I recently got a Digitakt and love it. Now in the inevitable phase of looking for a synth to add to the mix. I tend to make house, techno and dabble in hip hop, all leaning to an old school vibe.
I see Digitone get recommended a lot and part of me would like to stay in the Elektron world, but I have the following concerns, perhaps better educated users can disabuse me of them.
A big part of the DN’s appeal (and price tag?) is the sequencer capabilities, but do I really need another Elekton sequencer when I already have DT, which I would plan to have as the brain of my setup anyway? If my budget is roughly $800, part of me thinks the entire price should be going towards the sound module and not extras like a sequencer I wouldn’t use often.
I’ve listened to a lot of YT demos and I’m still not convinced on the DN sound palette. I’m also familiar with FM sounds from using iPad apps like KQ Dixie and Ruismaker FM, I enjoy what they can do but I think I would feel somewhat limited with the metallic, colder sounds that I mostly hear coming from this space. It seems like it fits a certain type of techno, IDM and perhaps ambient, but not as diverse for an “only” synth to make a variety of different styles?
People seem to love the percussive sounds the DN can make, but that’s also not a priority for me with having the DT handling drums. My main goals for a synth would be pads, bass and leads.
So far I’m considering Korg Minilogue XD, or the Dreadbox synths, for the price of a DN I can almost get both a Typhon and Nymphes.
Any thoughts on the above would be appreciated. Might be interesting to hear from satisfied DN users who have paired it with DT as well as those who went in a different direction. I realize I could be sleeping on some of the DN’s capabilities and selling points.
So I would say that the digitone can definitely get to those “warm analog” type sounds, it just doesn’t default to them, you have to work a little bit to get there. I find FM can very easily fall into a sort of plastic toy like sound, and this is something that is very easy on the digitone, especially if you just start with the init sine wave patch and just turn up the FM all the way. Basically you have to be judicious with the way you make sounds in the digitone, whereas a lot of classic synths are designed to always sound “good”. Sometimes this is frustrating about the digitone, like when you just want a classic synth sound, and other times it is amazing when you create a sound that is very different.
I use the DT/DN combo and I think there are some big benefits of having an extra sequencer, especially now we have song mode.
I find having 2 separate songs (1 on each device) really opens the compositional capabilities. It’s also really useful for creating transitions for sets. For example, the digitakt could continue playing a pattern while the digitone moves on to the next pattern; now there is no need to create a separate transition pattern on each device.
The fact that the 2 machines are so similar also gives you a lot less to think about, so you can focus on the music.
Saying all that, maybe the mc101 would work as a nice sound module for those classic sounds you’re after.
DN is by far the most flexible option on the market for a synth sound module.
It can pretty much be anything, from a warm chord synth or smooth lead/bass machine, to drums and glitch textures. Difference being - you trade speed of sound design for that wider pallette.
For me DN shines most when you stray away from classic sounds and try new things.
If you are really after the old school sounds, you better off getting old school-esq gear.
Id say start with Typhon, see if you like sequencing external gear through DT.
If yes - also get a poly synth, If no, get DN or ST.
Get an Access Virus A or B instead
I’d also recommend a more hands on synth module than the DN given that you already have the DT sequencer. Having them both can be a bit overkill at once, it’s a lot to keep track of. Something like the Virus, Nord Lead, Minilogue, etc will serve you better IMO.
“Get a Digitone” is a default answer on this forum i.e. not very helpful. People tend to overlook it limitations and workflow. So if you are still not convinced by the sounds of DN then the way of arriving to these sounds will downright frustrate you. The same goes for Typhon: praised for sound, fx and value while its frustratingly fiddly UI is ignored.
Get a Micromonsta 2 and spend the rest of your budget on rad stuff like pizza. Or exceed your budget by a bit and get a Syntakt.
One thing that makes the DN so nice with the DT is that the form factor and workflows are so similar. It really does behave more like one instrument to use them together.
Another big thing is that the DN has four voices you can split over four tracks. So you can have one five voice pad, a bass, lead, and arp all working together. It being multi timbral is a huge feature.
There are only a few multi timbral synths you’ll find in that price range…like a Blofeld or a used Virus B, as mentioned above. I think the Virus may be your best best, honestly…you have 8 MIDI tracks you can use from the DT, you can also Plock/automate 8 CC’s per MIDI track, and the Virus is going to cover a lot of sonic territory.
The DN can however sound very warm, its dual filters help a ton in taking the wildness of FM, and its wave-shaping ability lets you get close to traditional analog oscillator shapes. A lot of it depends on how much you want to rely on preset and how much you want synthesize your own patches.
8 voices. Which is one of the biggest reasons its so flexible as a module. Its like having 4 separate small machines that can be pretty much anything.
DT has two LFOs now AFAIK so you can play around with single cycle waveforms. Can be very powerful without the need of a new synth!
DN can sound warm for sure. Can also mix warm and cold. Being multi timbral helps a lot.
The sequencer overlap isn’t really the same but they do overlap. Especially after the latest updates.
I have a Minilogue XD and it’s a great synth but not multi timbral, so you will have to resort to sampling more than not (mono samples at that). But benefit is you get a keyboard to play around with unless you are shooting for the module.
The DT and DN work very well together. I usually consider them to be a single instrument and I seldom use one without the other.
Also, the multitrimbal aspect is amazing.
That said, if you feel the demos don’t sound like the sound you are after, you are probably not going to be satisfied until you get a more traditional sounding (analog) synth (or an analog heat)
The Minilogue XD is a great entry level synth. Mix that with the single cycle waveforms/samples on the DT and you can cover plenty of ground
Yes, you can def warm up the DN, but I would say it’s def not where it shines. There is a reason why there are videos out there with the title “how to warm up the DN”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the DN for its unique sounds and many other reasons but in your case I am not sure if I would recommend it.
Ps I myself gravitate towards the genres you mentioned in your post and I am very happy with my DN and DT, but only because I have a minitaur that covers the warm/analog/bass sounds
I love the Digitone but trust your ears. You’ve listened to tons of demos and it wasn’t for you.
Perhaps the analog four is closer to the sonic character you’re after. The mk1 and analog keys can be found for quite cheap nowadays.
I personally find it much more convenient to set up pattern change follow, than mess with midi CC and all that so I prefer working with multiple Elektrons over midi sequencing other synths.
…since each elektron sequencer is an instrument of it’s own, never underestimate what it can do to different aproaches of soundconcepts it’s attached to…
sure all the midi options of it are always good to have, but once it’s doing it’s job directly to it’s intented internal soundconcept, it’s always a different beast…
running two independant ones next to each other is by far no waste of money at all…
by now, u got one handling sampling already…another one that treats it’s ways to synthesis is pretty much a must, if ur already hooked to it’s basic concept…
and if the dtone does not tickle u that much, well, the syntakt or an a4 would do for sure…
don’t be fooled by that groovebox thing…the syntakt is many great synthvoices and concepts at once…and so far, u have not experienced what plocking means for real, once it hits on synthesis…
Thanks everyone for the great feedback.
I think I under-appreciated how the Elektron sequencers could work together and I haven’t even messed with song mode yet on DT.
What I realized from some of the responses on DN’s sound is that my synth expertise is relatively low and I’d probably be happier with something more basic to start with, where it’s easier to dial-in sweet spots.
I’m leaning toward a more modest purchase like Typhon or Korg and learning on that, but keeping open the possibility of adding DN or even Syntakt in the future once I become more comfortable with mastering my DT’s sequencer and synthesis in general.
This community is so helpful , thank you!
Digitone sequencer is quite different/augmented from Digitakt. The polyphony and the arp make it much more flexible.
For instance you can easily create 8 bar and 16 bar loops of 16th notes with arps.
This especially since you can sequence 8 parts on a virus from the DT and virus does way more synth types than DN. Great combo.
I have the DN and the Typhon and the DN is WAY easier to design sounds on. The Typhons UI is a pain in the ass. Great synth, but it’s true. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a Typhon, but don’t kid yourself that it’s going to be easier to learn on than the Digitone.
I started on the DT too, and when I added the DN it was like I’d unlocked the full potential of something. They work REALLY well together.
I highly recommend that combination of instruments.