After spending 2+weeks with my Hapax and a few years with the Deluge, I’d like to make a little comparison between those two beasts. I’m not trying to say which one is better than the other (we all love the Hapax here ) but merely outline the differences between the two so people who know one machine could figure out about the other.
- Hapax is fantastic. Deluge is terrific.
- Hapax is sturdier, Deluge is more mobile.
- For sequencing: Hapax can do 80% what Deluge does, Deluge can do 50% what Hapax does (and “song arrangement” is what Deluge do better)
- Learning curve: Hapax is impressively easy to use, Deluge is all about muscle memory.
- Editing: Hapax is more precise, Deluge is faster.
What’s missing in Deluge to match Hapax (spoiler: it will never have):
- [HW] 6 more MIDI ins & outs
- [HW] A screen the size of a football field (the new OLED screen is very very small)
- [SW] Automation curves editing (soooooooo elegant on the Hapax)
- [SW] Step recording (“learn mode” is so convenient on the Hapax!)
What’s missing in short term Hapax to match Deluge (but remember that Hapax is only a few months old!):
- [SW] Arrangement mode (see this post and cross fingers)
- [SW] Note preview
What would be nice to have on the Hapax:
- [HW] Smoother matrix pads (but it might just be me)
- [HW] A crappy speaker just to hear the metronome
- [SW] A better use of the matrix (try to name a section with a rotary encoder to see what I mean!)
- [SW] Overcome 8-lane drum kit limit, overcome 8 patterns limit (but you can use the double-project feature of the Hapax, with a little bit of organization it’s okay)
Bottom line: buy one of each, they do wonders together
Stating the obvious
Ok, what we have on the left is a Hapax sequencer designed with love in France. On the right, is a kind of monster-do-it-all-boutique-MPC-meets-arduino-machine from a̶u̶s̶t̶r̶a̶l̶i̶a̶ New Zealand that is a sequencer but not only: it’s a sequencer and a synth and a sampler and it would probably make coffee if it could (but it would taste like cheap coffee).
I won’t complain that Hapax doesn’t produce a sound (spoiler: I will, see below) because it’s just not the same product category. However, it’s important to remember that as Deluge does so much things, expect its sequencing features to feel… half baked sometimes. Cheap coffee.
Size & form factor
(this is obviously the section no software update would ever address)
Hapax seems sturdier and feels heavy and not bulky. Its screens are very useful and the LED display of Deluge seems ridiculous in comparison (Deluge now has a hardware upgrade with an OLED screen the size of a postal stamp — Hapax still shines here).
Hapax also has a bunch of sturdy controls all around.
BUT WAIT. Here’s the catch:
- Hapax miss a column of buttons (the “preview” ones) on the side of the matrix. It could have been anecdotical if I found a way to listen to notes from the STEP view — but as of today that’s impossible.
- Deluge has way less buttons but makes use of the matrix pads (provided you are a king of Memory game or able to read characters the size of a dwarf ant)
More importantly: it might be a matter of personal taste, but I don’t really like the feel of the matrix buttons on the Hapax. The encoders are really good, though — and not wobbly as in my Deluge. But those matrix pads… I don’t know why but I always feel I have to force-push a tiny bit to trigger them, and they sometimes tend to double-trigger. Maybe that’s a problem with my unit, maybe that will improve in the future, but the smaller, rubbish pads of the Deluge are easier to play with.
The crash test: try to trigger a 16-cells hi-hat line sliding your fingers along the row. It seems easier on the Deluge than on the Hapax.
But then again, the pads of the Hapax could probabily survive more brutality than those on the Deluge. It’s a matter of personal taste.
Last thing: I promised I wouldn’t complain the Hapax is as silent as 1920 movie, BUT… the only thing I miss is a metronome sound. I won’t complain too much, though, because Squarp cleverly implemented a CV-out metronome that does the trick, but given the cost of a speaker and the size of the enclosure, it would be very practical to have a sounding metronome without taking a channel in the console.
Ok, sequencers are all about creating and editing music. Though they are very similar in shape, they have fundamental differences in the design.
I have a little example to outline the philosophy difference between the two machines: naming things.
On Deluge, naming an object is a piece of cake, because the Matrix becomes the (Qwerty or Azerty — wow) keyboard. It’s blowing Elektron’s naming procedure away. On the Hapax, on the other hand, you have to go through the 80’s feel of hit-and-miss-button-turning-and-pushing.
So, yeah, Deluge could be great, except that… naming things is in fact practically… useless
Given the absence of a decent screen (yeah even with the OLED), you can’t see the labels when you really need it.
On Hapax it’s clearly laid out and very very pleasant to see where you’re at within your sequence (but not your song — more to come later).
Ok to sum it up: with Deluge it’s easy to name but names are useless. Hapax makes great use of object names but naming things take hours. Choose your purgatory!
You have two rotating encoders to move around (and zoom) on the Deluge, it’s buttons on the Hapax. It’s very very useable but encoders are better than cursors for scrolling. That means it takes probably a few more milliseconds on the Hapax to get where you want to. On the other hand, Deluge forces you to scroll forever because you don’t have an outline to see your whole sequence — remember the pads act like an extension of the screen on the Deluge, that’s why it’s so comfortable to use despite the LED screen.
Entering notes is very easy on both platforms. I do like two things on the Deluge: you can set a note length from the matrix, and you can multiple select individual notes (very convenient for hi-hat velocity variations). I love selection on the Hapax: it’s clever and feels natural. I’ve found myself desperately looking at the Deluge feature to select a whole row of notes
But here comes the trouble: there’s no note preview on the Step mode on the Hapax. So I always go back and forth between “Live” and “Step” (fortunately it’s easy to momentarily switch) but having a note preview option would save me hours of work (yeah I don’t know anything about music theory, I admit it). For drums it’s even worse as the layout could be very different… ARGH, apart from the arrangement mode, it’s my biggest complain!!
Automation recording is way simpler on the Hapax. A great example of a perfectly designed feature!! It’s exactly as it should be (using the matrix pads for visual feedback is really really the best thing to do!).
I’m surprised not to find a way to have drum lanes of different lengths on Hapax. Speaking about drum lanes, I can’t understand the 8 lanes limit. I mean, there are probably a few songs out there with less than 8 drum sounds, but…
That’s not a deal breaker: you can use another track for that.
Last thing: Hapax is way better at handling velocities than Deluge (the drum pads and velocity editors are two great examples). And obviously you can see the parameters before you enter them. It’s really really nice to use.
Bells, whistles and arpeggiators
To sum up my frustration with the Deluge, let’s say the arpeggiator has an “UP” and a “DOWN” mode and that’s nearly it. Swing is global, not per track (what?). Hapax just shines in the way you can create complex “MIDI effects”.
Post-recording quantisation doesn’t exist on the Deluge: it’s meant to be finger-edited where Hapax has a more algorithmic approach. Deluge is for dirty hands, Hapax is for intellectuals — both are very complementary for this.
Hapax has a LOT of things to show here, both for generation and for effects. This is where you feel like you really have a sequencer in hands, just made FOR sequencing — not a machine where sequencing is one of the features. Would love to have an explicit “MIDI bounce” function but I’m pretty sure there’s a way to do it.
There are a few additions that make the Hapax very polished: the Elektron sync mode, for example. It’s impossible to properly sync sequences with Elektron machines unless you send the Program Change early. Hapax (and I think a few other machines) takes care of that.
And there are a few things I still don’t understand: do you need to press COPY before or after you select what you want to copy?
Okay, Squarp guys, please, take notes here! None of the above is that important (except note preview!!), but the pattern + arrangement/song mode is what I feel frustrating in the Hapax.
Ok, Deluge workflow:
- you program or record a few clips
- you group those clips per section (matching colors), you have 12 sections available (don’t look that up in the doc — AFAIK it’s not)
- then the arrangement mode lets you lay out clips in a horizontal scale, allowing you to select the clip from any section at any place in the arrangement ; clips are completely “autonomous” meaning you can place a clip on track 1 one half-measure before clip on track 2 from the same section. Flexibility!
- cherry on the cake: you can “detach” a clip from its section and “customize it” in the arrangement view ; ok, you had 12 sections, right? Well, now you have an infinite number of available clips on the arrangement view. When working with a polished arrangement, you can deep-dive into each part to add unique variations with ease.
It’s really elegant, straightforward and obvious to build up a complete song with this workflow.
Now, warm up your fingers, let’s move to the Hapax: prepare to turn and push… a lot.
- you have 8 patterns per track… well, 7 if you want to keep one silent (can’t we unselect a clip??)
- you have to create your sections by menu-diving (hey, my beloved Squarp engineers, can’t you see this biiiiig matrix in the middle that’s just longing for finger-tweaking?)
- you have to name your sections and you click-encode a looooooot
- then you have to order your sections and specify their length (having the default value set to the longest clip length would help a little bit here) — I found myself switching back and forth between step and pattern modes just to get the length of my patterns
Further more, you can’t (yet?) decorrelize your song structure from your pattern sections ; for example if you want to repeat the same section but adding/removing and instrument each time: you have to create as many sections… push push turn turn switch-to-step-to-get-the-length push push…
However: even if it’s long and tedious (and that big matrix pads are all yawning in despair while you’re concentrating on an OLED screen and two pleasant buttons, thinking they’d looooove to display your arrangement structure linearly!), but you’ll eventually be able to go where you want to go.
But it’s long, it’s tedious, it’s limitating (remember you’ll only have 8 possible variations of a track, and if you want to mute it on some sections you only have 7!). Bye bye endless drum variations and subtleties, bye bye this bridge I wrote but can’t place because I’m out of precious little yellow squares
I haven’t found a way to re-order my patterns in pattern mode (other than copy/paste if I keep an empty slot) so I could use the “launch row” feature from top to bottom as my song progresses. Not a must-have feature but that would be convenient.
But there’s one thing that’s truly missing (and tbh, that’s the only thing preventing me from using Hapax as my only sequencer): you can’t yet sync your song to an external MIDI clock. It’ll sync on the currently selected section (wait, what?) but not on the song.
I don’t want too sound harsh here: Hapax is a young product, a LOT of thought has been given on Live, Step and Automation modes.
I really wish Squarp will invest a on software to improve the Pattern mode and give a linear version of it, some flexibility, and a MIDI Song Position Pointer across the whole song. The whole product is really promising.
Hapax killer feature
Now that I’ve said that, there’s one killer feature with the Hapax that I feel overlooked both in the documentation and marketing material: you have TWO projects at the same time. So (save it for the arrangement mode) you can double everything — and that’s where it gets fabulous.
I would have felt comfortable with just 2 parts of the same project split on A and B, but having two projects open at once, pourquoi pas: makes transitions between 2 songs pretty easy and I can work the way I want (I save MyProjectA and MyProjectB and work on a bigger 2-fold project).
Now imagine having 2 songs playing side by side… a 32 tracks monster sequencer. I love the idea!
I love the Hapax, it’s a wonderful piece of gear. I can’t wait for the future OS updates and if I had to dream my ideal features, it would be “note preview” and “real arranger mode”.
Hapax is a wonderful and beautiful musical instrument. Enjoy!