Video: Novation Circuit Mono Station Demo

The Novation Circuit Mono Station combines classic, synth bass sequencing with a modern, grid–based interface. Think of it like the lovechild of the Roland TB–303 and Ableton Live.

After years of building high–quality MIDI controllers, the company has tapped back into their synth design history to deliver well–made, affordably priced, and most importantly, surprisingly fun and versatile synthesizers.

In the tradition of the 303, the Mono Station is first and foremost a two–oscillator bass synth, featuring all of the classic analog waveforms and a resonant filter that can go from subtle to screaming.

Novation’s genius move was marrying that classic technology to the breakthrough grid–based interface first pioneered with its Circuit groovebox, allowing you to write and edit note sequences in real time.

In note mode, the bottom two rows of grid buttons represent the steps of your sequence, and the top two rows represent the notes in your currently selected scale, meaning you’ll always always have access to musically appropriate notes to add to your sequence in the heat of the moment. The machine also has an incredible amount of power to sequence modulation.

A couple tricks I discovered here. First, the modulation sequence can actually be sent to multiple destinations, and the amount knob enables both positive and negative modulation of your destination. This type of modulation sequencing is rarely seen on even high–end synthesizers and dramatically expands the depth and versatility of the Mono Station.

Novation Circuit Mono Station

By default, the Mono Station is a two–oscillator monosynth. But switch to paraphonic mode, and you can now sequence both oscillators independently. Keep in mind that there is still only one filter and envelope, so the standard paraphonic limitations apply, but this additional sequencing flexibility makes it possible to program intertwining bass and lead lines, as well as simple, two–note chords.

Like with Ableton Live’s Session View, Pattern mode puts all your available sequences into a grid and lets you select them in sync with the internal clock. You can press a single grid button to continuously loop the pattern on it, or use two fingers to select a chain of patterns that will play sequentially.

This is easily the most fun and inspiring part of the Mono Station, and I found myself getting lost for hours live–remixing my note and modulation patterns independently of the synth sound I previously created.

The Circuit Mono Station fits perfectly into a laptop workflow. Especially for electronic musicians who are already used to a grid, the Mono Station gives you a great, tactile way to jam a synth in a way that software really can’t. Oh, and it’s analog.

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