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.elektron-octatrack-mkii-web-top

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
Hi-res encoders
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

elektron-octatrack-mkii-web-back

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.

https://www.elektron.se/octatrack-mkii/

In review:

Bad news:
No software update (meaning no new control, effects features)
No Overbridge

Good news:
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

  • Jan Niezbędny

    That’s practically same machine as Octa. It needs OS update, for sure. Many people are begging Elektron for some updates, fixing bugs and giving obvious features.

  • griotspeak

    As someone who is still learning how to use it, the dedicated buttons are much appreciated but this is strange to me. I assumed that there were hardware upgrades that they simply didn’t want to share yet. Overbridge and some hardware improvements would have put me on the path to upgrade without much hesitation.

  • Tony Scharf

    I see no reason to upgrade mine just to get a shiny new paint job and some buttons. I Guess I will wait for MKIII.

    • Nagasaki Nightrider

      I think you’ll be waiting a long time. They offered the Machinedrum/Monomachine MKII versions for a long time and then discontinued those devices altogether.

  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    IMO the old one’s aesthetics look better than MKII. This new Digitakt look is uglier than the original one’s clean, hard, black block with round buttons & red LEDs. The screen on the new one looks better here at least.

    What exactly is new in workflow here? The new buttons don’t add a whole lot, this will still be just as menu-divey except in a few cases.

    My biggest pet peeve of MKI is that the sequencer is not as friendly as it is on the Analog Four. I get that it’s a different instrument, but the A4 sequencer is more refined and quicker to use and they never updated the Octatrack sequencer to match. Hopefully one day they’ll give it the love it needs.

    Oh, that and the USB port doesn’t work as a MIDI interface, which I forgot about and was pretty bummed when I was recently traveling and forgot to bring a standalone MIDI interface. Come on, Elektron, that sounds like pretty low-hanging fruit in 2017.

    • Yeah, the problem I’ve always had with Overbridge is that this very ambitious functionality means that more basic functionality — drivers for that USB port — don’t ship.

      But let’s wait and see, maybe there’s a more complete OS coming that addresses these issues. I’m sure Elektron are hearing them, as there’s near-consensus feedback on this from absolutely everyone remotely connected to them, that I’ve been able to see!

      • Consensus, well, yes, maybe. But how many years has the OT been out now without the MIDI-over-USB being shipped? I cannot see how this would be a priority for them now…

  • Doug Gough

    Underwhelming in the extreme. I was hoping for Overbridge minimally.

  • microgramma

    As someone who is in the market for a “live laptop replacement,” this is disappointing and really surprising. “Maybe we’ll do something in the future” is a tough sell for $1300.

    • Scott Jenner

      Agree I have a laptop and Ableton Push that works great for less money.

      • Polite Society

        Are you sure? Pretty sure Push, a decent Laptop and an Ableton license cost more.

  • there’s no overbridge and trig conditions. Good news is this a way for Elektron to continue to make income with the Octatrack which hopefully means they will continue to support it (both MK1 & MK2) and release future updates.

    i’m surprised they did not replace the Flash card with an SD.

    • Replacing CF with SD would have meant changes to the case, the PCB layout and probably also to the OT’s software. Which is exactly *not* what they wanted to do, obviously.

    • Derp Nerpson

      I found a $13 CF to SD adapter on Amazon. Maybe that would work for you?

  • Alan Gleeson

    I never used an Octatrack but heard and read many users raving about how awesome it is (like most Elektron products). So what was wrong with it, something major that requires a MKII? MKI was already a laptop killer? I would prefer to see manufacturers develop new tools, or tools that honestly build upon, advance their tools, as opposed to continuously and updating existing ones to only achieve minor improvements. Not that new products have to reinvent the wheel, a guitar is a guitar, but there are reasons to have different types, even if the model is the same. Obviously these are commercial ventures but has inventiveness peaked? Inventors/creators/artists (mostly) don’t spend there whole careers repeating themselves so what’s happening with technology.

    • imo, i think that sales were probably dwindling down for the octatrack. It’s costly to continue to support and develop a product that is selling less and less. By creating a cosmetic upgrade, making it look more modern, they can generate new sales with a new user base and they can continue to develop and upgrade the sofware. so on the surface, no trig conditions, no overbridge is a big let down, but that might not mean that will never come.

      • Alan Gleeson

        I can appreciate all that, but what often happens is that the updates that should have come to the users that supported the manufacturer and allowed them to develop get passed over to a new release so you have to get a physical upgrade to enjoy the advances. They loosely follow some of the designs Roland & others have released why not just continue that, putting there own spin/aesthetic on it, instead of trying to make the ultimate Octatrack. If the big names of years past continued to make/rework an early product they released then the electronic music sound palette would be pretty bland.

        • i agree, if there will be new updates, they have to be made available for the MK1 users as well. I don’t own an octatrack, but I do own an Analog Four and a RYTM, and I’m thinking they will probably do the same treatment to these two as well, and I hope that I won’t be forced to upgrade both machines to get new features.

  • southpole

    you don’t know any MKI owners who have encountered issues? ever heard of a techno producer called Ansome?

    • Alan Gleeson

      Don’t know Ansome, but would be interested to read of his issues. As I said below if a product has something wrong with it it shouldn’t be released, or the existing product should be amended, or you just live with it, plenty examples of that in music tech. What I see in software/hardware is that features from a new product get added to an old product to create a so called new product. So the pool of inventiveness becomes stagnant. It’s not specific to Elektron and obviously it’s hard to come up with “new” instruments but the Octatrack format is not original, just well done, which is also OK, but then they start “quoting” themselves it gets boring. Though this MKII could be the shit 😀

    • Polite Society

      There are definitely issues out there, card reader issues, cracked PCB (from hitting buttons) encoder failures, but they seem to be in the minority. And handled pretty well by support.

      • What? How hard would you want to hit those buttons to crack the PCB?

  • Will

    The MKII seems to be more like ‘This is the design of the Octatrack going forward” rather than “Here’s a new Octatrack”. Fair enough.

  • Very nice looking piece of gear(design wise)…

  • FS

    i actually don’t really understand the point of this revision if it’s pretty much only cosmetic and maybe they added one or two buttons, even still there’s quite a bit of menu diving / FUNC controls. but just as i’m typing this i think of Apple’s OS updates, not that much changes but a new look / feel gives a fresh marketing push which makes sense. the new design is very nice though it’s not better than the old, just different. great box though. also cannot be compared to the MPC in any way, the workflows could not be more opposite. if you’re an MPC person hoping to be able to adapt the MPC workflow on the OT i don’t suggest it, you lead on the MPC, the OT leads you. which is dope, just a different animal.

    • They added 5 or so buttons to be precise. But I totally agree with you – this looks like only a face lift and nothing else.

  • fred

    “Balanced audio outs” isn’t news. The MKI had balanced outs already. Only the balanced inputs are new.

    • Ginkgo

      It’s kinda like whey Elektron tried to sell the Analog Keys as having “more balanced circuitry for stronger bass” or something like that.

  • Undothis

    I won’t be upgrading but if they add polyphony I will be a happy camper! No oberbridge is a crying shame but maybe it can be implamented with their updates fingers crossed. In general what a disappointment.

    • Ginkgo

      I doubt it: they touted Overbridge pretty hard for Digitakt, though it wasn’t ready at release. I personally wouldn’t buy this on the gamble that OB support is coming in the future. (If anything, this new model makes the Digitakt seem more appealing.)

  • Wayne billingham

    the phrase ‘continue to support it’ is interesting use of english , i think if you check the forums they stopped supporting it a long time ago , except for selling it and the odd sample pack.

    supporting it does imply os tweaks but as with most things, buy it based on the current state of it , unless you are impatient like i was with digitakt. (which has improved a lot with the recent updates but that is a new machine , this doesnt seem to be new except the exterior stuff)
    its a crazy , very powerful , unique box.

  • Matt Leaf

    I think this box will get the Trig conditions of the other boxes, but the MK1 box possibly won’t. They probably don’t want to say anything just yet because that will sour MK1 users. But overall Elektron are working in a very Apple way. ie the Digitakt is like the New MacBook with butterfly keyboard and USB-C, and the new OT gets the Digitakt ‘look’ just like the MBP. To be fair this new backlit UI is leaps and bounds better than the old painted label style. It’s a great shift for their product line even if their are no major internal advancements.

  • Michael L

    Octa tracks but still only Duo outs. Miss!

  • papernoise

    To all of those who still hope that Overbridge/conditional trigs will land on the OT, well that’s really unlikely to happen except if they make an OT2 (new design, with new internals and a new OS). Elektron has stated many times that they will not develop the OS further, so no Overbridge and no conditional trigs. Just deal with it 🙂
    I hope though that they will re-allocate some resources to squashing at least the most annoying bugs on the firmware. The thing has been out for years now, and there’s still many unresolved issues with the software. If Mk2 generates some more sales maybe it will be worthwhile for Elektron again to issue a firmware update.
    Apart from that I don’t see what there’s to complain if a company makes a hardware upgrade on an existing product. Times change and better components / more affordable manufacturing become available, so they update the old boxes. That’s totally normal and just means the OT isn’t dead yet and people are interested in buying them.

    • Upgrading existing instruments has been seen from Elektron before (MonoMachine, MachineDrum). But this also comes with a 200$ price increase, which is probably hard to swallow for many musicians on a budget. Particularly when competition is available with e.g. the MPC Live.

  • The new backlit buttons and the OLED display are all fine and dandy. But to be honest, a mere facelift for a 200$ price increase is not exactly a unique selling point. This OT Mk2 leaves so many questions unanswered!

    Edit: From the OLED display I would have expected way more UI mileage than just showing the same grainy, crappy icons and text as on the old LCD. Look at DSI’s synths or the Teenage Engineering OP-1 for how to make use of an OLED display…

  • And speaking of missing feature updates: still 64 steps per pattern. Come on, DSI could add 128 step patterns in their Tempest…

  • Johbremat

    My luck: just plumped for an OT, AR and A4.

    Ah well. I couldn’t wait, got it all on sale new and would have been beside myself if the design language of the trinity didn’t marry.

    Though I’ve no doubt an ARII and A4/AKII are waiting in the wings.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Terrible price tag though for something i would have to get in addition to my studio production computer/laptop…which it certainly would never be able to replace.

    • Scott Jenner

      Agree these stand alone controllers are too expensive. Most folks already produce on a laptop already for less cost.

  • chaircrusher

    The Elektron has always fascinated me, especially after seen people do a live set with basically one Elektron Box. You can complain about this feature or that feature, but the most important aspect of the Octatrack (or Maschine, or Push, or Ableton Live, or an MPC500) is that it is a musical instrument. It rewards practice and study, and makes an ass of a dilettante.

    That’s the primary reason I haven’t jumped on an Ableton Push (or Elektron stuff) is that since I have a day job and don’t make a living out of music, I can’t put the hours in that a new instrument demands. On the “gear for gear’s sake front,” once you own an EMS Putney and a Jupiter 6, you’re over buying gear just to buy gear 😉

  • Scott Jenner

    So guys help me out here if I already have Ableton Live on a laptop then why would I get these over the less expensive Push controller which costs half as much?

    • Toby

      It’s just a different breed, faster workflow with analog sound. And if you want to get into live performance this is really ideal.

      • Scott Jenner

        Interesting will have to check it out once local Guitar Center gets a demo unit in.

      • Yanakyl

        Analog sound????
        I would have said stability, portability, self contained. I haven’t used it though so I can’t say that much.

  • teeth

    maybe they’re deeply mind f–king us and there is secretly new architecture inside and they’ll totally have a super upgraded os soon but they know they burnt out their hype card with the digitakt shipping with a broken os so they’re playing it super safe this time. maybe. maybe?

  • I wonder if the CF card slot is less susceptible to the bent pins issue. Then again, after that one spat of reports a few years back I never heard much about it.

  • cpc464freak

    Same old, Same old… really, it’s practically the same device as 2010, even OS hasn’t had an update. Kinda makes the headline pretty hilarious really.

  • Itchy

    In theory I like the device but they need a larger screen for me I’m ok being the guy with a laptop and ableton it’s about the music right?

  • Anton.a1

    Is the screen black and white, or…? Never used their products, but their screen and display interface have always been a bit of a turn off for me when browsing in the stores.

  • Domenico Cusumano

    Is there anything news on the Rytm being updated as well? It is currently marked as sold out on their website.

    I actually don’t even like the look of this. The old ones were cooler looking.