Polyend’s beloved Tracker finishes out the year with a pitch-perfect update – and homebrew gaming. And there are updates for their Preset module for Eurorack and the brilliant Medusa synthesizer hardware, too.
Not one but three wise updates make a Christmas Eve appearance.
How to word this – one of the most coveted? The most coveted music nerd gear? Just in case you forgot to put Tracker on the best-of list for 2020, Polyend are shipping a huge update.
And in addition to making this more playable, and play with MIDI gear, you can play games, too. You know – if you decided that after ditching your computer to get rid of “distractions,” you wanted just the right distractions back in again. (I’m all about that. I mean, no doomscrolling, but scrolling through Doom, yes! Or just tell your tax accountant it’s all part of your work composing music for video games… like, someday. Probably.)
And oh yeah, this thing is 499EUR.
It kind of puts everything from AKAI, Native Instruments’ new Maschine+, and everything from Elektron to shame – especially for those of us who already loved the unique tracker workflow from computers. It’s a standalone sequencing instrument that’s capable and affordable enough that computer lovers can love it, too.
What’s in there:
MIDI connectivity means you can extend the Tracker with your own controllers, and send MIDI from the device to outboard gear with loads more options:
- Per step MIDI Chords
- MIDI Microtune step Fx
- Performance mode is now controllable via MIDI input
- Master mixer levels are now controllable via MIDI input
- Tracker can now be configured to send 6 distinct MIDI CCs per MIDI channel
- Added support for sending MIDI channel aftertouch and polyphonic aftertouch
- MIDI instruments in Pattern mode can now be present without a note (specify which MIDI channel to send CC)
- MIDI delay compensation for external clock sources in Config (experimental Config settings)
That’s a lot of detail, but basically Tracker is a MIDI hub now, and dare I say – Octatrack killer, potentially.
There are other workflow improvements, too, including the ability to manage audio recording, long samples (essential!), and loads of useful stuff.
Plus, hey, more Euclidean rhythms – here as fills, which is cool. Maybe just as important, did someone say step sequencing bit depth and distortion? Heck, yeah.
- Tune step Fx
- Track Arm Recording
- Live audio Line input monitoring is now available during song playback
- Long sample Importing
- Lo-quality Importing (saves sample pool memory time)
- Delete unused sample
- Bit depth and distortion both as step and Performance Fx’s
- Transpose octaves by turning the Jog-wheel with Shift in note editing
- Enhanced Pattern Fill command: Euclidean fills, density setting in Random fills
- Rewritten from scratch rendering mechanism
There are new sound processing tools, too. I’m still for finishing tracks on computers, but having some of these options at disposal live could give your performances more polished sound – and yes, someday we will have audiences again safely:
- 5-band master EQ
- Bass booster
- Stereo enhancer
- Updated Limiter with gain reduction meter
- Line input can now be a sidechain source for the Limiter
- Timestretch Fx in Sample Editor
Plus, the “One more thing…” is games. Simple stuff, but cute! Artist Isobutane did the pictures and sound so – more on all that soon, I hope.
If you’ve got Tracker, download the update:
Over in the Eurorack world, Preset is the module for assigning storage and recall of parameters to a grid – automating CV.
The new development is the ability to make your own modded firmware, with the fully free and open source Polyend Preset firmware and accompanying sandbox. (It really is open source, too – they’ve got it under a clear MIT license, so they didn’t just confuse the phrase “open source” with “you can mod it.”)
Coders, check GitHub:
But this also means that Preset users could have access to a bunch of cool custom firmware mods, as we’ve seen with norns in the monome realm. There’s already a generative Euclidean sequencing machine example to play with, available in releases.
Medusa, the expressive grid controller – slash digital-analog hybrid instrument could prove a sleeper hit. Here’s the thing – it is only getting more useful and relevant as it ages. So even as firmware updates smoothed out the analog/digital wavetable synth collaboration between Polyend and Dreadbox, what you might have missed is that this is also a MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) controller.
And now Ableton Live 11 has a beautiful implementation of MPE, so maybe you were looking for a controller.
Expressive_E were also early advocates of everything MPE can do. Now they’re giving away their Carbon MPE instrument.
Note that this is a desktop synth plug-in – it runs in UVI Workstation. But you can just plug in your Medusa and play – then record, trigger, and edit MPE in Ableton Live 11 beta (or Cubase or Bitwig Studio or another capable host).
But it sounds really beautiful, even with other great soft synths with MPE support floating about. (ROLI have some of their own, too, thanks to the acquisition of fxpansion.)
Oh, and note that an expressive grid is not something on Tracker, so these products remain differentiated. If you’re just looking at a grid as a way of sequencing, Tracker is your bet. If you’re looking for an instrument to play, Medusa remains Polyend’s interesting offering. (See also Roger Linn’s excellent Linnstrument, but the Medusa represents a different approach, in that a hardware synth is already built in.)
There you go. It’s been a crazy year, so it’s great to see an independent hardware maker in the midst of this pandemic finishing these great products.
To everyone in our community – musicians and makers alike – I hope you find a way to stay healthy, care for each other, and get some time off in these days.