The sonic potential of the device is staggering. In addition to its obvious basic functionality as a drum sampler and sequencer, the range of real-time processing options on offer make the Octatrack much more than a sample playback machine. Tempo-synced retriggering, sample start point manipulation, slicing, LFOs, parameter locks (similar to those found on the Monomachine and Machinedrum) plus a range of good quality effects (compression, EQs, filters, reverb and delay, among others) make this a very versatile instrument. And it really should be considered an instrument.
It’s a device which encourages creativity in all sorts of ways, from sampling your own sounds (an idea which ironically seems to have fallen by the wayside over recent years thanks to the dominance of software ‘sampler’ plugins which don’t actually allow users to sample) to chopping up, mangling and re-arranging loops using hands-on techniques. This isn’t just a device which allows you to realise the ideas in your head; it’s a device which helps you discover completely new sounds.
Perhaps the idea which excites us most about the Octatrack is its potential for live use. We’ve already seen the Octatrack popping up in live rigs and we think we’ll see it a lot more in the future. The inclusion of cue outputs and user-friendly tempo syncing features make this a very interesting tool for live performers – a tool without the potential instability of software alternatives.
The Octatrack represents a truly original and unique approach to hardware sampling. Not only does it re-emphasise the creative potential of sampling your own sounds, but it offers a radically updated and more advanced feature set than any existing hardware sampler.
Elektron’s commitment to updating the Octatrack’s machines and adding features with additional firmware updates will play a major part in determining the long-term success of the unit. Based on the company’s past record, we’re confident that users will receive significant support for the lifetime of the product.
Our only major gripe is that it’s hard to understand why Elektron chose to equip the Octatrack with just two main outputs and two cue outputs. It’s a decision which effectively means you’re forced to carry out all of your processing within the unit, rather than offering the option of routing individual samples to dedicated outputs. There doesn’t appear to be any provision for future upgrades, meaning you’ll have to go through the tedious process of bouncing out individual pairs of stereo channels if you want the freedom to process sounds independently further down the line. Many great hardware samplers of the past have left the factory with just a single pair of stereo outputs, but they’ve usually future-proofed themselves with slots for expansion boards and individual outputs. We can’t understand why a sampler in 2012 wouldn’t offer the same.
However, despite this one major failing, we can’t help loving the Octatrack for what it represents – a very contemporary, highly flexible approach to sampling, to creativity in the studio and to live performance.
The comparison with Ableton Live is obvious, but probably justified. Where Ableton’s loop-based software approach revolutionised the DAW world, introducing features which catered to the needs of producers making sample-focussed music, the Octatrack offers a similar approach in hardware. It may not be quite so simple as ‘Ableton in a box’, but in the same way that Live genuinely changed the way numerous producers and DJs worked, we think the Octatrack will go down in history as a watershed moment in the history of sampling.
Purchase: Electron Octatrack DPS-1
The Final Word
A truly revolutionary addition to the world of sampling – software or hardware.