Is the A4 Redundant if you already have other Elektron Gear?

So I recently purchased a Digitone Keys that I absolutely love, and I was looking to pair an analog synth to it to expand voice count and tonal pallet. I also have a Model : Samples as well, but I plan on upgrading to an Octatrack at some point because I’d like to sample my synths, utilize the arranger, and use it as a looper for my guitar and a host of other things. I envision it as being a self contained OTB rig to write whole songs with.

My question is: Would the A4 be a bad choice / redundant if one has a octatrack and digitone? I figure I could sound design with any analog synth and sample it to the octatrack, then use the digitone keys as a controller for any polyphonic sequencing and playing with the fantastic keyboard. So what would the benefits of the A4 be over, say, a Novation Peak or Prophet Rev2? Is it worth getting it for it’s own built in sequencer and song mode? Am I better off getting an analog synth that has more voices or are there other multitimbral synths out there I should be looking at?

3 Likes

It’s definitely not redundant, but it depends what you want from your synth. It’s four voice polyphonic, using its own sequencer has benefits for p-locks, note slides etc, and it’s very deep for sound design. Whether it’s better or worse than other polys is very much a matter of personal taste however.

11 Likes

You get the outrageous deep Elektron sequencing but also incredible multi- timbral possibilities. The Multimap mode is crazy that way. Since you have the keys you might enjoy that.

Also I personally wouldn’t sample the A4, it’s way to lively and “real” IMO. My patches could never translate to samples. It’s more dynamic than most analogs to me. The others you mentioned are great synths but they don’t have all the facets of a strange and complex beastie like A4. And you already know the Elektron way so the learning curve won’t be bad.

5 Likes

Thanks for that!

Just making sure I understand:

  1. Played back samples lose some dynamics and “realness” of analog gear? This makes total sense to me, I guess I didn’t really think about how the A/D - D/A process could manipulate the sound.

  2. The MIDI sequencing of the Octatrack and Digitone isn’t as robust as the native sequencer in the A4? What would I be losing if I didn’t use it? I’d imagine the sound-per-step p-locks like I can do on the Digitone? Also, note slides are a new one to me. Does the Digitone have that feature? I’ve been using LFOs to simulate that haha.

I really, really love the sequencing workflow of Elektron stuff and it makes me never want to go back to programming stuff on a piano roll ever again. I would love to have that in an analog synth TBH, but I guess I just assumed the MIDI sequencing of my current gear could give me that with other gear. I guess I was expecting too much from that solution.

Definitely not redundant. The Digitone and A4 have radically different character despite the somewhat similar workflow. I’m not really familiar with the Peak, but I’ve used the Rev2 quite a bit in a buddy’s studio–A4 is more flexible and self-contained, but less immediate than the Rev2. The Rev2 sounds beautiful too.

Regarding polyphony—only you can answer that; I think it has a lot to do with the type of music you play. Also note that you can form chords with a single voice on the A4 just using the oscillator tuning and sub-osc.

Strongly recommend you listen to demos or play one for a bit and make sure the sound is to your liking; some like the tonal character of the A4, others don’t. I love it for what it is.

2 Likes

I think it is at least worth trying it out for anyone into synths, It just does so much, and having the separate layers for the sequencer (accent, slide, parameter slide and note mute) makes it really great for toying with a lot of ideas fast. I really feels like a complete package to me, probably the only elektron box I couldn’t just think of a half dozen improvements for. I think some of the dual filter brass and woodwind sounds are incredible than you can get out of it. That said I think of it more as 4 mono voices than can either do classic mono, drums or stab chords… you can play it in 4 voice mode but often there are better synths for the job for straight polyphony.

3 Likes
  1. I think sampling a short loop from an A4 loses the sense of movement present in analog synths, i.e. how the oscillators sound slightly different each bar as they drift subtly in terms of tuning. Just use OT’s Thru machines instead or constantly sample over and over again using the Flex recorders.

  2. There’s not really much point in sequencing one Elektron with another (unless it’s missing some features or you just want to control everything from one box), but you can still send arps and LFOs from the OT to either your DN or (future) A4 for even more options.

2 Likes

I don’t own an A4, but I do own a Digitakt and a Digitone. On my way to the DT/DN pairing, I ended up selling other gear that became redundant, at least to me.

However, one piece of gear that I did NOT sell was my Circuit Mono Station, a para-phonic analog synth with a Circuit-style sequencer. I can absolutely get squelchy, dirty, evolving analog craziness out of that box that I can’t get with my Elektron digital gear.

I can only imagine that the A4 is similar (but of course more powerful) because analog when pushed and combined with plocks and sound locks (which the Circuit Mono does too) has a character all its own that can be magical when combined with other synth/sampling methods.

Side note, I love having separate sequencers for each device, even with the DT and DN sequencers being so similar. I like mixing and matching my material and crunching things in different ways on each box when I perform live, and having powerful independent sequencing on each box lets me do that. So adding another powerful sequencer as part of the A4 gives you that independence if you want it.

My next Elektron box is going to be either the A4 MKII or perhaps the AR MKII, depending. The A4 would be my “upgrade” from the CIrcuit Mono, and the AR would be kind of like my “upgrade” from the DT.

tl;dr - not redundant

1 Like

For what it’s worth, I think the A4 and DN make an excellent pair. They’re both so versatile but cover a lot of different ground, so even with only 8 tracks between them, you can make a LOT happen in those 8 tracks.

6 Likes

This is a funny coincidence, as I made the same changes! Had a DT/DN/CMS, and now have a AR/DN/A4. The only thing I miss is the simple paraphonic mode on the CMS, but I love not dealing with sessions/pattern blocks when syncing gear.

I keep hoping for a simplified paraphonic mode for the A4. It can be done with P-locks or MIDI hacking, so just a matter of Elektron implementing it.

1 Like

Re: 1) that’s exactly what I meant by “dynamics”, it’s that each note is slightly different. A sample is too static to capture the A4 essence. It’ll sound great though, as a sample.

Totally agree with above comment about brass and woodwinds, those sounds just tumble out.

It’s a unique analog, which is kind of rare.

1 Like

Oh I think there’s a bit of confusion there. I don’t think I’d sequence the A4 with either DN or OT if I opted for it… what I meant was, does sequencing a polyphonic and multitimbral synth like a Rev2 with the DN make it somewhat close to the things you can do with the A4? I’d imagine not because the A4 has 4 completely autonomous tracks.

I guess I’m just struggling because part of me feels like I’d be paying extra for a synth that has a sequencer I sorta already have in the DN. From what it sounds like though, the MIDI sequencer in the DN isn’t as robust and flexible as the native one in the A4… so if I opt for another synth I’d be sacrificing control for different features like more voices of polyphony or different tonal character. Is this correct?

To work backwards, its not necessarily so that you can grab any analogue synth and just use the DN sequencer to get similar resaults…i own a few bits of analogue kit and all of them are controlled by an Elektron device sequencer…but not one bit of kit (poly or mono) sounds anything like my A4mkii even plugged into the DN effects…

The LFO rate over midi is much slower and doesn’t give you the 512K, 1K, 2K options to modulate parameters with plocks…but that’s not the sum of it…its just not the same…

Saying that there are plenty of synths that sound great controlled by the DN through the DN effects…i was about to throw my microbrute in the bin until I started controlling it s mod wheel and notes with the DN and letting it shine through the chorus, delay and reverb of the DN…a Moog sub benefits greatly in the same way, even an old Akai AX73 poly is a new instrument with the note value, mod and pitch wheels only being plocked by the DN…

The real power of the Elektron sequencer comes only into play when sequencing the internals of the device it is built-in (plocks, sound locks etc.pp.). So “no”, you don’t get the same by taking an other analog synth and try to sequence it by the DN.

Another great feature of the A4: you can use an external signal as oscillator (instead of the built-in oscillators) with all the sound shaping capabilities. Not many other analog synths allow this.

6 Likes

I’m definitely paying close attention to this thread. I have a DT and a DN and I do want to pair the DN with an analog synth.

If all they did with the A4 was give it a new colour it seems like they don’t intend to add any new features at a hardware level and are going to support it for a long time for its software, and I may buy it because of that.

That or they’re probably in development of another synth right now (A8 or better Digitone)

So what would the benefits of the A4 be over, say, a Novation Peak or Prophet Rev2? Is it worth getting it for it’s own built in sequencer and song mode?

Peak is only one part timbre and Rev 2 is bi-timbral (?) is a big draw for me right now, there isn’t really many other synths that are like the A4 out there.

Also has way more LFOs and envelopes compared to either.

It’s really down to the sound from what I read on it so far. If you won’t like the sound, the features won’t save it.

1 Like

Where I live, i have seen used A4s for as cheap as 650/400 $ for mk2/mk1. At that price, if yoir lookinfb for an analog synth and dont need it to be some 12 voice pad machine (although the A4 can do amazing 4 voice pads;) ) for me it would be a no brainer!
Some great features mentioned here already, but one that doesnt get much love but I think is great is the A4s effects have their own track and you can plock their parameters! Adds many more dimensions in movement! The cv sequencing tracks are also really great if you can use them in your setup.

2 Likes

It’s nothing like the Octatrack, model samples and digitone…
It’s a four voice analog synth!

Personally, I’d only really consider the A4 if I was going to use it as 4 independently sequenced monophonic voices. The polyphonic features it has always struck me as a bit of an afterthought… I mean, it works fine and can be used like that but everything else about the A4 is designed around being used as 4 monos.

There are quite a few desktop synths designed specifically around polyphonic operation that I would always reach for first. My personal favourite for pairing with a DN is a Nord Lead A1®.

…well, danjames…that’s a statement of somebody who never experienced truu analog…

“problem” with analog and polyvoicing is…only the very hi end range of truu analog poly synth have the breath to push analog magic for real…
an analog monovoice has always way more power and breath in it…
that’s an essential part, why modular systems are so powerful in their sonic bliss…
and u can easily call the a4 a modular system in a box…

and that’s why, apart from the fact that asking HERE will end up in a pretty unique choir, an a4 with it’s four individual mono voices is the most expressive i’ve ever touched…
u can play it poly like, though…by stacking all it’s four mono synth voices to one big sonic thing…
that’s 8 free running osc’s, all with dedicated subs…
so, asking for a4’s redundance level here is obsolete, as u might imagine by now…
not to mention the sequencer and it’s potential, ur already aware of…
once ur plocking these four truu analog voices individually (u won’t miss poly a lot then, promise) and it’s beautiful inner fx which have their own dedicated seqencer lane, u know right away that it’s a different next level, even in direct comparison to do the same thing with an dtone or a sample…

and sure u can freeze any analog sound by sampling it…but that remains from that point on, only that one mirrored moment, a single frame picture of it…a copy of a copy of a copy… :wink:
cool…but not breathing alive as the realtime everchanging inner magic of the real thing…

all digis had to leave me again these days…only kept the real sonic gamechangers…two ot’s, one heat, the cycles and the everlasting a4…

4 Likes

Of course, now that I responded to this thread, then spent the past hour or so doing some analog with the CMS combined with faking some analog sounds on the Digitone, my gas for the A4 is subsiding a bit.

With 8 tracks on the DT, 4 tracks/8 voices on the DN and that dirty paraphonic analog CMS, do I really NEED an A4?

“Need” is such a subjective word. lol

1 Like