Suggestion for multi-timbral box to pair with M:S


I’m enjoying my M:S on its own but I’m curious about pairing it with a desktop synth, drum machine or something else. I love the sequencer and it’s a brilliant machine for improvising messing around and jamming with techno (I use the word loosely) beats but I’d love to try driving a synth or some other desktop sound source (not a computer) from the sequencer.

I’ve had a look around it seems that there aren’t many multi-timbral desktop synths, at least that aren’t very expensive, so I’m trying to work out what would pair well. I suspect that a new Model:Something is coming (let’s not go down that rabbit hole) but in the meantime I’d be open to suggestions for something fun that I can sequence with my M:S or that has it’s own sequencer so that the two can be synced together.

I’ve been looking at other grooveboxes and standalone machines like MC-101 or even MPC One as sound modules they seem powerful but lacking in tactile control and perhaps my M:S knobs can be mapped to their parameters. In particular, the MPC One makes me think that it’s possible to fit a lot of digital music power into a low-priced box so I wonder if there will be other machines like it forthcoming. I prefer step sequencing to finger drumming paradigm but I’m impressed by the sampling and processing power in that box - will other companies step up and make something more oriented towards performance and jamming at a similar price point?

Can MC-101 be used as a sound module? It’s pretty cheap and although it doesn’t have endless rotaries (jumping parameters on different tracks) my M:S has endless rotaries so if I can map them it might make a great combination.

Anyway I’m rambling now but I figure that there must be something fun that I could drive from my M:S (or pair with it) and I’d love some suggestions. I don’t want to spend a fortune but I’m trying to be open-minded.

Discussion from a couple of weeks ago:

This indicates that you might be best starting from “What does my music need?” rather than “What can I buy?”

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Thanks for the help. I know it’s a bit vague but my music doesn’t really “need” anything. I’m an occasional hobbyist and I just jam a bit at home for my own enjoyment. I suppose I’m just looking for a second toy that will complement the first one. I’m having fun making percussive sequences and beats with one-shot drums so I’m wondering what might complement that. I’m primarily aiming for techno and other rhythmic styles. I’m less concerned about melody and more concerned with getting a hypnotic groove.

I think I’d ultimately like a synth but one that is geared towards percussive/bass/drum sounds and not something with too many controls or that is designed to be played with keys. I can’t play the keys but I like step sequencers.

I think what I basically want is an AR but at a third of the price and I don’t care
If it’s analog. I think many of us are dreaming of a Model:Drum.

Wait - have you not considered the Digitone? Yes, it’s FM-based, but it is very versatile and really fits the bill for what you’re looking for. Plus, you can route the model:samples through the digitone’s master FX. Definitely a box that would compliment the M:S.


DSI Tetra might fit the bill too. 4 voice analog desktop poly, 4 voice multitimbral, 4 assignable endless encoders.

If that or the DN don’t appeal then maybe consider ditching the multitimbral requirement. personally I think keeping track of more than 1 part on a (non-elektron) synth is frustrating anyway. you can do a whole lot with a single voice and the MS!

I’d go for the Digitone too… it’s a great little box and getting the effects for the MS is a nice plus.

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Electribe 2 synth. I have used one in combination with an A4 and a Digitone, works well.

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MPC One is a very interesting choice. It can be so much and is also a step sequencer if you wish it to be. The sampling capabilities with keep you busy for a lifetime. This is a techno machine plus more. The onboard synths are great they are adding more to the list. I think this and the MS will give you a solid all around experience in producing music. Another advantage are the inputs on the MPC. It gives you the ability to run the MS into the MPC and use the onboard effects to spice up the MS. This combo will give you the most diversity 100%. You’ll also appreciate the huge display on the MPC, it’s brilliant.

Thanks for the insight. I’ve never used an MPC product and although it looks very powerful I’m concerned it would feel too much like using a computer or an iPad which doesn’t appeal to me. It seems like it’s got endless capabilities but only 4 encoders seems limiting for hands on control. I think I love the Elektron p-lock way of doing things so much that I’d resent having to use the touchscreen and navigating between parameters to input step automation etc. That sounds like it would be tedious and not spontaneous. I think if I was more interested in producing “complete” tracks it would be awesome but I want to jam and be spontaneous.

I’m happy to be corrected! Perhaps I just need to find a shop and try one, or even find a friendly local Elektronaut in London who can show me theirs!

Yea people seem to feel it’s like working on a computer but I don’t find that at all. The MPC does have p-locking capabilities now although not as streamlined as the Elektron way. I own the MPC live and it’s a joy to use when it comes to sampling and chopping. Super easy to dial in that perfect chop point. This opens a world of sound sources for me. Just imagine sampling from your phone or record player and turning that to a funky techhouse beat. I get it though, Elektron gear is so much fun and you are already comfortable with that style of sequencing. Maybe a Digitakt my be that next logical step. I know it’s another sampler but it can be used as a synth and you get 8 more tracks. I’ll go with that over a Digitone only because it gives you more options and you can sample directly into it. Plus you get an additional 8 midi tracks to expand on in the future.

For simple sound sources that don’t cost the Earth, I would recommend the Roland Boutiques or the Korg Volcas. Never owned a Volca myself but I’ve heard good things about the FM one. As for the Rolands I’ve owned the fantastic SH-01A in the past (sold for financial reasons) and recently acquired the JU-06A, which is even better in many aspects. Lots of fun to be had pairing those with a sample player like M:S. The analog Roland SE-02 seems like techno heaven too. Check it out.

Edit: skipped over the multitimbral aspect of the question. In that case Digitone is the way forward if it’s not out of your price range. Or two (or more) Volcas?

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I would not get an MPC for the purpose you describe. It does do lots and lots of different things, but most of them you probably don’t need, and others that you do need it doesn’t do very well.

For techno (even in the loose sense) you probably don’t need the deep linear seqencing, or the large MIDI+audio+clip+internal synth track count. There is an unparalelled number of FX you can run and the routing is super flexible but quantity is at the expense of quality…the FX are really low calorie, low octane and probably low DSP.

There has to be a trade-off somewhere, you can’t have the massive functionality/flexibility of an MPC Live/One and have a near knob-per-function interface. The device would need to have the surface area of a dinner table.

I was looking for something similar to you, and am going with an MC-101, but that’s really because I have a soft spot for the Roland JV sounds from the 90’s. I will probably also get a MIDI controller to enhance the knobly-wobbly experience of the 101 and the MPC and every other gizmo that might land on my desk. I’m close to deciding on the Faderfox EC4 for that.

In the end it’s most important that you fall in love with the sound, not just the interface and the specs.

Check out the SH35. Goes pretty cheap. 4 part multi-timbral. Has drum sounds and a host of features. I see them go for sub $300, and a lot of people I’ve asked seem to really dig them.

I’m using an A4 MK1 with my MS and doing whole tracks with nothing else.

If you shop around and be patient, you can find a used one for $550 or so. I got mine for around $575 (after trading my original unit toward an AK).

The dual filter makes using all 4 parts through the one stereo out manageable.
Having its own sequencer means you won’t have to lose any M:S tracks to MIDI duties. 10 voices is perfect for techno.

When you need a big mono sound, use it in unison mode with three voices, leaving one voice for bi-timbral operation. Sound locks will take that one voice to lots of places. It’s still a whole lot of synth.

Good luck!


In addition having the sub act as a 5th does a good job of making single tracks sound like chords.

I use the DSI Tetra for this purpose, four voices on four seperate midi channels sequenced by MS. Comes out of four hardware outputs on the DSI & then the two remaining channels on the MS for samples. You can map the MS knobs to functions on the Tetra which is useful & it’s a flexible setup if you want to track all the elements individually for mixing in the DAW.

ND2🤭 (complete sentence)

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I’d like to support someone’s suggestion of using an iPad for your purposes. Pretty cheap to implement if you already have an iPad. There are many iOS synths and sequencers that can be really fun to experiment with for little to no cost.

I use mine with a Digitone and an iPad. Both are great options. If you use an interface for the iPad you can even have different synths come out of different outputs to your mixer. But I love my Digitone more than anything. It’s my main brain now. I generally use 2 tracks for percussion and 2 tracks for synth, and I’m using midi tracks to control pedals and a Korg Monologue too. It’s fantastic how you can use the tracks however you want. You can do an entire drum track on just one. I keep mine simple as I’m using other gear for other things anyway.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m teetering in the brink of getting rid of my M:S because, although I’ve had some fun with it, I’m frustrated at the amount of time I have to spend organising/prepping samples before putting them on the box. I wanted to get away from the computer (I’m a coder for a living) but this hasn’t really worked.

I’m wondering now if I need to move in the direction of a desktop synth or even a small modular, just because it would be entirely self-contained and require no samples, no computer, just me. I’m not really aiming to finish complete tracks (I could use a DAW for that if I wanted to) but just to enjoy my limited music time and to explore sound design and make some noise.

I digress…

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