Trying to decide which Elektron device to get / start with

New here – Hi!

My musical background is mostly acoustic instruments, strictly on a hobbyist level. Some time ago, I started to dive into making electronic music, which so far was completely ITB.

Frankly, it’s not going so great. My job is centered around the computer and the 'net, often 12 hours a day, and I find it hard to snap out of work mode when I sit in front of a large screen in the same place where I do most of my work. I also feel that the abundance of choice (DAWs, plugins, and so forth) is overwhelming to the point where it has a paralyzing effect on my creativity. I don’t really make much music, and the little I do certainly doesn’t feel playful or expressive.

I believe I would do better with a more “tactile” approach (just like I can grab a uke or one of my entirely-too-many kalimbas and mbiras and jam with it), and the inherit limitations of a dedicated device are appealing.

There are cheaper options than Elektron devices, but everything I have seen and heard about them is impressive (I love the sound), I’m not turned off by the learning curve (as it’s not as limitless as a computer setup), and the machines seem to hold their value well. I don’t want to buy something cheap and then keep wishing I had just gotten the “real thing” that I actually wanted.

Ideally and eventually, I’d like the Octatrack, Analog Rytm and Analog Four (perhaps the Analog Keys), but I can’t afford to buy them all at once, which would probably cause learning overload anyway, so I’m trying to figure out which device to get first and then spend a few months with it before deciding what to get to expand it.

The style of music I’d like to make falls in the techno-ish, experimental corner. In the beginning, I’d like to only use the device that I’m getting, no additional gear beyond headphones/monitors or a recorder (can be Reaper on the laptop, though the Zoom H6 I have is likely to work just fine?), so the ability to make full tracks/songs is important. From what I’ve seen, they can all do this.

The two devices that I’m the most torn between are the Analog Rytm and the Octatrack. I think both of them would meet my needs, and the Analog Four too (Analog Keys costs a tad more than I can spend in December, and I don’t want to wait yet another month!).

I had wanted an Octatrack for quite a while, but the more I hear and see about the Rytm, the more appealing I find it. It also seems more groovebox-y (would you say this impression is somewhat accurate?). The pads came up in some discussions as the object of criticism, though I imagine they would further enhance the tactile experience for me. Whichever device I don’t get now, I would probably pick up later.

So anyway, I just wanted to get some thoughts from you guys for orientation and guidance. Thanks for your time in advance, I really appreciate any input you may have. :slight_smile:

Speaking as someone who (started with software) used a Machinedum (exclusively) for a long time and now a happy Analog Four user; I recommend the Analog Four.

  1. It will teach you synthesis techniques that you can apply to many other synths

  2. It’s onboard keyboard makes it wonderful to program melodies and sketch songs. It will probably be impractical to do that with a Rytm (if its anything like on the machinedrum).

  3. you could still do some drums with it. It’s got four tracks and a nice reverb and arranger. And with the keyboard, like i said its a pretty complete package.
    If your into experimental stuff, it could also be your gateway to freaky modular things.

There is no compelling argument that any machine is heads above the rest as they are all very different, but as you are starting out with elektron, I’d suggest you get an OT.

Once loaded up with audio on the CF card, for me the OT is more of a ‘desert island machine’ if you are experimentalish. You can create something with very little, or you can use a huge amount of samples but completely transform them.

AR is hugely rewarding out of the box if you have a little elektron sequencer knowledge, but its synthesis is drum orientated. You can use samples to take it in any direction - but if you are doing that, then the OT would have been the better ‘first elektron’. For samples it is far better featured than the AR in how you can manage and treat your samples. (let alone it is much friendlier to just drop wavs onto the CF card)

OT will mean you need to think about where you get your original audio from to play with, but you might have a lot of fun recording your own ideas and using them.

Anyone know if the AR will let you use the outs for drum pad playing like the UW does? I am having a debate myself over my next Elektron related buy and this is a major point for me.

The great thing about the A4, besides its sound and depth, is the fact that it is self contained and conceptually mostly fixed in structure, you can then work with it and master it, the thing with the OT is that it is bewideringly flexible in its configuration and it’s not a closed box, you can capture and load content, it’s fair to say that the A4/R would give an easier road into Elektron sequencing, but if you can master the OT, I can’t help but think that it is more flexible to have around and it’s edgier and more exciting, my favourite is the A4 because special things can happen with analog synthesis, but i’m coming round to seeing the OT as more essential, it does so much, including external sequencing and it can fit with a wide variety of users, but it’s a tough one to start with !

+1 for the AR.
The A4, AK and AR are probably the nicest sounding elektrons. A4 and Ak are limited to four tracks which is almost useless for building complete songs.
The OT is a very diverse box but sometimes you have to put a bit of work in to make it sound as good as the other elektron boxes. And it can be a bit of a pain due to it’s ‘I can do anything’ nature. Jack of all trades, master of none.
I would recommend the AR. Its has 12 tracks, very easy to use and has that nice rich sound.
Its more a music box than a drum machine IMO. The AR is also Elektron’s ‘hottest’ product at the moment so if you dont like it you can easily sell it for close to what you paid for it.

Hey Mivo, lots of us started down the hardware road for the exact same reasons you stated. You’re going the right direction!

The OT would give you the most depth and flexibility (in respects to sequencing external MIDI devices, and loading content), but it’s notoriously steep learning curve might spoil your attitude for instant musical gratification.

I don’t own and A4 (yet) but I have played with one for a short time and it instantly sounded amazing. No doubt that it will give you tons of results without too much effort (once you get your mind warped around the Elektron way). The thing to keep in mind though is that the A4 only has four tracks, and isn’t the world’s greatest drum machine.

Not to confuse you even more, but have you thought about the ‘Machinedrum UW+’ ? It is possibly the most instantly gratifying of the Elektron machines, and has a huge set of features. The UW+ model (which can sample) was the original inspiration for the Octatrack. The synth engines are very flexible and can create far more than just percussion, AND it’s great at sequencing external MIDI gear. The MD was me second Elektron machine, but if I could do it over, I would had made it my first!

I think if you like to make sound textures, pads, drones, and/or play a keyboard, the A4 is what you should get. But if you’re more into beats and glitchy type shits, then the MD could be a contender. The OT has superior flexibility, but you need to be ready to dive deep into how to program the thing before you can rock the shit out of it …which could actually be fun if you’re that kind of person.

Based on your stated preference for a more “tactile” approach and the type of music you’re describing, I would recommend getting an AR and an A4/AK first.

The next step I’d recommend would be to start building a small modular system since since you can’t get much more tactile like that.

If you’re into working with loops, “found” sounds, sampling in general, or maybe using your acoustic instruments as a starting point, then I’d recommend getting only the OT first.

Thanks guys! :slight_smile:

The lesson here is that I really need to get them all, eventually! Right now, I’m still tending toward the AR, because it does seem to be a little easier to learn than the OT at least. I have no real experience with hardware of this kind, let alone Elektron’s stuff, so it may not be a bad idea to start with something that lets me make some noise out of the box. It’s also slightly more expensive than the A4 and OT (at my retailer anyway), so I kind of would like to get it out of the way.

I also like the pads, and think I’ll have fun with it (and would rather not buy an MPC/etc. in addition, currently). It’s difficult, though. I can see myself having a fantastic time with any of these devices, I think, and all the pros mentioned here for each device resonate with me. If I get into the device I buy first, I’m fairly sure the others would follow within a year’s time.

I’ll dwell on this another couple days, change my mind a few more times, and then buy “something” later in the week. Need to take advantage of the extra discount. :slight_smile:

I’ll let you know what I picked! Thanks again for the great feedback!

My progression has been MDUW>MNM>OT. I don’t think I’d do it differently, but I don’t think you’d be missing out by starting with the Analog boxes first. The main thing is the learning curve-I really struggled with the MD (funny, because it’s probably the simplest of all the Elektrons), but as a result I picked up the Mono very quickly, and I was past the growing pains of the OT within just a couple of weeks.

Of the Analog machines, I’d think the A4/AK would be the best choice, as it is the most developed and should prove to be a good learning device because of subtractive synthesis. If you have an iPad, you could probably fill in a lot of gaps missing from the A4 or AK, as you should still be able to send clock and transport via midi, which would allow you to use the many flavors of iOS midi sequencing apps (someone correct me if I’m wrong here).

The AR looks like a ton of fun too, but as it currently stands I don’t find it as appealing. It does sound lovely tho.

"As a result, my head exploded and killed 3 small children - still cleaning up the mess.

LOL, as long as no musical equipment was hurt tho.

I almost flipped a coin! The deed is done: I dropped €1200 on the AR + cover at Thomann. A stand will have to wait until January. A very boring, but healthy, diet without any junk food for a month await. :slight_smile:

You all made sure that I’ll grab the other boxes too, in time! This was really hard to decide. After a lot of back and forth, I went with the AR because it strikes me as the most groovebox-y device that is also somewhat easy to get into. Videos by Ink Jet and (of course) Dataline helped with the decision, but honestly, I’ve listened to stuff made on each of the devices and it all sounded great!

With some luck, it’ll arrive in the morning.

Congrats! It really is a superb machine - but then again, so are the rest of them.

Yep, they all seem to be fantastic! Good thing I can’t just buy a €1000+ gadget every month, which in this case is good. Provides me with time to actually learn what I have.

My AR didn’t come this morning, but they shipped it just a few hours ago, so most likely it’ll arrive tomorrow (packages within Germany usually make it within a day). It seems it was also the last one they had in stock. Right after I ordered it, the availability jumped to Dec 26, which had me fretting until the shipping notice came in. Much relief! :wink:

I’m late to the party but I would have suggested an A4/AK and a small drum machine (Volca Beats?). You can run the drum machine through the effects track on the A4. But the AR should be a nice rounded groovebox and although I don’t have an AR it certainly looks like it can handle better non percussion synth sounds than an MD would be able to. I love what my MDUW can handle but in my case it needs a separate synth to get a full song together. For a while I was mainly using the MDUW and an Access Virus C which was a killer combo.