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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Grooveboxes

4. Popular Models

Roland MC-909

The Roland MC-909 is much larger in size than its 303 predecessor, but as it incorporates a high performance editable synthesizer (with all of the standard dedicated controls - oscillator waveform and tuning, filter and ADSR envelope parameters), a sampler, a 16 channel mixer with 8 dedicated faders and 24 bit effects including multiband dynamics processing, you can see why! It also has DJ turntable emulation which allows you to control the tempo of sequences and samples, plus Roland’s unique ‘Theremin style’ D-Beam technology, facilitating realtime manipulation of sounds via an infra-red beam. All this is accompanied by over 200 preset patterns in a range of different dance styles, plus the ability to transfer sequences and samples to your computer’s desktop. This is Roland’s ultimate Groovebox, and it makes you wonder what else they could possibly add but the kitchen sink!

Yamaha RM1X

Yamaha’s RM1X ‘Sequencer Remixer’ is aimed at those on a tighter budget, but still provides many of the classic Groovebox features, giving you plenty of ‘bang for the buck’. It has a range of preset dance patterns, a 32 note polyphonic AWM synth engine with 8 ‘on the fly’ assignable knob controls, an arpeggiator, and the ability to assemble grooves in realtime using its pad-style keyboard. The sequencer has 16 tracks and is able to store over 110,000 notes to a resolution of 1/480th of a quarter note.

Akai MPC Series

Akai MPC4000

15 years after the classic MPC60 was launched, Akai now offers a range of models, the flagship product being the MPC4000 Plus. Where other manufacturers have concentrated on expanding their Grooveboxes’ feature sets, the MPC has stuck to its winning formula of primarily making rhythm tracks, using a programming interface that has changed little since the first MPC was released. The centrepiece of the MPC4000’s front panel is a set of sixteen velocity and pressure sensitive pads, to the right of which are ‘tape style’ transport controls and edit buttons, and to the left, realtime faders and knobs. Akai has borrowed from its ‘Z’ series sampler range, providing the MPC4000 with powerful sample manipulation facilities, and have also included their ‘Akysys’ software, which allows the MPC to connect to a computer via USB for on-screen sample file management. It has both an internal 80Gb hard drive and a CDRW drive, 512Mb RAM, plus dedicated inputs for a DJ’s turntable via RIAA connections on the rear. Amongst other models in the range, the MPC500 is the smallest, with 12 pads and a reduced but still capable feature set. It stores both songs and samples to tiny SD cards, and also has the capability of running on batteries for true portability.

Korg Electribes

Korg Electribe EM1X

Korg’s Electribe range takes a slightly different approach, consisting of similarly priced models with complimentary feature sets - at the time of writing, the SX Music Production Sampler, and the MX Music Production Station. As the names suggest, the SX concentrates on sampling, while the MX has analog modelling synthesis at its core. They uniquely incorporate a pair of Electro Harmonics 12AX7 valves, which at the turn of a knob add sweet harmonic distortion to the overall sound.

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Grooveboxes overview


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