Novation Introduces Circuit, a ‘Grid-Based Groove Box’

Novation has introduced Circuit, a stand-alone, grid-based groove box.

Teased out by Novation with several weeks of “start something”-themed videos, Novation has positioned Circuit as an all-in-one solution for music creation:

“Sometimes, starting a track can be a difficult and daunting task…. We suffer from this problem too and wanted to create a solution.”

“We wanted something small and portable, something that doesn’t sound like a toy, something that gives maximum creative output from minimum input, something that encourages exploration and creates ‘happy accidents’. That’s why we created Circuit.”

Novation_CircuitCircuit combines what the manufacturer is calling “Nova-heritage” synths with “expertly sculpted” drums, a basic bit of kit for creating an entire tune.

The battery-powered groove box lets you combine up to 128 steps of synth and drum patterns, and subsequently add space, depth and energy to the music with built-in effects. Circuit also has built-in sidechain, and finished creations can be saved to one of 32 slots.

Under the hood, Circuit consists of two Novation polysynths and a four-part drum machine with a 4×8 RGB velocity-sensitive grid sequencer and built-in speaker, all in a standalone box.

The groove box also works with the user’s sound system, computer, and other synth gear, via its Line outputs, USB and MIDI ports.

Novation Circuit Key Features:

  • 2-part Nova-heritage analog-modelled synthesizer
  • 4-part drum machine
  • 4×8 grid of RGB, velocity-sensitive sequencer pads
  • 6 voice polyphony
  • Loads of oscillator types and wavetables
  • 64 production-ready patches
  • Step sequence or build live
  • Lock your music in time and key
  • Combine ready-made drum patterns
  • “Tweak” using 8 synth macro encoders with RGB LEDs
  • Record and play back your tweaks
  • Combine up to 128 steps of synth and drum patterns
  • Add delay and reverb effects
  • 32 slots for creating, saving and playing tunes without a laptop
  • Compact and battery powered
  • Built-in speaker
  • Works with computer and hardware via  USB and MIDI

Novation Circuit comes ready to use with a USB cable, 2 MIDI breakout cables: 3.5mm jack to female 5 pin din, hard-copy Getting Started Guide, circuit patches sheet, safety information sheet, 6x AA batteries, and a 12V DC power supply all included.

Pricing and Availability

The Novation Circuit will be available later in October 2015, priced at $329.99 US (MAP).

58 thoughts on “Novation Introduces Circuit, a ‘Grid-Based Groove Box’

    1. midi in 🙂 lol your dream can be a reality
      but yeah, seriously liking this concept too. and the price, for a neat grid controller and VA and effects on par with any 1k-2k workstation, I might just pick this up real soon. MORE LIKE THIS, MOAR i say

  1. interested… but it depends on how good the midi implementation and how deep the sequencer is, I have very little interest in the internal sounds except as placeholders.

    looks like a good addition to The Year Of The Hardware Sequencers (may they keep coming).

    1. Still though, they sound surprisingly good. Especially the drum sounds. Damn I’m pretty interested after this teaser, hopefully it will go down a bit in price after a year or so.

        1. with the macro and effects the possibility to crate differents sounds are endless….but I guess on your own you did not have the brain to think about that…

      1. The manual is up on their site, drum patterns are limited to exactly 16 steps, whereas synth patterns can be up to 16 steps. I don’t understand the rationale there, they are against 3/4 rhythms (or any other odd time base) but it’s okay for synth lines?

        Also the midi section of the manual tells how to to turn midi send/receive on and off, but nothing about channels or assignments….

        ,,,,so barring a major firmware (and manual) update this thing is out of the running as a standalone hardware sequencer.

      1. yep, this seems big mistake from novation marketing where the in general say 2 synth parts, 4 drum parts, 6 voices, where in fact it is 2x 6 voice synth parts and 4 drum parts, what is huge difference

  2. 2 parts is too close to nothing. Even for an affordable ‘start something’ -synth. 3 parts is absolutely minimum, even when only starting something. Bass, pad and a melody. It would be ok though, if its sequencer could run a couple of external tracks as well, in which case I would immediately buy a BS2 to go with this.

    Can you transpose the sequence in real time?

    1. so just do like me buy 2 circuit and have 4 synth and 4 drums parts .2 novation still cheaper than one elektron… I am thinking buying a third Circuit …since 6 synth and 6 drum parts wouldbe perfect

  3. if only it sampled it could have been groundbreaking and would have made a great combo with an op-1
    as is the sounds would have to be very good and very editable to make me stray from the library that I’ve invested allot of love and time in building.
    I also didn’t see anything about ‘follow actions’… if you make a grid based beat machine you’re certainly gonna want to have follow actions and remix ability to be part of the sequencer architecture !!! and of all people Novation should know this so I hope I’m mistaken.

    1. My guess is that this box will be the first in the line – of a series of novation boxes…like korg and roland…maybe the next one will be a Novation Circuit sampler (with usb for an external hd)…i hope 😀

  4. Damn, that’s cool, and not at all what I was expecting. Yeah, whether this ends up in my hands will be entirely dependent on how flexible the sequencer is. Kinda lightweight, synth-wise, so might not make it to my setup, but looks great for travel!

    Anybody know if the drums are sample or VA or some kinda hybrid?

    I’m super glad novation is back to making synths, and multi-timbral ones at that. I hope the trend will continue!

  5. Opportunity kinda missed; CV/Gate. None. Firmware update possible? Even a sync in/out akin to Volcas would be welcome. Also, 2×6, 3×4, 4×3 voice configuration would’ve been welcome. Put the effects on a buss rather than per part.

  6. whata bunch of haters. this thing looks like it will be capable of doing what it was designed to do. dont measure a fish by its ability to fly.

    1. 3 parts is actually fine because you can switch patterns smoothly to another loop with 3 different sounds in. Unlike the Korg electribe. This would obviously be a fun piece of gear to partner with the electribe though….

  7. Thats looks pretty great for the price. I love that it is a standalone machine (as opposed to a controller with a dedicated software). Meanwhile, Roland makes a 4 voice polyphonic digital synth for the same price.

  8. not bad, but the real question is sound thickness
    novation does make some interesting gear with a good price point, but not known for some gear’s sound thickness
    then again neither was the tb 303 until they dropped in to some foot pedals

  9. it might be cool, glad that its standalone and can connect to real midi gear without a computer

    It makes me think of the korg electribe er1 in a way with how basic it is, it could be a ton of fun in that respect though

    I am curious about the depth of sound design capabilities, sounds like it is mostly a preset sound machine but i could be wrong, if there is a way to create your own sounds for me that would be quite compelling

  10. I don’t know how anyone can complain about anything at this price. I got started on an MC-303 in the 90s and I think it cost me around $900 new, and this looks to be way more fun and in some ways more capable.

  11. the fx section is weak as an android phone, and they did not exploit concept of grid based beat culture enough, no beat juggling, no time shifting fx,. … at this point the fx on their iPad app is 10 times better and that is shame.

      1. where have you been, grid based beat culture is the concept that novations whole launchpad product line is built upon, not to mention Monome, mlr, Livid, and ableton Live.
        pull the curtains back my friend and step out into the light.

        1. As the elevator dooors dissolved into a fractal pattern of disappearing rhomboids, SQuAreDawg punched the button for the 444th floor. The unlabeled recangle lit up in ultrapurple, a color specifically tailored by his team of orthogeneers. The conveyence whisked him to the cube-house apartment at the top of Lattice Residences, the illuminated display counting off the floors in quadrenary numbers.

          Simon Quigley Arens thought ahead to the night planned at the downtown Rectiplex. It was to be his last. Since joining the Griddites, his keen sense of musical tetrarhythms and strict adherence to the four-fold way had ensured quick promotion upward through the rows of his society. But all that would be put aside, another box of experiences to be defined on the array of his life.

          Alighting to his matrix suite, SQuAreDawg surveyed the tools of creation he had collected throughout the years, their strict, parallel columns instilling in him a sense of calm. He allowed himself a moment of introspection, gazing through his ortho-spec glasses to the city beyond. So many below him, tiny lights travelling in paralell lines, living on the matrix of downtown streets, each living in Grid Culture.

  12. Dang people! This is not a pro do it all machine, if you really need the whole daw experience, the use on or get an electribe, complain about it and spend fart loads of money on an electron product! If someone had handed me this when I had the young persons desire to make music in a simple way I could understand and easily get connected to the product I would have loved to have had it. Besides this is for ideas or to be used as a sound module, so chill out with the hating.

  13. Circuit… because when you have an Analog Rytm, a Tetra, and a TB-303 all on the desk together, why plug them in when you can just use a Rompler?

  14. Judging my novations previous life cycles, I strongly suspect that this could be a toe in the water to creating an “ableton in a box” that so many of us hardware freaks have always dreamed of… free of computers but the abilities to loop on the fly many different channels of sounds and drums…I hope these sell like hot cakes.

  15. So can we actually record live pad-hitting performances and overdub with other performances like an mpc? Or does it always have to be in electribe-style sequence mode, where you’re just entering notes on a continously-looping pattern? That’s a deal-breaking question for me. I’ve never liked 808 or electribe-stlye sequencers.

  16. utter bs imo. there’s absolutely no way that this thing could be useful *without a display*!! workflow nightmare, epic fail. korg realized that. their new electribes have great displays.

  17. I feel a bit afraid. Novation released very interesting products, but they are not so good in continuous developing. How long it takes to use Automap with protools?
    How long it takes to get a new firmware for the BS2 ? ( fix the filter key tracking bug please…)
    They can’t compensate it always with “new” products.
    I don’t trust anymore …

  18. this seems like a very accessible piece of technology, i can totally see why it would appeal to people as a one-box, portable musical sketchpad. but i’m interested to see how flexible it really is, as from this demo and the tech spec it would appear that novation have quite a limited idea of what type of music people want to make. this type of ‘solution’ to music making claims to make things quicker and easier, but at what cost? there’s a fine line between a bit of kit enabling or limiting the creative process, and do-it-all groove boxes are often very quickly outdated because they can tend to very focused on whatever the current music trends are. i like the form factor though, it’s cute.

  19. I would love to be able to program it like a Launchpad. The combination of velocity sensitive pads and endless encoders in a very compact form factor is pretty rare.

  20. I love Sonic State, they always get the developer to reveal something they wouldn’t elsewhere and this time I think Novation revealed something quite disturbing… The guy in the video said that they were not going to make the Circuit open sourced/hackable like the launchpad pro !!! Now why would they make this decision?

    They’ve already stated clearly their purpose for developing the Circuit, they are to trying to take it too far.
    That in itself is fine, but then you factor in that they’ve made this economical grid based beat box, with a seemingly very appealing workflow, priced at a point where absolutely everyone under the sun period would purchase one or maybe even two. So then why make the decision to not open up the instrument to others who are willing to take it’s development further and maybe even far beyond what they clearly want to do with it which is ‘to get a song started’???

    I’ve seen many devs keep their instrument development closed to others because the ‘others’ are competition for what they are trying to do but in this case , this is clearly not the case. It seems like the only reason they’ve done this is to stop others from getting more use out of the product and I don’t see why they would do this or any good reason for it, especially coming from the Company that is being championed for leading the industry right now on opening up the platform with the launchpad etc… to me it’s nothing short of very surprising. The launchpads are great products and allot of people are excited about them being hackable, so why take something like the Circuit which people would go nuts for if it was hackable and close that door, when it’s not even an issue of competition.
    I don’t like that.

    1. But most people just want a unit that works. it is a cheap bit of kit, buy it and enjoy it. My Maschine might be hackable but considering I only use a small percentage of its features I have never felt the need to look. If Circuit has some restrictions then learn to love them and work with them. As you mention you could brick the unit and the extras promised might not be what you really want. I wouldn’t let the lack of hacks stop my buying the unit.

  21. The launchpad pro is not open source in any sense that I understand the term. As Novation has described it, what we have is a firmware development toolkit that allows 3rd parties to write their own code for the LP Pro. The toolkit includes an example ‘app’, but this ‘app’ is substantially different from the default firmware Novation has written (ie, the ‘app’ released has no ableton support).

    You can write your own software to run on Windows; that doesn’t mean Windows is “open source”.

    The big limiting factor Novation put on the LP Pro is that using the dev kit does not void your warranty. With the same restrictions on the Circuit, what would they release? They’re not going to publish their DSP code, and if they allowed users to customize only the sequencer/button functions, they’d have to also allow customizing how the data is stored, which would probably make the thing very brickable.

    It’s just not going to come from a big retail company that needs to meet a lot of legal obligations with its products. If you’re looking for a truly open-source sequencer thing in a box, head over to and check out the LXR.

    I’m definitely considering adding the circuit to my gear, but more as a light, mobile jam box than any deep sequencing production tool. That seems to be the merit Novation are selling it on anyway!

  22. I’m still confused that two (key) features are missing as I was sure these will be implemented after watching the videos.

    1) Sampling functionality (or sample playback support at least)
    2) Export function to Ableton live (like Korg Electribe)

    I don’t see any advances to similar devices like Korg Electribe, Volva Sample, iPad with nanostudio, Korg Gadget, iMS20 etc., or my notebook with unlimited plugins?!

  23. Upvote if you would like Novation to deliver a vst virtual instrument of the “Nova Heritage” polysynth that could share patches back and forth with the hardware unit. In general would be nice to see this type of integration with all VA/dsp hardware that’s coming out now… Roland really need to do this too with the Dsp based Aira and Boutique units. it just doesn’t make any sense to me to have to record audio from a VA synth anymore unless it’s an older unit. Seeing as both Roland and Novation are in the business of making VST plugins seems like a missed opportunity.

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