The Octatrack is an ambitious piece of hardware, combining multitrack sampling and playback with real-time audio warping. We didn’t get a good look at it earlier this week, but the folks at Gear4Music went back to get a more complete walkthrough with Elektron’s Jon. It’s followed by a proper live set – and it sounds fantastic. In fact, it embodies the quality I described earlier this week of Sweden’s other highly-anticipated gear, the Teenage OP-1: it becomes an instrument you’d want to practice.

Jon also elaborates on the features of the Octatrack. Talking points:

  • Automatic time stretching means samples can sync automatically if you so desire – certainly part of what helps earn this Ableton comparisons, and something that should be great live.
  • The ability to accommodate big samples can make this a machine for playing backing tracks, with clips of ten minutes in length well within reason.
  • You can manipulate steps individually, adjusting parameters like pitch or filtering for creative effects.

It looks terrific, and even if you don’t have the budget to set aside (yeah, I feel you), it’s a great indication of where some of these techniques are going. More details on the Gear4Music blog:
Musikmesse 2010: Elektron reveal full Octatrack details

Previously (including more specs):
Elektron Unveils Octatrack Sampler-Sequencer-Warper, Expands and Discounts Machinedrum

  • http://plusplus.alwaysdata.net/ eddy

    OSC ? come on….

  • Brandon

    A MUCH better demo! Now I'm excited.

  • s ford

    A question I asked for the previous post regarding this product is whether it could be used for Djing. With pitch shifting and elastic audio, the OT could be a bad ass thing for playing tunes live.

  • Mudo

    It could be great an mLR in hardware but with 8×8 grid matrix and variphrasing (this okta rules too)

    hehe

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    What I still don't get is why is it so hard to put the same features of a software inside a hardware. For instance, why only 8 tracks?? We're not living in the early days of sampling to have to limit sample playback to avoid expensive chipsets…

    Anyway this hw piece comes very colse to what I dream of, why, by the way, is pretty simple..

  • Zoopy

    Elektron is kinda into limitation for creativity.

  • Polite

    Thats more like it! Gearlust on!

  • Jonathan

    I'm confused.

    Cool interface but you can use that money to buy: macbook + ableton + controller and still have money left over for a nice dinner.

    This would make sense in the $300 range. Or make it a controller + software (a la NI's Maschine)

    Seems like a waste of resources.

  • Microwave Prince

    "New Demo Video of Elektron Octatrack Explains Why It’s Awesome"

    "automatic time stretching" wow! it's so revolutionary.!!!

    It's like iphone app, but in ugly case for 1200 euros :]

  • http://nostromo.noisepages.com M-.-n

    I'm not sold, Good choice for the cybotron sample loop tho.

  • genjutsushi

    Sold.

    I use audiomulch to play back longer pre-recorded tracks and mangle them in realtime combined with beats created on a pair of Electribes. Having a similar long-loop / sample based audio mangler IN HARDWARE for live performance and intuitive, quick interaction = an incredibly powerful tool.

    I for one dont like Ableton – the interface is just too confused for me personally (i know its very popular) but the ability to move similar timestretching techniques to a limited hardware interface WILL advance the creativity of its usage. Look at how people are using the 'limited' monome, Akai MPCs, or even the Mircokorg! Limitations mean that you need to maximise whats there in a manner similar to that stated in the 'finger drumming' post a week or two ago – it becomes an instrument!

    Now i need to save around 1500 euros?

  • A Different Jonathan

    Now THAT is a demo!

    @cooptrol Why only 8 tracks? Because human interface matters. A guitar has 6 strings because it's an excellent compromise between musical range and playability. A guitar with 36 strings might offer some unique musical possibilities, but it would be far more difficult to play.

    With hardware it's a compromise between power and the immediacy and usability of the hardware interface. Each of the 8 tracks has a dedicated button. Obviously, doing the same with 128 buttons would not be very usable. Elektron designs their boxes as instruments, and the 8-track limitation is a reflection of that.

  • s ford

    @genjutsushi

    I read a street price of 1200 Euros.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Microwave Prince: OK, then prove it. Put your money where your mouth is. *Write* that iPhone app.

    See you when you're done.

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Bolt

    So gwenhwyfaer,

    why don't you describe to us what exactly you think this unit can do and justify a proposed 1200euro price tag – primarily by function alone.

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    Geez!, I can't take it anymore! Ok Elektron gave me this demo in an exclusive suite in NYC 2 AES ago of the MachineDrum and it totally rocked and had all these electro and classic Bass samples so Tony and I bought the best one with the extra RAM.

    It took us 22 hours to master every feature and bank and none of those sounds were in there as none of the ones you are listening to will be either. We even emailed Jon for help last nigt in Seden his time and got an encryptic answer. You can tune and tweak sound and build your own sounds to achieve classic electro sound but they will never sound like this demo unless you drop a needle on that calssic track and sample it…but then what do I need this for?

    I like their stuff (bought 2 of them, actually 3) but the banks are weak. They should include a flash card with their trade show demo paks for the fellas! That's what's up

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    If you are for those records he's looping, it's Dynamix, Twilight 22 and Jamie Principle. Those are NOT that machine.

    That far out techno slap can be sampled from Alcatraz Giv mu luv

  • http://www.pro-modular.com qu.one

    in the age of laptops… why would i/you want this? i thought that demo was snooze.

  • eddy depoorter

    Then again sorry but why just limit this new hardware to midi and not open it to Open Sound Control ?

    I just don't get it we're in 2010 not 1985 come on.

    E

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Bolt

    hehe, but eddy – the beauty of the marketing is it targets the tragically hip. You'd think a reference to 1985 would be a bad thing, right ?

    Anyway – there's no OSC because, like alot of folks, they'll surely drip-feed that technology in a new unit down the road or perhaps a very pricey upgrade.

  • monokit

    1200 is not the street price…1200 is what Elektron will ask for it. AND…i am sure for early adopters there will be a discount for the first badge.

  • monokit

    Why not OSC? Very simple. How many of the people, who will buy this unit would want to use OSC? 1% maybe?

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Bolt

    monokit…

    wow… amazing. Truly, amazing. I doth my cap to you my good sir.

    Really, you've set a standard here.

    Have you ever thought that, umm, like… maybe if it had OSC more people might be interested in it ?

    No ?

    Oh ok. Just an idle thought.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Bolt asked me:

    why don’t you describe to us what exactly you think this unit can do and justify a proposed 1200euro price tag – primarily by function alone.

    Let me make this very simple for you: Because I don't have to. I'm not the one jumping up and down and making claims about this unit. And since I'm not making any claims, I don't have anything to justify. Hell, as I've said before, I don't even care very much – if you're mistaking me for an Elektron fan, you should really stop seeing the world in such an overpolarised fashion. (Now granted, I do have an agenda – everyone does – but if you think there's only one possible agenda I could have, you're an idiot.)

    But not only did I make no claims of my own, all I did was propose that someone else justified their claims. That seems to have upset you… and I fear I cannot find the words to describe how utterly not my problem that is.

    Look, it's really very simple. If someone really want what the Octatrack has to offer, they think EUR1200 is a price they're willing to pay for that, and they can get hold of EUR1200, they'll buy it. If one or more of those conditions don't hold, they won't. If too many people don't buy it, Elektron will have to reconsider. There's this really excellent mechanism by which all of this stuff just happens. It's called "the free market". You may have heard of it.

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Bolt

    OK, so you're full of Hot Air.

    Duly noted.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Yes, because a devotion to reason is just so empty.

    You, sir, are either a troll or an imbecile. And probably both.

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Bolt

    which is ironic coming from you.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Fair warning:

    Messages not relevant to the post, directed at other commenters, will be deleted, regardless of position.

  • monokit

    Bolt…don´t you think if OSC would be relevant to most buyers, Elektron would put it in the box? And besides…we still don´t know the full feature set yet of the OT. What we know is just basic stuff. So how do you know they haven´t implented OSC?

  • A Different Jonathan

    Why buy this when you can get a laptop?

    People have had this same argument about the Machinedrum, the Nord Modular (and G2), and the latest round of Akai MPCs.

    The appealing factors for all of those devices (and for the Octatrack) are:

    - hardware interfaces that are carefully and purposefully designed for real-time performance and/or composition

    - faster boot time, and faster access to presets and features, than with the software-based equivalents

    - stability and durability. How often does Reaktor crash? Nord Modulars don't crash.

    - near-zero latency

    - visual and tactile feedback that you can't get from a generic MIDI controller

    For me personally, the appeal is that I can use it for live sampling and looping of all 4 outputs of my Nord G2, all in a compact interface that can sit very nicely next to the G2's interface. Considering it would cost $600 street for a far less capable rig using a couple of Stereo JamMans, the Octatrack is actually insanely good value for money.

    Yes, I could use Ableton and a MIDI controller and a laptop and an audio interface, but all that stuff wouldn't be nearly as compact, stable, portable, and purposeful as an Octatrack.

    Why doesn't it have OSC?

    This thing is very clearly designed to work in concert with the MonoMachine and MachineDrum. That's why it probably won't have OSC even when it ships – neither of those machines has OSC. Continuing to use MIDI gives the whole suite of products a consistent interface.

    H

    ardware manufacturers in general are being very slow to implement OSC compared to software developers because it's a young protocol that still hasn't fully standardized some things that are essential to giving users the plug-and-play experience they can get from MIDI.

    It's summed up very succinctly here:

    " 1. There is no standard namespace in OSC for interfacing e.g. a synth;

    2. Connected devices (via Ethernet, WLAN, Bluetooth etc) don't know of each other (and each other's capabilities);

    3. A file format similar to Standard MIDI File is missing which contains note data etc. to share data between different applications"

    To me, "Does it facilitate good music-making?" is a far better question to ask of a device than "Is it buzzword compliant?" Korg's Wavedrum WD-X (a 2009 product) has no MIDI, let alone OSC. And you know what? That was the right choice, in the context of what the Wavedrum was designed to be.

    I have a hard time believing that anyone who would otherwise be interested in the Octatrack would reject it solely because it lacked OSC. And I respectfully suggest that if that person exists, he's more of a collector than a musician.

  • Zoopy

    Some people want to make electronic music without a computer, simple as that.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    On OSC, (different) Jonathan, just for the record, I think you got the argument right there and then brought *much* bigger issues into it than you need. This thing uses MIDI because it's designed to complement hardware that uses MIDI.

    There's absolutely no reason they couldn't have implemented OSC if it made sense for what they were doing. All of your points are valid criticisms of OSC – but they can also be resolved if a desire exists.

    Anyway, I'd argue that "does it facilitate good music-making" actually isn't the only question. "Does it support standards I can use in the future" is equally valid. MIDI does happen to be a reasonable way of fulfilling that answer, but if you just said "can I make music," you might well implement a completely made-up protocol – as some computer hardware is now doing – and produce music-making trouble down the line.

    Yes, MIDI is still a standard. If MIDI had simply been labeled "buzzword-compliant" before people understood what it was, imagine what would have happened.

    Anyway, I'm not quite sure we need to have either the MIDI vs. OSC or hardware vs. software debate here; both of them are way, way too general to have any direct relevance to this particular piece of hardware. It sort of is what it is. It's like criticizing a bike because it's not a car, or assuming you can't own a bike and a car and use them when the time is right.

  • http://www.rolandreinke.com Roland Reinke

    Zoopy, you said it all in one sentence. 100% agree!

    All those people arguing about figures and storage space talk about something else, namely technicalities.

  • monokit

    I absolutely agree with Zoopy and A Different Jonathan. Elektron can´t please everyone. Simple than that. If you think it´s too expensive…don´t buy it.

  • Old Head

    I don't understand why no-one (as far as I can see), if they were there and were interested, got as much (much more than this!) information they could from the Elektron people on video, in words, instead of all these clips of silly tweaking.

    I've been waiting for a sampler from Elektron. I'm sort of confused by the Octatrack. I know that there's no reason for Elektron to make another Akai MPC, but my hope was that they would make an MPC which was a million times better. The MPC with JJOS2 comes close, but having also used a Machinedrum for years, a kind of marriage of the two would be a dream to me. The Octatrack, on the surface of it at least, seems somewhat amputated. Too much like a dj-mixing, sample-mangler tool. This is all good, but why could it not be much more than this, more of a music-making tool in it's own right (like an MPC is, like a Machinedrum can be)?

    For instance I'm confused about the 8 'tracks'. Are they tracks in the sequencer, or are they more like channels. In many of the videos there is what looks like cumbersome controlling of the tracks by holding down what would be the function button, while working the track buttons. I assume Elektron have good reasons for making it work like this, but immediately it seems silly not to use the 16 trigger buttons for this, having 16 tracks etc.

    Is it possible to assign a single sample to each trigger button? How many samples can be assigned at the same time? So far the Octatrack comes across as a kind of playback-machine slash looper, which can have 8 long samples in it at the same time. This is ridiculously underwhelming to put it mildly.

    It's got to be much more than this. Or? Why weren't more questions asked at the damn messe?

  • monokit

    Many questions have been asked…but Elektron didn´t say a word more than what is now on their website. They simply don´t tell.

  • The first Jonathan

    After reading the Pro-Octatrack comments I can see the appeal. Personally I'll enjoy watching you guys play with it but I don't think this is for me.

    Sidenote; I would love to see that pitch control fader change the pitch in a user created or preset SCALE. How cool would that be? Doesn't seem like it would be that far off the current path; perhaps a future firmware update.

  • HEXnibble

    I guess it's for hardware snobs/Elektron fanboys with deep pockets. I could never justify this when I have Maschine especially when NI is already working on implementing timestretch on it. Plus, there's some amazing sample mangling iPhone/iPad apps coming out already so it's almost inevitable that something that will do all that Octatrack can do and more will be available on the iPad, and the total cost will still be less than half the price of the Octatrack.

  • anon

    what? Compact flash? what is wrong with using just sd cards?

  • http://www.rolandreinke.com Roland Reinke

    Deciding on purchasing something like this is always going to be difficult as some irrationality has to be involved no doubt.

    The computer-based solutions will always be more economical. The hardware will most of the time be more musical to play. (I haven't tried Maschine so I can't tell how that feels but I've tried the Machinedrum and that was quite an experience.)

  • s ford

    I reckon this is the best vid of it yet.

    http://www.sonicstate.com/news/2010/03/29/messe10

  • diego jaimes

    no sd card? CF format is obsolete…. no usb port? so if i want to connect my usb hard-drive i cant…. for that price those are very basic specs it should have.

  • ryan

    anon, the reason is simple, speed. SD cards are too slow for sample(s) access on the fly. email Elektron, i'll bet the farm that is the reason.

  • A Different Jonathan

    Peter, I think "the future" is precisely why most hardware manufacturers are taking their time on OSC. No one wants to be like one of those companies that made early MIDI devices with XLR connectors, before the DIN connection was standardized.

    It's no accident that the OSC hardware we've seen so far are all "tightly-tethered" devices. They're designed to be used with or edited from a computer, and consequently the manufacturers of something like the Lemur can reasonably expect that if they need to make a firmware update to adjust to changes in the OSC protocol, the vast majority of their users will learn of that update and install it in a timely manner.

    The same cannot be said of more loosely tethered or untethered devices. Once it's out there, the firmware that's in it may be the only firmware it ever has.

    @HEXNibble "Snobs"? "Fanboys with deep pockets?" If it's not for you, it's not for you. No need for class warfare, or jealousy, or whatever it is that sniping comes from.

    @anon CF is not obsolete. It's largely being replaced in the digital camera industry as they reach the point where users don't need ever-increasing capacity, but it's still in use in other realms. As ryan said, speed is one reason to choose it. Capacity is another. Due to the larger card format, at any given time a CF card using state-of-the-art memory technology will be able to support a greater maximum capacity than an SD or other smaller-format card.

  • Nikola

    wow… it's like having a traktor type of thing in a box. so now i'it would be nice to mixing a dj set into this!! and have the 8 stereo tracks feadz into a 4 stereo out.

    and on the vid pitch shift isn't bad at all in comparison with an ableton.

    yes i tend to be more harware than software

    To sum up, elektron is fck creative due to the Parameters lock !! so pitch shifting with a precision of 1/50 of a semitone (or even more), :) ) and the fact that you can use the proper limit of your sd card would be for me my willingness to pay for it!!!

    and at last a nice build in revrb and some analogs filters would be on a next version a cheers on the top of a cake!!!

  • Dc

    Man this thing is way overpriced. Seriously over £1000 for the equivalent of an 8 track version of live with stutter edit plugin? Are they joking is this some kind of leaborate hoax?

    I think Elektron have lost it since their founder died.

  • ron

    what other hardware boxes does this best compare to. which roland mc? or which electribe?

  • worm

    if you are really interested in this piece of hardware, i suggest you RTFM.

  • late

    where are the comments!!?