Best portable-ish sketchpad under $400

With tax return time coming up the wife has authorized $400-$500 to spend on gear. I’m looking for a different sketchpad. Right now I use a qy-70. I like the size, it has more usable sounds than it usually gets credit for, I can take it anywhere as long as I have batteries, and most importantly I really love the step sequencer. I’m very productive with it. However, I’m in the mood for something “better” or maybe more modern…more usable sounds, more memory (the memory on the qy70 runs out at about 6 full songs), but with a similar step sequencer. Right now I’m considering the Electribe 2 or a MC-505. I looked at the Circuit but it feels like a lot of sitting at the computer to create patches before I can get what I want out of it and I try to work OTB as much as possible. Alternatively, I’ve considered just upgrading to the qy-100 since its basically a beefed up 70 with more memory and I could keep my current work flow with no learning curve, and buying a Crave to pair with my Model D so as to expand the sounds I can create when I’m applying instrumentation to the QY’s midi.

What are your thoughts on these options? Are there any in the price range I’m overlooking?

If you can squeeze another fifty to a hundred bucks I’d recommend looking at the Elektron Digitakt. Used they go for 550 to 600 dollars if you look. Great little box, can make full tracks, Overbridge enabled Elektron workflow, tons of fun.

If you’re already used to the Yamaha QY sequencer, then check out the QY100. Same sequencer, IIRC expanded sounds, plus it uses smart media for backup. I’ve heard it chews through batteries though so maybe investing in rechargeables would be in your best interest.

On your QY70 and the QY100, you can edit the voices themselves pretty extensively and in realtime while you’re recording. If you were to connect something like an Evolution UC33 to it and have the knobs and sliders mapped out for quick editing and realtime controls (i.e. filter cutoff and resonance) you can squeeze some amazingly good stuff out of either unit considering their age.

This or something similar is the key to getting the absolute best out of those yamaha machines.

I have an Electribe 2 I’m looking to move on. It’s a great box for jamming but it’s not actually a synth. Instead it’s got a library of pre-defined sounds you alter, which personally I’m not keen on. If you sit with it the possibilities are still endless and limitation forces creativity etc but I’ve got too much going on elsewhere to go down that hole.

I would also recommend trying to stretch the budget to a Digitakt