The Groovebox trifecta

I’ve been trying to use Drambo on my iPad with a Presonus Atom SQ controller as my portable music setup. It’s a wonderful setup but between YouTube distraction, going down the rabbit hole of patching Drambo instruments and the occasional Drambo crash when I push things too far, not a lot of music is getting made.

So I’ve decided I probably need a stand alone Groovebox for mobile music making.

After a lot of research and back and forth I think I’ve landed on a trifecta of key requirements, which I’m struggling to find many candidates for:

  • Battery powered (I’d really rather not have a setup with a USB power bank if at all possible)
  • Velocity sensitive pads
  • Ability to easily multitrack song stems out to a DAW (don’t mind if it’s export to SD card, or multichannel usb audio interface)

If that wasn’t bad enough, my list of should haves also includes:

  • polyphonic instruments
  • stereo sample playback
  • onboard sampling (sample chopping, timestretch too)
  • ideally more than 4 tracks or a reasonable workaround that makes it possible to mix down and keep adding tracks without losing the original stems
  • record unquantised
  • a pad layout that can emulate a keyboard (e.g. 15-16 pads in two rows)

Call me fussy. It does highlight how good my iPad setup is, but still, the desire to have a dedicated do-it-all groovebox is strong.

Please can you help me find some options that meet the criteria?


I think the OP-1 Field might be uniquely able to meet all my key requirements and most (all?) of my should haves. I can’t quite bring myself to spend the £1800, but maybe this thread will convince me of the value for money.

The Roland MC-101 is a very close contender. It’s a bit menu divey, but I’ve convinced myself I can work with that. If it had velocity sensitive pads, I’d definitely get it. I’ve considered buying it with a Keith McMillen QuNexus keyboard, but I’d really rather have a single box.

The Smpltrek is intriguing, not perfect but almost hits all my criteria. But why did they not implement unquantised record?!

I thought the Circuit Tracks might work for me, but it doesn’t have multitrack export and doesn’t seem to have any way around the 4 track limit. Similarly, the Circuit Rhythm doesn’t do polyphony, stereo samples and is samples only - too close to the Digitakt I already have.

Electribe 2 with the Hacktribe firmware?


Interesting. I was watching an Electribe 2 video yesterday but I’m not aware of the hacktribe firmware. Off to do my research…

doesn’t really exist.
you nearly described mpc live. but then 2 rows of 16… nope :slight_smile:

there’s always some compromise.


I was also going to say MPC Live/2, if you can get with the 4x4 layout.
It does everything else you want and you can use it in bed!


I would have said Polyend Tracker but the one with batteries doesn’t have a keyboard.


The MPC live 2 does get very close. I could compromise on the pad layout for it.

I should have been more specific on the portability criteria. I needs to be something I would be comfortable getting out of a rucksack to use on a train. It’s just too big for me.

I’m holding out hope for an MPC Live Mini announcement soon…

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I’d have thought Deluge. It’s brought me more serious joy than fiddly mc101 and has hardware audio inputs which mc101 lacks, and proper rechargeable battery rather than aa batteries that unpredictably run out and require opening up to replace.


For on a train then it feels like there might be a compromise or two in there. The Circuits are nicely made for chucking around, but a faff to get songs off (no audio over USB) which is a big part of what you want. The 101 does a lot of what you’re asking for here and is designed to be portable, but that has the fiddle factor from what I hear. The 707 ticks more or less all of your boxes but isn’t portable, and the same goes for the Verselab thingy, although that one is smaller. The new Tracker could be somewhat interesting, though it lacks synths and pads, and while the original does have pads, they are small compared to other boxes and it needs a powerbank. Thinking of trackers brings to mind the M8 which does have synths and is ultra portable; but it has a very specific workflow & this has no keyboard of any kind, let alone velocity sensitive pads. The OP-1’s sortof fit the bill from a portability and robustness perspective; but I also would be concerned about that price tag. Can’t comment on the Deluge, but that also ticks many boxes although again it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum, so in the case of both this and the OP - you’d really need to want that box and its specific quirks. Not sure there’s a perfect answer but that might give a little food for thought.

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You can fix this !

  1. YouTube distraction : Turn off Wifi
  2. rabbit hole of patching Drambo instruments: Use one or two synth plugins, no more, like Sunrizer or Zeeeon
  3. occasional Drambo crash: only had these with some bad plugins, so item number 2 should fix that too

For me, the only place the menus of the MC-101 really slow me down is sound design, particularly editing partials. If your main concern is sequencing presets, you may find it less of an irritation than you think. However it is nowhere near as immediate as a model:cycles for instance.

One thing you might want to consider with the MC-101 … it has A LOT of presets, and I find myself bogged down in choosing the factory presets. There are ways of mitigating this:

  • use the random preset generation
  • make a project with your goto sounds in it, and when choosing sounds, choose from your project, not from the full factory list.
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Electribe 2 ticks every box. Including export stems to abelton via sd card.

Or… Gr 16 groove rider ios app.

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I’d say the Deluge is everything your looking for bar the stems export or usb audio, they might add this in an update, it’s always evolving, you can usually purchase a used one for around £800/850 on Reverb or eBay and if you wanted the oled screen, drop a deposit down for $50 to get that retrofitted, it’s probably something i’ll be looking at down the line, i’m not sure anything comes near it for feature set and portability, other than the MPC Live, but depends on what workflow you’d prefer.

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The OP-1 F does everything you want except having the keys in a drum-pad layout. And its sequencers are just terrible if you want something like Drambo. Or any step sequencer tbh. I like them, but only for experimental stuff, coming up with ideas etc.

If you don’t need a sequencer, though, it’s great.

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You realise you’ll need more than just a cable for the Qunexus -> MC-101, right ? First, the Qunexus needs power on it’s micro-usb (left) connector. Second is the midi connection. Two ways of going about it.


  • Power via left (micro-usb) port (micro-usb powered from small power pack for instance)
  • For midi, KMI proprietary connector in right (mini-usb) port, plus short midi (din -> din) cable


  • Power and midi via left (micro-usb) port into some kind of powered midi host (e.g. retrokits RK-006) with whatever power that might need, then cable from there to MC-101.
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Damn. I completely forgot about the power requirement.

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Right … neither of those solutions is particularly elegant. Or compact

I think we’re circling back to the Mpc Live here. Go for the Mpc Live I if you don’t need the speakers, so you also save a few centimetres

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Electribe 2/2s with or without Hacktribe. I’d sell my dog before I got rid of my Electribes.

And I love my dog.