NC Editor, an (iPad) Patch Editor for the Circuit Tracks

A couple of months ago, Deepsounds reached out to ask if I could have a look at their patch editor, to which I enthusiastically agreed since I was actually in the process of to my and designing printable DIN to TRS adapters so I could use both together.

Then stuff happened, and it took me a long while to recapture the mood and get back into music again–but the past couple of bank holidays made it possible for me to get my mind off work and back into the groove, so I finally got around to trying it out.

Note: Deepsounds provided me with a free copy of a bundle that included both NC Editor and a sound pack, and as usual this piece follows my .

The Circuit Tracks So Far

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag until now, to be honest.

We’ve had it in the house for now. It was meant to be a way for the kids (and me) to dabble with sequencing without being tethered to a desktop DAW and providing a more tactile experience, but the relatively opaque workflow typical of these small devices and the associated learning curve have been a bit of a barrier.

Plus, like all music gear, it takes up space when not in use and gets dusty really quickly. So was mostly living in a drawer until I stopped using a laptop at my desk and freed up the monitor arm/laptop tray combo I used–which is where it is now, in an attempt to make it more accessible for idle noodling.

The results are that I have indeed been dabbling with it occasionally (and often having to re-learn the basics of its workflow every now and then). Besides that, like , it’s not perfect:

  • The number of synth tracks is too limiting (and four drum/sample tracks frankly excessive).
  • Editing patterns is OK, but “Song mode”, such as it is, is a hassle to use effectively.
  • You can’t do deep patch editing/tweaking on the device itself.
  • You can’t just pop the SD Card off the Circuit and manage content directly.

To manage content (patches, samples, etc.) you are supposed to use Novation’s Components, but I’ve always hated it for a number of reasons:

Besides being a web app that requires Chrome (yes, you can download and run a local version, but it still feels like a web app) and having weird refresh issues, it forces you to go through a series of hoops to get to a patch, and the controls are tiny and fiddly to use with a mouse.

Components in action, as kludgy as ever

Plus, of course, it is impossible to use on an iPad (which is what I have with me when I’m relaxing on the couch).

NC Editor

NC Editor, on the other hand, is surprisingly quick to use, and of course the UX, being designed for touch, is perfect for using on the iPad:

NC Editor in action, on a lazy Sunday afternoon

NC Editor can run on any platform Touch OSC supports (which also includes Windows, Mac or Linux), so to be able to run it, you need to have Touch OSC installed (fortunately, I had dabbled with in the past when looking for ways to have custom control surfaces).

iPad setup is pretty straightforward–I just synced the .zip file across to my iPad, unpacked it and tapped the .tosc file to open it:

First run of the NC Editor layout in Touch OSC.

Once that’s done NC Editor launches automatically every time I open Touch OSC, so I stopped thinking about the details and just enjoyed the experience.

The editor is pretty straightforward to use, and the layout is very intuitive–I was able to get around without referring to the documentation at all (incidentally, the documentation is very good, with a lot of screenshots and explanations, so I suspect it would be very helpful if you get stuck).

The only thing I had to look up was how to use the Patch Generator to get an idea of how the randomization worked and how to deal with harmonics, and that was pretty straightforward–but the gist of things is that NC Editor opens a window into features of the Circuit Tracks that I didn’t know existed:

That modulation matrix goes deep, really deep. Far deeper than I expected.

In fact, it’s pretty amazing how it all works so seamlessly–switching synth tracks on the Circuit updates NC Editor instantly, so I think you can rely on it for live shows, and the overall experience is delightful–the other day I was playing with it on my couch and thoroughly enjoying myself:

Effortlessly jamming, albeit clumsily

Like all things music, it’s a rabbit hole–I spent a couple of afternoons just playing with the editor and the Circuit, and I haven’t even gotten to the barest understanding of how to use things like macros and other advanced editing features.

But the most important thing is that I can do it all on the iPad, which is a huge plus for me given I’ve been avoiding spending any more time in my office than I have to, and I can use AUM and the embarrassingly large amount of soft synths I have on the iPad to augment the Circuit’s sounds.

Other Features

NC Editor also supports external controllers (the Novation Launch Control XL and the Akai Midimix), but I don’t have one of those, so I can’t comment on how well that works–but you get separate versions of the editor that are optimized for those controllers, so I suspect there’s a lot of thought put into making it work well.

The DeepSounds Sound Pack

The bundle also includes a sound pack with two banks, which I haven’t had a chance to explore yet–I’ve loaded them up and played with a few patches, but I haven’t had a chance to really dig into them yet.

The general feel I got from two afternoons of idly playing around was that the DeepSounds patches sound less “plastic” than the Novation ones, with nice, elaborate textures–they are a nice showcase for the Tracks’ synthesis engine and its modulation matrix.


The only regret I have about NC Editor is that it took me so long to get around to trying it.

It’s a great tool for getting the most out of the Circuit Tracks, and it will definitely be a part of my workflow going forward–provided I can muster the inspiration, of course. The additional sound pack is a nice bonus, and I don’t think you can go wrong with the bundle.

Whatever the future holds, at least for now my Circuit Tracks sits besides the couch, and hopefully I’ll be tempted to hook it up to my iPad and play with it more often.