Questions via E-mail

Carlin has kindly provided some Qs:

Q: What has been your biggest inspiration when designing products at Elektron?

A: It might sound a bit lame, but … Music! The end goal of making a synth, for me, is to make music with it.

Q: What are your core values when it comes to design?

A: No bullshit, as in keep it sensible, focused. Avoid the pitfall of nostalgia. Research everything. Prototype as soon as possible, figure out what does or doesn’t work. Make it fun and interesting.

Q: What do you see as the future of synthesis/sampling?

A: In synthesis I think we will continue refining existing concepts. A lot of more esoteric synthesis methods are still somewhat unexplored or unfriendly. In sampling, I think resynthesis, morphing, stretching and manipulation will see advancements which will one day make it so that you load in a bassdrum, hit the ‘animate’ button and have a more ‘organic’ version of it being played back. Well, something like that anyway.

Q: If you were to recommend one Elektron product to someone who has never touched an instrument before, what would you recommend?

A: Digitakt - it’s, to quote a track title from Errorsmith’s latest album, “Interesting, Cheerful & Sociable”.

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Jeffrey slides over a Q or two…

Q: "What has happened in the last couple of years that caused Elektron to seemingly change product development / release cycle so drastically? It seems like you guys went from a firm that released something new only every few years to overhauling the entire product lifeline and expanding into areas like effects.

New bosses or investors? Changes in component availability requiring overhauling product line? Or has the electronic music hardware arena just gotten much more competitive in recent years?"

A: We grew big! Being bigger, more people, means that you can make more products, and that doing so will pay our salaries and let us continue doing what we love. Overhauling the product line was a long project, and not so much different than the MKII upgrades to the Monomachine and Machinedrum.

We have the same boss now as back in 2007, and the investors were cherry picked by us to make sure that they are good people; they don’t interfere with our products and have an interest in what we do.

Q: "Did Digitone and Digitakt come about because of the overwhelming response to the price drop / end-of-life announcement for Machinedrum and Monomachine?"

No, we have many times tried to make products that are a bit more streamlined, focused and cheaper - but up until the Digitakt we had not succeeded in that vision. It’s been a long time coming, you could say.

Q: "Is there any kind of set rules for what is included and omitted in the Digi line?"

Yeah, panel space and to omit anything that would be convoluted when it doesn’t have that. They should be more ‘focused’ and ‘boiled down’ without losing too much. To make something streamlined you have to remove a few things. It’s like minimalism in art or music - strip away what isn’t neccessary and focus on the core components. The result will be larger than the sum of its parts.

Q: "Finally, as a hardware company that makes great boxes that can be totally free from computers - why Overbridge?"

A: https://youtu.be/vgk-lA12FBk … A lot of people work with both hardware and software, Overbridge makes that workflow a lot easier. :slight_smile:

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Johan fires a Q:

I would like to know how you guys at Elektron decide what products to put into production? I am sure you have 100 prototypes and ideas floating around. What decides which ones make it to final product?

A: We have a group at Elektron called ‘Product Board’ which consists of a small group of people that collectively decides a general outline for future products. You could view it as a sort of rough sketch that then is put on a timeline, and when it’s time to start working on that project it gets refined by staff who is considered good for the direction of the project. For example, with Digitone I was invited on board since I am very passionate, and knowledgeable, about FM synthesizers.

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Kari shoots:

Q: How do you see the future of digital hardware synths?
A: Usability, strong/unique concepts and bizarre/esoteric synthesis being tamed.

Q: What was the video game of your childhood that you liked the most in regards of graphic and soundtrack?
A: Tough! I grew up on video games, they hold a big and special place in my heart. Hard to pick just one, but I think Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon for the N64 influenced me a lot. It’s very bizarre. Oh and of course, the Game Boy, I only had Super Mario Land and Donkey Kong Land, but I loved the music on both. I later actually started making music after finding out about LSDj, which runs on the Game Boy.

Q: What kind of synth would you like to see from your competition? Which for of synthesis?
A: Something that makes me afraid.

Q: Do you think you could enjoy creating a GUI that‘s not done with pixel-art.
A: Absolutely! Although we have our main man Ufuk D for that, he’s the talent behind the upcoming, beautiful, Overbridge GUI.

Q: Are you into Virtual analog hardware synths? Do you think that in future digital synthesis will be indistinguishable from analog sound?
A: No, I don’t like VA’s at all, unless they do some freaky stuff on top (e.g Nord Lead A1, which is great!), depending on context they are already indistinguishable from real analog.

Q: C/C++ or Java?
A: For me, I like C. C++ is a bit fancy and Java… Well, I don’t know. Most programming I’ve done has targeted archaic video game platforms, so there hasn’t been an option other than some cranky C compiler. I have started to learn a bit of C++ though.

Q: What would be your advise for someone who wants to build his own synth? (Besides of learning how to program in low level language.)
A: Play with as many synthesizers as you can, and think about what makes them good/not good. Start ‘small’ with Max, PD, Reaktor or Supercollider - focus on making cool sounds before thinking about low level implementations.

Q: Do you guys play any games over lunch time? If yes, which one?
A: Yes! There have been a lot of hadoukens thrown around the office.

Q: If you had unlimited amount of resources, what synthesizer would you love to build?
A: Another FM synth. Haha, no but… Physical modeling done in a more modern and straight forward way, focusing less on accurate modeling and more on interesting stuff you can do with the technology.

Q: Name a plugin/soft synth you would love to have as a hardware?"
A: Native Instruments Razor.

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Liam throws over to Simon:

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I’ve studied graphical art, art history and electronic music composition.

Q: Could you tell us about your musical background in terms of both creating music as well as appreciating music/creative influences?

A: I started making music with a Nintendo Game Boy after finding out about Little Sound DJ, a music tracker running natively on the System. For me, that was also my introcution to electronic music as a whole. When I later bought my first synthesizer (a busted Korg Poly-61, which I repaired) the guy selling it to me gave me a note of techno and electro artists to check out. That introduced me to the likes of Dopplereffekt, Drexciya, Jeff Mills, Basic Channel and so on. I listened to a lot of techno and electro for a long time, then started to drift into more experimental music that focused more on the sound itself you could say.

As for creative influences, video games have always been a big inspiration for me, and still are.

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Tyson asks:

Q: I’ve enjoyed reading about records that you like. Snd and umfang. I’m new to this kind of minimal repetitive electronic music. Can you talk about how you listen to it and what it does for you? I have a lot of experience with Reich and glass minamilism, hoping to hear your thoughts not about these classical people, but the electronic ones.

A: I’m happy to hear that my recommendations were enjoyable for you! Listening to music is a very active thing for me - I have a hard time finding music that I can listen to while working, or doing other stuff. Repetetive beat driven music generally works well though, so I tend to gravitate towards that. I also really love rhythm, and the reason why I love music that is a bit sparse or minimal is that it tends to focus more on interesting sound design (or rhythms) and allows me to really hear all the details.

More artists/bands in the same vein (at least in my mind) that I enjoy: Emptyset, Errorsmith, Gabor Lazar, Mark Fell, .h, Studio 1 (Wolfgang Voigt), Anything on Profan really, Sleeparchive, Lorenzo Senni, Soundhack, Ryoji Ikeda, Philus

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Aaron presses keys, a question appears:

Q: My observations are that 1.) Elektron has experienced much growth in recent years and 2.) their designs have become more streamlined to maximize accessibility/ commercial viability.

My primary question is if the concept for something as multi-faceted as the Octatrack would be fostered/ supported in the company’s current environment as well as it was a decade ago.

A: I think the main reason why our ‘newer’ instruments are more streamlined is because it makes them much better suited as just that - an instrument. As interesting and great as the Machinedrum and Monomachine is, they are quite niche in how they approach the concept of a drum machine, or a synthesizer. I’m not saying it’s inherently a bad thing, but I think the Four, Rytm, and so on have a refined quality that the older units lacked. This is due to experience, and not so much commercial interest.

The Octatrack is a different kind of machine in my opinion, it’s designed as a swiss army knife kind of thing, and if we were to make something in the same vein it would require a similar approach.

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Ian wonders:

Q: Why is the Octatrack MK2 a dark gray color compared to the other MK2?
A: To distinguish it from the other MKII units, as it looks different on a whole.

Q: Why is the Octatrack MK2 in an old style rectangular box compared to the other MK2?
A: Parts of the Octatrack were being obsleted by the manufacturer, and we didn’t want to cease production; some things had to change regardless, so we decided to upgrade what was feasible.

Q: Why are the track buttons on the Digitone colored?
A: Because it looks nice … And as a visual aid for keeping track of the tracks.

Q: Why is the Digitone digital vs. analog?
A: Not sure if you mean… Why is it not analog? Because FM (as a concept) is best, and traditionally, implemented digitally- and it felt right to make an unabashed digital synth right now.
Or if you meant… Why does it mix analog-style synthesis (subtractive) with Digital (additive)? Because it works really well when combined, and has parts that will be familiar to most users regardless of previous experiences.

Q: Why was the Digitone made in the compact Digitakt size instead of the A4 or AR size?
A: We wanted the Digitakt to have a sibling, given the popularity of it and our own fondness for the form factor.

Q: Are there separate design teams with competing ideas working on the DN+DT / Octatrack / A4+AR?
A: No, it’s the same design and development team. Key people will vary of course.

Q: Will the design / UI of the product range ever be unified (more than it is currently)?
A: Probably not as the style and functionalities differ a lot from unit to unit.

Q: When did development work on the Digitone start?
A: First board designs were made early on, but the development and design started for real in June, 2017.

Q: How many people worked on the Digitone?
A: In some way, all of us. But as for the product design and development, there is a list of credits in each manual.

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I’m placing a “has anyone seen this thread?” Bump… :slight_smile:
It seemed buried and no one has responded, there’s some quite interesting stuff here enquiring nuats would want to know…

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StalkerSynth - every time you play a minor chord, eyes flash in your bedroom window.

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Yes, please, and thank you… :wink:

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Cool responses! This and the other thread reveal quite a lot about the inner working of elektron! must be a cool place to work :sunglasses:

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I really enjoyed reading these responses Simon. Great insight into how you guys operate. Thanks for taking the time.

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Ok, @Ess , first-to-10 in Street Fighter for a Digitakt :wink:

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Yes please (and sneak plenty of FM on board too)!

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Actually, I’m not the one playing Street Fighter, at least not very well! Martin or Cenk could give a good run for that. :wink:
I’m up for a 1v1 in Melee for a Digitakt or two though…

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This is something I have wanted in hardware for so long. I love physical modelling synthesis and have owned and used many software variants. I never was interested in it to emulate real instruments but instead to create weird and new sounds.
A synth using this technology with the accessibility of the Digitone would be bloody amazing!!!
:heart::heart::heart:

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The upcoming Waldorf Quantum has a resonator Sound engine on board. If I understood it correctly, this is a form of physical modelling. But I agree with you. It would be awesome to see some synthesizer specialised on physical modelling, in the future.

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Just looked that beast up, $6,000 at my local music shop :rofl:

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I use the free software VCV rack. You can get almost all Mutable Instruments Moduls for free. It’s a real good substitute for Eurorack and perfect for PM technique. I use „Elements“,“rings“ as resonator. You can get pretty realistic but still fresh sounds out of it.

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