It’s a funny thing about this latest hardware resurgence: everyone kind of expects to use that gear with their PC and Mac. Elektron isn’t the first ever to attempt to make their gear integrate smoothly with computers; some of the techniques they use in Overbridge we’ve even seen before. (Roland and Virus spring to mind.) But with complete features for making their hottest, latest equipment behave well with software, they’re firmly in the territory of “why wasn’t everyone doing that before?”
Elektron unveiled their approach this week at Musikmesse. It’s called “Overbridge,” and it applies to their latest analog equipment (Analog Four, Analog Keys, and Analog Rytm). When firmware updates for those machines arrive later this year, here’s what you’ll get:
1. Multichannel audio drivers. Now, when you connect a USB cable, you won’t only get one stereo audio output. You’ll get both input and output, up to 24-bit. You can route audio from your computer into the Elektron machine for processing. You’ll be able to record separate tracks in your DAW for different voices (so, say, you can process a bass drum separately from a snare). And you’ll be able to use the Elektron as an audio interface. Basically, you save the extra cables and interface you’d normally have to use.
2. Plug-ins. With VST and AU plug-ins, you can use your Elektron machine as if it were a soft synth – but with the sound of an analog piece of equipment. That’s handy when it comes to controlling and automating parameters.
3. Save settings with projects. The other advantage of using plug-ins is that you can save and recall parameters with projects, rather than having to load them separately on hardware. You can easily open a different project and your hardware picks up where you left off.
There wasn’t a whole lot of this to see yet at Messe. Elektron had the audio interface functionality working, but not the plug-in. No matter: having the audio functionality was already great. (Actually, dear Elektron – would be great to see that as an OS update even before the plug-in if it is working reliably.) And it appears these will work as class-compliant devices, so once you install the OS on the hardware, you won’t need separate drivers.
Updated: Elektron tells us they are in fact working on class-compliant drivers, though this is not yet a confirmed feature – fingers crossed.
We’ll check in later this year. I’m also going to get a unit in for review, so let me know what you’d want to know (and, for that matter, which device is most important to you, the keys or drum machine).