Expanding on its recent range of products, the Novation Circuit combines at the same time the accessibility of its predecessors and the content of higher priced products. After spending hours doing research for our Novation Circuit review, we have absolutely no doubt concerning the usefulness of the creative and inspiring features as well as the unlimited music recording possibilities offered by this versatile drum machine.

Novation has stated, that this standalone “groovebox” was designed to inspire. With a lot of qualitative aspects, the Circuit will impress almost anyone.  This time, the British brand has concentrated its efforts on intuitiveness and portability in order to deliver an overall more convenient and straightforward experience to the user.

Through a solid design and construction, complete features, astounding performance, and overall fantastic value, this is a product that should not be overlooked. This article will attempt to give you a comprehensive review of the Novation Circuit.

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Compact and portable

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All round and creative device

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Swapping your own samples for drum samples.

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Maximum note length of 16 steps

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Built in patches are a somewhat limited

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Impossible to record unquantized rhythms

Novation Circuit Specifications

  • Size: 16.7 x 11.2 x 3.7 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 pounds
  • Included software & library for Mac and PC: Circuit Components
  • MIDI connections: Yes
  • USB connections: Yes (1 via computer)
  • Control knobs: 8
  • Audio outputs: Integrated speaker
  • Audio inputs: Front-mounted 3.5mm jack socket for headphones
  • Power requirements: Circuit can be powered using 6x AA batteries or a power supply

Novation Circuit Features

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Tweak using 8 synth macro encoders

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4-part drum machine

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32 slots to save sessions

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64 production-ready patches

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Compact and battery powered

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4x8 grid of RGB, velocity-sensitive sequencer pads

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Create your own synth patches using Circuit Editor

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Combine up to 128 steps of synth and drum patterns

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2 part Nova heritage analogue-modelled + wavetable synthesizer

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Possibility to add your samples with sample import

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Novation Circuit Review

Design & Construction

Taking into account the rising demand for portable devices, novation has delivered at the same time a fully ergonomic, functional and lightweight product. Helpful lights and buttons improve the overall ergonomy considerably. The product itself feels a lot more professional than other Novation products in the “Launch Series”. Indeed, the buttons feel like it was made to be used as a serious production tool.

With this groove-box, Novation has decided to deliver a compact and battery powered device (also which allows you to conveniently create sounds and beats wherever you go. In this case, 6 AA batteries are required to use the “Circuit” as a standalone device.

In terms of design, all the buttons are well displayed and permit a rather quick and intuitive approach to the device.

Moreover, a mini-jack headphone output is included, letting you use the device without disturbing others. Novation has integrated the grid-based Launchpad controller, control knobs, a filter and a built-in speaker. Connectivity with your preference DAW is fantastic since the circuit can be used as a MIDI controller. You can send all midi sequences and/or audio signals to Ableton from your circuit.

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What we regretted with the Circuit is the absence of a diving menu and note-by-note editing. Other than that, in terms of design, all the buttons are well displayed and permit a rather quick and intuitive approach to the device. Nonetheless, beginners might find it difficult to master the button arrangement of the circuit at their first tries. After that period, everything will seem easy and obvious.

You May Also Like | Novation Launchpad Review

Features, Software & Performance

The Novation Circuit features 2 synth channels which are both polyphonic (6 voices) and 4 drum/sample channels. Through the 32 session slots which are made available, it is very easy to store multiple sessions. This device must be one of the most straightforward hardware sequencers for inputting melodic content (no menu diving).

We can describe the product as being very all round, offering at the same time two polysynths, a drum machine (with 4 drum channels), a mixer and a sequencer. The advantage is that with a 6-note polyphony, you’ll be able to play the Circuit like an ordinary synthesizer.

Others advantages with this complete product include the possibility to side-chain your synths to your drums, adjust filters, effects, tempo, swing and so much more without even using your laptop.

The novation circuit must be one of the most straightforward hardware sequencers for inputting melodic content

Moreover, the sequencer of the Circuit includes 128 step patterns in total. This offers an unlimited amount of creative possibilities. Complex polyphonic sounds, interesting textures, and modulation provide a unique sound. The 4 drum channels allow you to also load your own samples.

Additionally, the low and high pass filters on this machine give great flexibility in terms of sound design. Greater experimentation can be explored through 8 macro knobs which control several parameters.

When it comes to software, some massive updates extended the features of the Circuit. To mention only a few, there was the creation of a web MIDI-based interface for updating the Circuit and its patches; a wonderful wide and deep patch editor (desktop), and; the ability to load your own samples. Loading your own samples was made possible through the streamlined browser-based interface.

Above all, Novation offers great documentation, support, regular updates (packs of synth sounds, samples and sessions) and web-based tools for the Circuit.

The value of the Novation Circuit

If it is almost always difficult to judge how valuable a product is, the novation circuit is a very complete device which will be appealing to most. Just by the fact that it is also standalone groove-box, there is no necessity to have a computer to use it (you can still hook it up with USB/MIDI, in and out).

However, the fact that you don’t need a computer is great since you don’t need to have a screen in front of you whenever you want to practice on your beats and any music skills. Facility is also translated by the fact that you can either use a normal adaptor or batteries to power up the device.

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Much more than a bleep-bloop, acid techno or bassline sequencer, the Circuit is capable of stringing together surprisingly intricate songs. Without any doubt, it will draw spark that creative light you have inside of you. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t expect the circuit to help you instantly finish projects. In this case, it will limit you more than anything else.

Once you get a hang of the controls and how to make everything work together, you will become addicted to the simplicity it conveys.

In our opinion, the value of the device can be supported by its flexibility. Once you get a hang of the controls and how to make everything work together, you will become addicted to the simplicity it conveys. At first, the interface will certainly seem cryptic, but Novation offers great documentation and support on their website.

There are a lot of positives with the product in the sense that the only negative points we can talk about are the creative limitations. Extremely fun to use, the flexibility you have can be used to create surprisingly full and evolving tracks. What we can say is that for this price this is an amazing powerful groove box.

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How Does the Novation Circuit Compare?

1. Maschine Mikro MK2 Review

In a similar way to the Novation Circuit, the Maschine Mikro MK2 is easily browsable and tweakable. Loading, arranging and automation functions demonstrate how versatile and flexible this device is. The plug-in and effect parameters the Mikro MK2 comes with are also greatly editable. Software-wise, the great thing is that documentation with Native Instruments products is always clear and straightforward.

Ergonomic and with a pleasing design, multicolored pads allow you to assign colors to all the groups, sounds, patterns and scenes for extended accessibility. The featured pads increase sensitivity for a very accurate precision. The latest version includes time stretch and pitch shift capability. To properly understand how this device functions you will need to have access to the user manual just like with the novation circuit.

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2. Korg ELECTRIBE Review

The ELECTRIBE is probably closer to the Circuit than the previous product in terms of performance. With pattern chaining, you can create full songs. Indeed, chaining is unlimited, and this means that you can create entire sets of music. The undo function is particularly useful on this one. With a combination of buttons, you can erase what you just recorded if you want to.

Other useful features include the original value indicator with which users can now see the original position of any knob on the panel for any part on the screen. What we really like with the ELECTRIBE (can draw comparisons with the circuit) is the fact that it has all the list of tools for the creation and performance of any genre of electronic music. Like the Miro MK2, it features a considerable amount of additional content (400+ bonus patterns available for free from korg.com).

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Conclusion

In our opinion, the novation circuit is a really qualitative product. Its extensive functionalities, rigid design and overall fantastic value all contribute to the success it has encountered on the market. Nonetheless, even if its characteristics are impressive, you should really consider it more as a creative addition to your already existing setup in the sense that it won’t easily help you create songs. It is much more a product which allows you to have fun when you make music.

For people who are really fascinated about drum machines and are looking for a great pad product, it is without any doubt an unmistakable choice. Alternatives to the circuit are scarce, but between the Korg Electribe and the Maschine Mikro MK2, the former could be considered as a better choice. If you interested in having a MIDI Controller. Here is a review of the Novation Launchpad.

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