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bloodsample 19th November 2011 05:31 PM

Elektron Octatrack DPS-1
 
Disclaimer
I'm by no means an audiophile. This is my first hardware sampler. This is my first elektron machine. I'm not a glitch/sample crazy person (at least I wasn't until I met the octatrack heh).

I'm no expert Octatrack user so I won't pretend to be. The octatrack does a lot of different things for different people so this will only cover my personal experience with it.


Note
Firmware version at the time of writing: 1.03B


I'm not going to outline the features as these can be found on the Elektron website.

After a few months of using the Octatrack these are my overall impressions:

User Interface
There is a bit of a learning curve initially but once you understand how things are laid out and you memorize a few button shortcuts it's all smooth sailing from there. I admit I was a little worried that I would constantly need to have the manual open next to me, but after a few days the training wheels came right off and I was riding like a big boy. I'm now completely sold on the Elektron interface and I finally get the hype.

The best way to put it is like when you first learned to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Initially you were slow and not so productive, and you were constantly looking at your fingers. After a bit of practice you got better, and faster. And now I can say with confidence that the Octatrack is like a second keyboard. I don't think about how I need to do something, I just think about doing it and my hands automatically push the right buttons. It's really amazing how they managed to pack this many knobs and buttons and still make it easy to use. Hats off to them.

MIDI
No complaints here. I use the Octatrack as my main hardware sequencer now. I just find it very quick to setup and use. I can record notes in real time using a MIDI keyboard, or punch them in manually in the sequencer. In a matter of minutes I can program a sequence for all 5 of my hardware synths. Heck I even use the Octatrack to sequence soft synths. Each step for each track can have up to 4 notes at once (for chords). In addition, you have 4 CC messages per track per step. All of these parameters (including note length, velocity, etc) can be changed per step using parameter locks. You can either set these properties manually per step, record them in real time (read: automation) or assign one of the 3 LFOs (per track) to modulate them. There is also a very nice arpeggiator which can be quantized to a specific key (which can be very useful for generating melodies if you're not feeling particularly creative that day).

Sampling
The sampling actually got me scratching my head at first. I have to admit it doesn't have the most intuitive sampling workflow. Now mind you I'm not a sampling guy traditionally so maybe this was just an extra learning curve for me. You would think that a big red button labeled "Record" would allow you to start sampling right away, right? Wrong. You have to push quite a few buttons before you can actually start sampling. I generally understand the need for this, as you have to first set some parameters up, like how long you want to sample for, which of the 4 inputs you want to sample from, which track you want to sample onto, how you want to playback this sample, etc. It would be useful to have a quick simple sampling mode for when an idea just pops in your head. It seems like the Octatrack's sampling is geared towards electronic music where you already have loops running and want to sample them in real time. But if you're a musician and want to record some guitar parts for example then it's a little less intuitive. I can't really blame them for this, but it's something worth noting.

Once you've finally captured your sample that's where the real fun begins. You now have a sample playground. Editing the sample is straightforward but takes some getting used to. You have your usual trimming and slicing features, with the ability to automatically create slices and assign them to trigs on the sequencer. To slice and trim you use the 6 knobs (you can zoom, pan, move the start marker, end marker, loop marker, etc). I find this a little slower than using the mouse, but with some practice it's not that bad. The real power comes in using the sequencer with parameter locks. This is where the real glitchy madness begins. In a few seconds you can turn your standard sample into something completely different. Some of the parameters include note repeats, pitch, rate, amplitude envelope plus the 2 optional effects. Each of these parameters can be set individually per step. You can quickly see how crazy this can get. All of this can be done in real time seamlessly. You can even keep sampling as you make the changes so everything is affected live. Unlike on the MD-UW the ocatrack has dedicated recorders always available on each track, you don't need 2 separate tracks for recording and playback.

Effects
Each track can have up to 2 effects. But you can also chain neighbouring tracks together if you want to add more effects (but you're then losing audio tracks). In theory you can have up to 8 effects chained together (you can only neighbour up to 4 tracks, eg tracks 1-4 and 5-8 can be linked).

You get all the standard effects you'd expect. Filter, EQ, chorus, phaser, delay, reverb, etc. To my ears they sound pretty good. But I haven't been spoiled with 1000$+ effects units, so keep that in mind. I probably wouldn't use the Octatrack as my only effects box (although it's certainly capable of taking on that task). I think of the effects more as sound shaping tools for the samples rather than just standard effects. For example I find the Lo-Fi effect (which features your standard, bit rate and sample rate reduction, distortion, etc) very useful, especially on drums.

My only gripe about the effects is the reverb, which is only a plate reverb. I would have preferred to see a more generic Hall reverb just to give room to certain sounds without changing their tonal characteristics (the plate reverb has a "sound" which you can't really ignore and doesn't work on everything). I've heard however that Elektron is working on new effects for future firmware updates so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Jack of all Trades
The Octatrack can do a lot of different things. I think this is where the true power of the Octatrack lies. Sure on paper the Ocatrack is just another glitch box, but what I love the most about it is the vast potential it has. I'm still learning something new about it every day. For example I've loaded some single cycle waves into it the other day and was amazed by how good a synth the Octatrack can be. It has your basic amp envelope and 12/24b multimode filter. Combine that with the Lo-Fi effect and you suddenly have 8 mean sounding monosynths.

For a few weeks I've also used it solely as a drum machine. I filled up the CF card with nothing but single shot drum samples and the Octatrack suddenly became my go to drum machine and MIDI sequencer.

The parameter locks also exponentially enhance the Octatrack's potential. You can go from a generic sample to something completely new and original in a few seconds. Best of all the results are musical most of the time.

Final Thoughts
Sure the Ocatrack isn't perfect. There are some things I would have done differently (like initiating sampling). But Elektron are constantly improving the firmware and they seem to be listening to people's demands, so this is a huge plus.

I have to admit when I first heard of the Octatrack I couldn't see any use in it for me. I kept hearing demos of weird glitchy insane manipulations which weren't my cup of tea. Now that I've had it for a few months I'm starting to see tons of potential in this machine. If anything it's an inspiration factory. Being able to start with something simple and turn it into something interesting in a few seconds gives me a great feeling. The workflow and interface are so good that it has even made me explore other genres of music. I loved working with it so much that I recently bought a machinedrum to go along with it. I'm not an Elektron fanboy by any means but I'm now strongly starting to reconsider my equipment and workflow philosophy.

Elektron reminds me of Apple in a way. Sure they have fancy marketing and seemingly expensive hardware, but none of that matters in the end if the user interface doesn't feel right. I don't care how much they spend on marketing, and I don't care how much their products cost if in the end it's extremely enjoyable to use and makes me happy. Similarly both companies have haters and fanboys. I used to be an Apple hater, and I never understood elektron's appeal. But now having tried both I haven't looked back. I'm not a fanboy, just a consumer that enjoys using products that just seem to work and make you happy and more productive. Of course, just like Apple products aren't for everyone, Elektron products aren't for everyone either. I have a feeling if you like using Apple products you will greatly enjoy using Elektron products. And if you're a PC person, switch to a Mac already (kidding ... hidz)

Ok I have no idea where this Apple analogy came from, sorry for the tangent...


I think the monomachine is definitely next on my list boing

heh

Tokesalot 25th April 2012 04:30 PM

Elektron octatrack dps-1
 
1 Attachment(s)
I recently bought an ELEKTRON OCTATRACK DPS-1 from Novamusik.com, with which Novamusik sent a free case also.

Learning the OCTATRACK is fairly difficult, which I still haven't done well enough yet. ELEKTRON'S video tutorials are very short and not very in-depth. No videos of sequencing outboard gear with the OCTATRACK, or sequencing patterns even, especially for those who are not familiar with their other gear. I have written the company online and they have yet to get back to me, and it has been over three weeks. I signed up for their forum and still haven't gotten accepted yet, and it has been over two months. I am not happy with their customer service or their forum yet.

Sampling is easy on the OCTATRACK. Audio Editing is fairly easy.

I am extremely happy with the sound of the OCTATRACK. The effects are pretty cool and very useful too. My friend Dmitri SFc, who is more familiar than I am with samplers and drum machines, really thought the OCTATRACK was really well built, "better and more professional feeling than the Chinese made gear" was his observation.

Although I am having trouble learning how to use the OCTATRACK, I still feel it is so fat sounding that it would be unwise to ever let it go. The OCTATRACK sounds so good with my Roland TB-303 DevilFish, and Dave Smith Instruments Tempest it has me very excited about the future..

suntsu 30th August 2012 08:14 AM

Elektron Octatrack - DPS1
 
I’ve recently bought the Octatrack from Elektron and I must admit that this machine rocks a lot ! The Octatrack is an intuitive melting pot made of different machines and it’s really difficult to categorize it !

Anyway, I’m really enjoying the Octatrack because I can feel myself comfortable anywhere with just the Elektron Octatrack, a DSI Mopho, a Korg Monotribe (Amazing Machines Midi kit) and my headphone.

I know that many people are complaining about the “slow learning curve” of the Elektron Octatrack but in my case it took me about 24h (real hours) to master all the functions !
Don’t fear the Octatrack, the Octatrack has been perfectly crafted and every functionnality is intuitive if you understand the logic that lies behind.

What I also like very much, is the fact that the Elektron Machines are evolving machines becoming more and more powerful over time like with the last recent major update (v1.2) which add the “Pickup Machines”.

dionysiananarchy 21st September 2012 08:42 AM

octatrack,
 
had this thing about a week, its a great mix of simple and bizarre, something are implemented strangely,

the sound quality is pretty good, not great, but the features and sound shaping more than make up for it,

the sequencer is more complete then other elektron gear. individual track lengths and resolutions,

2 sets of stereo in, those take tracks though,

midi is really good, 8 tracks, same sequencer improvements,

the time stretching is great, 2 effects per track, those are great,

some things are overly complex, to get different tracks lengths, its like 4 steps, then,, it doesn't start when you turn the sequencer on,,, u have to press the first trigger of that track,,, that's just stupid,,, the resolution is weird as well, u have to press a trigger button, press another button, then move that trigger to a different place,,,,,, stupid,,,

i don't use too much of the annoying stuff, i love this thing, its the fastest way to make a great track i have ever used,

Daisuk 1st April 2013 12:21 AM

Takes some time to master - but wow, will it reward you!
 
I had got the Machinedrum and the Monomachine prior to getting an Octatrack, and since I both love them to bits, I had high hopes for the Octatrack's arrival.

The first 24 hours with the machine was quite a letdown. I struggled hard to find my way around its (many) different functions, and constantly had to refer back to the manual for every little thing I tried to do. I didn't find the parameters you could use to effect the sound had the magic I somehow expected it to have beforehand. Even sampling seemed to be a tough task with this thing, and I was thinking, "why the hell is it so hard to sample sounds with a $1000 sampler?!". I'm not quite sure what I had expected, but I went to bed the first night thinking, "damn, maybe I should sell this thing", not quite having figured out why the hell I bought it in the first place.

The next day I sat down with it again, figured out some more things, learned all of the basic button combinations, and actually figured out how to sample from external sources through a great tutorial posted by Tarekith on YouTube. Having understood the actual sampling feature of the Octatrack, learning the rest of this machine was an adventure. Pure fun.

After practising a good few hours, and having seen many useful tutorials on YouTube, I was slicing, dicing and mincing sound like a pro, creating obscure and weird remixes of the McGyver-theme (sampled from Youtube), a lyre bird song (from a BBC documentary) and the theme song from my favorite tv-show from when I was a kid (Portveien 2 - Norwegian). With just a few twists of some knobs, the sounds of these familiar melodies were completely alien. There's really no limit to how far you can process sounds with the Octatrack, without necessarily diminishing the sound quality. I've always found that putting a buckload of effects on a sound clip in for instance Ableton Live will always just grind down the sample to a boring mushy noisy blurp - but the sound engine inside the Octatrack doesn't degrade the sound everytime you resample something or add another effect to it (not necessarily anyway, obviously it depends a bit on how you go about adding your effects).

The Octatrack is incredibly deep, it has so many different ways you can use it, both live and in the studio (personally I have only used it in the studio and for a bit of jamming with some friends). So far I think I've pretty much tried about 50% of what this thing can do, if at all that much - and I am completely blown away.

I could rave on and on about how much fun this thing is to use, but I'd rather sum up my main thoughts about it in a good old pro's and con's section;

+ 8 tracks
+ incredible sample mangler
+ state of the art step sequencer (as with all the elektrons) with ability for parameter-locking
+ 3 LFO's per track and an LFO-designer, perfect for creating modulation to any of the parameters assigned to a particular track, great sound designing tool
+ slicing of a sound and assigning slices to steps is a breeze once you learn the basics
+ easy to load in your own samples from computer via USB
+ easy to sample from external sources once you learn the basics
+ 2 effect blocks of your choice assignable to each of the 8 tracks (everything from filter, reverb, comb filter, eq, distortion etc is at your disposal, word on the street is future OS updates will include even more effects)
+ track 8 can be used as a main mixer channel (with its own effect blocks)
+ lots and lots of features, including scene locks (controlled by the crossfader), "parts" (easy way to add variations to patterns), many different play modes
+ you can chain tracks together for even more powerful effect chains
+ there's lots of great tutorials for it on youtube!

- bit of a steep learning curve
- the manual is sometimes written in an overly complicated language, and a lot of times too derogatory for explaining things, should also have more examples and/or tutorials
- there is still no gate/threshold sampling mode available

My advice to anyone interested in an Octatrack would be - stick to it! Don't give up if you don't gel with the machine straight away. I had it for well over a week before I really started appreciating it, probably spending a good 12-14 hours with it before my first real "yeaaaah, this is way cool"-experience with it. If you put in the hours, you will be rewarded plenty with this thing. Incredibly deep and feature rich, inspirational and fun (as soon as you get the basic button combinations down) to use.

I have now had my Octatrack for only 3 weeks, but I can safely say that it has already proved to be one of my best gear buys ever - despite my initial urges telling me to sell the damn thing. Patience will reward you! Considering the fact that the Octatrack is a sampler, and what it is able to do to sound - there really is not limit to what you can squeeze out of this box - a truly magnificent instrument. Highly recommended.

Janus. 26th January 2016 06:39 PM

Offering a complex interface and functionality, the octatracks steep learning curve is salvaged by a level of utility and functionality that leaves it atop a heap of lesser hardware sequencer/ samplers

jurfin 27th January 2016 10:43 PM

I have been using the OT for the last six months or so. I have been playing guitar for sixteen years and have, in the last few years, become really drawn in to the world of first effects, and then synths, and now samplers. It is my first and only Elektron machine, and the second sampler I have ever owned. For reference, my first one was the Korg Electribe Sampler 2, which I did enjoy for various reasons, but ultimately I found it's limitations were less inspiring than the nearly endless possibilities of the OT.

I think my favorite thing about the OT is that it continues to surprise me. I feel like, even with all the time I have put into it, there are still many more secrets waiting to be revealed. To be honest, I have made a ton of different songs and jams with the OT, and I have yet to even begin to explore parts or the arranger! There is a world of depth here and this is what makes it a keeper for me.

The machine was expensive for me, considering I don't make very much money, but I traded an entire table full of gear for the OT, and I have yet to regret that trade even once. I traded a mono synth, a looper, a sampler, a reverb pedal, a DL4, and a Strymon Deco for my OT. I miss the Deco, mainly for the great guitar tones, but otherwise the OT handles everything else beautifully. My setup is way more simple now, and way more portable, and I can do SO much more, thanks to the OT.

People make a huge stink about learning the machine. I can't imagine a machine capable of this much being an instant gratification box. It takes a little time to get fluent with it, but... I'm a guitar player and I made a passable composition in my first few hours with it. You get out of it what you put in to it! It's really not hard at all...

I love this box. I can't wait to sit down with it and see what comes out next!