Pro Audio

Engineering the Sound: Novation Circuit Rhythm

We took a dive into a slightly older product from Novation – the Circuit Rhythm – For the electronic musician on the go.

If you haven’t come across The Circuit Rhythm before, it’s a standalone sampler and drum machine designer for the electronic musician on the go.

If you want to get away from your laptop and you’re looking for a little more hands-on, tactile action, then this could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Novation started their journey as a heavyweight of the pro audio space with the launch of the BassStation back in 1993 and has remained influential in the electronic music scene ever since.

Straight out of the box this is a nice looking and a nice feeling piece of kit. It’s also small, with a face of around 24 by 21 cm, which lends itself to being put in a backpack and taken to the park, or your mates house, or wherever you want really.

The rear panel design gives it a nice tilt which makes it easier to see, and keeps it easy on your wrists when you sit down for a long session.

Novation Circuit Rhythm drum machine designer and sampler

The build quality is solid with some nice resistance on the 8 rotary knobs and there’s a satisfying click to the buttons. We’re also given 32 velocity sensitive pads which is where you’ll spend the majority of your time when you’re performing.

It comes pre-loaded with just one sample pack but is expandable to have 32 total sample packs.

That being said I wouldn’t be too concerned about the storage, 1 sample pack can load up to 64 Project memories, 128 samples and 16 Grid FX presets, which is plenty, and with the capacity to expand, it’d be a challenge to use all of that space.

Getting stuck into this powerful little unit was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth having the manual open to start wrapping my head around it when we start playing.

Novation Circuit Rhythm drum machine designer and sampler

This thing has a hell of a lot of features packed into it but once you start to get used to how it works it becomes more and more intuitive. 

On the surface, the encoder knobs feel smooth for applying some cool, classic synth inspired effects to your samples – we really loved dialling in a nice crunchy combination of the distortion and the resonance knobs – and then once you start to dig a little deeper you get a feel for using those same knobs for mixing the levels and effects sends of the samples.

One feature that needs mentioning is one which they call ‘mutate’. What this does is it takes the notes of a pattern that you have programmed and reassigns them to different steps in the pattern.

Novation Circuit Rhythm drum machine designer and sampler

It’s really cool when a piece of gear inspires new creative ideas and this feature really offered that. The reverse feature was also a bunch of fun to add some EDM style cymbal risers into my drum grooves.

One thing that needs to be said is don’t pick up a Circuit Rhythm and expect to be an expert by the end of day 1. This thing requires some learning, there’s a decent amount of familiarising to do to really get a creative flow going.

Once you get the hang of it you can really start to fly and build up some interesting patterns, especially once you start adding your own samples to the mix.

For those like that really love to get stuck into the ins and outs of a piece of gear and who love a bit of a menu dive there’s a lot of fun to be had learning the Circuit Rhythm.

Novation Circuit Rhythm drum machine designer and sampler

It would have been nice if the pads were a little bigger and if the velocity sensitivity was a little tighter, but hey it’s all about portability with this thing, and if that’s what you’re after then you can definitely let that slide.

The Circuit Rhythm comes in at 570 Australian Dollars and is backed by 3 a year warranty. You can find it at all your favourite music stores. 

If you’re keen to become a mobile electronic muso, check out: https://novationmusic.com/products/circuit-rhythm  to find out more on the Circuit Rhythm