Why Elektron Model:Samples?
Since the release of the Digitakt in 2017 Elektron has been steadily updating and diversifying their offerings. The intrepid Swedes have expanded an already impressive array of compact groovebox-style machines to include less expensive, even more compact, but still extremely functional offerings. Today, we’ll take a look at the still-fresh Model:Samples, Elektron’s cheapest current offering and perhaps their most focused in terms of design and application.
The Model:Samples is a fertile cross between a number of electronic instrument paradigms. It sits somewhere between sampler, synth, and drum machine, plus a sequencer with the usual Elektron tricks and then some (polyrhythm, anybody?). The Model:Samples also sits at the intersection of a few different market segments. Its low cost and up-front UI make it ideal for people who are totally new to Elektron conventions and want to know what the fuss is about. It is also the most portable Elektron device, albeit from a company who already make highly portable devices, thanks to its battery input, light weight, and diminutive form factor. Velocity-sensitive pads also make it an attractive solution for finger drummers who want to ditch the laptop and controller. The Model:Samples is ideal for anyone looking for a nearly-knob-per-function sample playback device that can cover whatever sonic territory your sample collection does.
Elektron’s classic sound engine is onboard. All 6 tracks play back samples. These are then sent through overdrive, an amp with a controllable decay envelope, a multimode resonant filter, a pan control, and delay and reverb sends, respectively. Various parameters of this architecture are exposed on the front panel for user control. An LFO is included for modulation, along with knobs controlling sample start position and length. The Model:Samples sounds great, clear on top and with a heavy bottom end. In combination with Elektron’s sequencer, one can produce extremely dense grooves quickly.
Speaking of, the sequencer is at the heart of most of Elektron’s products. Model:Samples is no exception. Each pattern can contain up to 64 steps. Tracks can have independant lengths and “scale,” (scale = time signature) meaning that polyrhythmic and polymetric relationships can be achieved with ease. The most exciting feature of Elektron sequencing is by far parameter locking. The process is simple: enter grid record mode, hold a sequencer step, and move a knob to “lock” the parameter to that value, on that step. Up to 72 parameters can be locked, each over any number of steps in the sequence. Sample selection itself can also be locked, so that one track can effectively become an entirely different sound per step!
Performativity is front and center on the Model:Samples, too. Velocity sensitive pads make the unit great for precise recording and finger drumming. Retriggers and probability can also be applied per step for intense variation. The only other Elektron unit with easily accessible velocity control is the Analog Rytm, making this a premium feature for their lineup. Another classic Elektron feature is also available: control all. Normally, the front panel represents the parameters for one track at a time. However, if you hold the “track” button and twist a knob it will control that parameter for every track at the same time. This allows for big, macro-style changes, and with a few knob twists your beats can transform beyond recognition and enter new territory fast. Additionally, holding “function” and pressing “pattern” will reload the pattern from its saved state instantly, bringing things right back to where they started and providing another dramatic performance control.
Now for some technical details. Model:Samples expands on a key aspect of the typical Elektron storage paradigm and file structure. On the Digitakt, the Elektron product most comparable to the Model:Samples, one can save 128 projects, each with 128 patterns and 128 samples stored alongside them. The Model:Samples can hold 96 projects, each with 96 patterns. However, each project can handle up to 576 samples. Both devices have 1GB of non-volatile storage and 64MB RAM available. The expanded limit on the amount of samples per project in the Model:Samples means that you can load a huge variety of assumedly short one-short drum sounds at once.
In terms of connectivity the Samples has left and right ¼” outputs, a stereo ¼” headphone output, midi in and out on ⅛” TRS, USB, DC in, and a port for connecting batteries. The battery port is an intriguing addition and unprecedented in Elektron’s lineup. A forthcoming accessory will take advantage of it and let the Model:Samples roam freely.
So why would you pick up a Model:Samples over a Digitakt? For one, Model:Samples costs significantly less at $399. It has a highly direct UI and capabilities tailored to drum programming and, importantly, drum playing. The Digitakt has no velocity sensitivity, but it can be programmed on recorded steps after the fact. Both are capable of sequencing external midi gear, although the Digitakt is more comprehensive in this regard. Model:Samples can’t record new sound directly, but it’s easy to add your custom sounds via USB. Overall, the Model:Samples is designed to produce and make variations on rhythmic material quickly. The lack of onboard sampling might be a major loss for some, but it’s also one less obstacle between you and your finished beat. Feel free to browse our selection of Elektron gear, including the Model:Samples here: https://nerdaudio.com/collections/elektron.