Servicing the Novation Circuit: A Customer Success Story
Whenever I travel, I love taking one or two pieces of gear with me to jam while on the road. The Novation Circuit has filled that role perfectly for a long time. It is amazing as a standalone unit, and it is even better when paired with a laptop or iPad and an editor app. BTW, if you’d like to see a video on some of the iPad apps that I use with it, let me know in the comments, and I’ll make a video post in the future.
A couple of months ago while I was rearranging stuff in my studio, I accidentally pulled on a cable that was attached to my Novation Circuit. And well, it fell off the table. On its way down, it hit the edge of the table, and one of the 8 encoders (number 8 to be precise) broke, and the shaft of the knob fell off completely. The encoder next to it was also bent, leaving me with two unusable input components.
Part 1: The Quest for the Right Part
I went online trying to figure out what the part I needed to replace was. But I didn’t find any concrete information about the actual component. I did run across this post which pointed me to Mouser. However, at the time, they were out of stock. Also, I wasn’t certain that this was the exact part. The image on the site did not seem exactly like the part on the unit itself. Which brings me to a very important point: when, while there are times where one part can be replaced by another part of the same value. I mean as long as the part footprint is the same, you should be OK as long as the characteristics of the parts are complementary. But I didn’t know this part, and even now I’m not 100% sure of the part. In my mind, these knobs are rotary encoders; however, the part description reads: “Potentiometers 11mm 20Kohms 5-15VDC Flat Shaft.”
Still uncertain, I continued with my search until I found this post where someone suggested emailing Novation support. So I did.
BTW: the actual pot is a 10K linear endless potentiometer. The one I listed above but not 20K… The blog post was wrong after all. But, sadly I can’t seem to be able to order that value from Mouse anyway so in the end it was best to go the Novation support route.
Part 2: Contacting Novation Support
I sent an email to Novation support explaining my situation. I told them how I had dropped the unit and broken the part, how I had searched online and arrived at Mouser but didn’t have an exact part number, etc. I also explained that I was comfortable doing the repair myself.
My experience with Greg, the customer service assistant who aided me with my issue was absolutely fantastic! Without hesitation, he offered to send the two components to me. A week later, I had the parts on hand, yay! All of this at no cost to me at all!
Part 3: The Support That Surprised You
Now, as you guys know, the Novation Circuit is no longer even made. The unit now has two newer models, the Tracks, and Rhythm. Also, I’ve had this unit now for so many years, originally purchased second hand, mind you… Needless to say, this was way out of warranty. Novation did not have any obligation to help me at all. But they did, and in the most positive way possible. I don’t think I’ve ever had this level of customer support from any of the companies with whom I’ve dealt with in my experience. The next time I’m thinking about buying a Novation product, you bet I will take this experience into the decision-making.
Part 4: The Repair Process
For the repair process, you will need:
- A spatula or credit card to get under the rubber pad and pry it apart.
- Rubber cement, though in my case, the residual glue was still sticky enough that I didn’t need it.
- Solder wick
- Solder sucker
- Rubbing alcohol (to clean it while it is open)
Step 1: Remove the rubber pad from under the unit. This will expose the screws.
Step 2: Remove the plastic caps from the knobs. Also, remove the nuts on the potentiometers and set those aside. Remember to remove the battery cover as well as the batteries.
Step 3: Remove all the screws from the bottom of the unit.
Step 4: Carefully pry open the enclosure using a credit card, be careful with the cables for the battery and speaker. Once open, detach the cables and set the cover aside.
Step 5: Remove the I/O board
Step 6: Remove the main board
Step 7: Replace the broken part.
Step 8: Test (if possible)
Step 9: Reassemble the unit.
Part 5: Lessons Learned and Encouragement
UPDATE: I almost bricked my circuit while trying to replace the broken part and ended up having to do some emergency surgery. All because I didn’t listen to my own advise and continued to work the part while I was already quite tired and frustrated. I was lucky that I was able to fix it but had I not been able to, I will say that I went into this task knowing full well that there is always a risk of things going the opposite way. I love to say that Murphy doesn’t discriminate, I guess it is why we know it as Murphy’s Law.
It is important to stay organized during this process. One thing that helps me is to take pictures along the way. This way, I have a solid place for reference if I run into issues when I’m putting the unit back together again. Take your time!!! Don’t rush through this, and you will avoid most issues.
Nothing lasts forever, but nobody says that we can’t make it last longer than intended by taking great care of our gear. Also, going the DIY route saves us so much money in the long run. Gear is not cheap!
There is another important point here too, we live in a world of abundance. We keep making new things, and the old ones just get forgotten and eventually end up in some landfill. Whenever I resurrect something like this, it brings me so much joy because I know I kept it away from the dump.
So don’t be afraid to open that piece of gear up and give it some love. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.
This one was especially emotional for me. I love my Circuit! I used to take it everywhere with me. And when I broke it, I was saddened by it. Yeah, searching for the repairs was no fun, but what was great about this whole thing was the amazing support I got from Novation, especially Greg! So again thank you Greg and the entire Novation team for giving me such an amazing experience with your products over the years! You have a loyal and happy customer here!
I am soooo thrilled to have this unit back and ready for the studio again! Who knows, you may see it in a future video too! But for now, I encourage you guys to experiment with your DIY projects, and be sure to share them so we can all learn together.
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