2011 – present
In years to come, there’s a good chance we’ll look back on the Elektron Octatrack as a unique product in the history of sampling. The Octatrack was released in 2011, long after most of us thought the hardware sampler was a relic of a bygone era. Sure, there are still plenty of MPC fiends around, and plenty of vintage samplers lurking in studio racks for occasional use, but the vast majority of companies which made samplers have shifted their attention to other areas since the arrival of powerful, affordable music software all but destroyed the hardware sampler market.
Elektron is a company which likes to do things its own way
Before the announcement of the Octatrack it seemed highly unlikely that any new companies would move into the high-end hardware sampler arena, but Elektron is a company which likes to do things its own way. The Octatrack redefines what a hardware sampler can be. ‘Ableton in a box’ is a clumsy and not altogether accurate way to describe the unit, but it’s probably the easiest way to sum up its appeal in four words. Unlike the hardware samplers of the past, the Octatrack is a tool for the modern era, with a lot of the flexibility you might expect from software, particularly in the way it handles time-stretching and pitch-shifting loops and tempo-dependent samples.
As with most Elektron products, there’s way more to the Octatrack than you might first realise, from real-time effect processing to resampling. The sequencer itself is as impressive as you’d expect from Elektron, allowing for some truly powerful applications (including sequencing other gear over MIDI, forming the centrepiece of a hardware-based studio or live setup). It’s a complex machine to get to grips with, but it’s already had a significant impact in the short time it’s been on the market, seeming to have found itself in just as many live setups as it has studios. Artists as diverse as Alan Braxe, Mumdance and Zombie Nation have raved about it in interviews with us.
Only time will tell whether the Octatrack will be viewed as a last hurrah for hardware samplers or the first of a new generation of truly 21st-century models. We can’t help hoping it’s the latter.