Elektron’s Model:Cycles is revealed, and – it’s exactly the structure, form factor, and UI of the Model:Samples, but with FM synthesis.
As Elektron puts it, “scale angles dense and jagged, glide over plains vast and fluid, or sink into mists of dissonance. To model is to shape the formless.” Uh, yeah. FM synthesis. Turn knobs, get crazy sounds.
On the Cycles, this is divided into dedicated FM engines – Kick, Snare, Metal, Per, Tone, and Chord. (See videos below.)
And the price definitely isn’t bad – at about 349EUR (converting from SEK), this could be a fun little box to pick up. By slicing the price from the samples model, Elektron are also making this tougher to resist.
None of this is a bad thing. FM synthesis and its wild, sonorous results are terrific for making out-there grooves and percussion, in particular – since it has some of the kinds of nonlinearities in spectrum that you get from molding metal and the like. It’s not so much that we’ve gotten better at FM synthesis over the years, arguably, as it is that our ears are now more tuned to appreciating all that range. Armed with digital power under the hood, I fully expect we’ll see a lot more FM soon – just as we’ve seen polysynths and wavetable synthesis start to move into the space.
But maybe what is a bit disappointing is that the Model:Cycles isn’t a new design. It’s the Model:Samples – the same control structure, the same buttons, the same UI, the same 6-track architecture – but with FM. I mean, it looks like it’s even the same color plastic as the Model:Samples. (Or at least very, very close.)
Look, I love having extra controls. And I love cheap and cheery boxes and portability. So I’m very tempted to defend this from people resisting the concept.
There’s just one problem – because I really loved the Model:Samples, I have to really protest here. Why couldn’t Elektron meld sample engine and FM? That would help this box rise from “oh, there’s their previous entry level box with different firmware” to “everyone needs to own this the moment they can get it shipped to their door” classic.
Okay, this isn’t quite as bad as when KORG tried to sell us one electribe as if it were two electribes – the electribe and electribe sampler, which were so similar they seemed like an experiment to check if the distributors were reading the promo materials, like passing the German driving exam. But at least KORG had the decency to change the color.
We’ve seen what happens when a manufacturer takes an entry-level product and crams it with firmware updates instead of making people buy a new box. That’s the story of the Novation Circuit. And the moral of the story is – if you can make your hardware do this, your customers will shower you with adoration and form a whole community around your gear. It’s easier said than done – this makes the life of engineers tough, and it means you have to shift marketing so you can make a software update as exciting as a new box.
But the result can be long-term value for everyone involved, because presumably – forming a more lasting relationship with their little box – customers are even more likely to spread the word.
The Digitone is superior in basically every other way – real polyphonic sequencing, 8 voice polyphony, more FM algorithms, cool filters and extra modulation for more sound shaping, and more effects, including Overdrive, plus Overbridge support for easier integration with your software.
Oh yeah, and because Elektron’s effects sound fantastic, that alone might be reason to save up (it’s closer to EUR 750 list).
Basically, if the Model:Cycles added even basic sample playback as one extra engine – a la Model:Samples, it’d be my main drum machine.
But meanwhile, I’m a little confused. And I don’t have much answer now to the Elektron fans who have been telling me for months they think it’s better to upgrade to the Digitone. Now, I am happy to be proven wrong. Andreas who reviewed Model:Samples for us seems non-plussed by this. But since he did that review, I’m happy to take on this one and see if I wind up embracing some limitations.
Here’s Cuckoo’s day one hands-on:
Have a look and see what you think, as I know many readers wrote us saying they were curious what’s coming.
And for a brief reminder that CDM has been rooting for Model:Samples, here you go: