One of the most exciting announcements at this year’s NAMM Show came from the well-respected Swedish music-machine makers Elektron. The highly anticipated follow-up to their dynamic performance sampler, The Octatrack, sparked much chatter amongst audiophiles worldwide and it comes in the form of an awesome hybrid combination of analog synthesizer and sequencer: The Analog Four. We took one for a test drive and here’s what we found:
Upon opening the box, users will be greeted with the ambiguous message “This machine is just the beginning” written on the inside panel, implying Elektron has much more to come down the pipeline. The first thing we noticed is that the layout and design of the hardware leans very heavily on the design of the Octatrack. The build quality overall is very strong and it is also rack-mountable for those interested in doing so. The plastic buttons and dials, however, do feel a bit dated. Additionally, the buttons are not velocity-sensitive, which would have been a nice inclusion. Design-wise, our biggest complaint is that the LED screen used for all controls is extremely small and leaves much to be desired.
At its core, the Analog Four is a four-voice analog synthesizer with a sequencer track per voice. Also included are two additional tracks: one FX track for controlling chorus, delay, and reverb, as well as a CV track for handling voltage-controlled gear via the two CV/Gate outputs. The CV track in our opinion is a very cool little feature that allows you to sequence any external CV gear in the same way that you would the synth itself. If you were so inclined, you could also route various other hardware through the filters and effects. In addition to that, you will also find a six-mode arpeggiator, accent, and mute functions, as well as a nifty Advanced Mode, which allows each track to have an independent length.
Sonically, the Analog Four sounds nothing short of amazing. It can easily be used for achieving anything from crisp, punchy drums to huge distorted lead synths to beautiful atmospheric pads. It has a very distinguished warm feel and lends itself to some very inspirational ideas once you’ve got yourself familiar with it (which may actually take a little while, as the learning curve is quite steep). It should be noted that although the circuitry and signal path is entirely analog, the controls are digital, thus making this more of an analog/digital hybrid.
The verdict: This machine will no doubt win the hearts of many synth collectors and producers alike. The fully analog signal path results in a very warm and unique sound and the complex feature set will keep even the most advanced users busy for months on end. It is clear from the feature set that Elektron has also designed this machine with live performance in mind. Although opinions will differ on whether it is worth dishing out just over $1000 for a monophonic analog synthesizer as studios become increasingly in-the-box and digital-driven, it can’t be argued that Elektron has done quite a magnificent job and you can definitely produce some unique and mind-blowing results that wouldn’t using any other device.