Novation Circuit crams still more features: 1.8 update

There’s yet another firmware update for Novation’s Circuit, the inexpensive synth/drum groovebox. 1.8 adds new internal expression features like non-quantized recording, plus custom MIDI channels for use with external gear.

Firmware updates are not normally worth making front-page news, but there’s something unique about the unstoppable force of the Circuit.

It’s small. It’s cheap – still around US$350 new, and used for a lot less. It’s simple – the big surprise has been that what first appeared as a basic entry-level instrument has become a sleeper hit packing unexpected powers. And it just keeps adding firmware updates, at this point seeming more like the sort of thing we’d get from hacker users than from the manufacturer.

New in this build:

Record without quantizing. This one’s long overdue – sure, it’s nice that Circuit automatically quantizes for anyone who’s finger drumming skills suck, but it also takes the soul out of the music. Now you can choose.

Per-note velocity. This was another sort of oversight – because Circuit can have more than one note on the same step, but didn’t track the velocity for each note, you had multiple notes that were all stuck with the same velocity. Now each note has its own velocity.

Synth microsteps. Each step has up to six microsteps for still more rhythmic division.

Assignable MIDI channels. Synth 1, Synth 2, and Drums let you choose MIDI channel 1 to 15, useful if your outboard gear doesn’t let you select.

Also a new 1.8 feature (not sure when it was introduced) – CALC has grown a mustache. Erm, 1.8 video:

I think we’re now probably really mostly at the end of the life of Circuit in terms of what the hardware will even run, but it’s still worth noting this longer journey. And actually, just having these additional features might be reason to bring a unit out again, especially with outboard MIDI sequencing.

And there’s a lesson for more long-ter life for gear. MPC die-hards will likely have fond memories of JJ OS, an unofficial alternative firmware for the Akai MPC1000 and MPC2500. Now it’s time for that sort of mindset to apply to official releases.

And why not? Musicians love buying gear. If they got the sense that their hardware would get long-term support rather than being abandoned, they might actually buy more gear. And it’s clear the attention Novation lavished on Circuit has had a halo effect on the whole brand. So manufacturers, take note: musicians invest more in long-term love than they do in planned obsolescence.

So you do hope more manufacturers devote this kind of effort into updates. Novation have been a model for browser-based updates and editing, one you’d hope others follow. And it’d be great where manufacturers don’t devote resources themselves, that they find ways of leaving architectures open for users to modify and extend their gear – whether large manufacturers or small shops.

If it sounds like I may be leading up to discussions of that elsewhere, you bet I am. So other manufacturers working on updates and extensibility, or who would like to talk about those ideas generally, we’d love to hear from you.

More on Circuit:

Grab the update:

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Novation Circuit 1.8 Update – interessant auch für externe Hardware

Novation Circuit 1.8Novation Circuit 1.8

Die Firma Novation pflegt ihre Geräte gut und offenbar regelmäßig, denn nun kommt das Novation Circuit 1.8 Update mit ein paar nützlichen Neuerungen und Verbesserungen. Die verbesserten Bereiche sind MIDI, Auflösung im Timing, Polyphonie und Dynamik.

Der Circuit ist günstig, hat zwei sechstimmig-polyphone Synthesizer-Parts und vier Drums, die dank eines früheren Updates auch mit eigenen Samples versorgt werden können. Nur bisher konnte man nicht für alle einen individuellen MIDI-Kanal setzen, was nun geht und vorher vielleicht so manchem Performer fehlte. Selbst wenn man schon eine Groovebox oder Sequencer im Einsatz hat, so verstehen viele leider nicht die Polyphonie, was Circuit ja zweifach anbietet und damit eine gute Ergänzung sein könnte.

Mehr davon

Bisher konnte man nur in Echtzeit oder auch mit Step-Recording arbeiten und hatte dadurch immer eine quantisierte Aufnahme. Alles exakt. Aber wenn man das nicht möchte, kann man das nun auch einstellen. Microsteps machen es möglich und man kann sie auch später editieren, sodass leicht vorgezogene Noten kein Problem mehr sind.


Für die Polyphonie gibt es auch Neuigkeiten bei Velocity-Werten. Das Step-System machte es bisher leichter, für alle Töne auf der gleichen Step-Zählzeit auch gleiche Anschlagdynamik zu verwenden. Das ist jetzt individuell einstellbar und rückt sich von Electribe und Elektron ab.

Novation Circuit 1.8 Update – Wie geht es?

Das Update selbst ist kostenlos und über den „Novation’s Components Content Manager“ einfach in den Circuit zu laden. Da es heute fertig ist, kannst du also damit jetzt anfangen.

Wo gibt es das?

Novations Website hält das Update bereit.

Novation’s latest videos “hack” advanced features out of their synths

I know a lot of the folks at Novation on a personal level well enough to say – they’re synth lovers, day job and after hours. What’s great about their latest video series is, some of that comes out.

Of course, yesterday we saw at least one user really hacking a Novation product, the Launchpad Pro, by modding the hardware using a firmware release from the company. And as one frustrated developer shouted at us in comments, that requires a bit of effort. (Not so much for you – you can download a file and use this easily – but modifying real-time firmware of hardware takes some practice!)

Hack a Launchpad Pro into a 16-channel step sequencer, free

This isn’t quite that. These “hacks” have more to do with creatively abusing some features to push the hardware synths to the limit – Circuit, Circuit Mono Station, and Peak. The Circuit in particular has a user community that proved surprisingly advanced, squeezing everything they can out of this budget-priced hardware. But lately the more recent Mono Station and Peak are finding an equally devoted following.

Here’s the whole playlist, which covers sound design techniques (like oscillator sync – okay, that’s more a conventional technique than a ‘hack’), approaches to performance (patch change), working with clock and CV, and other features.

This raises a question, though – these are recent Novation products, so it’s pretty easy to get the manufacturer to do some hot tips.

But which instruments would you like to see covered – new or old – and in what way? What’s missing in tutorials? Let us know in comments. (I realize I just self-selected the answers to that with people who own these Novation synths, so I’ll keep asking this … but also curious what other stuff you Novation lovers own, too!)

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Learn synth basics live with Novation – and more synth-y resources

Novation are hosting live video to teach you synthesis using their range of gear today. And they’ve got some other useful resources and artist interviews (Orbital!), so let’s have a look.

First up, Novation are broadcasting their Beats and Bytes series to their YouTube channel on a range of topics using their in-house specialists – the folks who make the gear, telling you how to use it. (Not bad: it used to be manufacturers would go to your retail to do trainings, and then you’d go to the retailer and … well, hopefully get something useful, though in lesser stores, people would just sort of stare at you from across the room.)

That starts afternoon time in the Americas, evening in Europe and Africa, and … weird hours elsewhere.

Technology Evangelist Enrique Martinez will be hosting the live stream. Novation tell CDM this will be “very basic sound design techniques” – so beginners (up to intermediate users), feel welcome!

It’s for Novation hardware, but they also say you’ll be able to apply this to other instruments, like your soft synth plug-in you’re trying to learn.

4PM Pacific (9PM NYC / 3AM Berlin) you can tune into the broadcast live, or catch the replay whenever you like. On the menu – this looks like a very useful episode:

(00:00 – 10:00) Making Drum Sounds w/ Circuit Mono Station

(10:00 – 20:00) Making Bass Sounds w/ Bass Station II

(20:00 – 30:00) Making Pad Sounds w/ Peak

(30:00 – 35:00) Putting it all Together

(35:00 – 40:00) Q & A

Wait… drums and bass and pads — I don’t know. It could be too much. Make sure you’re sitting down.

But Novation have been busy with a lot of resources. The timing is good – instruments like Peak have made an impression across the whole synth world. Two written artist interviews worth checking:

Orbital On Peak

The Horrors’ Tom Furse talks Bass Station II

And here’s more in the way of videos.

Circuit users, they’ve crammed another update in the form of version 1.7 – pattern chain being one especially handy feature if Circuit is at the center of your performance:

On Circuit Mono Station, here’s a useful guide to extending parameter changes across multiple steps:

Peak, the flagship, gets really deep. The Mod Matrix is one extensive place to start:

And here’s a complete technical overview of Peak:

Or, in an especially beautiful artist pairing, Hauschka taking Peak into dreamy soundscapes:

That’s a lot of technical information. So where do you start? Let’s look to artist Érica Alves, in the “Start Something” series Novation did a couple years back, with a Novation synth alongside the first Roland AIRA TR-8.

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Kostenloser Novation Circuit Editor und Update 1.7

Novation Editor

Novation pflegt ihren Circuit durchaus intensiv. Jetzt gibt es das Novation Circuit Update 1.7  und einen Editor für den Synthesizer-Part.

Man kann sagen, was man will, aber die Updates sind kontinuierlich für das kleine damit attraktive Gerät. Neu in Version 1.7 ist die Möglichkeit Microtimung zu machen. Außerdem lassen sich lange „Drone“-Töne erzeugen, da es nun eine Möglichkeit gibt, Töne zusammenhängend über mehrere Takte hinweg zu „verbinden“. Zudem gibt es für das Chaining die Option jeweils beliebig Patterns hinzuzufügen, bisher konnte man nur zusammenhängende Teile verwenden, dazu hat man eine Art zweite Page erfunden und muss natürlich die Bedienschritte kennen (Shift und Pattern statt nur Pattern).

Novation Circuit Update 1.7 – Editor

Als zweite Neuerung gibt es online einen Editor. Man kann das alles leider nur mit Chrome nutzen, denn die Funktionen verwenden die MIDI-Funktionen des Browsers. So wird dieser zur Update-Maschine und eben auch zu einem kompletten Editor für alles: die Belegung der Macroknöpfe und alle Parameter der beiden Synthesizer. Es gibt auch eine Software, man muss also nicht den Chrome verwenden. So ist der Synthesizer jetzt wirklich vollwertig.

Wer es noch nicht wusste – der Circuit hat zwei Oszillatoren, mehrere Hüllkurven, Sync pro Oszillator und Ringmodulation, Multimodefilter. Man kann also einiges damit machen. Auch die Modulation kann man anlegen und auswählen. Natürlich sind auch die Effekte und globale Einstellungen über den Editor zu erreichen.

Gefühlt erhält man damit eigentlich erstmals die volle Kontrolle über die Sounds. Samples konnte man bereits vorher schon einladen.


  • Der „Component“ Bereich von Novation befindet sich hier.
  • Die im Video angekündigte Software fehlt noch auf der Downloads-Page, dh. bisher und aktuell kann man „nur“ den Online-Browser-Editor verwenden. Also wird er vermutlich noch „hochgeladen“.


Was das 1.7 Update kann:

Der Editor funktioniert so

Novation Circuit 1.7 adds song mode and more, in yet another update

Every time you think, okay, that’s the last update for Novation’s Circuit – there’s another one. What started as a simply entry-level groove box continues to evolve.

Version 1.7 is out now. As with past updates, you can get it by connecting your Circuit and heading to Novation’s Web hub for content, updates, and managing your own creations, Novation Components.

Find it here:

New in this build:

Chain patterns, make songs. It’s called “Pattern Chain Sequence,: and it lets you chain together up to 32 patterns into a chain… or even chain chains into more chains, for 16 chains of patterns, then select any order you want. You can also use this live as you play by appending patterns.

Tied/drone notes. Each step can be tied to another, all the way into long drones.

Nudge off the grid: Each step gets 1-5 ticks delay, or use Synth Micro-Nudge “create new, more complex rhythms like triplets across the beat.”

Novation Circuit updates … they just keep going … and going … and going …

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How to make dirty sounds, in videos, with Novation Circuit Mono Station

Remember when we were sold on everything being clean and digital? Now it’s just about grime and filth. But if you were wondering where to start with Novation’s cute, dirty Circuit Mono Station, they’ve got a series of hands-on videos to get you going.

Some back story: the Mono Station is the follow up to the first Circuit. Like the original, it’s a square-ish looking box with a colored grid as its center. But whereas the original Circuit concealed a digital polysynth and drum machine (with the ability to load your own samples), the Mono Station is all about analog synthesis. That means it also has additional controls, and unlike the mysterious macro encoders on the first Circuit, the Mono Station’s knobs and faders and bits actually have labels. So you can read a label with words on it, and you know, maybe have a better idea what you’re doing. Or you can just ignore that and give it a try anyway.

The “How to filth” series runs through a set of fairly practical ideas to get you going.

It’s really rather a nice way to get a manual. There’s no lengthy explanation, no theory – and no sitting through a really long tutorial. Just watch a few steps, and then see if you can copy more or less what they’ve done. That should help you dive straight in. And if you’re on the fence about the Circuit Mono Station, this gives you some stuff to go try if you’re borrowing a friend’s hardware or going to the shops.

Here’s the full series:

This is a great one for summer, too, as Circuit and Circuit Mono Station are nicely portable.

What do you think? Is this sort of thing useful to you? Would you want to see more / something different? Let us know; it’s great to get feedback from readers on what’s making you musically productive. And if you make some tunes with us, send us those, too!

Here’s our story on the instrument, at launch. Some time later, it’s still holding up at that price point – and it’s not a clone or throwback, either, but a totally new instrument, designed by some nice people in England. (I know – I’ve met them! And they’re musicians, as well, of course!)

Novation Circuit Mono Station: paraphonic, feature packed, $499

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Novation Circuit bekommt ein Display und einen Editor

Short Circuit Display für Novation

Nicht so, wie du denkst, sondern: Eine kleine Initiative von „bll instruments“ ist der „Short“, ein Zusatzgerät für den Circuit, um als Display zu dienen.

Ja, natürlich heißt das Wortspiel, das wir spielen, Short Circuit, also Kurzschluss. Das kleine Gerät ist eine günstige Box mit ein paar Tastern und eben jenem Display, das acht Parameternamen in kurzer Form anzeigt und deren Wert, wenn man an den Knöpfen dreht. So weiß man, was aktuell wo belegt wurde und muss nicht „raten“.


Das Gerät kommt als Crowdfunding-Aktion in kürzerer Zeit unter die Leute. Neben der besagten Anzeige kommt man aber auch an ALLE Synthesizer-Parameter. Der Circuit ist nämlich durchaus mehr an der Mininova und Ultranova orientiert und hat eine Menge mehr Parameter, als das System sonst hergibt.

Damit ist er ein Zugang, der ohne einen Software-Editor funktioniert, vielleicht auch aus diesem Grunde interessant. Außerdem kostet der Circuit aktuell nur 330 Euro, was für eine vollständige Groovebox mit 2 polyphonen Synthesizern und 4 Drums plus Sampling ein gutes Angebot darstellt. Novation hat ihn sehr gut gepflegt und ihm einige Updates beschert, was nicht selbstverständlich ist.

Es gibt offensichtlich ein Video zu dem Gerät, jedoch lässt sich das nicht öffentlich vorführen.

Circuit Bent Darth Vader Mask by Psychiceyeclix

Published on Nov 23, 2017 psychiceyeclix

“Circuit bent Darth Vader Mask, this is an 4 sample FX pen mounted to a Darth Vader Mask with pitch control & body contacts that crash the sound & make it crazy!!!”

via this auction

“Modified by Psychiceyeclix, this is an 4 sample FX pen mounted to a Darth Vader Mask with pitch control & body contacts that crash the sound & make it crazy!!!


Now reassign those Novation Circuit knobs easily from the browser

Eight knobs and a grid turned out to be more powerful than you might imagine. Now you can edit those Novation Circuit patches more quickly.

To dig deep into Novation’s Circuit, Isotonik’s Circuit Editor is what you want. It reveals the full-blown synthesizer engine lurking inside Novation’s affordable groovebox hardware.

But it’s also sometimes a bit too much. If you just want to quickly assign some macro assignments (that is, what happens when you turn one of the knobs), here’s a quicker solution. Novation have added the Circuit Macro Editor to their free, browser-based Circuit Components tools.

The idea is, you pop in, choose what you want the knobs to do, then store those presets online (and load them on your hardware).

There’s also a new feature in this update called Patch Pool, which lets you put all your sounds together, including those you’ve collected from different packs, and import them at will.

The Circuit sequencer / synth / sampler. Stay tuned, as we’ve got an original Circuit to give away and we’re talking to Aybee about how he works with Novation’s hardware in his set – alongside some other artists working with other instruments with grids on them, too.

In the meantime, here’s a user exploring Circuit alongside two open source synths. Maybe they’re each old enough to be called “classic” – the PreenFM, and the original MeeBlip hardware, though we still make new MeeBlips, too – and the PreenFM lives on as an updated project. Take it away, Tim Roberts:


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