Not just an Analog Four with a keyboard, says Elektron. The Analog Keys also boasts a joystick, step sequencer, and hands-on workflow. Photos: Benjamin Weiss, De:bug.

Not just an Analog Four with a keyboard, says Elektron. The Analog Keys also boasts a joystick, step sequencer, and hands-on workflow. Photos: Benjamin Weiss, De:bug.

I’m here in Berlin where Elektron is introducing the new Analog Keys synth keyboard as part of their Night of the Machines event. (Later tonight, we get the likes of The Field and TM404 playing live.)

We also have images and video by my friend Benjamin Weiss of De:bug Magazine — see their report with more pics.

It’s worth watching that video, because of one thing: polyphony. An OS update should bring that polyphonic capability to both Analog Four and Analog Keys soon.

Elektron are quick to say that the Analog Keys is not just an Analog Four with a keyboard slapped on – though the two do appear to share the same architecture. The emphasis is on hardware workflow, with the return of the joystick (as beloved on SFX-6 Monomachine), an updated internal step sequencer, and lots of controls. The step sequencer may be as big a deal as the keyboard; it boasts some impressive features, including the ability to set per-step presets and control external gear via CV. There’s no MIDI out from the step sequencer, unfortunately, though you can now use the Keys in a “master controller” mode – that is, as a standard MIDI keyboard. Of course, if you have an Analog Four, you know that already, though it seems we will see some firmware updates this week. (It will ship with 512 presets and preset storage capability. “Even flute sounds,” says Elektron.)

Clarification: This has caused some confusion, so here’s how it works:

  • MIDI output: MIDI out is restricted for now to the Controller Mode, though you can use both that mode and the internal step sequencer at the same time. The sequencer controls external sounds; the master controlled features control external gear.
  • DIN: Sync signal only – but this lets you sync other drum machines and use their internal sequencers, which is still fairly nice.
  • CV out: Send up to four CV/Gate signals (via two physical ports, two signals each) to analog gear.

There’s also a new filter mode called “extreme resonance.”

The result is a keyboard synth that has the sort of hands-on workflow Elektron users have sworn by. And while the Berlin event featured just this one machine in a cramped demo room inside a club, it could well be the center of a studio, replacing a laptop. (Well, provided your studio has CV and DIN connections, that is.)

Analog Four owners aren’t left out. Alongside the Analog Keys, you’ll see a firmware update for the Analog Four.

Now, what we aren’t getting is a new drum machine. But if this is an indication of the direction of Elektron, I look forward to the next-generation Machinedrum – and hope we’ll see a joystick on it. And something else is coming: Elektron says they have one other piece of hardware, encased here in Berlin in a translucent block. But we won’t get details on that just yet. Machinedrum mk. 3, perhaps?

There are some gains to the integration of keyboard and hardware. Since the joystick is integrated, for instance, reassigning it can all be done easily in hardware (no messing about with CC values). And there’s light-up feedback on the keyboard to aid in step sequencing. Otherwise, the Analog Four, too, will get a similar “upgrade” – in terms of firmware – and there’s nothing to stop you from plugging a MIDI keyboard into that and saving some scratch.

We don’t know pricing, ship dates, or specifications, but Elektron promises those on Tuesday.

Video from the launch event, courtesy De:bug – (greetings from both of us here at Jää-äär, the cafe.) Note when he brags about having learned the hardware in two weeks – mainly because that suggests this prototype was only just finished.

More photos of the Analog Keys:

analogkeys1

analogkeys3

analogkeys4

analogkeys5

analogkeys

Since this does appear to be an Analog Four at its heart, worth revisiting those specs:

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

  • Cillian Warfield

    When you say that it could be the centre of the studio does that mean there’s midi out?
    and in turn does the new os of the analog four have midi out too?

    • Ryu

      no it doesn’t have midi out, and it’s not promised. nor does it expand on the analog 4′s single cv & gate out. So saying this keyboard could be the centre of the studio is wildly optimistic if not delusional. As a self-contained synth and sequencer, pretty kool. Elektron missed a huge opportunity here to actually make it something that could be a studio centre-piece, but then again Elektron like to do things the piecemeal way so perhaps the as yet unidentified machine in the frosted box might deliver on the sequencing-external-gear front.

    • a

      Analog 4 has 4 CV outs and (up to) 2 DIN sync outs. This lets you work with a fair amount of drum machines and synths. (like the machinedrum)

    • Ryu

      you’re right, the single CV + GATE outputs output stereo signals. mea culpa.

      there’s only one cv track available in the sequencer though, if i’m not mistaken. can you control each output on a single step, or must you alternate ?

      at any rate without the midi sequencing, and the limited cv outputs, there’s no way this could be the centre of my studio at least. the sequentix cirklon on the other hand… now there’s a studio centre piece. on the cv side of things it’s got 16 cv outs and 8 gate outs. that’s more like it.

    • Jason

      I’d have to check my manual, but I’m fairly certain there is a way to use both CV/Gate outputs at the same time. So far I’ve only needed to use the one pair myself.

    • Ryu

      ya, that’s the thing, it’s probably some type of step-alternating workaround, I have serious doubts that you can comfortably sequence two cv+gate tracks from the one single CV track sequencer. Happy to be proven wrong of course. But what it really boils down to is, while it’s still nice to be able to do a *little* cv sequencing… it does not a studio centre piece make. not by a long shot…

    • minphase

      Hi. A4 and AK have 4 effective CV outputs. Each of the 4 can be configured independently as a { V/Oct CV, gate, trigger, clock, envelope, LFO, dc offset } and the values can be param locked per step. A typical use is one pair (CV A, B) for a CV/gate, getting its note/length values from the CV track, say. The other could be CV/gate getting values from the FX track, or perhaps an envelope and LFO p-locked from the CV track.

      There are also two separate DINSYNC jacks available, switchable 24 and 48 ppqn, which are great for driving external xox machines or modular gear clock distributors like a Pamela’s Workout or RCD or doepfer clock divider, on to clock slaves ( CV sequencers, drum modules, etc)

    • a

      Yeah, there’s two TRS outs.

      You could automate each of the outs per step. Elektron calls it parameter locks.

      You can also choose a “source track” for any of the 4 CV outs. So you can use the CV track, the FX track or any of the 4 synth tracks as well. Cool feature is that the source track can be per step automated or changed via LFO or envelope. It is kinda confusing, and more for gates, but the source track concept has a lot of potential and I hope Elektron gives it some love.

      Cirklon is cool too. :)

      But I wouldn’t be mad if someone called the p12 a studio center piece and it has no MIDI or CV out or external processing. ;)

      I take center piece to mean you can get a lot done with it or a go to tool to make tunes. For me, I’d say it’s generally Max and MPC, ha. But I am a groove box fan too and I can make full tracks on an Elektron box. :p

    • Ryu

      I own a MD & MnM, I know what paramlocks are :) So on the one hand, I know that they don’t all operate and sequence the same: the MD can get away with midi sequencing melodies, but it’s more tedious than doing it via the MnM. Therefore I know not to presume to know how the Analog4 is to sequence with. I just know it can’t sequence midi (that’s the first major studio centre piece fail) and that the cv outs are very limited, with only one true track dedicated to the purpose of sequencing CV.

      When peter makes comments like this “And while the Berlin event featured just this one machine in a cramped
      demo room inside a club, it could well be the center of a studio,
      replacing a laptop. (Well, provided your studio has CV and DIN
      connections, that is.)” I think it’s fair to cry “foul”

      As a self contained machine, it looks fun. And if your studio is miniscule, and only requires 2cvs & 2 gates to drive it… then sure. It could be the centre-piece. But let’s reign in the hyperbole.

    • Matt Jackson

      I’m pretty sure it has midi out. There was a moment where they were awfully proud that there is a “MIDI” button that switches the keyboard into controller mode.

    • Ryu

      derp derp, it doesn’t do midi sequencing. if you think the fact it outputs midi note-on and note-off messages from live playing on the keyboard is an achievement, then go ahead and buy one. it’s like buying a ferrarri and only using it to store potatoes in the trunk. this car analogy was brought to you by the letter P.

      it’s no studio centre piece.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      @disqus_cme0vbILJT:disqus – well, it depends on what’s in your studio. I have to say, I think this perhaps wasn’t really intended as a press event. We didn’t have a lot of details. So I hope I didn’t misspeak too grotesquely there. I’m disappointed in the MIDI out thing. At the same time, I know guys who will be perfectly happy with this for what it does.

      I will at least get more precise details for Tuesday and people can make up their own minds. ;)

    • Ryu

      ya, it’s kool, as a self contained unit very nifty, but I’d say disappointing if you’re hoping to run the rest of your studio with it. unless it’s a very modest studio. Perhaps in your excitement the sentence you were reaching for was… it could very well be the centre-piece of a LIVE setup. Which is more realistic imo, though of course precludes midi sequencing.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, so there’s a MIDI out port but apparently the master controller mode only lets you use this as a MIDI controller. I’m curious about MIDI implementation – maybe you can use a lot of the onboard controls – but that’s one hell of an expensive MIDI controller, and it’s a bummer that the step sequencer doesn’t make use of that MIDI out port.

      Especially while they’re proudly talking about not touching laptops. ;)

  • Yermom

    The Analog 4 also allows you to have per-step presets. Just hold down the trig and turn the level knob to pick the preset for that step.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, definitely. There’s not really an advantage of this versus just buying a keyboard you like for your Analog Four (apart from the convenience of having one piece of hardware). But, then, for A4 owners, that’s a good thing – the new stuff should come to them with a firmware update.

    • Yermom

      I’m definitely looking forward to the polyphony update.

    • Charles

      Well, the new stuff except for the additional audio outs.

    • Butts

      What A4 firmware update?

    • Bond James Bond

      Dont think its coming this year?

  • Jason

    I’m sure some people will really like this product but to me so far it does just look like an A4 with a keyboard for the most part. Nothing new about being able to set individual presets per step on Elektron gear. I also think his comment that he has only been playing it for a couple hours is kind of misleading as I imagine the workflow will be near identical to the A4. I do wonder if the A4 firmware update will add a polyphonic mode which it seemed like he was using when he was holding chords near the start of the video.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, they’re adding polyphony.

      But yes, this is an Analog Four with a keyboard.

      What’s significant – and this is good news for Analog Four owners — is that they have done a lot of work to expand on what an Analog Four is (polyphony being the biggest change). So, this is “just” an A4 with keys, but what an A4 can do is growing. And that’s better than if they’d done a bunch of exclusive stuff on the keys (well, better for anyone who already shelled out on an A4)!

    • Jason

      Yeah for sure. As an A4 owner I’m super excited for the new features we will get in the update. Really glad they didn’t just make these changes on the keyboard version.

    • pulsn

      Actually i would like to see the differences side by side then…so i can decide if i upgrade to the keys or not. I also worry that they kept the small tiny display…and with the AK, you sit further away from it…you need to bend over then to look at it.

  • drexciya

    these guys stole me 1000 euro for their 5-keys-combo-to-do-anything lame sounding A4, gotta love that they’re totally killing themselves with this joke.
    I learnt my lesson, never trust a swede software engineer.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Stole? Had you tried it at all before investing?

    • Ryu

      you might be spoiled by a metropolitan lifestyle. there are entire nations within the EU that don’t have a display model Analog 4 to play with, much less a store that’s likely to offer any kind of contemporary electronic instruments for sale. the truth is much of the sales are taking place ‘blind’, albeit informed by marketing spiel. This is how guys like ‘drexciya’ end up feeling duped… though I’m not saying he was. Just that it’s unreasonable to blame him for not demoing it first.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I didn’t blame him. That was an honest question.

      As for music stores, I tend to … um … avoid them. Of course, when we do write reviews, we hope to be clear enough that people avoid investing in something they don’t want. That’s definitely a bummer.

      But … I am also curious about return policies.

    • Ryu

      just asking the question of him was putting an unreasonable onus on him to demo first, considering the reality of demo opportunities for contemporary electronic instruments in all but the metropolitan capitals. and not even all of those, mind you. the fact is, you buy blind – based on spiel – and so if you feel duped.. being asked why you didn’t demo first just isn’t in line with reality, imo. Of course maybe the dude lives in berlin and did have an opportunity to demo. I’m just being hypothetical here, but i feel I’m reflecting on what the majority of ‘us’ experience.

    • JAFO1234

      This is why it’s great to live in America. I know for a fact, Americans have to see what they buy. But, Apple has most Americans in the choke hold with their epic marketing. Marketing can’t fool Americans. But, when they start putting it in our movies, sports, and programs, it starts to become subliminal to many Americans. I gotta have it. Especially when I see NFL players wearing oldspice in a commercial. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgMFl-JTPho

    • a

      It’s not for everyone, but making it out to be overpriced? And you live in a place where no stores take returns? Oh brother.

      Unless you’re Gerald Donald get out here with that stealing garbage. And if you are get off the arpanet and release more music. :)

      This kind of negativity is why we get a p12 missing the coolest stuff from the evolver.

    • Ryu

      Gerald Donald ? GTFO. You’ve just forfeited your right to ever trash talk anyone about anything even remotely Drexciya related.

      RIP James Stinson.

    • a

      It’s not a ghost using the name is it?

    • Ryu

      they’re re-issues you pleb. James Stinson was the driving force, gerald – who I also admire of course – was a rumoured partner (i don’t deny it of course), not to mention James produced a few of the drexciya albums entirely on his own. lrn2drexciya.

  • Chip Audette

    I feel stupid for saying this…but I *really* like that the keys light up to show which notes are being played. I do a lot of improv playing…jamming things on-the-fly…and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve locked in a great groove (or even juts a great chord) only to forget what notes (or even what key…shameful) I just locked in. These light up keys would save me!

    I’ve been looking to hack this into my own keyboards for a while now. Glad to see that maybe I could be a keyboard with it ready-to-go. Hopefully the synth itself sounds good.

    Chip

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Actually, that’s a very good point – and a reason to have a step sequencer and keyboard in one piece of hardware.

  • John S

    The keyboard version and workflow makes a lot sense. Looks like a very fun instrument. Hopefully they will update the OS for the rack to record pitchbend messages from the midi-in?

  • Matt Jackson

    and no mention of that strange tease they did before hand with the blinking lights behind frosted glass, under a lock and chain, cloaked in two curtains?

  • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

    Added an explanation on sequencing above.

    You can use internal step sequencing and MIDI control at once – so you can’t control external MIDI gear with the step sequencer, but you *can* play via the controller and sequence internally at the same time.

    CV out can send up to four signals, so the step sequencer is pretty useful with external analog gear if you’ve got it. (Less so if you mostly have MIDI stuff.)

    DIN still sends sync. That works well with a lot of hardware drum machines, on which you might be happier using internal sequencing anyway.

    In other words, if you’ve got lots of vintage stuff and like using the hardware sequencers on that outboard gear, there’s reason to be happy. If you’re looking for a single sequencer as a hub for everything else, this probably isn’t it.

    Going to upvote myself solely because this answers a lot of the confusion below – sorry about that. ;)

    • jonah

      and you can hack DIN into plugs (or there are cheap cables on ebay) :) for use w/ modular, anything with a jack! you can use a standard MIDI cable.

      it’s pin 1 and 3. 1 will put out +5 while play is active, 3 puts out 24 or 48 PPQN . check the diagram on line because the pins aren’t where you might assume

      you might have to use a divider to get the PPQN slow enough…since at this time more people probably have some form of semi-modular gear than stuff that uses DIN…wish elektron supported different divisions in software…more people that use this the more likely it is to happen. :)

      still it’s groovy! 24 or 48 instead of the usual 8 or 16, fun.

      the on/off nature of pin 1 is slightly more esoteric to use creatively, but you can do stuff like stop the sequencer and continue to play notes by hand or MIDI. if you use the +5 to pitch something up, then you can have it drop down for a break down, etc.

      and you can do this on both MIDI out and thru ports. sometimes i do 48 on one and 24 on the other. i’m not sure if USB MIDI still works, because i haven’t seen the point of MIDI out on the desktop module.

    • Ryu

      Downvoted because…

      **quote**
      Clarification: This has caused some confusion, so here’s how it works:

      MIDI output: MIDI out is restricted for now to the
      Controller Mode, though you can use both that mode and the internal step
      sequencer at the same time. The sequencer controls external sounds; the
      master controlled features control external gear.
      **end quote**

      Surely you mean “The sequencer controls INTERNAL sounds; the master
      controlled features control external gear” …..otherwise the
      distinction between external “sounds” and “gear” makes no sense. So much
      for clearing up the confusion :)

  • Ryu

    Clarification: This has caused some confusion, so here’s how it works:

    MIDI output: MIDI out is restricted for now to the
    Controller Mode, though you can use both that mode and the internal step
    sequencer at the same time. The sequencer controls external sounds; the
    master controlled features control external gear.

    Surely you mean “The sequencer controls INTERNAL sounds; the master controlled features control external gear” …..otherwise the distinction between external “sounds” and “gear” makes no sense. So much for clearing up the confusion :)

  • enomis

    will it be possible to assign parameter locks to individual keys?

  • Jason

    Just read the Elektron site and was very happy to notice something I am surprised they haven’t been advertising more, or that hasn’t been mentioned much in anything I have read yet, and that is that the A4 Keys has 4 individual unbalanced outputs in addition to the main stereo output! For me this is the kiler feature that means I will be selling my A4 to get one of these. Lately I have been resenting only having two outputs on my A4. Problem solved, though to be honest I’d be happier if they could just make the A4 inputs act as outputs, but that would obviously require some pre thought hardware flexibility which I doubt they did.

  • JAFO1234

    I’d rather have a Nord Lead 4 module. They can be had for $1,500 new on ebay if you wait and look. It’s way more capable and sounds epic. And it almost sounds like real analog. The Analog four sounds too digital to me. Ever heard the analog Four without effects? It sounds truly pathetic. Elektroc doctors that bland sound up with a sequencer and digital effects. Hence, snoke and mirrors. Nord sounds good without anything on it. I had one and sent it back. I must admit I feel for the marketing hype. I think a DSI Mopho x4 and Dopher Darktime blows the analog four out of the water. But, that is just me. Hey, different strokes for different folks. I went for a Tempest when I traded in my Analog Four.

  • Mattias

    Now selling. Serial number #1 of the Elektron Analog Keys goes to charity, and is auctioned now! More info at
    http://www.elektronauts.com/home/news