Elektron’s Digitakt may be small, affordable, and friendly. But Elektron followers couldn’t help noticing some features missing from the flagship Octatrack. The more elaborate sample mangling and manipulation features, plus advanced routing architecture, not to mention the crossader and signature form factor were gone.
In other words, the Digitakt is cool, but it isn’t an Octatrack. Gee, it almost seems like they were differentiating the Digitakt from a forthcoming Octatrack MKII.
Well, here it is: it’s the Octatrack MKII.
Versus the cheaper Digitakt, you get deeper sampling capabilities (as on the original Octatrack). There’s instant stereo sampling with real-time pitch shift and time stretch.
There’s the assignable crossfader, which is essential to the Octatrack’s performance capabilities.
There’s deeper assignments: three LFOs per track, two effects slots.
That all makes for an extremely powerful machine, one that could reasonably replace a laptop in a live rig. The Digitakt could be fine for sequencing and rhythm making and controlling other gear, but the Octatrack is still the go-to choice if you want to “mangle” samples. Features:
8 stereo audio tracks
8 dedicated MIDI tracks
Instant stereo sampling
Real time sample time-stretch & pitch-shift
2 × insert FX per audio track
3 × LFO per track
Live friendly Elektron sequencer
Contactless performance Crossfader
Crisp 128 × 64 OLED screen
Durable back-lit buttons
1 × ¼” headphones output
2 × ¼” impedance balanced main output
2 × ¼” impedance balanced cue output
4 × ¼” balanced external input
1 × USB 2.0 High Speed port
MIDI IN/OUT/THRU ports
W340 × D185 × H63 mm (8.5 × 7.2 × 2.5″) including knobs and rubber feet
Weight approx. 2.3 kg (5 lbs)
Fully compatible with Octatrack MKI projects/data
And Octatrack MKI owners can upgrade easily, since you can import your old projects.
But then, that raises a question: is there enough here for MKI owners to upgrade?
Mostly what’s changed is in the display, case, and mechanicals:
There’s the new, nicer-looking OLED screen and back-lit buttons and high-resolution encoders from the Digitakt. (Elektron says the buttons hold up to 50 million presses … though to be fair, I don’t know any MKI owners who have encountered issues.)
There are more dedicated buttons. One of the issues with the original Octatrack was the amount of menu-diving – and a lot of users simply didn’t grok the shortcut keys on the first model.
There are balanced audio inputs. There’s a new “contactless, silky smooth” crossfader.
And… that’s it. Maybe. Elektron haven’t said more about what the details of the OS might provide over the original, so we’ll have to learn more there.
For now, it looks like there are some notable missing features: updates to MIDI assignment, effects, and most notably, Elektron’s Overbridge technology for connection to computers see no mention.
Confirmed: Elektron says the MKII uses the same software as the MKI. That explains the missing features. As posted to their Facebook page:
“MKII will use the same software as MKI, and we will of course continue to support it.”
That’s a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is, yeah, you don’t see Overbridge or any updates to the Octatrack’s capabilities.
But the good news is, this implies that not only is a future OS update possible, but it seems it’d target both the MKI and MKII. (What surprises me, then, is that they apparently didn’t upgrade the internals – and that could mean restrictions on what the box could do. Wait for an ARM-based MKIII, maybe? Hrm….)
On the other hand, if you’ve been waiting to go this direction, the new model offers a lot. (This feels a bit like Nintendo portable game units … yeah, you might be happy with the older model if you’ve got it already, but new customers are likely to gravitate to the new shiny.)
Availability: August, €1449/$1349. That’s steeper than the AKAI MPC Live, but Elektron’s build quality is exceptional, and they’ve sometimes proven to loyalists that less can be more as far as features. It’s also still cheaper than Pioneer’s standalone drum machine/sampler.
No software update (meaning no new control, effects features)
Fewer key combos and more hands-on
Better hardware and display
Balanced audio outs
It’s still an Octatrack
Doesn’t break compatibility with MKI
Looking to the future:
Maybe both MKI and MKII users will get some OS update down the line