Underwhelmed by the Octatrack Mk2, looking for advice!


#1

Hey, first post here! Wish it was on a more positive note.

So I recently sold my Machinedrum and Push 2 controller to fund an Octatrack Mk2. The rest of my setup consists of an MFB Tanzbar and a couple analog synths. I figured if I had a good sampler, I could fill the gaps and basically make most of my music live without too much stopping and starting and editing in Ableton. I’m not at the point right now where I am playing many live sets, so my main goal is to have fun making music on the fly and enjoy the sound of the music when I’m done with it.

On paper it sounded really good and had all the features that I was wanting. I liked the idea of having stereo samples, all the storage space, ability to use longer samples, and then all the bells and whistles like delay control, loop machines, more fx (the spring reverb), the cross fader, etc. I’ve been using it everyday for about 2 weeks and using the cross fader is definitely a ton of fun. Theres alot you can do with the machine, and it certainly gets the creative juices flowing.

Unfortunately there are a couple things that are bugging me and making me question my choice :frowning: The first moment where I started to debate my choice was when I realized that the mutes function on an audio level, cutting out all the sound, rather than allowing the sample and fx to ring out. I found this extremely frustrating, as I typically use mutes as a way to bring track in and out. This made it nearly impossible to do that (unless you had a short, uneffected sample). I eventually got over this because I figured there was so much more the machine could do, and I eventually realized I could easily transition using patterns, scenes, parts etc. I figured I could just learn to use the machine without mutes and it was going pretty well for the most part.

I’ve spent most of my day today jamming on the Octatrack Mk2 and I’ve come to realize that I’m not that crazy about the sound! For the most part it wasn’t bugging me, but it became really evident when I tried some sampling of my synths that I own (polysix, SEM Pro). It felt like the Octatrack was sucking a bit off the life out of the synths, and making them sound worse than if I had just ran the synths into my audio interface. When I try adding reverb or other fx to the sounds they became even less desirable, loosing more of their original character without sounding lush and spacious like i had hoped.

I completely understand that after 2 weeks I don’t know much of the machine, but I guess I hyped it up to be something more. I have a hard time feeling like I can use the machine in my music like I had hoped if I don’t like the sound of the fx and how it samples sounds. At this moment I can still return my Octatrack and go buy a Digitakt instead. Originally I had decided against this for so many reasons… but now I’m debating whether the improved fx and audio engine on the digitakt will make it more useable in my music. Quite honestly it breaks my heart a little bit because I would be giving up things like the crossfader, delay control, time stretching and ability to have long stereo samples.

Am I doing something wrong with it that is resulting in my samples sounding plain and lifeless? Should I stick to the Octatrack or go with my gut, save some money and get the digitakt instead?

Any help is appreciated! :slight_smile:


#2

like a lot of things the OT sounds great on paper, but the devil is in the detail. the points you criticise about it are totally valid, and there’s no easy workaround for them (though everyone on here will probably be telling you that the tone suck is your own fault because your “gain staging” is wrong, but I think that’s bollocks)

i learned to live with the OT’s shortcomings and managed to make it work for me, though I really wish Elektron would have made a proper update that takes care of those shortcomings.


#3

Thanks for a very honest reply!

The sound quality lets me down when I am sampling, but is quite alot better when loading samples from my computer. Unfortunately I was planning on doing lots of sampling :frowning: I wonder if a future OS update could fix any of these issues.


#4

Have you been able to diagnose what, exactly, is happening to the sound? Are certain frequencies getting rolled off or something?


#5

No, I haven’t been able to diagnose it. I’m no engineer but it sounds like the sound is being overly compressed and almost like the highs have been rolled off a little bit. The sound ends up being less lively and sort of “boxy” sounding if that makes sense… especially when using the reverbs or chorus!


#6

What kind of gain staging are you using going into the inputs?


#7

You could use any frequency visualizer (most DAWs have one built in). Maybe try recording the same sample via the input and your interface bounced to the CF card. It’s worth trying to see if you can solve the issue via gain staging adjustments. Maybe you can use your interface between the instrument and OT?

Also, the mutes cutting off effects is an issue but a work around could be creating a few scenes that cut the amp volume rather than the track volume.


#8

I know I’m probably going to be the odd man out- but I think the DT is the better machine out of the two.

The OT has its uses, but I find that it fits more for experimental/eccentric purposes more than the DT and the DT fits in better with better sounding elements.

If I were you, I’d see about returning the MK2 and maybe get a DT and a used mk1 so you can still use the elements you liked in the OT but in a more discount package.

The DT just has a much better sound IMO


#9

For my polysix, which is a bit quiet I have DIR set to 127 and gain to 0. For the SEM which is quite a bit louder, I have the DIR to 127 and the gain to -10 ish.


#10

I thought OT pulled life out of sounds at first but I really can’t think of a time recently that I’ve noticed it so I really think it is to do with the OT turning samples down for headroom automatically. presumably cause it’s expected that you’ll go nuts with it and end up making a lot of noise. Honestly my usual fix is simply turning it up on the amp page. But anyway it’s a bit of an eccentric box as mentioned above, it’s a Swiss Army knife but it’s not necessarily gonna be your favourite reverb unit etc. Try to let it do its own thing rather than forcing it to fit into your current workflow is the usual advice, but also it isn’t for everyone as with any piece of gear. Hope you can find a place for it, it’s really great once you give it a while.


#11

Sounds to me like you would much prefer the MPC LIVE…


#12

Have you tried turning timestretch off? That might help with “tone suck”


#13

Also, you might have better luck with effects tails if you put the effects on a neighbour track and mute/unmute the original - don’t have an OT so didn’t realise muting cut off FX tails, but surely this would be a workaround? (aside from the fact that it uses up another track)


#14

Are you meaning the Timestretch setting in the SRC page?


#15

The mutes aren’t a huge issue to me anymore. An inconvenience more than anything. I’ve found the best way around the mute problem is to cut vol or rate, or use scenes for transition. Not a big deal.


#16

Don’t have an OT so can’t confirm myself, but I’ve read here that the timestretch algorithm colours the sound in a negative way, even with the tempo unchanged.


#17

The cue play function could perhaps work as a work-around for the mutes. But perhaps forces you to change your thinking/workflow.


#18

Do you have a decent analogue mixer you can put in between your synths and the inputs on the OT to see if you get better results if you control the gain and impedance and all that stuff before the signal goes in the OT?

That way you can figure out if the problem you’re hearing is with the inputs on the OT, or if it’s because of some weird mismatch between the outputs on your synths and the input on the OT.

The best way to do this would be to connect the main output of the mixer to the input of the OT Mk2 with TRS cables (the Mk2 has balanced inputs, right?). Then:

  1. Connect your synth up the first channel on your mixer.
  2. Mute all other channels.
  3. Set the level of the first channel to unity gain (0dB).
  4. Make sure the output of your synth is turned up.
  5. Increase the gain on the first channel while playing your synth until the output meters stay at around 0dB (depending on your mixer, you might need to solo the channel while setting its gain to make its level show up on the meter properly).
  6. Now use the main mix level on your mixer to control the level going into the OT when you sample.

#19

#20

Lots of good points here. Tone suck is not your fault.
I own OT MKI (black) since late 2014( also MD, A4, and MnM ) . I am also a multi instrumentalist ( guitar , bass, Upright bass ) . I record much of my own percussion and e-bass and acoustic in as samples. Getting satisfactory sounds from my own recordings has been usually underwhelming/ frustrating. Yes there is kind of a “tone suck” compared to original material.

Input gain on OT is lower in the hardware ( or software ? ) , so you may have to increase it.

Make sure filter width is up and base is turned down , and Q is zero ( since OT auto loads a filter on audio tracks ) . Might have to apply EQ effect; also go to sample edit page and incr gain

Nowadays, I usually rec audio / samples in by preamped mic into A or AB , or through mixer ( esp w keys ) ,… sometimes adding FMR Really Nice Compressor if directly in. took while to learn this .

Most samplers have never done well with electric bass or Acoustic Bass, therefore I plan my bpm,… and plan NOT to time stretch. Even guitar… As a live musician I can instantly tell the artifact of stretching. BUT this may be desired result for Trip-Hop / IDM experimentation. I do this often ( set scene B to rate decrease on several channels )

Perc sounds, glitch, BD, HH, hi-freq sounds with shorter AD envelopes do just fine in OT

Note: I haven’t seen very many live instruments into OT videos, frankly over past 3 years.

Better results recording into Ableton ( or DAW ) at high sample / bit rates, and doing slight EQ and comp to add gain, then import to OT …but I’m mostly a NO Laptop performer.

Specs on my 2014 , black OT say 44.1/ 24bit , but I was told once that internal processing ( might ?) be at 16bit . ( FYI…This hardware os, not the software, may all have had its origin in another , previous, but now defunct synth company …?..) … NOT SURE …Someone please confirm .

Oh yeah, I think you can go into menu and maximize the sample /bit rates …but may reduce effective memory . It may be defaulting to 16 bit :flushed:

I recently acquired MPC Live. Different box. Touch pads, velocity ! Much better fidelity for recorded audio. Way easier sample editing , Learning curve easier to negotiate… But no P-locks , no scenes , and effects are mediocre or “12bit-ish” :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.

OT still excellent box. Don’t give up. Took me 2 yeasr to learn the memory “architecture”

TRY THIS : Learn to set up a SET or even a Pattern ( within a set ) as a FILTERBANK using Through Machines and Neighbor Machines …add Filter and Lo-Fi then Comb and Compressor (on Neighbor)…add some LFO’s…Put Tanzbar through AB input…Holy Shit ! or Teenage Pocket Op Rhythm :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: …I know this cause I have all 3 boxes. :pizza: