It’s fair to say that the term ‘firmware update’ rarely sets hearts alight, but Novation’s latest update to their Circuit groovebox really does turn the hardware into a new, completely customisable instrument, and makes it even better value for money at £249$329.
The biggest new feature is Sample Import. Instead of being restricted to the Circuit’s factory sounds, you are now able to import your very own samples. With 60 seconds of sample memory across 64 slots, you can import drum samples, chords, stabs — even load in longer samples — and MP3 and WAV file formats are supported. Sample Import exports too. The new feature lets you create your collections and save all 64 sounds as a single file.
Isotonik Synth Editor
One of the initial ideas with Circuit, according to Oliver Burke of Novation, was to promote happy accidents and there was a conscious decision not to label any of the synth parameters on the hardware. "If someone looked at Circuit before and thought they couldn't get into the depths of synthesis that they might want," says Burke, "then now they've got the chance to do that"
For more advanced users, who know exactly the sound they want to create, the Synth Editor feature will be a very welcome update. Available from Isotonik Studios, this provides a graphical interface for programming the two integral synths and is available as a standalone application or as a Max For Live version for use in Ableton Live.
The update addresses one of the only criticisms from our very positive review from January 2016 (web subscription required). That is the ability to save patches. The librarian is an online client using Web-MIDI that lets you backup Circuit’s 32 sessions to the cloud in seconds from anywhere. You will have to download Google Chrome (for free) in order to use it though.
Firmware Update 1.2
The new firmware update comes with a bunch more exciting features including the ability to record MIDI notes from external instruments. For example, hook up two keyboards to the MIDI input, one on MIDI channel 1 and one on MIDI channel 2, to trigger each of teh synth independently, and play drums from the Circuit.
Momentary record is also a useful new feature for punching in and overdubbing notes without losing your flow, or breaking your existing work,
Step automation has also become easier and external preset selection lets you remotely switch the sound of either of Circuit’s two synths on the fly using MIDI program change messages. Remotely switch the sound of any of Circuit’s four drums on the fly using MIDI CC messages from any MIDI source.
The Circuit Components updates are being billed as the first instalments of new software and features for Circuit. If this is just the beginning, we look forward to seeing where this ends up.