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Three Of The Best Classic Grooveboxes

Published: Tue September 09, 2014  News Feed

Three Of The Best Classic Grooveboxes

By Hugh McKenna

It seemed 2013 signalled the triumphant return of the analogue monosynth, with affordable sequencing, CV and MIDI enabled synthesisers finding their way into a huge number of homes and studios. Well it seems 2014 might be marking the return of another dance music favourite, the groovebox. With Aira series garnering column inches everywhere from Sound On Sound to the Guardian and the recently announced return of the Korg Electribe series, we reckon it might be time to take a look at the greatest of groove machines.

Roland MC-303

Roland MC303

A little perverse of us perhaps, given how many famous machines have come from Roland, but the 808 and 909 are a bit too limited to be included in the groovebox family (no swing, no groove, capiche?). So here's a junior member of the Roland MC series, loaded with enough sounds to create entire tracks all by itself and so simple to use that you'll be firing out tracks faster than late 90's Moby! Pretty sure he must have owned one around then, given he's crazy about all things drum machine.

Korg Electribe ESX

Korg Electribe ESX

Considerably more advanced than the MC-303, the Electribe samplers manage to balance accessibility and fun with a good bit of depth for song arranging and modulation sequencing. Load a snare drum, turn on the delay, record filter modulation and tell me your bored. No? Didn't think so. The ESX was the most senior of the Electribe sampler series, until Korg announced the Electribe 2 Sampler the other day that is. Ableton integration, built in synth and even a lower price are all very welcome additions, hopefully without sacrificing that instant fun factor. If you want something a little more affordable then the Korg Volca series has grooveboxes in a number of flavours including analogue synth, analogue beats, analogue bass synth and the all new sampler!

Akai MPC 60

Akai MPC60

It looks like an ancient supermarket till and it's not made in the same mould as other step sequencer grooveboxes but then that style was never much good for hip hop. Akai put the groove in groovebox with their legendary swing and Note Repeat which allowed rhythmic dunces to create natural sounding loops and patterns, credit to creator Roger Linn. While the MPC60 may no longer be in production it's still popular with a number of old school heads. If they ever get sick of loading off ancient disks and editing on a tiny screen then they needn't worry. The latest MPC's have complete computer integration for a massive palette of sounds, FX and easy editing.

New School

If you want the pleasure of hands on control without the pain of outmoded sounds and obscure data storage devices then there's a number of modern upgrades/alternatives. The Aira TR8 and TB3 drum machine and synth are obvious starting points, if you haven't heard of them yet then where have you been? The Electribe 2 Sampler and Synth are due out before christmas 2014 and Akai have in fact fused the worlds of digital, analogue, step sequencing and pad control together with the Rhythm Wolf, also due out soon. Finally it's worth keeping an eye on the Roland SBX-1 Sync Box, which will allow you to connect your MIDI, analogue and computer together with one master control!

 
 
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