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.
- 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.
And a jam session with the Octatrack together with the Analog Keys:
*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):