If you may get over the type of archaic presentation and discover a groove with the workflow, the Tracker has a ton of energy to supply. It is, at its coronary heart, a sample-based groovebox — you may set off samples of drums, synths or no matter. But along with enjoying one-shots, you should utilize the Tracker to cut samples. So you may usher in a soul loop, break it up and recombine it utilizing the 48-pad grid. You can slice a pattern manually, or through the use of one of many two automated modes, certainly one of which is specifically created for chopping up beats and drum breaks. It’s fairly correct too; I solely sometimes must pop in and do guide changes on busier breaks.

A sequencer, a pattern participant and a pattern slicer alone would make the Tracker able to creating completely compelling compositions. Considering the affordable worth and the facility that lurks contained in the sequencer, when you’ve mastered its intricacies (which I admittedly nonetheless haven’t) you’ve already received a reasonably strong instrument. But there’s extra. So. Much. More.

Polyend Tracker

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

For one, the onboard pattern recording and enhancing capabilities are fairly wealthy. There are mic and line inputs, you may resample tracks from inside your sequence, and there’s a built-in FM radio you may document from. Then you may manipulate your recording by cropping or reversing them or including results like delay, refrain, flanger or a bit crusher. In quick, if there’s a supply of sound on the market, you may seize it and manipulate it to your coronary heart’s content material. To take a look at this out I spent a day within the park with the Tracker and my subject recorder, capturing hen chirps and making sounds with a beer can. Then I turned them right into a drum equipment and tossed collectively a bit of sequence. 

(By the best way, did I point out the Tracker is transportable? It doesn’t have a built-in battery, however because it’s powered through USB-C you may take it anyplace and simply join an ordinary energy financial institution. So yeah, it’s received that going for it too. Though, I’ll say that the big display screen is mostly glorious and makes navigating the system a breeze, it may be a bit laborious to see in daylight. )

In addition to all these extra easy methods of dealing with samples, the Tracker has wavetable and granular synth engines inbuilt. Now, these are sample-based synthesis strategies, so it’s not that massive a leap from sampler, to granular synth. Still, only a few samplers or grooveboxes do that with out some coaxing. The granular engine is fairly restricted and sounds a bit of skinny, however the addition of some delay or reverb can assist beef issues up a bit. And you may at all times resample your synth line and run it by way of extra results. Just know that the Polyend has an unmistakable gritty digital high quality about it. It’s excellent for percussion, however it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea for melodic content material.

Polyend Tracker

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

More spectacular is the wavetable synth. There’s a bunch of wavetables included, however you too can import your personal or create them out of your pattern assortment and even pull from different synths. Since you may change the scale of the “window,” it should work with wavetables designed for apps like Serum or Ableton. And past the wavetables, the inventory sounds included are actually glorious and embrace contributions from artists like Jamie Lidell. The one criticism is that there’s no actual strategy to preview what a wavetable will sound like when performed from the pattern loading display screen. So it will possibly take lots of forwards and backwards earlier than you discover what you’re searching for.

There’s full ADSR (assault, decay, maintain, launch) management over the synths in addition to pattern playback, a strong digital delay and a satisfactory reverb, a variable mode filter plus modulation management over the filter, wavetable place and grain place. 

You’ve received lots of sound design energy at your fingertips — much more than you may have any proper to count on out of a $600 field that can suit your backpack. Especially contemplating that the {hardware} itself is that this good. This is high-end stuff, little doubt about it. 

So the place did it begin to crumble for me? The sequencer.

It took months for me to even begin to construct a bond with the tracker workflow.

Gallery: Polyend Tracker evaluation | 28 Photos

Polyend additionally made certain that you simply received’t must go searching on-line for steering in the event you’re caught. There are loads of useful suggestions and explanations constructed into the UI. If you already know the observe you wish to play however don’t really feel like making an attempt to navigate the pads, you may simply maintain down the observe button and decide from the menu. If you’re confused about what an impact does, a easy button press exposes an in depth rationalization. There’s even a quick-start information within the config menu in the event you simply want to seek out your footing.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Polyend additionally deserves credit score for going out on a limb right here. Hardware trackers simply aren’t actually a factor. There’s the NerdSEQ, which is a distinct segment sequencer for Eurorack modular synths. And… that’s about it. XOR Electronics, the corporate behind NerdSEQ, introduced a transportable model of the NerdSEQ proper across the identical time as Polyend’s Tracker, however its late summer season 2020 launch date got here and went with little replace. 

So, in the event you’re searching for a self-contained tracker-based groovebox, that is the one sport on the town. If you’re not wed to the concept of a tracker however need one thing with comparable sound sculpting capabilities then AKAI’s MPC line or Elektron’s Digitakt are in all probability your finest bets. But these are nonetheless dramatically totally different devices, with increased worth factors ($699 and $749, respectively) and far totally different workflows. It’s unlikely that you simply’d have a tough time selecting between the three. 

Polyend Tracker

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

On paper, the Polyend Tracker is a beast of a tool and a reasonably good discount at $599. It’s a transportable eight-track groovebox with a sequencer that may be any variety of steps from one to 128. Then you may prepare sequences to construct full compositions in track mode, grasp them and export them as polished items. It can document samples, edit them, flip them into playable synths. It can management exterior gear. And the {hardware} is really lust-worthy. The Tracker workflow is just not for everybody, however that doesn’t cease it from being an enchanting and spectacular instrument.

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Polyend, tracker, polyend tracker, groovebox, synth, synthesizer, sequencer, drum machine, music, musical instrument, evaluation, gear

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