Sad GAS ramblings
My GAS has been focused on the same two items in the past four months or so, and the thoughts and conclusions go around in the same kind of circle: Polyend Tracker Mini and/or Ableton Push 3.
Here’s my thinking: I’m having so much fun with the Syntakt, which is about the only thing I currently own aside from the SP-404 mk2 (which never gets any use and should definitely be sold). Particularly the ctrl+all feature of the Syntakt is such an endless source of inspiration and happy accidents. I’ve made more full-sounding songs in the past 8 months than I managed during my two years with the MPC - which, back then, was my most productive period to date. The reason for the increase in creative output is also because I committed to the process of recording jams on YouTube, then mixing in the DAW and moving on to the next idea. Whereas on the MPC, although it was really easy to finish songs there thanks to the full automation and DAW-like capabilities, the songs never left that platform and I didn’t have a YouTube channel at the time so I had little incentive to actually publish (i.e
However, while the Syntakt has a number of really nice sounding sweet spots, I can’t help but thinking that it’s a bit limiting as a standalone music making device. I sat down with it yesterday to try to recreate a new song that was never finished on the MPC. I immediately missed the ability to easily play nice pad chords, or to dial in a bit more lush and round tones, maybe with some chorus or similar effects. I also struggled with fitting in the sequence into the 64 steps. This isn’t a problem when you make new music from scratch on the Syntakt, but it shows up immediately when you try to recreate something that was composed elsewhere.
More generally, I also miss the occasional polyphonic arp. And even more importantly, I miss the (re)sampling capability which I know leads to so many pleasant surprises - looking back at it, that was probably the most fun part of the MPC.
Why the Polyend Tracker Mini? I’ve always loved the idea of portability and standalone music making devices. I make nearly all of my music in bed (!) up until the point when it’s time for recording a jam and proceeding to mixing. I do wish the Syntakt would have a built-in battery. The PTM does - and it even has a built-in microphone! I’m sure that would be a lot of fun.
But then that would be yet another standalone device that isn’t really doing everything I want it to do. Eight monophonic tracks is even more limiting than the twelve monophonic tracks of the Syntakt. But the idea is then that they would sort of complete each other and that I’d derive more fun from both by plugging them together.
But, and this is a big but, I already know how much I dislike hooking stuff up together. First of all, that totally rules out bedside music making. I can’t stand all the cables and the thought of keeping a song idea across two devices and having to think about how to keep things in sync. I’ve already tried this both with the MC-101 and the SP-404 mk2 and I just know I won’t like that more with the PTM. Perhaps just a tad more just because it’s so small and portable, but the cable mess would be the same.
Enter the Push 3. Now I’m back in MPC land, because this is basically a controller for a full-blown DAW. And it solves my main gripe with the MPC, which is that I never loved the effects on the MPC. Particularly the reverbs felt lackluster compared to anything I could dial in on the Syntakt or my DAW. And when I was doing the mixing, I always felt like I was stuck with a subpar DAW experience (the MPC2 software on the PC/Mac just isn’t a graceful experience) unless I chose to export stems, which was always a massive chore. The Push 3 solves all that because it’s paired with one of the best DAWs in the industry. I don’t care about VSTs and would rather avoid that endless hole of digital GAS (VAS?) and I’ve been perfectly fine with the stock plugins of my DAW of choice to date, Reason 10. I’m sure the stock plugins in Live Suite 11 would be just as good.
The problem? The Push 3 is prohibitively expensive, especially considering that I don’t own Live Suite either. I thought the Syntakt was an expensive investment when I bought it used for around €580. Well, the Push and Live combo would cost 3.5X as much!! And that doesn’t even include the sunk cost of having spent years learning Reason 10 and spending money on that license too…
But then I’m thinking that Reason 10 is really starting to show its age. It’s the last license that doesn’t work as a VST plugin in other DAWs so unfortunately it’s entirely standalone. It’s super sluggish on my top modern MacBook Pro and I’ve always found it annoyingly cumbersome for basic things like sidechaining and effect chains in general. So I’m thinking: maybe I’d be better off with Ableton Live anyway?
But then I’m thinking, what do I do with the Syntakt if I get a Push 3? Would I still jam with the Syntakt on the side or alternate between the two? I remember when I got the MPC, I immediately lost interest in the Digitone and Digitakt combo and got rid of them both. I suspect I’d have a similar feeling about the Syntakt once I had a Push 3 in my lap.
So, round and round we go with the GAS. In conclusion:
- I shouldn’t be looking at the Polyend Tracker Mini because it will be yet another incomplete package that I won’t enjoy using as a companion to the Syntakt. But I can’t stop thinking about it anyway because it looks so fun and accessible.
- The Push 3 seems like the holy grail of “unlimited” grooveboxes, but it’s ridiculously expensive and the thought of shelling out that much for it is off-putting to me. But I also suspect that this is where I’ll eventually end up at some point.
Please help me…