Is a Digitone easy to handle?

I’ve been looking into buying a Digitone & an Octotrack mkI second hand (they are about the same price on the second hand market).

I have an Analog Four and even if I’m not much of a patch guy, I do like creating some sounds on my own from time to time or edit some existing one to my liking.

So the question is: As the Digitone is FM based, will it be hard to create patch on it? From what I’ve seen, all the settings on the 8 algos (ratio?) are total non-sense for me and it seems everything will be just try&error and just hoping for the best haha.
Did you succeed in controlling the beast?

I guess they are quite a lot of soundbanks already but I like soft, bright or dark keys/pads and not so much of the harsh stuffs. Is it any good for this kind of sounds?
I’ve listened to all the samples on the site, cenk stuff and the thread dedicated to the Digitone and I like what I hear, especially drums/bass (but cenk and many of the talented people in here could make anything sound magic so I doubt I can do even half of what they do!)

The Digitone seems to be able to handle bass/drums very nicely so I was seeing this as an extension to my A4 (I’m still pondering buying an other A4 though but it would be nice to increase my sound palette with something else).

How does the Digitone fits into your other Elektron gear? What do you use it for the most? (drums? pads? bells? metallic sounds? bass?) Any limitations? (no song mode? no arp for external midi controlled gear?)

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Digitone is quite easy to program. Much easier than Yamaha fm (though those are actually quite easy to if you give it a few hours to understand what is going on). If anything, just changing algorithms is a quick way to get (sometimes good, sometimes bad) results. Think of it as a macro control that totally changes the way the various sound producers and sound modifiers are arranged.

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There is a learning curve with the Digitone, just like with any piece of gear. You’re ahead of the curve considering you already know your way around the Elektron workflow with the A4. That being said, the Digitone is an extremely capable device in many categories.

Taming it in order to write patches has taken a little time, due to the nature of FM. But it’s not too difficult because there are so many patches that vary greatly in sound. You can easily reverse engineer any one of those sounds. It’s been said that the Digitone FM is much easier to program than other FM synths due to the ratios being more restricted. This means you can tweak knobs / settings and come up with musically pleasing results very often. I use mine for Basslines that growl, sliding bubbly acid leads, static feedback textures, playful arps, metallic hihats, etc… The DN can also operate great as a traditional digital synthesizer (almost sounds VA) by using one side of the x/y fader.

The workflow is very quick to get around. 8 voices and 4 tracks makes it easy to come up with complete song ideas. On board FX are really good too, plus other things like Unison and Portamento. I would say it is not very quick to produce drums on due to it’s 4 track limitation. In order to get a busy drum track, you have to load sounds into the sound pool and work with sound locks. Don’t get me wrong, the DN can make a great drum machine, however it takes more time to get pleasing results from it.

Utilizing scale per track and conditional trigs gets me 8 bar patterns with good variation throughout. The song mode for me is just making multiple patterns and manually switching them. Muting / Unmuting as I go.

My Digitone is the heart of my setup. I use it’s midi capabilities in conjunction with a Midi Solutions Quadra Thru to control 4 other external synths. It’s a dope piece of gear, I will always speak very highly of it. It was a game changer for my productivity.

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The new graphics added in the update make it a lot easier to understand what is being adjusted

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Thank you for your reply!

I’m no sound designer so bear with me but I think I could create a brass or string like pad quite quickly on the A4 or any other subtractive based synth. Did you get around to go like I want this kind of sound then I’ll use this algo with i-dont-know-what with the Digitone or you need to fiddle a lot before?
This is the only thing I’m worrying.

Thank you for thorough reply!

Do you know if the onboard FX are any different from the A4? (I like the reverb a lot. chorus and delay are serviceable but nothing exciting about them).

For the patching, I see. I guess trying to play around with the presets would be a good starter and then move on trying to create something new from scratch!

As for drums, from the demo, the presets sound really good so I could go with that!
I already use sound locking extensively on my A4 to fit them on one track so if I had 2 to 3 tracks (one/two on the A4 and one/two the Digitone), I guess I’d be happy with that (until I start to think otherwise haha)

Song mode would be nice from time to time because I like to play the guitar on top of it (like that: https://youtu.be/XwyLf_QcCko) and dealing with muting/unmuting can be hard haha or if I could switch the patterns from a foot controller that’d be nice!

The A4+Digitone with all the external midi capabilities could be a nice combo… haaaa, choices!!

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Digitone seems complicated coming from a subtractive synth background, but once you start tweaking (or loading patches and building from there), everything becomes clear very quickly. You mentioned not liking harsh stuff, so don’t raise the ratios on the SYN1 page too much - stick somewhere between 0.5 and 3ish depending on which octave you’re playing in - and keep the levels (FM) of A and B in the 0-30 range on the SYN2 page and you’ll find very some smooth sounds, especially with the subtractive style filters.

The thing is with FM is that the range of possible sounds is truly vast. So have fun experimenting and learning how all the parameters interact. And definitely make use of the two LFOs per track as they can get you in some wild territory very easily. The three FX (and master distortion) are sooo good, that they can smooth out sounds easily.

Also, you mentioned the draw backs of not having song mode or midi arps etc, but if you’re buying the OT Mki as well, then know that it has both of these things and it’s a truly amazing machine in and of itself. Plenty of sonic possibilities :slightly_smiling_face:

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You can setup pattern chains to do a pseudo song mode, so that might get you closer to what your doing. Or use the A4 as master sequencer, to sequence pattern changes. I believe this could work, no? As for the FX, I like the reverb a lot. Can’t compare to A4 because I’ve never owner one.

Also, here is a video I did of some drum patterns on the Digitone. Might give you a better idea of how it sounds. It’s not an 808 or anything like that, it’s definitely got it’s own FM drum flavor.

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Forgot to mention the master overdrive! Thanks @craig It’s really nice and can lightly glue the 4 tracks together. LFOs def. help in experimenting with sounds and getting more movement out of them.

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Thank you for your reply and detailed explanation of the parameters to stay in the soft zone!
I’ve read many people being very pleased with the master distortion so that could be a nice touch!

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Plus you have the choice of different two low pass filter or a high pass filter. Additionally there is also a width filter to help shave off highs / lows. The filters can make it work like a subtractive synthesizer, therefore achieving the “soft” side is not too difficult.

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as for the Octotrack I’m still thinking about it but live sampling (guitar/voice) with some sample + FX + MIDI would really complete the picture. Perhaps too much power for me though haha

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Indeed perhaps I could change the pattern of the Digitone by using the song mode of the A4, would need to try though!

Really nice drum sounds coming out of the Digitone, love it! Did you create them?

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Yes, baby steps perhaps. I had DN for a good year or so before going for the OT again - I couldn’t handle it first time around haha. Now those two are pretty much my whole set up - I spent a week creating my ultimate guitar patch using the OT alone. Amazing machine but you need to commit some serious hours to it to really make the most out of it :slightly_smiling_face:

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great to hear!

yeah, it seems a really great machine but I’ve been watching videos on it and well, that’s not for the faint of heart! But once you know how to use it, it seems like a killer master “control room” for all the gear. Was wondering how it will fit the picture as it does not have Overbridge. so the second hand market price is attractive (and I like the mk1 design the best! it fits my A4mk1) but I need to think seriously of how I would use it! Glad to hear you made guitar sounds with it, you’re aggravating my GAS though haha

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I’ve only had my Digitone for about 3 weeks now (my first FM hw synth) and it is already getting more intuitive to find my way around the synth engine. I’ve mostly been sticking to algorithm 1 and learning how the operators react with each other within that setup.
I’ve been getting some really nice softer sounds as well as metallic mayhem!
With another 7 algorithms the possibilities are pretty endless, will take years to master.

This is a really good tutorial by @Eaves on showing how to quickly create beautiful pad and lead sounds very simply. I just watched it last night, great video.

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great tutorial! thank you for the share!

I believe most of these drums were presets and throughout the patterns I’m using CTR-AL to modify their sounds. Drums can sound really punchy! Another good thing is you can do pitched percussion really easy on the Digitone.

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I really like the A4 FX but I prefer the DN FX - they sound thicker and lusher to my ears. On the whole they are pretty much the same though.

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