The Analog Four, stuff of dreams, as immortalized by eBoy in a parallel universe with a lower polygon count. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Following its endless teasers and science fiction mini-movies, Swedish machine maker Elektron this week has announced features, specs, and preorder pricing for its Analog Four synth/sequencer, along with some sample sounds and a promo vid.

It’s also been immortalized in a wonderful image, above, by artist eBoy. Just in case you needed a version to tack up above your bed.

Ahhhh….

The damage: US$1099 / 1099,– € including VAT, shipped. The date: December 3.

Yes, it’s analog, and even the early sound samples suggest a color of its own. And that’s a good thing. But, of ourse, that can’t be the whole story. Despite the name, mostly what the Analog Four appears to be about is sequencing and functionality, combining step sequencers with flexible routing for effects and (non-routable, fixed) serial analog filters (one for each voice). So once people get over the “analog” business, this is a box that will live and die on usability. (By way of illustration, I’ve heard from a number of people who fell out of love with Dave Smith’s Tempest for this very reason: if they didn’t get a good feeling from usability, they lost interest. The people who love the instrument do so for the same reason: they like the way it feels to use.)

Into the woods we go again. And I was really supposed to be getting to Granny’s house. Photo: Elektron.

That all-important combination of functionality:

  • Voices: Two analog oscillators, two subs, noise oscillator on each voice.
  • Two separate analog filters: 4-pole lowpass ladder filter, 2-pole multi-mode filter. They are fixed in serial, non-routable – but you do get two.
  • Analog overdrive circuit for distortion.
  • Effects: Wideshift Chorus, Saturator Delay, Supervoid Reverb. And here’s where we get digital – you start to get more flexibility in terms of how you apply and combine these effects.
  • Step sequencer. This is the hybrid part of the whole arrangement: the digital step sequencer lets you control just about anything in terms of synths and effects, and you can even switch synth patches on each step, if you want to get completely crazy. You can also sequence external CV/gate for integration with analog gear.
  • Sequencer tracks: four synth tracks, one effect track, one dedicated CV/gate track, 128 patterns, 64 step patterns, swing/slide/accent functions, six arpeggiators, parameter locks.
  • Modulation: two assignable LFOs and envelopes per voice, AM cross-modulation, oscillator sync, dedicated LFOs for both PWM and vibrato.
  • Patch storage.
  • I/O: In addition to the typical outputs, you get MIDI in/out/thru (thank you, thru), USB, dual CV/gate outs, two external inputs.
  • Dimensions: W340×D176×H63mm (13.4×6.9×2.4″)
  • Weight: approximately 2.35 kgs (5.18 lbs)

Having that powerful step sequencer with integrated analog effects is where the Analog Four really shows potential. And speaking of usability, the control layout does look eminently logical, with direct key access to tracks, dedicated parameter knobs, and a balanced layout providing note access (with black and white buttons, natch) and quick access to editing.

Update: One major cause for concern is the absence of MIDI output from the step sequencer. Thanks to commenters for pointing this out.

Does the Analog Four have dedicated MIDI sequencer tracks?

No. Instead it features a dedicated CV/Gate track, controlling the two dual CV/Gate outputs.

What you can do with MIDI output is not output MIDI messages, but only MIDI sync. So, if you’re sequencing the step sequencer only with CV hardware, or you have another piece of gear with a sequencer in it and only need sync, this isn’t an issue. If, on the other hand, you were considering the Analog Four as the hub of some digital gear – yes, it’s an issue. Here’s hoping this is something that gets addressed in a firmware update.

That’s the bad news; back in the good news category (update)… Simone Ghetti notes that while you can’t re-route the filters, you can use them with external inputs. Now, this gets very cool:

The filters for each of the 4 voices can be used to treat incoming audio from the inputs essentially creating a sequence-able filter bank. Seeing what filter banks go for these days, it adds a whole level of functionality to the unit beyond the synth section.

Elektron’s promo video gives an overview (in short order) of how they see these features coming together:

But much better viewing is this jam by Project Dataline – aka Cenk Sayinli (Jake). In this first video, he jams with the machine and demonstrates how useful it is having access to those dedicated parameter knobs and quick-edit menu keys. Jake is dedicated to hardware workflows. Project Dataline focuses exclusively on Elektron machines. Previously based in Istanbul and the UK, his apparent love of Sweden has him now located in the belly of the beast, Elektron’s home Goteborg, Sweden. (Little wonder how he managed the first hands-on, then.)

It’s not only Elektron, per se. While he works with the Machinedrum, Monomachine, and Octatrack, he also has the creation of Elektron veterans in the form of Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 – and has done an OP-1 track on a compilation of OP-1-only music.

More on his music:
http://www.projectdataline.com/
(Oh, yeah, and bonus – by coincidence, he also collaborates with Radek Rudnicki, as covered here yesterday.)

Have a listen to Elektron’s official sound set, which includes some tasty examples:

I just want to touch and hear the thing, especially as the audio samples posted so far are a bit mixed. Experimental sequences are sounding fantastic; some of the basslines are sounding a bit vanilla. (I really, really shouldn’t be critical of these things, as I badly botched early sound samples of our own MeeBlip synth. So, yes, I know it’s hard to do demos. Just have a listen, keep an open mind, and stay tuned for people to get these things.)

To skip to the things that make my blood actually start pumping (dunno about yours), try out the Experimental Sequences – particularly the second one, with some beautiful noise and distortion.

I do also wonder what the breakdown of this equipment’s audience will be. Elektron has always made instruments for hard-core enthusiasts. At the same time, will this mostly attract analog lovers with its CV I/O, or will that be secondary as an audience of producers chooses its “analog”-ness for sound?

Regardless, I think there’s little question this is one of the more compelling recent product intros – arriving just in time for Christmas.

http://www.elektron.se/products/analog

What strikes you about Analog Four – and what would you want to know about it? Let us know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

    If it had a midi out track, I’d get one straight away, but according to the FAQ, it will only have the CV/Trigger out instead…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Wait… what?! What’s the MIDI out port doing if not sending MIDI? Will check with them on this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

      On the FAQ it says:

      Does the Analog Four have dedicated MIDI sequencer tracks?

      No. Instead it features a dedicated CV/Gate track, controlling the two dual CV/Gate outputs.

      I’m on the market for a new synth with sequencer and I was considering the A4 or the Monomachine, but I think I’ll go for the Monomachine instead, as I want a good sequencer too…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, sync, it is. I still think it’s a demerit losing MIDI sequencing – simplicity, yes, but adding MIDI functionality isn’t wildly complicated if you already have step sequencing.

      It’ll of course depend on your gear. If you’re adding this to a setup where MIDI sync to another sequencer works (like you’ve already got a Monomachine), then great.

      On the other hand … yeah, I might opt Monomachine over this.

      I’d love to see them add it in a firmware update.

    • Robert Halvarsson

      So basically I’ll be able to slave this to my DAW MIDI clock, right – but not program the synthesizer parts via my DAW:s sequencer? That is actually quite ok, in my book. I’ll prefer to do the sequencing via the Analoug Four, after all – that’s one of its selling points I reccon.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Slave or master as clock, yes. I don’t mind the inability to program via MIDI – what I’d miss is the inability to *send* MIDI from the sequencer to other gear. So, if you’re slaving analog gear via CV, you can, but not other instruments via MIDI. I’d say that’s a pretty big demerit, because then it means for anyone mixing digital and analog gear, you now need a second sequencer. Fingers crossed for a firmware update.

    • a

      Syncing with the Octatrack. ;) I think the idea is not jamming a ton of features in one box and making it hard to navigate, which is a complaint some people had with the Octatrack and also not supporting and developing two MIDI sequencers at once?

    • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

      It actually make sense once you look at the Elektron range, there’s already a classic midi sequencer, so this is dedicated to the “other” gear: old-school and modular…

    • enomis

      DIN sync out is listed in the spec section. Older drum machines have something new to play with now.

    • Tomi

      their CV routing options is honestly really disappointing….the most enticing thing about this synth is the sequencer alone, but I can’t say it feels like it’s worth the $1250 that I could use towards a future Korg Quad-O-Tribe hehe

    • lu_ce71

      pretty sure the CV track will became switchable with a MIDI option in future OS update.
      They always do implement upon users experience and feature requests where possible.
      Elektron is an amazing company that make amazing and unique (experiences) machines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1043803948 Jonathan Graves

    Aw, I was hoping that low-polygon version was actually what it looked like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/clesoine Charlie Lesoine

    I dunno this thing looks complicated

  • Cody Gratner

    The filters are serial, non-routable. Check out the synth block diagram: http://www.elektron.se/sites/default/themes/elektron_se/images/products/analog/specs/Voice-Architecture.jpg

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, exactly – sorry, I realize the way some of the text was above, it sounded like both the filters and effects could be routed. That was routable effects, fixed filters. Adjusted the language above.

      But you do get one for each voice.

    • Cody Gratner

      I’m not worried about the lack of routing. I’m still planning on getting on of these as soon as I can (hopefully the pre-orders don’t sell it out for months … like the mini-brute).

      I’m really excited about the macros, which seem to be like 10 Octatrack sliders. One page for all 10 that can control all four synths (and the CV/Gate and Effect tracks as well?).

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      (of course, what you don’t get is a filter for the whole thing…)

    • Charles

      You could probably use the performance knobs for that – assign one to control cutoff on more than one voice at a time.

      Variable routing is ideal, but if it’s going to be fixed, series routing is the most useful IMO. Hopefully some of the other things it lacks (MIDI out, poly mode, etc) will show up in a future update. This and the Tempest are both short of what I would consider feature complete.

    • gwenhwyfaer

      > assign one to control cutoff on more than one voice at a time

      It’s not quite the same thing, though, because analogue filters aren’t linear – in the same way that feeding a chord through a single distortion is different from feeding each voice through a separate distortion.

    • enomis

      Based on info in the Elektron forum, audio coming through the inputs can be routed through all the filters in the A4 so it can function as a sequence-able filter bank.

  • crim

    MIDI out is for sync and knob movements. forget where I read that.

  • enomis

    MIDI out functions as a DIN sync out as well. The CV outs are dual which, from what I have read/heard, means they are “stereo” connectors that can be broken out to a total of four CV outs.

  • Frank-E

    It looks like menu-hell like DX7. That is bad for analogue synth in that price range.

  • http://twitter.com/jtd909 Jason Duerr

    It’s a Quasimidi Polymorph.

    • Dale Cunningham

      Yep is is a bit like the polymorph, though it will have a deeper level of editability withthe P-Locks than the polymorph had. Still love the polymorph though.

  • MG

    Makes sense if you think of it as a modern-day 303.

  • John S

    I am not excited enough by the audio demo’s so far. I have been looking at the tempest which is looking a great too, although they are quite different machines. I’d be interested if you could elaborate on your ‘usability’ comment? I have never used one, but judging by the video demo’s, the Tempest looks extremely usable to me. I think the Analog Four has more advantages if you already own other Elektron machines that can trigger scene and program data, and/or want to utilise the CV Gate features.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, actually, the comparison to the Tempest isn’t entirely unfair.

      I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing the Tempest here, and I don’t want to review the Tempest in a news item on the Analog Four. Suffice to say, for all the talk of “sound,” people I know who love and don’t love the Tempest do so for the same reason – their impression of what it actually is like to use the instrument. Lots of stuff out there can sound good, so I think it’s that user experience that determines what people choose to use, and that can be intensely personal.

    • xanax

      Peter have you ever used a Tempest? as a long-term drum machine aficionado and owner of the classics (808/909/MPC60) as well as 8 year veteran elektron user (MDUW/MnM/OT) and 1 year Tempest user, i can honestly say Tempest has one of the best workflows and interfaces out there. very immediate thanks to velocity light pads, dedicated knobs and the gorgeous OLED display that gives automatic param feedback (no paging). Elektron which i do love, has a pretty steep learning curve and is everything but intuitive (especially the Octatrack). I am very excited about the A4, great specs at a competitive price point.. but the 10 nameless encoders and tiny pixelated screen is definitely not going to be a strong point in analog synthesis hands-on design, not to mention stepping might occur depending on the resolution… just something to keep in mind..

  • jonjon

    Had a listen, it definitely sounds more roland/japanese. The new breed of analog synths sound closer to software than they do say an old rev moog or prophet 5, david smiths own new efforts inclueded. The only modern synth that convincingly does the classic sound was the alesis andromeda. Someone needs to start building a tabletop version of that. Just imagine…but if I had the choice between software and a new breed analog, I choose software. Like wine, analog synths need 20 years storage before they start to sound good.

    • John S

      I think that’s why these demos don’t wet my appetite. The unpredictability of control voltage is what makes analog sound so good, and some new analog synths seem to sound too precise. Maybe hardware manufacturers should go back to using less efficient components that were used in the 70′s.

    • http://twitter.com/lazytrap aaron

      you’re both crazy. try taking those comments over to VSE so you can be edubcated. not about analog4, but modern analogue synths in general

    • Greg Lőrincz

      BS

    • Greg Lőrincz

      This comment is wrong in so many levels.

  • http://twitter.com/lazytrap aaron

    Korg just got owned, and beat to the punch. Thats what they get for taking so long.

  • Dee

    Why are people comparing this with the tempest?

    • Cody Gratner

      They’re both analog with a generic synth voice (rather than specific drum voices like the Vermona DRM1 or the MFB Schlagzwerg). Both have a built in highly performance oriented sequencer (though one more X0X style [track oriented, Analog Four], and the other a bit more MPC style [voice oriented, Tempest], in their programming). Both can be used as a “groove box” with drums/synths (it seems the Analog Four can change patches per step to get drum tracks).

    • Dee

      The Tempest has a pattern sequencer also like a xox box. I do think they are different more than alike. Too many to go into. The very obvious is one is a 6 voice poly the other is a 4 voice mono.

  • Korgfanny

    KORG need to get their shit together

  • johanru

    While it doesn’t have dedicated MIDI tracks like the Monomachine, the specs say “Full MIDI support” under “The Sequencer”, so it seems that it actually does send MIDI out from the sequencer.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I thought that initially, too, but I confirmed that you can’t send MIDI out from the sequencer other than clock.

  • dtr

    Damn it Elektron! You already made me buy the Sidstation, Machinedrum and Monomachine. Now I just can’t resist getting this new beauty as well… Now where to find €1000 quick…?

    To the ones afraid of menu-hell, I think it’s gonna be quite the contrary. Due to the fixed routing of the analog voices it’s actually going to be less complex than the Machinedrum, which already is a dream of hands-on-ness.

  • Jesse Mejia

    hmm.. looking at the block diagram it seems like it should be too tough to mod this thing to have individual outs per channel. Though I guess they’d be pre-fx. I wonder if anyone’s done this yet.

  • johanz

    I own quite a few of the big synths, but for live sets in clubs I need small machines. This machine sounds really good, but I really need more outputs. I know keys has it all, but it’s too big as hand luggage, also prefer smaller boxes with lot’s of controls. This one is perfect for sound and workflow, but adding more outputs and probably more midi output functionality would make me buy one right away. Any chance for a mk2 with this functionality?