RD4 Groovebox is a pretty useful beatmaking app on the Android platform. Its effective interface changes based on the device’s orientation (optimized for a 10-inch tablet) with each view emphasizing different aspects of the app’s functionality.
While an iOS version of the app was released last September, this review is for the Android version. I went that route considering the relative dearth of music apps on Google’s mobile platform.
RD4 Groovebox for Android Features
- Three Synths (303 Clone and two Subtractives)
- Drum Machine with 10 Different Kits (808, 909, Linn, etc.)
- 4-Track Mixer with Direct Effect Send on each Channel
- 5 Effects Including Delay, Reverb, Distortion, Filter, and Phaser
- USB MIDI Port and External MIDI Clock Support
- Available at the Google Play Store for $5.99
For those users running Android 4.2 and later, a special low latency audio option exists. I give props to the developer for being up front about using that at least that version of Android for the best real-time recording performance. For older versions, its beatmaking functionality still makes RD4 a worthy app.
A Clean Interface for Beatmaking
All modules within RD4 sport clean interfaces, making the beatmaking process easy and fun. Anyone familiar with Rebirth or Reason on the PC or Mac or any number of the tablet-based loop creation apps will feel right at home.
One minor complaint is that the transport controls are only available on the mixer screen when in landscape mode; portrait mode provides access to most of the app’s functionality, albeit with slightly scrunched views. When in landscape mode, a simple menu bar at the top of the screen switches between the drum machine, two subtractive synths, the bass synth, the drum machine, and FX.
The subtractive synth interface has four buttons that access the pitch, oscillator, filter, and envelope sections each with effectively modeled knobs, buttons, and switches. The bass synth interface looks like a TB-303, with silver coloring and the expected collection of sequencing, filter and envelope controls. In a similar fashion, the drum machine module’s interface is reminiscent of a TR-808, with drum sound selection and sequencing controls.
Four different effects sends each route to what looks like mini stomp boxes with virtual knobs and an X-Y Kaoss Pad-like interface. Individual instruments can be routed to one of the effects from the mixer screen, and each drum sound has its own effects routing. The mixer allows each channel to be soloed or muted.
All in all, RD4 offers an effective, clean interface.
RD4 features Good Sound Quality
The sound quality of RD is fine, with a good cross section of synth sounds and drum samples (808, 909, and more). The effects are useful and fun to manipulate with the X-Y interface. Speaking of which, I didn’t suffer near as much Android latency when controlling the effects in real-time compared to when playing one of the instruments.
One personal frustration is that the built-in sequence is limited to only 4/4. Not like I want to go heavy Crimsonoid 15/8 or anything (but that would be nice!), but not providing the ability for a simple 3/4 is a big oversight. Hopefully, the developer will allow for different time signatures in the future.
RD4 Groovebox is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting an Android app that provides a nice introduction to beatmaking. The clean, easy-to-use interface is a joy. When I upgrade my Galaxy Tab 10.1 to Android 4.2, I will look forward to see if the Android latency problems are gone!