The 10 Best Grooveboxes for Hands-on Music Production

Tired of staring at a DAW on your computer screen? A groovebox will help.

It may seem like your VST plugins are the last tools you’ll ever need, but sometimes simplicity is better for creativity than endless options.

That’s where grooveboxes come in. Grooveboxes are some of the most inspiring tools in music production.

In this article I’ll go through the top ten grooveboxes on the market so you can figure out which one is best for your beats and grooves.

What is a groovebox?

A groovebox is a standalone music production instrument that combines onboard sequencing tools with one or more sound generation modules—most commonly drums, bass synths or samples.

Before DAWs and computer sequencers, grooveboxes were the cheapest, most accessible way to build entire tracks.

Before DAWs and computer sequencers, grooveboxes were the cheapest, most accessible way to build entire tracks.

Early grooveboxes like the Roland MC-202 and MC-303 demonstrated the power of integrated synthesis and sequencing. Users could easily generate patterns and sequences on the fly.

The format caught on. When sampling came along grooveboxes became a key tool in electronic and hip-hop production.

Why use a groovebox?

The unique workflow of grooveboxes is naturally suited to electronic music. But manipulating synthesis parameters to make a sound evolve over a repeating sequence is a foundational technique in many subgenres.

Grooveboxes let you easily interact with the sound of a looped sequence by modifying parameters in real time. This workflow can help bring out organic performances you wouldn’t always think of without the realtime element.

Sequencing beats and drums on a groovebox is uniquely intuitive as well. Fans of the popular production environment FL Studio will remember that it’s first versions relied heavily on groovebox-style sequencing.

But most importantly, a groovebox takes your music production out of the DAW and into the real world.

A blank DAW session can feel intimidating and directionless. But hardware instruments are straightforward, inspiring and—most importatnly—hands-on.

All it takes to get a track moving with a groovebox is a quick loop or sequence.

All it takes to get a track moving with a groovebox is a quick loop or sequence.

From there it’s all about simply enjoying the tweaking and experimentation. So now that you know how grooveboxes can make your sessions better, let’s take a look at which ones do it best.

The 10 best grooveboxes are:

1. Novation Circuit

Street Price: $329.99 USD

Novation Circuit is part of a new generation of grooveboxes that marry classic on the fly beatmaking with a familiar Ableton controller style layout.

Circuit includes robust sequencing and sampling features that let you get inspired and make beats right away.

2. Korg Electribe

Street Price: $399.99-419.99 USD

korg electribe groovebox

Korg’s relaunch of the popular Electribe product line had many producers excited. The original Electribes have been a staple of electronic production for decades.

Just like the classics, the modern Electribe comes in synth or sample based flavours. Both versions share the intuitive, addictive, groovebox style workflow that Electribe is known for.

The modern Electribes are powerful musical instruments with the capabilities to produce fully polished tracks.

3. Elektron Model:Samples

Street Price: $399.99 USD

elektron model samples groovebox

Elektron is one of the biggest names in high end electronic music production tools.

Elektron is one of the biggest names in high end electronic music production tools.

Their powerful Octatrack MKII is the centerpiece of many top producers’ live and studio rigs.

Model:Samples takes everything that’s great about Elektron’s flagship products and packs it into a single affordable unit.

4. Korg Volcas

Street Price: $149.99-199.99 USD

korg volcas

Korg’s Volca series is designed from the ground up for fun, inspiring electronic music creation.

Each Volca model tackles a different way of generating sound, but they all it keep it simple by staying focused on the essentials.

Each volca has an onboard sequencer that can be tempo synced with other Volca units.

You can build a custom groovebox with a handful of Volca units and create your perfect setup.

You can build a custom groovebox with a handful of Volca units and create your perfect setup.

Whether you want analog drums and bass or samples and FM synthesis, the Volcas pack a huge amount of production punch for their size.

5. Akai MPCs

Street Price: $399.99-2199.99 USD

akai mpc

No list of the best grooveboxes would be complete without the ubiquitous Akai MPC.

Today’s MPC’s are the successors of the classic grooveboxes that defined early hip-hop production.

There’s an MPC model for every situation and production style.

From the retro-leaning MPC Renaissance to the sophisticated MPC Studio, the production style introduced the MPC pioneered isn’t going anywhere.

6. Native Instruments Maschine

Street Price: $299.99-649.99 USD

This one is bending the rules a bit—you won’t exactly be able to leave your computer behind with Maschine.

But the spirit of Native Instrument’s popular workstation is pure groovebox goodness.

If you want a hardware workflow with software flexibility, Maschine could be the groovebox for you.

7. Arturia MiniBrute 2S

Price: $649 USD

Arturia is well known for both their hardware synths and drum machines and their plugin recreations of classic analogue gear.

The Minibrute 2s is their groovebox-style synth. It’s based on a Arturia’s powerful sequencing tech and features a super fat analog monosyth that’s a dream to tweak on the fly.

8. Vintage grooveboxes

vintage groovebox

Just because a piece of equipment is out of production doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. You can get some amazing music production hardware for a great price if you’re willing to buy used gear.

You can get some amazing music production hardware for a great price if you’re willing to buy used gear.

You can even own one of the absolute classics if you’re willing to pay a bit more!

Since the modern versions are based on a longstanding tradition, there’s lots of capable grooveboxes out there from bygone eras

I’m talking about the classic Akai MPCs and Roland MC series grooveboxes that started it all.

There’s even fertile groovebox ground in the recent past with Korg’s original Electribe series.

Check your local classifieds!

9. Elektron Digitakt

Street Price: $749 USD

elektron digitakt groovebox

Elektron Digitakt is a compact yet powerful groovebox sampler with 8 tracks and infinite possibilities. Elektron hardware is well-loved for its intuitive creative workflow and excellent sound.

Digitakt is a natural extension of Elektron’s drum machine expertise that can produce entire tracks with its sampling engine.

10. Arturia Drumbrute Impact

Price: $299 USD

Drumbrute Impact is another simple but powerful groovebox tool from Arturia.

Featuring a similar onboard sequencer to the MiniBrute 2S, Drumbrute Impact has an aggressive sound and plenty of features to get that gritty and raw analog drum tone.

Get your groovebox on

A groovebox is a unique music production tool. They’re a big part of the history of electronic music composition that’s just as relevant today as when they first came on the scene.

If your DAW is getting you stuck in a rut, the right groovebox could be just the thing to shake up your workflow.

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