The Elektron Digitakt sampler/drum computer may have been sitting silently under glass at last month’s NAMM trade show. But no matter: it was still the gear generating the most buzz.

The thing is, we’re already hearing enough about the Digitakt to pique our interest.

First, there’s that price — US$/€650. That’s terrifically affordable by Elektron standards. And then there’s the compact size, the accessible-looking controls and OLED, and the focus on sequencing and sampling. This just looks like a fun, friendly groove box.

It also looks like a device that could significantly expand the audience for Elektron gear, not only because of the lower price, but because of the design. And that means you should possibly ignore some of the naysayers who are unhappy this isn’t quite an Octatrack II. I made the comparison to the Octatrack just because this is a box that can sequence outboard MIDI gear and by doing so replace a computer rig (or significantly augment it).

I talked a bit more to Elektron to try to get some clarification, and here are some takeaways — at least while we keep waiting.

digitaktcloseup

It should make crazy sequences. Combine Trig Conditions and Retrigs with per-track track length, and you should be able to produce some wild polyrhythms and asymmetrical rhythmic goodness. Trig conditions are really part of what make this distinct from other offerings – and the blandness of looping regular patterns.

And that’s important, because:

It sequences external MIDI gear. This was a big omission from the Analog line, and crucial to those of us who want Elektron devices as hubs of other instruments. The Digitakt seems to be all about simple, accessible sequencing both of internal sounds and external goodies. Elektron are mum for now on more details of the MIDI tracks and how they work, but… we’ll be watching for that detail.

It actually has a ton of space for sampling. So, a bunch of people got hung up on the 64MB sample storage. In fact, each project has 64MB of space into which you can sample (and sample external audio – this is a proper sampler). That may not sound like a lot, but remember, this is a drum machine, not a multisampling instrument. That’s over twelve and a half minutes of sample storage per project, at full-quality mono 44.1kHz/16-bit. Even with long one-shots, that’s way more than you’ll ever want. It is a drum machine, after all.

And it does audio tracks. Now, if you want to load backing tracks and the like, there are audio tracks, too – and 1GB of project storage.

It’s all about being quick and dirty. I love Elektron, I do. But for some of us, their high end devices actually do too much – resulting in a higher price, but also in more menu diving. The Digitakt seems to be the antithesis of that approach. For instance, Elektron confirms there’s no song mode. But… that simplicity is actually appealing, especially looking at that front panel.

Of course, there are many things this clearly isn’t. It isn’t a mixer / effects unit in the way the Octatrack is. And we’ve yet to see how much flexibility you get with samples, with audio tracks, and with MIDI tracks. But it’s promising nonetheless.

digitaktangle

Yep. Still waiting.

https://www.elektron.se/

  • FS

    thanks for a little more info here, really intrigued by this box.

    did they give you any insight into the ‘8 voice’ aspect? is that polyphony or tracks? will notes start to cut each other off when more than 8 play at a time?

    you said it though, waiting…

    • Polite Society

      all other elektron machines are mono. Almost guaranteed it will be 8 samples, each of which cut itself if retriggered. Besides, It’s a drum machine, after all.

  • Charles

    I’m keeping a close eye on this, but so far the MPC Live, which does a lot more for $300 more, looks more interesting. Curious to see how their MIDI sequencing compares.

  • yunginter.net/

    very cool you could sample right from your session over the audio to usb

    so… maybe i have a obsession with removable storage but… mpc live, sp-16, every other sampler i can think of has some kinda usb stick, equivalent. specially if this is a hub for control i might want the computer on one side of the studio and this thing with my midi gear on the other… walk some samples across the room. idk or maybe i have a serious obsession with removable storage that if a third post arises this month i will address with my therapist.

  • confused

    “it does audio tracks” what do you mean it plays loaded stereo files up to 1gb?

    • Polite Society

      Assuming it inherits that functionality from the octatrack, it has two modes for samples one that leads the sample into memory, and one that streams from the card. The streaming one let’s you play back huge files, but you are restricted on functionality.

      • guest

        Why would you assume that? It doesn’t use a CF card. Can any of the other boxes with +drive stream audio from them?

  • geoff

    drum synths yay or nay ?

    • Monochrome

      Apparently nay.

      • geoff

        Shame , hopefully they will make that next

  • I actually have some cash put aside for a new synth but Im pretty sure I’m waiting for THIS to come out! I really want a Digitakt

  • R__W

    Is it the same form factor (box) as the Analog Heat?

    • Rhythm Droid

      yes

  • Will

    No song mode is a bummer for me. Still interested though. Think it’s really going to come down to the midi sequencing and how easy it is (or isn’t) to adjust basic drum parameters of loaded samples (tune, decay, etc).

    • I’ll go one step further: Without song mode, the Digitakt lost its potential purpose as being a central brain of a DAWless setup. Unless, of course, you play music in genres, where “songs” are not necessarily what you want to do… For me, this one thing alone makes me say “nay” and go back to my trusty old MPC 500 for proper MIDI sequencing.

      • Hector

        i’ve seen a lot of Octatrack videos of people playing the same loop for 6 minutes, just turning knobs, adding reverb, maybe the odd adventurous one fading between 2 loops if he is brave enough.

        i think there are plenty of people who never realised that the Octatrack was capable of songs.

        • Angroc

          Heh. Yeah, I have Circlon, and never use song mode, though I do manually switch between scenes.

  • Marc Borri

    is there parameter locks on the digitakt ?

    • Since this is what made Elektron devices# sequencers special in the first place, there is no reason to believe they would omit such a key selling point.

    • Rhythm Droid

      yes!

  • No song mode? But… why? Anyway, there’d have to be a few more boxes to be checked, before this could actually become a proper hub for your synth collection:

    – Polyphony, as in: how much voices per track can be recorded and played? The Octatrack was limited to 4 voices per track, and so are Electribe, Toraiz SP-16…
    – Sequences longer than 4 bars? Seriously, even the Tempest can do 8 bar sequences, which might not even be enough for some more complex melody and harmony compositions
    – Pattern chaining at least, please, if we cannot get a proper song mode?
    – MIDI effects, like arpeggiator, delay, note repeat etc. as in Squarp Pyramid or MPC would be a nice bonus

  • Claudio Branno

    Hi Peter,

    in the post you are mentioning

    “And it does audio tracks. Now, if you want to load backing tracks and the like, there are audio tracks, too – and 1GB of project storage.”

    Does this mean that this device can fire both one shot samples and loops?

    • Rhythm Droid

      all samples can be one shot or looping. It’s up to you how you want to use them. You can use the 64 megs of project memory however you like. As far as I know, Digitakt will not have real-time timestretching with pitch-preservation like the big brother Octatrack – because it’s primarily designed for beat making and drum patterns.

  • Kevin Bell Kearney

    I wish someone would just make an octatrack clone for iOS – any developers out there wanna take that request?!

  • Esteban Sánchez Oeconomo

    If the midi sequencer tracks are polyphonic (and only if) I’m buying it the day it comes out

    • Jacek Leszcz

      classic MD was polyphonic (3 notes at step) so it should be.

  • Fayek Helmi

    I’ve been ogling elektron gear for years now simultaneously drooling and crying because of the high price point… for any music producer that isn’t making money or doesn’t have disposable income, they are just impossible to buy.

    This however is such an amazing price that im determined to get it the day it comes out… there are a lot of details still missing but if the sequencer engine is as good as other elektron gear… i’m definitely paying the 650$ just for that and then using it to sequence other gear.

    This price point actually start competing with stuff like the electribe!

  • Freeks

    Oh why it has to be mono?
    Never sampled stereo sounds from vinyl?

    Mono drums is so 1962

  • Laszlo Folgerts

    wait, no song mode?