really some nifty feature set. Looks like it is Renoise done in hardware (event list too for the edit panel), does the piano roll thing as well on the screen. Seems to be like band in a box hardware version. You are correct about midi functionality, I downloaded the user manual and read it through and through and it’s very well featured, does everything.
The preset phrases goes to 3k plus which is really awesome for realtime composition and lots of the YouTube videos have demoed electronic sounding beats on it and it is a tone generator as well having the XG set primarily.
Now I would like to know if sampling can be incorporated in some way since it’s purely for either techno or instrumental bangers or accompaniment via MIDI as a proper sequencer. However for a hip hop or beats workflow I would imagine using samples would require a different setup or a work around approach with this unit. Say I have 16 samples loaded on a 16 pad controller for a track with drums included (k-s-hh) and various chords and one shots, I say I could use this unit to drive an MPC but I would still need an external sampler or audio multi track recorder to actually work on vocals or beats. Do you know how you could work around this limitation? I suppose with external drum machines and bass and guitar FX another solid sequencer would not hurt but at this point I am looking to have some hardware samplers too that can do the job, well and good if sequencing is also done in the box.
I could see QY700 like an MC series ancestor as an alternative from Roland’s offerings. MC 303 505 do not do sampling but mostly onboard dance music oriented sequencing like the Gstomper app on hardware. MC 808 does sampling and so does the SP series from Roland. I wonder if you could make a feature or function comparison overview of how you would see this unit over others since you have prior experience with it.
Btw I have a local seller for 200 dollars, but I am holding out just yet for two reasons, the weight and size and if the feature set complements my existing setup inspite of it being a midi powerhouse. Carrying around an aging gear would be great if it adds value, certainly for the vintage factor but if it does not I would not be too happy about it during transportation. I need to see this hands on and then make up my kind about it. In my opinion there is no other hardware unit as fully featured as the QY700, which is a a great USP nonetheless. I am looking for a QY100 too for its size as the sound set is comparable I suppose and if both don’t do sampling then the one with the least volume wins. I heard that QY70 sounds better than the 100, is that true? I don’t need the guitar FX module on the 100 cos I already have that sorted out( also being really old and cheesy sounding), but for the rest of the sequencing functions if it runs on battery and does a jamming instrumental Il can see it greatly adding value.
I have used iPad apps and it does not do it for me. A MacBook has a fantastic trackpad and very responsive keyboard and those extra peripherals make a huge difference. Even on the QY700 the cursor buttons and function keys and mode buttons are reminiscent of an IBM keyboard from the ol’ days. The non velocy sensitive keyboard in the form of a piano octave arrangement is very much like an alphabet keyboard on a MacBook in that sense.
Even if you take an MPC X or Live the knobs and buttons are the workhorse interface and not just a screen to pinch and slide across. It’s tactile and they all have pads. While controllers can be connected the onscreen interaction is really distracting for me since even mentally the distinction between a web browser or PDF reader and a musical app vanishes. The whole abstraction is removed and replaced with a simulation of hardware mostly UI photoshopped to mimic hardware light and shadows and virtual cables to simulate actual cables. Honestly this used to look cool when it first came out but I am sick of piano rolls and virtual cables now.
Renoise really shines in this aspect because it does not try to simulate hardware, it establishes deep integration with how a computer is designed to run and even mimics the actual hardware (computer) in many ways effectively not fighting against the abstraction or paradigm but complementing and enhancing it. That is why its functionality is so quick and efficient, it’s not going against the grain. The part of winning an audience popularity contest is a different thing becos most artists and musicians do not come from a computing background and find it intimidating. Ironically the behemoths and pioneers of electronic music were and are all technicians and engineers and professors and researchers and I love the fact that while on a parallel tangent trackers and Renoise have kept that techical aspect well honed and curated in all these years. It’s unique and it’s superb that way. If UI was the only thing then a simple piano roll would be all it takes to make it more appealing but the target audience would miss the very point of a well integrated hardware and software joint that maximises the capacity of both while keeping tradition on a good nod.
So back to hardware stuff, I don’t have GAS but I am looking to curate some best of the last ‘discontinued’ gear and I find it an exciting time to live in, also because I am a 90’s guy so it was in those times when I used to be intrigued about these sounds and I grew listening up to these machines basically without even knowing about them.
A superb German Hard Trance band called Space Frog, with some of their hits ‘follow me’, ‘I feel your pain’, ‘lost in space’ and others transport me right back to the 90’s hardware oriented music. Cet Merlin the main producer is a sonic genius for sure, I have never heard another band from the genre with compositions like his, a simple saw wave he can turn into a searing and modulating lead with innovative and emotive melodic composition.
Another guy who does really good stuff is Josh Wink whose underrated album still is one of my favorites for its breadth of genres and sonic pallete especially for the 303 and 808 textures. ‘Hearhere’ his one and only artist album from now defunkt(?) Ovum records on Dancepool label has some really cool tracks. ‘I am on fire’ sung by Caroline Crowley has some really good trippy drums and the lead pads are done on a guitar via midi and synth and it morphs between two or three chords in a really dream like fashion. If you can emulate that sound it would be an awesome thing to do. I still have not figured it out how he did that out of a guitar (and samplers). His whole album is very unique.
MPC500 is my go to sampler. only con for me is i cant play my loops while trimming samples.
i bought it 5 years ago for 90 eur in pawn shop, for that price i got ultra portable sampler with battery power 6xAA
sample chopping is fast, when you used to it. i dont swap any files with usb just Record, trim, sequence, repeat
if you want to do some ultra technical stuff like parallel compresion with sidechaining on a send channels, dont buy mpc500
if yo want sample some youtube or make some dope drum loops (because each sound can have different swing) go buy it!
to be honest, i used mpc2500 for a while (not mine) and discovered that its pretty much same thing as my 500
Yea, good to know from another’s perspective, @Garrett mentioned his experience was a bit negative and he sold it, while you had a positive experience and you are keeping it. I demoed the MPC500 from a local seller and I found it surprisingly intuitive( a certain mental zoning in factor happens when you use dedicated hardware). The sampling is spot on, takes line in from your phone or a mic with a toggle switch and the sample extract feature is quick for its design, the jog dial and cursor keys are side by side and one hand operation is very easy. Modes are quickly memorized as pressing the mode button and then one of the designated pads. Master and Record gain have front knobs, and even if the pads are not the best from Akai it’s durable enough. Metronome and click track can be configured to play during record or play and record both and the sound is changeable, 4 banks of 48 samples with bank buttons right below the jog dial. Onboard FX is nice too, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser and eq and compression. Btw sidechaining can be done with an outboard compressor unit and resampled back. It’s also a workflow thing, just like Renoise, MPC is also unique. Getting an outboard compressor with an MPC 500/2500/4000/5000 unit and some keys and vinyl and guitar with FX and drum machines and a mic look like a true and tried setup that would make you really busy than just seem to be busy.
I think a lot of folks might have had better expectations from this product and quite a few units turned out to be buggy, but judging by the feature set it’s actually a very powerful sampler and sequencer. Some say it’s for entry level users or beginners but then when I look at MPX ( no sequencer, does not run on batteries, calls it self portable) or Electribe (real time record also quantizes to 16 step grid which is totally pointless for beats) or SP 404 (very low polyphony, non velocity pads, lack of outputs, similar cryptic screens for editing using markers for truncate) and other similar gear they all would be basic samplers missing lot of features where even the ‘basic’ MPC 500 does built in, and yea it runs on battery so the value is worth it, possibly even more so since it’s a discontinued product these days. Another thing I read is that the screen is very small and you do not have waveform display etc but personally since I play and record everything unquantized and real time, step record unlike in Renoise where it’s awesome is something I don’t quite fancy on hardware anyways, since it’s no point for beats becos mine ain’t quantized (or very light amounts on target parts mostly for effect), no way you can step sequence your grooves for that kind of a swing, and melodies- sampling and resampling the pattern takes care of it, live guitar input and keyboard input takes care of it. You could record the performance on a single Pad just like you would load it from a sample cd or a vinyl. I don’t even imagine myself doing any kind of editing both midi and audio regardless of the screen size. For midi events a simple erase feature of holding the respective pad down while holding an erase button is all I need and most products have that already. Remember the time when musicians used to record takes till they get the perfect one and when auto tune was not invented? That is more my style and it saves so much time and it keeps your musicianship and your ears on its toes striving to be a better musician than a better post production editor.
The MPX 16 from Akai does not have a sequencer, does not run on batteries and is nowhere an MPC beyond the sampling on SD card. It almost looks like a dumbed down MPC500, yet that is the latest product from them(!). While CF cards work and are still available a simple upgrade for a 500 to sd cards and other minor updates would see immense market value if samplers still have any future beyond users shelling out 2000 dollars for a bling machine just to record stuff and play it back.
I think it would be a good purchase based on all the feedback.
I do have a solution for sampling as well, the QY700 being an important part of it, but I’ll leave that for another day if you really want to hear it cause it would mean explaining my whole hardware setup.
Great to hear your insights on both grooveboxes and sequencers. I feel that for ornate orchestrations the QY700 would most definitely overtake any Groovebox in terms of versatility and sound pallete, even sans the sampling. MC 808 will no doubt be more immediate (or easy to use) and some of its features certainly do lend well to specific genres but it is also quite limited in terms of extensive tracking if that was a requirement especially if directly competing with today’s terabyte sized sample libraries or extensive midi power of QY700. But all gear has its quirks so it boils down to how one uses it and not only what it can do.
I see these various hardwares as individual modules to begin with built for a specific feature or use case. I imagine a perfect hardware machine with all possible features and it would be 1) too expensive, no one would buy it 2) too complicated, no one would use it. Maybe many think of these machines expecting them to do everything out of the box rather than thinking of them as useful additions for a specific purpose in the studio. That immediately puts their value in perspective. Because hardware was and is expensive to design and develop and market, manufacturers don’t fool around trying to make a quick buck. In software nearly everything has been done from the knob to the DSP algo and code repositories have made it mostly a copy paste affair if thought of that way, since the bulk of the RnD is already done. The expertise is valuable no doubt. Just like zip libraries and time stretching and filter algos they can be shared via email and an app can be deployed for 2 dollars on the market place. It’s has become easy to make an all in one solution in software. This is a virtue as well as a vice.
Von Neumans computer architecture is a resounding success and the only hardware needed for being a polymorphic automata that does very thing from email to E-banking. For music we are using the same architecture, which makes different tools run on one hardware, rather than build different hardware for each job. But if you look at it that way then all manufacturers need to only perfect building a computer, which is again pointless because of monopoly in the microprocessor market (Intel, AMD, ARM). So that is where lower powered chips can be used for innovative and feature specific hardware that solves a particular requirement instead of making yet another computer. In that regard software related dev and research goes hand in hand. I read in some older tracking magazines in one article where the writer says about building an OS specific to demo scene which was critiqued as pointless becos OS markets and graphic card markets are conjoined and no way a Demoscene OS will be able to support all the existing hardware without a business model or a market share. It’s just the nature of the world we are living in. Monopoly rules. The creativity envisioned by the Demosceners for a particular hardware speaks for itself. Let the engineers do their part and the artist their. Let Beethoven do his part and the piano maker his.
I must remember to stop before I pontificate too much on this, but hardware is awesome and not just our laptop or computer hardware but dedicated hardware. Software is awesome too and every hardware has one nonetheless cos that is how computers work and that is how Turing machines work. All these hardware have a clock and internal OS and multi threading and chips, but they are encapsulated around a well designed interface that is also tangible. They are computers built for music making, just like a graphic calculator for comparison. Technically speaking you could build another Groovebox hardware just like this on a regular laptop and just wire it’s controllers via usb and plug the outputs to a custom LCD unit to liaise over the custom software written that runs on the laptop unit all kept inside a machined box that does not immediately give away that this machine runs on a computer to begin with. Now that would not take away the experience but rather make it more reliable and modern becos of better memory and storage and cpu speed. Quite possibly very feasible for a small tech team of audio devs to accomplish.
NI Maschine and Akai controllers with their software have made their own versions of it, though completely tethered to the laptop and not really a Groovebox in that sense, a Beatmaking alternative tool mostly and a controller for a complete definition. There could be different mod versions of an MC 808 or 303 or 505 selling for a third of the price while giving us the authentic experience of using an original. Just plug your MacBook and load the software from a the website and place it in the vacant space inside the mods and plug the USB peripherals and off you go, the LCD picks it up from there. With today’s hardware and software I am surprised no one is doing any of this sort of re modding vintage gear with modern tools from scratch. Not OpenLabs style units though, those were bulky and a really bad American design and performance, running regular PC parts selling at 5 times the original price.
But going all the way software is like spending too much time on prayers at the cost of physical neglect. It is no doubt an asymmetry. Would you make love to a video simulation or drive a car via a touchscreen? Humans are not biologically made for that and barely 30 years of software technologies must not convince us otherwise. It’s good for convenience and like using Uber it’s fun and easy but in a survival situation when fitness, presence of mind and alertness is required and not to mention regular practice, that is when convenience gets all the natural skills atrophied and leaves us wanting and wishing we had not given up our potential for the sake of convenience. When we are complaining about limited hardware it is like complaining about too much weights or a rigid schedule of discipline like using a pull up bar, it’s stupendously difficult at first but then your mass and fitness and calibre all increase and stay that way. If you however go for the convenient road the mass never even develops to be useful when you really need it. Hardware constraints are not constraints in terms of creativity becos the hardware itself is the product of the human creative mind. It’s like a puzzle box and it’s your job to solve your way out of it or figure out the best techniques to. If a puzzle was not hard enough who would bother solving it? Would be dead piss easy and even my grand mom would be able to solve it before going to bed every night. To sell people on easiness is a big business on its own becos the latter is clear, people want convenience and entertainment, which also means a large part of the populace don’t exercise or eat right or have a disciplined lifestyle, possible a stressful one nonetheless or a chaotic one but a streamlined one not many and certainly not all. A mistake many make is thinking once you become disciplined it will all fall in place as if discipline is an easy bitch. Discipline itself requires discipline and concious effort to keep it going. Then comes the money part which sort of simplifies thinking (“let us do the thinking for you, you just do your job”) since it mostly boils down to a number and regardless of how you get it its the end that matters, and that mode of thinking trivializes the journey or the process of attainment and puts persistence and perseverance secondary to the mode of getting results, whichever way you achieve its fine as long as you so it - the number mind you, nothing about time or life or spirit or ethics or self mastery etc. This is a Machine mindset and is a direct byproduct of the indoctrinated schooling systems teaching everyone to lose their humanity and become machines with only one collective purpose, make money for your master and eat some in the process or you die. This kind of thinking also suavely bypasseses any concious thought of an individual to master himself or his goals and it tries to coerce him into fitting in with everyone else like a factory mould. Hence the bevy of tools on the market that sell music making skills for you from midi file packages to detailed sample CDs and drum collections- “let us do the music making easy for you, you just pay us”. For pros who have limited time I get the point, but then those guys already have a budget or human resources to do this for themselves. It’s not a “we save your time cos you too busy, you pay us model” but rather a “we save you from spending time to attain that skill and you still pay us, you will have less money than you had and still no skill to speak of”. It’s like ghostwriting projects or an essay writing service for students. But from their perspective as a service provider, they too need to pay bills and make money and they are capitalising on their skill and selling it as a cheaper form of consulting which in todays economy is absolutely fair, bit only if their target audience learns form it as well, doing it just for money is like hustling your bitch for quick cash, just using it not loving it or living it. Tutorial sites are cool though, disseminating knowledge. These grooveboxes never marketed themselves as a do-it-for-you solution but rather a unit for you do discover and play around and express yourself, very different from this “we do it for you” marketing approach which is more visible in todays times and markets. End of pontifications.
Now that you mention it, I am intrigued as to how you manage sampling in your setup, would be great to know since you use a very hardware oriented setup with older gear.
Wow, some really dedicated setup you got. I took time to read each of their manuals in my spare time this week. Yamaha samplers are really powerful for their functionality that they offer and I can imagine it will be awesome for ambient music type sounds as well. The Sony cassette deck is a really good investment that now I am also looking to get one. Your setup description also gives me a sense of how others are doing it and that is very informative. I had a burning question about where Renoise fits in with all this hardware that you have but it looks like you have it setup just right for you.
I am in Thailand right now for my first workaway experience:) Good luck on your move too!
That’s an excellent explanation of what a 3 head and 2 head deck does. You are really invested in analog gear and you certainly know your way around:) Tapedecks forum is a new thing for me, never guessed it, and now I am reading the posts with lot of curiosity. It’s just like Renoise forums here lots of great information as a resource and a community as well. Tape based splocong and music concréte goes all the way back to the origins of electronic music. I see a lot of time experimenting with tapes now. I wonder if there is a vst plugin that does complete tape deck emulation with reel length and all that, would be a great addition to regular setup of samplers and computer gear.
Found this to be a more complete emulation of an entire tape deck not just the analog hiss or wow and flutter or tubes part.
I am having a good time here and thanks a lot for your tips and advice. I look forward to purchasing my first proper 3 head tape deck very soon.
@Renoised, Yea I thought so too regarding plugins, I think a simulation is never the real thing, or in the case of an existential question, it’s not good enough or complete enough as the other and original real thing.
Revox looks interesting and with a few added features would be quite a gear essential. My only concern when is weight at this point. I will however buy a vintage one first:)