Groove Engine: Desktop MIDI and CV 16 channel step sequencer
This is one big slab of buttons! Dax & Winston are looking for funding and preorders to realise their Groove Engine step sequencer. It’s an enormous console of sequencing and arranging designed to be the compositional and performance heart of your hardware music making.
In a nutshell, it’s a 16-step sequencer, with 16 tracks, each with a MIDI and CV/Gate output all laid out on a desktop console for 500 bucks.
As a MIDI sequencer you can record notes and up to three automation tracks of controller data. There’s a single MIDI output and so the idea is that you set each track to a different MIDI channel and then daisy chain through your MIDI gear. There’s a lot of talk of MIDI “samplers” like they’re still a common thing. Part of the design is a range of optional MIDI Thru boxes, for reaching those MIDI samplers that don’t have their own Thru port.
On the CV side each track has a trigger and two CV outputs. So you can use it as both an oscillator sequencer and a drum trigger. Plus you can modulate another parameter. The marketing says that “The CV note signal can be set to those separate of the MIDI Note values” which appears to say that you can run two different sequences, one MIDI, one CV, on each track. Might need some clarification on that.
Sync can be achieved via MIDI or CV clock or you can have the Groove Engine as the master clock of everything else.
They talk about Live Sets, Arrangement Slots and Pattern slots, but it’s not making complete sense at the moment. Each Live Set has 16 pattern slots which total “256 steps of sequencing and arranging headroom per song.” I’m not sure if that’s per track or globally, or whether a “song” is a Live Set or something else. Some of the information is a little unclear at this stage. But from what I can gather the panels of buttons on the left are probably for instant selection of patterns and arrangements of patterns – or something.
The fader/sliders in the middle are presumably for data and note entry. Except after a closer look, these appear to be knobs with a line drawn through them.
Simple to grasp, easy to set-up
They make a lot of how easy it is to use, how it’s very hands-on and intuitive for creating awesome live performances with your external gear. However, it’s not very clearly explained. As a concept, it looks awesome. As a piece of gear, it might be a bit on the huge side. The Groove Engine is half the price of the Polyend which only does MIDI. It may be twice the price of the Arturia BeatStep Pro or Twisted Electrons Crazy 8 but it has many times the functionality. This could be something quite amazing. However, I am a little worried by the campaign’s lack of clarity and reality. All the images and video are renders. There’s no sense of there being a working prototype. I really want to see how all these elements come together and also get a sense of the scale.
Open to suggestion
Dax and Winston say that this is an “open discussion project”. They encourage suggestions and improvements that they can consider and possibly implement. My suggestions would be first to push for more steps – it’s common to find 64 steps on 16 buttons these days. Then look at polyrhythms – different pattern lengths per track, and then randomisation and probability.
At the time of writing they haven’t attracted any backers (come on guys, at least get your mum to buy one), but they’ve given themselves 2 months on Indiegogo to raise $90,000. To buy one will cost you a special price of $349 (Canadian) which is stunning if the machine can do what they say it can. There’s no information on expected delivery dates. It’s very exciting, but how real is it?
More information can be found on their Indiegogo page. Check out the promo video below – the voice-over is hilarious.
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