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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:

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

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