analogkeys_angle

Elektron’s Analog Keys goes on sale this week, and begins shipping next week. It’s Sweden’s latest dream-worthy analog instrument, a 4-voice analog synth with integrated sequencer. And it’s no entry-level toy, either: you’ll need US$1849 / 1749€ / £1449 to make it your own.

But — what is it, exactly?

Okay: confession. When music hardware maker Elektron invited us to a party with a big lineup in Berlin, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who hoped we might see an entirely new product. Maybe we’d even get a new Machinedrum. What we got, while nice, sure does seem a lot like Elektron’s Analog Four, only with a keyboard attached.

The Analog Keys does indeed share an architecture with the Analog Four. (“Architecture” maybe is understating it – fundamentally, it is the same synth under the hood.)

But let’s talk about the differences that aren’t immediately obvious. I’m assuming the giant picture of the keyboard and the “Keys” in the name means one difference you can’t miss. But Elektron’s Jon Mårtensson tells CDM the other things Analog Keys has that Analog Four doesn’t.

  • Joystick
  • 4 stereo track outputs
  • Internal power supply – that does at least save some space.
  • Sound selection wheel calls up patches more quickly
  • Additional dedicated buttons – this is a big one, as we’d already heard some readers complain that the Analog Four required too many button presses.
  • Hold mode for latching notes
  • Circuits Elektron says are “fine tuned for optimal bass response.” (Interesting. And the A4 already sounded pretty darned optimal.)

We also give you a better look at the hardware than we could at the launch event. And, personally, I love the brutal, square edges; it’s a distinctive-looking instrument.

Now, there is good news for current and prospective Analog Four buyers. The Analog Four will get a firmware update that adds the Analog Keys’ other improvements, so there’s still fair parity across the line.

Two of Analog Key’s new features integrate directly with the internal keyboard:

  • MIDI controller mode, transforming the Analog Keys’ keyboard into a dedicated MIDI controller keyboard for other hardware and software.
  • Multi map mode: keyboard splits, pattern and sound triggering, etc.

But while the former obviously isn’t relevant, the latter also works on the Analog Four once you connect an external MIDI keyboard. So, if you do own an A4, there’s no need for buyers’ remorse. And if you can live without the additional Keys features above, an A4 could be a way to save some money and space, if you’ve already got a master keyboard controller you like.

Since it is a lot of money either way, though, I should caution – this isn’t a review. For that, we’ll have to wait until early next year as review hardware ships.

Still, it’s great to see the Analog Keys, especially amidst a flurry of monosynths. Elektron is always an ambitious maker when it comes to building a complete sequencer/instrument workflow, and this looks to be no exception. So, after Christmas and New Years’, it seems we’ll have a bit of a synth holiday coming in January. I can live with that.

Sound samples:

Promo vid:

And a jam session with the Octatrack together with the Analog Keys:

Specs:

*100% analog signal path
*Four voices, each with 2 analog oscillators, 2 sub-oscillators, dual analog filters, analog overdrive per voice
*37 key semi-weighted keyboard with aftertouch
*+Drive storage hosting up to 4096 Sounds (+Drive Sound Library)
*Elektron sequencer with CV/Gate sequencing
*Parameter assignable joystick
*Extensive modulation possibilities
*Supervoid Reverb, Saturator Delay, Wideshift Chorus send FX
*Polyphonic, multitimbral, unison modes
*Dedicated MIDI controller mode
*1x headphones output, 2X main outputs, 4x stereo separate track outputs
*2x audio inputs
*MIDI IN/OUT/THRU with Din sync out
*2x dual CV/Gate outputs
*USB 2.0 port

More photos (click to bigify):

analogkeys_top

analogkeys_front_angle

analogkeys_front_angled

analogkeys_back

analogkeys_backangle

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

  • MTT

    The Analog 4 is a wonderful instrument which I am just starting to understand and get what I need from it. The price of the the keys version is significant but not ridiculous. A Mopho x4 will set you back $1300 (street price), this adds a damn fine sequencer and effects, and all the CV interactions for those with modular or vintage control needs. This is not to say it is perfect or that the misstated sound byte that it can be the center of the studio applies (though you can write a significant chunk of a composition on it, or an entire song on it if you are so inclined).

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      The Analog Four is certainly looking like a better deal, even with these differences – street is now hovering around just under 1100€. So if you have a keyboard you like, I would strongly consider the A4. If you do want to make this your main axe and you’ve got the cash, then I can see going Analog Keys.

    • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

      Whatever it is that makes one device a better deal than another. I, personally, strongly detest the look of this instrument. For me, it looks even more hideous than the A4 and the Octatrack. I’m all in for new designs, but the round buttons and those super-sharp edges… Well, not my cup of tea. And despite the fact that the looks do not change the sound of any synth, it does make a difference – just like with software that is not pleasant to look at (cough, Ableton Live on a Retina MacBook…) – if it does not look and feel inspiring, when you have it in your studio, it will not encourage you to make inspiring music with it.
      And back to “better deal”: I really think it depends on the purpose and expectations. For someone, who would want a really warm, analog sound all the way, the Mopho X4 is certainly a better deal than the AKeys.

    • eXode

      The Analog Four/Keys isnt less of an analog synth than Prophet 08/Mopho/Tetra is, so take that “warm, analog sound all the way” statement and shove it.

      The only thing I’d give the Mopho X4 is that it’s more hands on, thats it.

    • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

      Details that do not change my point: The available feature set (or lack thereof) of a certain device is not the only factor that would make one instrument a “better deal” than another.

    • eXode

      Of course not, but I was speaking of the sound. I’ve owned the Tetra and I’ve programmed sounds for it and it does not in any way sound warmer or more analog than the Analog Four. So your point about feature set is applicable to your own post as well. There is nothing in the feature set in the DSI products that would automatically make them warmer or more analog sounding than the A4. They are both synths that offer an analog audio path controlled by digital processors, so by that definition they are both equally “cold” sounding compared to say an Oberheim OB-X. :P

  • trash80

    I thought that (forget the exact name) high-res feedback filter mode thing was only going to be available on the Analog Keys- Though now I can’t find proof other than the FAQ stating that this is “fine tuned for optimal bass”

    • Mattias

      The feedback possibilities are the same on both machines – and they are even wilder with the new OS. :-)

  • Matt Jackson

    You forgot to mention what’s missing…
    That badass parameter crossfader for instance (unless I’m mistaken). Yeah I know it has a joy stick but sometimes a crossfader is just more practical.
    Smaller sequencing buttons…
    Much smaller LCD?!
    So anything else missing?

    • Ross Healy

      You are thinking Octatrack

  • moogaphonic

    Someone need to model a Software version of this instrument in Max4live or Reaktor now that would be cool beans :)

  • joeseph

    Does anyone know from experience with the Analog Four, if sequencer parameters can be modulated by synth LFO ?

    • joeseph

      And effects, can their parameters be controlled by LFO? velocity and after touch on the keyboard ?

    • Mattias

      The FX track even has its own set of LFOs, and FX sends can be modulated by LFOs… take a look at the new architecture diagrams at the specifications page at the Analog Keys product pages on elektron.se

  • Marty LeBlanc

    If it is a performance synthesizer, why is the display so small???

    • Per Formance

      Because it’s a performance synthesizer? (-:

  • Mattias

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