Surprise number one: Polyend’s Tracker packs a lot of deep musicality you may have missed in the teasers and leaks. Surprise two: it costs far less than people first guessed.

At $599 (with a free hard case, too), independent Polish maker Polyend looks competitive up against some big brands.

Here’s the basic idea – you shouldn’t have to know what a “tracker” is for this to be useful to your music making. The essence of their appeal is about being able to quickly edit rhythms without being stuck in a single division of the beat. But the old trackers can be confusing, if they get some nerdy cred, in that they tend to assume you only want to play with keyboards and you read hexadecimal values as numbers.

Tracker is not that way – it’s built around grids and pads and knobs, plus big obvious one-touch pads with actual labels on them. So you don’t have to learn hex codes, and you don’t have to memorize anything.

Of course, you still might know the music made with trackers, even if you don’t know the software – and then this makes that technique accessible to you, too. (Yes, if you want to get your Venetian Snares on, now you can do it without dusting off an old Amiga, I mean.)

Now, about some of that depth. You can load your own samples right off an SD card – good. You can already start recording and playing – and yes, doing that live – with direct control. You also get more MPC- or Elektron-style control of parameters, without having to dive into the software tracker UI, so you can change or transpose values or whole patterns.

There’s a serious architecture inside. You can set envelopes and modulation to manipulate “granular” and wavetable positions – a bit like some of the features I liked best on Polyend’s Medusa. There’s an onboard filter, reverb, bitcrusher, and limiter, so a full complement of effects and icing.

There’s a really unique per-part approach to volume, which I’ll go into detail about later.

And there are a lot of cool features. Some tips I got from Polyend:

  • There’s a sample editor
  • You can take screenshots of the tracker interface
  • Yes, there’s an FM radio antenna for sampling sound from terrestrial airwaves (now we need to also start some pirate radio stations, right?)
  • You can use custom wavetables – like those available for Serum and Ableton’s Wavetable instrument
  • Pitch shifting is aliased, for an old school sound
  • You can preview samples right off the SD card
  • Inside, it’s a custom platform of Polyend’s own creation (well, if I can really lean on them, maybe they’ll tell me what it is)
  • Yes, it’s stereo (though samples are mono – again, oldschool style)

Full specs: stereo out, mono line in, mono mic in, MIDI in and out (on jack connectors), USB-C. All the adapters are in the box – even a convenient MicroSD to USB-A adapter. I don’t have pics yet of that hard case, but it is also free. And the whole thing weighs a gentle 2kg.

I can see this actually being a nice companion to the underrated, exquisite Medusa instrument. The Medusa has expressive pads (with MPE!); the Tracker is non velocity-sensitive (though that’s logical for a tracker). Putting the two together seems a nice, contrasting combination – peanut butter and chocolate?

Loopop got hands-on with one:

I think my friend Robert really gets to the point with why this is cool – it’s the “sample anything” immediacy that the MPC launched, but with a unique workflow that lets you get even more control over sound and rhythm. Or as he puts it –

Cześć, polscy czytelnicy!

Dlaczego tak bardzo czekamy na Polyend Tracker? [Estrada Studio]

Medusa lovers/owners: by the way, I do hear via a birdie (I think, my bird Polish is is poor) that there are more updates in store for the Medusa. So, at my usual speed of glacially slow musician rather than lightning-fast influencer, I’ll be looking again at Medusa and look forward to Tracker when it’s ready for full review around summer (which in the current climate feels about ten years away, but I know is, in reality, coming at the normal speed).

Tracker is already available for preorder.