Portable setup Hapax-centric

Ok guys, so just to soften a bit the wait for my june (now july) Hapax delivery I was diving into this idea to bring the Hapax on my summer holidays up in the mountains, and so I started to evaluate what could be the perfect portable setup for a couple weeks chilling in front of mountain landscapes and walks in the woods.

I started with a different idea to be honest, as I was thinking at one single piece of gear in charge of either sequencing duties and sound making, but merging those thoughts with the other main topic in my head (a sample based synth to substitute the Wavestate in the studio) and the will to take the opportunity of the free time to explore the Hapax more led to a different kind of setup.

So, with the Hapax as the foundation of the setup, I need something that can actually make sounds

I was evaluating different options, like MPC One, Model Samples, Digitakt, Deluge and Polyend Play… But all of these boxes are meant to take advantage of their own workflow/sequencer, and probably wouldn’t easly fit in my studio setup once holydays are gone.

They’re also quite expensive and I don’t feel comfortable to invest that kind of money for a summer toy, probably redundant once vacation is over.

Model Samples (or Cycles) are cheap tho, but having started all of this music journey precisely with a Model Samples I’m sure I would have missed the novelty factor, and as with the 'takt, it’s not the right box to play samples chromatically, which is what I’d like to do in the studio to replace the Wavestate.

So, I was looking for a small box, with a wide palette of sounds, preferably with acoustic instruments onboard (piano, strings, trumpets… That kind fo stuff, that’s actually uncovered in my setup, bar the Wavestate) and with an accent on versatility rather than on sequencing power or creative workflow.

Firt thing that came to mind was an iPad, as I always had a curiosity for all those great iOs music apps, but once you start to balance in all the added cost and complications of dongles, interfaces and whatnot it starts to be way less attractive. Also, all those possibilities could easily lead to frustration and lack of commitment, and it is still intended to be a pure fun setup to noodling around during holydays, so another thing erased from the list.

And then, out of the blue I thought to read again the (slightly morphed) Polyend Play vs Hapax thread, and I have to thank Loz and Che, because analyzing with new eyes their suggestions I found what will tick all the boxes… The Roland MC-101!

Thinking at it now seems just the perfect box for me:

-Play samples chromatically
-Tons of different sounds, including acoustic instruments
-16 Drums/one shot samples per track
-Roland lovely vintage Bass, Lead and Pad sounds
-4 parts with volume faders (mixer not needed)
-Simple UI (and I’m quite used to it, having a TR8S already)
-Onboard effects
-Loadable user samples
-Small form factor
-Usb and battery powered
-Cheap(ish)

But there are some limitations too, first that come to mind is the cluncky/basic sequencer and the lack of proper synth sound design possibilities, and maybe poor hands on controls/knobs.
But hey, these are exactly the shortcomings I hoped to face, because with the Hapax I can address sequencing and lack of knobs, thanks to cc and Hapax knob assigments amd for the synth duties I’ve one of the best portable guys you could desire, the Micromonsta2, that’s super small, usb powered and bitimbral, with onboard fxs as well as the 101, and packs lots of sound design possibilities when you need to go where the 101 can’t.

And once I’ll come back home, I’ve got the exact rompler like-preset machine I was looking for to cover the ground where all my proper synths can’t go, without taking too much real estate on the desk and letting me get rid of the wavestate, in favor of a proper midi keyboard.

Seems one of those rare win-win situation to me!

Tl;dr

So to recap:
Hapax
MC-101
Micromonsta2
Usb power brick+hub
Small usb powered Speaker with 3.5 line in
3.5 2-way audio splitter and cables for MC101 and MM2
Bag

And I’ll be ready to go noodling even in the woods :grin:

Sounds good to you people? Anything I’m overlooking here?

P. S.
Oh gosh, sorry for the wordy post guys, I guess I’m just unnecessary happy to have discovered the obvious :rofl:

Yeah, I do really think the MC-101 suits your needs perfectly. The limitations on sound design are made up with literally hundreds of presets. But there isn’t a way to favourite the ones you like, so recommend writing down the ones you go back to, as each section sometimes has a hundred presets in it, and some of them sound quite similar, but don’t have the mojo.

I kinda wish it had a little speaker on it. Not like the tinny little Volca one, but I have a Reface DX and the speakers on that, whilst quiet, actually sound really nice. But with headphones it is fine.

Regarding it vs the Wavestate in terms of sounds, they are very different sounding, although you can make the same sorts of sounds the 101 makes on the Wavestate without too much difficulty (although the effects on the 101 are far far superior - and I actually like the effects on the Wavestate) you can’t really get the same sort of ‘out there’ sounds on the 101 vanilla. But the sample player can fill that need, and although you cannot change the type of filter on the sample player (the new MCs have a few different types in Zencore) it does sound nice, think it’s a nicey Roland-style 24db filter) with the effects you won’t really miss it.

If you have any questions using the 101 let me know, there’s a few things which aren’t in the manual (or badly explained) which took me a while to work out, so if I know, I’ll let you know.

Also, bear in mind that the Hapax is not USB powered. It’s got an 15volt power supply, so keep that in mind that it’ll require some kind of other power source rather than a USB portable brick.

Also, not sure the MC-101 is that obvious. It hasn’t really got the love it deserves I think, It is esoteric and doesn’t really function the way people would want it to as a ‘real’ synth, but if you don’t want that, it’s a proper winner.

EDIT - make sure you buy an MC-101 second hand, though. They are so so much cheaper than new. I got mine for £300, and I saw one go on ebay for £250-odd the other day.

Thanks again Loz.

Damn, I was sure the Hapax was usb powered like the Pyramid. I guess I have to find a workaround.

On the 101, yeah, I’m aware of the limitations, and the two major letdown for me are the lack of an external analog input and the absence of a filter envelope, but as you said, there’s a ton of presets and I have many other proper synths to do the synth work, but stil… They could have put at least a simple one, but I guess you can find a workaround with the Hapax CC/modulation stuff.

And yeah I’m looking for a pre-owned, absolutely. Not many around here in Italy atm, but I’m sure one will pop-up before summer holidays.

About the Wavestate, I’m sure that is a more capable synth platform, but I really can’t gel with the workflow.
Even creating a single multisample is boring as hell for me. Too many button presses and menu scrolling, and the navigation itself is really unintuitive for me with that buttons layout.

As said, I’ve got a Novation Peak for the joy of creating patches, and on a minor degree a Microfreak too.
The Micromonsta2 is also an open book, so I’m more than covered on subtractive/FM/wavetable stuff, I’d like just a simple preset machine/rompler kinda box to cover acoustic ground and bread n butter poly/bass/leads, and what can be better than Roland history in a (very small) box?
I was evaluating a Jupiter Xm for that very reason, but I was scared to fall in the same divey hole as per the Wavestate, and it’s bloody expensive too, with a ridiculous keybed on top of that. The 101 seems to bring in all the stuff I was looking for, with minor shortcomings, easly cured with stuff I already own.

Now I just have to look for a 15v powerbrick (like the Elektron guys do to power the Octatrack on the move) and a decent usb/battery powered speaker

Oh, and while we’re at it, can you assign all the 4 tracks to drum tracks at the same time?
I was eventually thinking to sequence all the 64 differents sounds with 8 different hapax drum tracks to achieve kinda fake-modular stuff with crazy randomness/generativeness through algos/midifxs… Bleep blop madness! :joy:

I looked into the Jupiter Xm actually. The menu diving is a million times worse than the Wavestate.

On this, you can assign any of the four tracks to any function, but only per project. So you could have 4 drum tracks, but they would always be drum tracks for the whole project, and couldn’t change between ‘patches’ (clips in Roland MC terms). Each clip can have different sounds (although by default all clips in a track share the same sound, but that’s just an option change in the track setup) and obviously all have difference sequences.

Highly recommend the Minirig for a portable speaker. They sound amazing (I’ve had one for years) and the battery lasts for absolutely hours.

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After reading the beginning of your explanation I was thinking: “MM2!" and then after you started talking about acoustic instruments and samples: “MC-101!” So definitely looks like an ideal setup to me.

The only thing I’d consider adding (and it’s definitely just a nice-to-have) would be some sort of portable MPE controller. The MM2 has a great MPE mode, and the Hapax can record and arrange MPE — but not (yet?) enter it from scratch. So something like a CME XKey could broaden your horizons a bit.

I’m unnecessarily happy just reading about it, so… :+1:

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Oh, and the MC-101 is definitely more capable (I really love the ZEN-Core engine and the sequencer is pretty underrated IMHO). But if you’re having trouble finding one, the SD-50 covers a ton of acoustic ROMpler ground, is very portable, and pretty cheep, used.

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@Ciaba Here’s a live set I recorded this evening for a stream next week, and if it interests you, you can see how I use the MC-101.

No Hapax in this, although some of the patterns were composed with the Hapax and recorded into the 101 (and some older ones were made with my old Pyramid)

But thought it might be of interest. As I said before, I use it for ‘backing tracks’

Basically have the first channel doing vocal samples, using the drum mode of all things (since you can assign 16 different samples per track, even though at most I use 3 or 4) The second track is loops, and three and four used for synths. Mostly samples I’ve put in, but some presets and some sounds fro

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Thanks guys!

@jemmons
yes I’m planning to get a midi keyboard once the wavestate goes up for sell. What can the xkey bring to the table vs a classic keystep or similar? I’m not mpe expert, I guess I’ll be ok with just velocity and aftertouch.
I took a brief look at the sd50, but it doesn’t feel too inspiring tbh, but thanks for adding the option tho!

@Loz
Thanks for the clarification about the drum tracks usage, but as I thought about that 4 drum tracks thing as a self contained/experimental jam the project limitation wouldn’t be a problem I guess.

Minirig seems to be a wonderful speaker, maybe I cannot justify the price for my limited usage, but it’ll be a contender for sure. Great reviews all round the web on the minirig family.

And thanks for the video!

I’ve found a couple of cheap 101s, but too hassle with vendors not really want to sell despite the advertising… People are strange.

There’s also an used 707 for roughly the same price of a brand new 101… Really tempted for the bigger display and the expanded I/O, but it’s a bit too big to be really portable… We’ll see.

I have a question about USB input on the 101, can you route a Roland boutique, like the Sh01-a, that is supposed to send audio over usb?

As a side note, I’ve received the infamous mail about the Hapax delivery pushed to September, so I’ve to stick to my beloved Pyramid for the summer setup. The good news is that’s usb powered, so one less thing to solve.

The MC-101 is not a MIDI host like the Hapax is, so you won’t be able to talk to the SH01a or anything else. You cannot plug a USB MIDI keyboard into it, either.

I was thinking to eventually sample the Sh01a via usb. I don’t know if it’s possible but I read that Mc101 can sample/import audio via usb.

While you’re here, I have another question about the drum track. If I want to sequence all the 16 sounds from a drum track externally, like from Pyramid or Hapax, how does it should work? I cannot find a midi implementation chart where is indicated which note messages the pads will respond to.

Thanks again Loz :wink:

Sadly not. The audio in over USB only works from a computer, not direct from another USB audio output synth. It just won’t recognise the device.

You cannot chromatically play the drum sounds, only fixed pitch, so if you want to do that, you’ll need to have the track in ‘Tone’ mode.

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Yeah, probably is my bad english fault, but I know that I can’t play chromatically the drums, I was just looking for the note/cc value list that will trigger the 16 drum pads/sounds independently.

Something like this

On the usb audio input, that’s what I though, but it would have been great to just plug a synth in the usb port and receive audio.

Yeah, you can definitely play the notes via MIDI on the drum tracks. Not sure the exact notes for each sound, but it’s probably very similar to the above.

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No affiliation.

That is 12V, max 0.8A (9W) vs Hapax’s 15V, 1.2A, 18W charger.

Good catch. I wonder if there are newer version that take advantage of USB 3 higher potential output levels.

Check this out!

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Hey there, just a quick update.

Found a good deal for an MC-707 on ebay and took the plunge. Delivered today, had a quick spin with it and seems to be fun and less convoluted than what I thought. Not really hands on like I hoped tho, but I need to dive into it a bit more, to get more acquainted with the workflow and key combos.

Really really good acoustic sounds, pianos and organs sounds glorious! I’ve yet to explore synths sounds, but so far so good.

I guess I can bring it with me during holidays as a standalone music making tool, but I’m probably going to bring Pyramid and Micromonsta2 too, just to have some proper sequencing power and a real synth to play with.

Yeah, it’s pretty menu-divey to set up sounds, but at least you can make your own from scratch, which you cannot on the MC-101 sadly.

Loads of the presets, especially for the acoustic stuff are really good, work really well in a mix. Used Funk Guitar 2 in a track this weekend, actually, just added some wah and a touch of chorus.