1010music Blackbox partnered with Hapax?

I’ve backordered my Hapax, and excitedly await the improvements it will bring to my compositional workflow.

I’m considering adding a 1010Music Blackbox as a sampling/sample-playing adjunct to my other sound generators (Yamaha CP4 and YC61, Access Virus Ti2, BeatBuddy) and as a way to avoid using the DAW for recording guitar, voice and handheld percussion - tambourines and the like.

I’m frustrated with latency-compensation in the DAW and assume that recording voice and acoustic instruments into a hardware sampler/recorder like the Blackbox, then triggering the clips from Hapax, will give more accurate timing. I plan to record the end result of the Hapax driving all my gear and the audio recorded in the Blackbox into the DAW for processing and mixing.

Has anyone tried the Blackbox-Hapax pairing? Any limitations? Frustrating technical issues?

Further question: does this workflow make sense?

i tried to make Blackbox work with Pyramid for me but ultimately sold it to upgrade to MPC One for a few reasons, both of which might be more relevant to Hapax (with only 16 total MIDI tracks available and having dual-project architecture)

although there are some workarounds you can juggle with different pad modes on Blackbox, e.g., loading up a bunch of one-shots chromatically on a single pad to dedicate it to an entire drum kit, at the end of the day it’s still 16 pads only for everything you want to trigger from Hapax. in theory, the “least” efficient mapping of Blackbox pads to Hapax tracks means it’s a 1:1 ratio and no tracks left on Hapax to sequence anything (in practice, you probably wouldn’t use that many discrete MIDI channels for each Blackbox pad BUT my experience was the more you want Blackbox to do different tasks – sliced clips, looped clips, multisamples, one shots – the more pads and MIDI channels you’re going to eat up keeping each task on a separate channel). so i eventually decided the friction of trying to work around those limitations – compared to essentially unlimited tracks and sample banks per function on MPC – Blackbox wasn’t going to be robust enough for my uses. but i anticipate needing any sampler to be able to do a lot of different functions with a minimum of MIDI channel dedications.

on the timing . . . full disclosure i may not have spent enough time with Blackbox to get truly competent with its clips and looping workflow but i found it frustratingly hard to sync up the Blackbox clock (which it must be synced for Clips to play seamlessly in time with Pyramid’s BPM). if you have a perfect 4/4 loop, e.g., a one-bar breakbeat, eventually i could get that to sync well to Pyramid’s clock – and if i raised or lowered the BPM within normal tolerances (+/- 2-5 BPM either way) the loop would stay in sync and keep the same pitch. this, to me, is essential for Hapax if you’re going to transition between Project A and Project B without stopping and have any change in BPM after the transition. if i were just using Pyramid, and would have to load a new project from song to song, might have been less of an issue. but if your loops are anything less than spot on, e.g., longer vocal samples over more than one bar, my experience was it is very (too) hard to get the looping right enough for the clip to sync without serious artifacting. i know some other users have advised to just make the loops in a DAW and export to Blackbox but if I wanted to use a DAW, i wouldn’t have bought a Blackbox.

in its favor, i will say Blackbox is SUPER easy to just start sampling out of the box and quickly build up a 16 pad preset that you can easily trigger from Hapax, more so than MPC. but the trade off (for me) to that simplicity and ease of use was if you want to go much deeper than that with a Squarp running the BB, there’s a good bit of friction to make it all work seamlessly.

@chrisroland thanks for the detailed reply.

Just to be sure I understand, in summary you are saying:

  • The per pad limits on the BB (vs an MPC) will eat up too many tracks on Hapax, because each BB pad must be on a separate MIDI channel (therefore separate Hapax track)

  • Synchronizing MIDI clock so you can record another clip on BB is frustrating

@chrisroland do I have that right?

My interest is primarily to use a hardware device to record say, voice, guitar and tambourine clips. I will record the MIDI output of my drum machine, synth (sometimes 3 or more “multi” patches simultaneously on the one Access Virus) and other keyboards, then and hopefully in synch with that, record acoustic tracks on the BB. I will “play” all the keyboards, synths and clips simultaneously into the DAW for processing and mixing.

I won’t be slicing and dicing samples. Essentially I’m trying to avoid using the DAW until all the tracks are ready.

@chrisroland given your experience with the BB, do you see that as non-workable?

Thank you!

it doesn’t have to be strictly one pad per channel. you could, theoretically, set all the pads to a single MIDI channel and only use one Hapax track to trigger them all, assuming you only want each pad to be a one-shot with a fixed root note (the pads are assigned MIDI note values from C2 up over 16 semitones)

the challenges arise when you want to use BB for more than just triggering 16 one-shots. so if you want one pad to be a multisampled instrument, e.g., piano, it can do that and play the full keyboard range but that pad’s going to have to be on a different MIDI channel now, or else it will also trigger the note values of the other 15 pads when you play the piano on those notes.

if you want to slice up a loop on another pad, BB is cool for giving each slice a unique MIDI note value to trigger via sequencer or internally in whatever order you want the slices to playback. but again, there’s a wrinkle, because as far as i was able to tell more than one slice pad still assigns the same MIDI notes to the same slice numbers. so Slices 1, 2, 3, 4 on Pad 1 (MIDI Ch. 1) will start at C2 and go up a semitone for each slice. if you slice a loop on Pad 2, you have to assign it to a new MIDI channel or those slices will also be triggered by the same notes.

these may not be your typical use cases but just to say that the 16 pads and 16 MIDI channels can start getting used up faster than you think when you’re doing more than only triggering one shots.

i didn’t keep mine long enough to get further into the quantized Clips looping etc. but my impression is that so long as someone is working completely within the Blackbox (from sampling to sequencing to song structure) it’s probably a more seamless experience than trying to implement those functions externally

Thanks again for all the details!

I will continue to weigh this carefully before ordering a unit (my back order for Hapax is already in).

Just to be clear, can a track I recorded from a mic be a “one-shot?”

I have never used any kind of sampler.

yeah, i never used Blackbox for backing tracks or anything but as far as i know, a given pad’s memory is only limited by the size of the SD card you’re using (within reasonable limits – like even if I could record a whole hour-long track into a single pad, would I try to push it that far? probably not).

probably the more immediate constraint will be if you want any accompaniment tracks you do record to Blackbox to be synced with its internal tempo in Clip mode. which, if you’re trying to trigger multiple pads together and keep them all running in sync, you’re almost certainly going to want them to be Clips. then it gets more essential to have clean loop points and keeping longer melodic passages at a minimum number of bars possible for the Blackbox to work its magic

Makes sense.

Thank you for all the insight!

Does anyone have experience with the sp404 mk2 and BB to know if the sp is the right sampler for this?

You get a bank of 16 one shots per midi channel, so a kit only takes a single channel. The chromatic playback natively is a bit rough but it’s really good at sample handling so copy+repitch or replay+Repitch lets you set up pads with your scale pretty easily.

It’s really good at recording. It has amps and all sort of effects you can process on the signal as its coming in or after the fact. They highlight using it to add guitar or live music to it and built it as a mainline scenario. It kicks out samples almost accidentally its so fluid, I’m a huge fan of the sound and the fact that if you have an audio feed going into it you can just muck around and if you did something you like you hit the ‘record the last 30 seconds’ and it dumps the buffer into a wav file, like, immediately.

It’s a lot less machine than the MPC. If the prices were the same I’d push MPC all day, but hearing your use case (and not having used a BB) it feels like your setup would be in the marketing materials for the Roland :stuck_out_tongue: , if I’m understanding you correctly.

i considered SP-404 because the looping and FX sound top-notch but because I would also need any sampler to handle multisamples, the SP-404 not having a true multisample mode ruled it out for me (but it does appear to have enough banks per project that there might be some working around the note-per-pad way I understand it to handle multisampling)

Each bank respond to its own channel. The slicing is dead simple so for example I fed an iPad synth into it and played my chord progression but with enough space in between to go silent. Save to pad on bank b, repeat on a diff patch, Save to pad in c. Then a 3rd sample just played a scale to a single sample, saved it to bank d.
Then one button to open chop mode, and using the transient detection it sliced each sample in one take, no need to adjust any points. It’ll offer to slice to a bank so it just drops them across the pads and now you trigger them like a drum rack. Bank B and C have the same chord with diff patches, bank D has a patch chromatically and it all falls in pretty quick. I anticipate having a bunch of one-sample-multi-samples eventually since its so easy to record and slice and works well enough for the type of music I make.

The amp envelop is more or less garbage. Like, shockingly not good. You’re not going to get anywhere even close to an MPC or Kontakt level of nuance out of any part of the playback. You don’t really get AHR, its more of a thing that says ‘you should have found the truth before you got here, ya?’.

Its not multisamples, for sure. On the MPC you can load keygroups and mess around and find the truth. Here you have to have found something close to the truth already, and you’re ready to trigger it instead (if that makes any sense) - you only get 16 pads so that’s an octave, or at best 2 if you’re using a scale (but then that gets to my point - you’ve already gotten to at least a scale). The MPC really does a great job with multisamples. The Deluge does a solid job too. The 404 you do get solid stretch and pitch shifting, and an immediacy the others don’t have.
The MPC sound fantastic it really does. It bumps as hard as the 404, it’s has as many solid fx and it has far, far more to offer including multisampling so legit it will auto-sample and make them for you.

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I don’t own a Hapax (yet! It’s somewhere between France and my house at the moment) but I have been using the Pyramid and Blackbox as core of my setup for almost two years. HA. I just checked, it will be exactly 2 years tomorrow.

Pyramid has definition files for each output channel. I try to change those as rarely as possible so I have a somewhat “generic” set of blackbox defs that work for me. YYMV of course and Hapax doesn’t have those definition files (yet? I hope).

My setup on Pyramid for Blackbox has 1 main Blackbox def file that is used any time I use the Blackbox with the Pyramid. It’s pretty simple:
The first 16 notes are named for the pads they trigger (PD01 - PD16). The next set of 16 notes are named for the sequences they trigger (SQ01 - SQ16). This “main” def could also have the 16 notes that control recording to a pad and the 16 for clearing a pad but I don’t do live looping. When I sample or multisample directly into the Blackbox, I do it with just the instrument and the blackbox. I’m honestly not good enough to do that sort of thing on the fly.
I also have 6 CCs defined generically as “MOD1 - MOD6”. Blackbox doesn’t have predefined CCs, it “learns” the MIDI CCs. Predefining these lets me set it up for each Blackbox preset easily w/o having to remember what CC I used.

In addition to this default Blackbox definition file, I have 5 pad-specific definition files that are not always used. Pad 5 is my “drum kit” track with a multisampled trap kit. I have 23 notes mapped there for the various drums, named so I can know what I’m playing. The multisample also has a few different velocity samples for some of those notes but not all, I trimmed it down as small as I could and still feel okay with the results. This pad-specific definition file is named “DKIT 05”.
If I have a specific playable bass instrument/multisample, it uses the pad-specific definition file for track 9 “BASS 09” which is pretty simple, nothing out of the ordinary.
Besides those two, I have 3 other pad-specific def files, for pads 06, 07, and 08. They’re named generically because they’re used differently in different songs/presets, as needed. Sometimes one of those pads will be a single sliced sample where slices are played via notes. Sometimes a multi-sampled instrument.

For the most part, I stick to the first generic file but the 5 single-pad files are always on the Pyramid so the blackbox always uses 6 of the Pyramid output slots. It has plenty so that doesn’t bother me. We’ll see how this translates to the Hapax.
I’m pretty sure the Hapax Drum functionality is going to be useless for me. I narrowed my drum kit down to 23 instruments. Not sure how 8 would be enough.

I play with the Blackbox by itself (almost by itself, it also requires headphones, a short cable, and a USB battery pack) and write sequences on the device that stay on the device, and trigger those via Pyramid. It happens less often than writing on the Pyramid but it does happen. I make music for fun and I enjoy sitting on a hammock or kicked back on the sofa, playing music on the Blackbox like a kid playing a Nintendo Switch (or Gameboy, when I was younger). The Pyramid is pretty portable but not quite that portable.

Not trying to derail the conversation. I’m really not sure what the Hapax + Blackbox setup will be, I’ll know soon. I do have a lot of experience with Pyramid + Blackbox, maybe some of the specifics above are useful to someone.

[EDIT:] I forgot to mention the recording aspect. I know you can record the blackbox into a DAW but I never have. I either record into a Zoom recorder and move those .wav files to Logic or (if I’m recording multiple instruments at once) I record into a Bluebox and move those .wav files into Logic. It’s just simpler for me. For some reason, I have an aversion to recording into Logic if the project wasn’t started in Logic. Most projects start on my Pyramid or Blackbox. If they start in Logic, the Pyramid and Blackbox tend to not be involved at all.

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Thank you @sirshannon for that very detailed explanation of your workflow! It is extremely helpful.

Despite some of the concerns raised by others in this thread, I decided Blackbox is the closest match to my workflow requirements. I hope that the solutions I found for keeping multiple clips in sync (latest firmware, fast SD card, ensuring MIDI clock has only 1 source and 1 route, observing “rule of 4,” resampling processed sample tracks then copying directly from the SD card into my DAW for further processing and mixdown) really do work.

My BB arrived yesterday (in the country where I live, Sunday is a workday). It’s an absolutely marvelous “piece of kit” that I have already been able to integrate into my relatively complex rig and MIDI network.

I am truly excited about the additional leap in workflow efficiency and capability Hapax will introduce when mine arrives hopefully September/October.

I appreciate the incredible feedback everyone has provided here in this thread!

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Sounds like a pretty dialed setup! I’m keen to hear how you set the BB up with the Hapax! Please share when you get it (also waiting on mine)

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I don’t own a Hapax or a Blackbox (considering both), but I have been using the Pyramid MK1 since it was first released. Here are my experiences with sync/samples that might be relevant to this thread:
My current sampler is an Akai Z4 (I’ve had several models of Akai rackmount samplers). After years of using gear with 2-line displays, I love crafting perfect loops in my DAW, saving them to a USB stick to transfer to the Z4, and ultimately triggering the loops or one-shots via MIDI with the Pyramid. I’ve not had any of the sync issues described in this thread. I am enjoying this workflow-it’s not for everyone and could be improved with a more modern sampler. The features of the BB tell me it’s my best option, but I would also consider an MPC One for the DAW integration (and the Akai software).
A typical jam in my studio has the Pyramid sending MIDI clock to all of my gear (Z4, TR-8, multiple romplers) on both MIDI channels A & B. Some of the romplers are daisy-chained (using the MIDI In/Thru), and I also use a MIDI splitter box to address each rompler separately. I learned how to work this way in the 90s and it’s the only way that makes sense to me (No MIDI over USB devices).
I’ve found that each piece of gear has quirks when listening to MIDI-some like to be first in a daisy chain, and some work “better” at the end of the MIDI chain.

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a week and a half into the MPC One with my Pyramid (Hapax shipping imminently to replace it), my first impressions are (1) looping cleanly for beats is much easier on MPC than even Blackbox; (2) controlling the MPC One from Pyramid is mostly straightforward but not quite as simple as Blackbox, which is dead easy to trigger on a Pyramid Track in Step mode. but the tradeoff in the long run is probably worth it for me, given how much deeper the MPC One’s slicing, pad banks, and assignable FX per pad/sample are. steep-ass learning curve to get there though, for sure

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Me, seeing the Hapax 1.10 RC headline: “Eh… I’ll wait until it’s released.”
Me, after seeing it include definition files: “Time to update the firmware!”

Me, after seeing how the Hapax definition files differ from the Pyramid definition files: “Oh. Never mind.”

Unless I’m missing something, Hapax definition files don’t support naming notes except for drum lanes. I’ll be keeping my Pyramid for use with the Blackbox until that changes.