Octatrack mkII Impressions - Two Months After Purchase

Smart People:

  • Made this incredible machine
  • Are interested in this perplexing machine
  • Are already rocking this beast of a machine

I was truly worried about buying an expensive electronic musical instrument that was running an 8-year-old engine. I mean, best practice suggests you don’t do something like that. Obsolete out of the box, etc.

Well… I guess when you get it right like this those rules don’t apply. I would seriously consider buying a second as a backup and I just might unless something else comes along that moves things to the next level.

I am a long-tooth, passionate musician and I have a wealth of education and experience in the field of music and tech to draw from. I’ve been doing this long enough to know what I want, and people… this is it. I haven’t wanted to write a “review” like this on a piece of gear in a long time, but this one deserves it.

I got mine open-box / clearance with old firmware, a memory card that was missing the factory content, and some kinda weird test projects on the memory card. Thanks to a near immediate response to my post for help from this great community, I was downloading the factory content in no time. A simple firmware update procedure, erase and load the memory card, and voila… back to new!

Yeah… I was excited! And I stayed at that state for awhile… days… excited… and pretty much totally unsure how to use the thing. It is well established that this is not an open-the-box-and-start-playing kind of device. In fact, the store manager where I bought it said people return them all the time because they can’t figure out how to use them. Well… I suppose there’s somewhat of a threshold to entry that not all will meet. But thanks to one of those nice folks I got a good deal :slight_smile:

Gratification was far from immediate. I spent several days reading the manual, watching demonstration vids, and whiteboarding how I would use it before I actually got going with it. And my first few projects had various errors having to do with me not yet completely grasping how the Octatrack works. But with determination and through repetition a workflow began to arise and before I knew it…

I can setup a base 8-track project in under 60 seconds and because it is a robust hardware solution the performance is immediate and reliable.

OK… for just a little context… I have used Ableton Live since version 4 and I love it.

But I wanted to be able to make music without needing my computer and now I am. This long-tooth musician truly appreciates that. It is difficult to express just how valuable an immediate and reliable solution like this really is. I think other long-tooth musicians know what I mean. At a minimum it does not impede a creative workflow. Applied thoughtfully it enhances your creative workflow.

That’s the extent of this “review”. If it reads all over the place then it flows like my music :wink: Other good folks have well covered all the features and how to use them. I really just wanted to put out there that I felt angst over buying an Octatrack in 2020 but now that I’ve had it for a little while… I’d buy another one :slight_smile:

Thank you, Team Elektron and the Elektronaut community. You have my gratitude.

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amen

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Octatrack is awesome, the more you learn it the more you learn it is.

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Thanks for this review, I sold lot of stuff to refill my “music gear budget” and I also want to buy an “expensive” gear for the first time. OT, AR, something else… not decided yet but It’s cool to read a good experience with at newbie OT in 2020.
+1 for OT :slight_smile:

Gotta say that I never totally clicked with my OTMKI. I enjoyed it and had fun, but it seemed kind of superfluous in my studio as I didn’t use it to its fullest extent. I sold it last February or so and didn’t look back until about 2 months ago. I ended up picking up a used MKII in February and I’m really happy I did. The MKII extra buttons make things a bit quicker and more intuitive, and I think my overall growth in the technical aspects of production and hardware made it click a lot better. I plan on keeping this mamajama for a good long while.

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IMHO real best practice suggests to buy “finished” products (== went through a few years of ironing out bugs and usage problems) and don’t run after the latest shiny something.

Happy OT’ing!

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That was a fun review to read.
Thanks for posting it.

I love the OT.
I’ve always loved it to some extent, but recently I finally arrived at a place where I can say I fully understand it.

There’s the Octatrack.
You can make it work, you may not fully “get” it, but you can at least get by with using samples, midi, LFOs, and scenes to make music. You understand the sequencer and the the core functions.

Then there is the Groktatrack.
The beast full of capabilities that you are familiar with enough to go to and implement when your creative path requires them. You fully “Grok” what this thing can do.
This includes one shot recorder trigs, live sampling/looping, live slicing, switching Parts across recorder configs, etc.
The REC Setup menus no longer do your head in.

I gotta say, the Groktatrack is a whole lot of fun!

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Can’t wait for my octatrack to turn into a groktatrack!

Edit: almost there :alien::v:

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Took me over a year to warm up to mine. I kept thinking of it as a convoluted digitakt, when I should have been thinking of it as its own thing. The crossfader is what won me over eventually. As a tool for creative expression, I find that manipulating scenes to be really immediate, even if the set-up sometimes is not.

Despite the frustration factor of learning the UI, I think I understand why Elektron have kept the OT more or less the same from mk1 to mk2. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m still ready to see an ambitious follow-up from elektron to the OT but I’m not parting with mine any time soon.

LOL :rofl:

I’m somewhere on my journey between the two. I still know nothing about arranger mode, midi arp, and onboard sample editting beyond auto slicing. There are so many latent synergies between all the various elements I feel like I am truly just scratching the surface where techniques are concerned.

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as active user of OTmk2, i can truly state, that this machine came from the future at the moment of release.
currently, almost all my projects being composed with the OT.

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Shhhhhhh! That is supposed to be a secret, we don’t talk about it.

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Hey OW… I’m interested to know how you’re using the Octa… sample mangling? sequencing? backing tracks?

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I’m madly in love with my OT, after a recent repurchase. I ended up reluctantly selling my first one 18 months ago, at a point where I was just coming to understand how powerful it was but I was in a terrible personal and financial situation so i had no choice …skip to now and as soon I switched it on it was like someone else was in control, pure muscle memory and I am navigating it faster and with more ease than even my Rytm mk2…something about the ui actually always made sense to me, and I’ve been making full tracks with nothing but the input noise and comb filters, slicing up sample chains, SCW’s and controlling my eurorack entirely via midi to cv…man I missed this thing, it’s by some distance my fave piece of kit.

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same. My muscle memory is strongest on the OT compared to most other gear I have

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And then you try to understand the pickup manual page.
:woozy_face:

after that: wtfoctisthis!

Somehow I came to understand pickup machines prior to flex live rec looping.

In neither scenario did the manual really help me “get it”. Reading the manual now, the info is there, it’s just not in an easily digestible form.
To grock it, I watched quite a few videos, all of which skimmed over key details, all of which did things slightly differently. Because of that fragmentation, it wasn’t enough.
I had to experiment with the little bits I was learning, and then the picture started to take form. Eventually I knew what I was looking at.

An early hurdle for me was understanding that Rec 1 and Rec 2 setup settings are on a per track basis. Not global.
Imagine trying to figure out the various ways to record on the OT, when working under that false understanding.

So yea, now I am working on a printable guide that explains Flex live recording and looping, with step by step details on how to set it up. Having authored and edited technical manuals at various jobs over the last 15 years, I don’t mind going through the process. As long as it helps people to grock it earlier. I’m on the second draft now.

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i’m using it exclusively for sampling and midi control. also, recently i’ve discovered arrange mode. this is great.

This thread turns me off of the Octatrack, strictly due to it’s insane learning curve. Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage to dive in. You folks are more brave than I.

That “insane learning curve” is overstated often.
To put a few samples in the octatrack and get to sequencing is dead easy.
To hook up gear to OTs midi, run it to Thru machines, is very simple.
Using FX, neighbor tracks and building scenes is easy and FUN.

Yep, there’s a lot of more complex things you can do with the OT, but at its base functionality, i wouldn’t say the learning curve is steep at all.

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