Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Death of the Groovebox?

.:LivePA.org: The Death of the Groovebox:.

User Mitch over at the LivePA boards was keen enough to notice that Korg has removed their EA-1 and ER-1 from the main product page. Does this mean that with the demise of the eletribe series we are finally seeeing the end of the Groovebox for good? Sure there are still the MPC's, the higher end EMX/ESX, and more, but gone it seems is the era of the "every man" affordable peice of kit.

Now personally I am a huge fan of grooveboxes because of their affordability, ease of use, and ability to create music quickly. It perhaps leaves us as artists wondering where exactly music is going doesn't it?

Now there may be readers out there who have never really gotten into the Groovebox. Perhaps you grew up with just the laptop, or think of them as cheap, useless gear. But for others out there, particularly the artists who were making music in the 90's in their bedroom, the groovebox may have been a cornerstone of your live setup. The MC-303, as pitiful as its features look today, in many respects helped to define some music back in the early ninties.

So what do the readers out there think? Are you a fan of the Groovebox? Has the $500 laptop and ability to warez software killed it? What does the future hold for the Groovebox, if any?

R.I.P to the Grooveboxes
Roland MC-303
Roland MC-505
Korg EA-1
Korg ER-1
Korg ES-1
Ensoniq ASR-X
Yamaha LoopFactory


Anonymous said...

As you noticed, the pivotal point here is the ability to warez software... Or at least it was.
These days, freeware software like seq24 and any one of the myriad synths out there can kick any groovebox into the last decade.

There's one major problem that is constantly avoided in our industry - Computers are unreliable. They crash, and I imagine that anyone reading this blog knows that they seem to know just when you're on stage.

It's a capitalist model we're playing with here. While the industry continues to ignore the many shortcomings of computers as musical instruments (stability is not all) then they will continue to head down the ITB route, and dedicated hardware will continue to be neglected.

Hopefully this will drive the computer based instruments to be improved, but it seems a strange model to me - which is why I'm staying in the hardware realm until the PC gets sorted.

I've never been a fan of the groovebox myself, I prefer to have a more modular approach to my equipment, so a standalone hardware sequencer into a midi router into a number of synths is my way.

Recent trends in the industry are allowing more and more modularity and complexity, as newbies to the scene from the PC explosion last decade become more skilled, so perhaps that is also contributing to the demise of instruments like these, and also explains the birth of a few, more complex grooveboxes/sequencers like the spektralis and zeit and octopus and the fact that seqs from doepfer are still alive and kicking.

Of course the problem is, that most people will suffice with a laptop, so the sales on these boxes are down, so they become boutique, and cost a bomb...Which drives the masses to buggy PCs, which drives the pros to hardware, which makes it more expensive, which drives the masses to PCs...

The whole thing spirals around until the hardware becomes prohibitively expensive and the PC's bugs frustrate enough people, and then sales drop on both, the software is forced to fix up, the hardware becomes cheaper, and we go back to the beginning, with each platform blending into the other a little as a result of their sales defeat. It happens every few years, and each time, we reach a point where there is greater convergence between the two platforms.

I suspect that in time, the PC will be used only for it's real advantages over dedicated hardware - of being a great visual UI and storage device, and that the majority of audio and physical HUI will become a peripheral. Make the UI small enough and the peripherals minimal, and what do you have? A groovebox.

Old grooveboxes never die, they just mutate and reincarnate ;)

Anonymous said...

I know you aint forgot about the Rm1x!!!

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I agree with the above assessment. Ideally I would like to see the dedicated groovebox mutate into a next generation, but then again I felt that the true potential of most grooveboxes was never even approached by most users, let alone the manufacturers themselves-- there's loads of potential to be had with even the cheaper, old ones like the ES-1 and the RM1X, both of which I own and swear by. The difference between the hardwarez and softwarez these days seems to lie in that the softwarez can make certain things very easy, but often lack the depth and potential-- or indeed the "hackability"-- of a hardware box. In other words, they seem to be, for the most part, very pretty one-trick ponies. On the flipside, I have found that an ES-1 sequenced externally using something with serious MIDI capability can sound like a $1200 sampler no problem, as long as you're willing to learn the ins and outs of the box and have a good idea of what to do with it once you have that in your head.

Personally, I hope grooveboxes don't die, because computers annoy the shit out of me. A bazillion things can snag you up, and unless you're willing to sacrifice time in your life better spent doing other things, like learning music theory, for the sake of hunting around through menus and getting frustrated, then comp's are pretty much just useless. Whereas with a groovebox, you turn it on and it works, end of story.

Anonymous said...

The MC-303 sucked only because you were locked in to a few Roland provided samples. However, the MC-303 had great sound, and was amazing to use.

If the MC-303 had sampling capability, I certainly would own one.

Yeah, there are higher end machines that do sampling now (the Roland MC-909), but they are way to bloated and complex compared to the MC-303.