Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Grooveboxes

2. History

The Groovebox evolved from the drum machine when designers began to combine synthesis, sampling and sophisticated sequencing into a single hardware box, enabling the programming of not just simple drum patterns, but complete backing tracks without the use of a computer. In the multitrack recording studio, laying down the ‘backing tracks’ of a band’s drummer and bassist has always been considered the first stage of constructing a song, before the other instruments and vocals were overdubbed.

But in the late 70s and early 80s, the drum machine - especially in dance music styles - was increasingly being used to provide the rhythm tracks in place of a real drummer, in the same way that synthesizers like the Minimoog were being used for bass lines. As a result, more ‘electronic’ sounding backing tracks were being created. This trend continued, and in 1988 the legendary Roger Linn designed Akai MPC60 was released, which allowed samples of basic bass instrument parts to be combined with drums, thus enabling the creation of entire electronic backing tracks from just one machine. Although not used in all styles of music, the MPC’s ability to quickly sample original drum sounds in the form of loops did make it particularly popular with hip hop and electronic dance artists.

The Roger Linn Akai MPC60

The term ‘Groovebox’ was not introduced until 1997 when Roland released their MC-303. This used the classic drum machine pattern and song format, but importantly added an arpeggiator and also a phrase sequencer, so that synthesizer ‘ostinatos’ could be triggered from key pads on the fly and layered over the rhythm structure. Additionally, realtime changes to the sounds could be made using dedicated filter and envelope knobs. All of these new elements were a response to a resurgence of interest in analogue synthesizers and early step sequencers/arpeggiators from dance music artists such as The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and Orbital, who all the unique sound that they produced. The downside of secondhand analogue synthesizers though was that they were expensive to maintain, time-consuming to tune, and physically huge! The MC-303 emulated the analogue sound and made it much easier to produce, and so was a convenient alternative for anyone seeking to produce music in this style. The Groovebox was born!

Roland MC-303 Groovebox

As other manufacturers such as Yamaha and Korg released their own versions, more and more features were added, both to try to out-do their competitors, and as a response to new areas of production like remixing, and the phenomenon of the creative DJ, all of which ultimately gave rise to the sophisticated models on offer today.

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Grooveboxes overview

Line6 Helix HX Effects Epiphone Joe Bonamassa 1958 "Amos" Fender SQ Jaguar Special SS IL CAR Zoom F1-LP Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB Warm Audio WA73-EQ Presonus Faderport 16 Bose QC 35 II Wireless BK Yamaha DXS15 MKII Palmer PWT 12 MK 2 Zoom F1-SP Fun Generation PL 15 Sub A
Line6 Helix HX Effects

Multi effect pedal More than 100 HX effects, Of which up to 9 effects can be used simultaneously, Import of own Impulse Responses (IRS), Parallel stereo signal paths, Inputs can be switched between line / instrument level, Two assignable...

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Epiphone Joe Bonamassa 1958 "Amos"

Electric Guitar Joe Bonamassa model, Body and neck: Korina, Fretboard: Certified blackwood, Neck profile: 1958 Rounded C, 22 Medium jumbo frets, Pickups: Epiphone Probucker 2 (neck) and Epiphone Probucker 3 (bridge), Lock Tone ABR-1 Tuneomatic bridge, Including case, certificate,...

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Fender SQ Jaguar Special SS IL CAR

Electric Bass Body: Agathis, Neck: Maple, Fretboard: Indian Laurel (Laurel), Neck profile: C, 20 Frets, Scale: 762 mm (30"/ Short Scale), Nut width 38 mm, Pickups: 1 J-Style and 1 Split single coil, Black 3-ply pickguard, Colour: Candy Apple...

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Zoom F1-LP

Field Recorder and Lavalier Microphone Set Two-channel audio recorder, Compatible with zoom microphone capsules, Supports WAV formats up to 24bit / 96kHz or MP3 formats on microSD / microSDHC card (up to 32GB), USB audio interface for PC and...

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Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB

USB 2.0 audio interface 24-bit / 192 kHz, 18 inputs and 20 outputs, 8 Clarett mic preamps with Air mode model and the classic ISA mic preamp sound, Low noise (-128dB ON), Up to 118 dB dynamic range, Switchable...

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Warm Audio WA73-EQ

Warm Audio WA73-EQ; 1-channel Mic-Preamp; British 1073-style; fully discrete Class A; Carnhill Transformers; 80dB of Gain (stepped gain switch); Tone Button (changes input transformer impedance); Polarity switch; +48v phantom power; Inductor based 3 band EQ: Low Band Boost/Cut (35, 60,...

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Presonus Faderport 16

16-Channel DAW Production Controller 16 Professional, touch-sensitive 100 mm motor faders (Dual-Servo Drive Belt), High fader resolution: 10 Bits/1,024 steps, 85 Background and status illuminated buttons, 104 Controllable functions, 16 High-resolution LC displays as digital labeling fields, Timecode and...

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Bose QC 35 II Wireless BK

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II Wireless Black Noise Cancelling headphone - Acoustic Noise Cancelling, around-ear design, swiveling ear cups, volume optimized EQ, Google Assistant, up to 20 h running time, includes audio cable, USB charging cable and etui, colour: black

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Yamaha DXS15 MKII

Active Subwoofer Equipped with: 1x 15" woofer, 1020 Watt Class-D power amp, Frequency range: 40 - 150 Hz, Maximum output level: 135 dB, Black plywood housing with speaker grille that protects entire front and the front edges, XLR inputs/outputs,...

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Palmer PWT 12 MK 2

Multi power supply for effect pedals 4 Outputs - adjustable from 9 to 18V, 2 Can be interconnected with the supplied Y-cable and deliver up to 36 V output voltage, The maximum capacity of the 9 V outputs is...

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Zoom F1-SP

Field Recorder and Shotgun Microphone Two-channel audio recorder, Compatible with zoom microphone capsules, Supports WAV formats up to 24bit / 96kHz or MP3 formats on microSD / microSDHC card (up to 32GB), USB audio interface for PC and Mac...

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Fun Generation PL 15 Sub A

Active subwoofer Speaker assembly: 15" woofer, Power: 250 W RMS / 1000 W peak, Max. SPL: 125 dB, Frequency range: 40 - 250 Hz, Adjustable low-pass filter from 40 - 150 Hz, Inputs: XLR (L + R), XLR (L...

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