Firstly, they thought it might be interesting to allow two players to stand at the Monomachine, one playing keyboard, and one making parameter changes, DJ-style. Oh, and also they were bored of keyboard instruments with the controls above the keyboard! Photo: Mark Ewing Elektron maintain their reputation for producing unusual, innovative instruments with the bizarrely shaped Monomachine; it features six types of synthesis engine, a versatile sequencer, and effects. Is it refreshingly original, or a step too far? Quirky, slender, interestingly constructed
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Firstly, they thought it might be interesting to allow two players to stand at the Monomachine, one playing keyboard, and one making parameter changes, DJ-style.
Oh, and also they were bored of keyboard instruments with the controls above the keyboard! Photo: Mark Ewing Elektron maintain their reputation for producing unusual, innovative instruments with the bizarrely shaped Monomachine; it features six types of synthesis engine, a versatile sequencer, and effects.
Is it refreshingly original, or a step too far? Quirky, slender, interestingly constructed Kate Moss, for example. However, they also apply to the Elektron Monomachine and, as luck would have it, it is this shiny new chunk of technology — not Kate — that I find beneath my eager fingers today. It boasts simultaneous playback of up to six monophonic synthesizers, has a six-track internal sequencer and a six-track external sequencer plus a choice of effects.
This latter may optionally be racked and, unlike the keyboard model, has an external power supply. Both units feature six unbalanced audio outputs and two audio inputs plus a headphone socket and the standard MIDI trio.
My impression was of an instrument built like a tank it weighs a reassuringly solid seven kilos and bearing physical similarities to the Machinedrum. I opened this review with the word quirky — a description earned partly by an unconventional layout. Although slimline, the Monomachine occupies as much space lengthways as a typical keyboard-based synth it measures xx55mm.
All the controls are shunted to the far left-hand side beyond the joystick more about the stick later with the remaining space taken up by a three-octave note keyboard.
This is well suited to the control of monophonic synths — although several keys on the review model stuck down intermittently. Photo: Mark Ewing One glance over the sleek, almost retro panel will identify the Monomachine as both a sequencer and a synthesizer. With its continuous encoders and wealth of buttons, here is a user interface that, other than a few operational idiosyncrasies, proved to be fast and intuitive. A vital button — Function — is positioned at the far left for ease of regular access and is used in conjunction with others to double up their duties.
After power-on, I was greeted by a graphical display that was bright and informative, although lacking any control over contrast.
A long-time devotee of flashing lights, I enjoyed seeing the impressive array of LEDs, many of which are capable of changing from red to green to yellow according to need. A row of red LEDs one for each note positioned above the keyboard won my special admiration; these light either as the keyboard is played or to reflect notes played by the sequencer. Some of these LEDs were raised; others almost flush with the aluminium panel.
Apparently they are hand-fitted, hence the variations. I noticed at once a physical humming noise emanating from the internal power supply. Having taken great pains to achieve a quiet studio — even going as far as replacing the power supplies of some of my older synthesizers — the Monomachine stood out like a sore thumb.
According to a couple of Monomachine owners I spoke to, this appears to be atypical. So, like the sticking keyboard action, it may be attributable to the jet-setting life of the review model.
Arpeggiator At the simplest level of arpeggiation, you can select a track with no notes playing, hold down some keys and arpeggiate manually in sync with the current pattern. Or you can program chords into a series of steps even if the track is monophonic , activate the arpeggiator and listen to the results. I found this to be a means to get around the limitation of all tracks using the same clock resolution.
The arpeggio speeds on offer start at one 16th of a note, so choosing the fastest setting outputs flurries of notes at six times the current tempo. For example, five directions are available, plus octave shifts and three playback modes — including one taken from the SIDstation that I especially liked.
In this mode, when only one key is pressed there is no arpeggiation at all. With the addition of subsequent notes, the arpeggiation starts but when the notes are released, they continue to play.
Only when a single note is played does the arpeggiator stop. A Pattern defaults to 16 steps in length but may be set freely between two and 64 steps. There are no triplets on offer, which I found a curious omission, and all tracks share a common length and resolution — so there are no opportunities to perform complex Quasimidi Polymorph-style tricks such as looping a sequence of notes against a MIDI controller loop of a different length.
The internal memory provides eight banks of 16 Patterns, labelled A-H. All may be overwritten and, as shipped, banks A, B and C contain factory Patterns. Usefully, these have associated LEDs that are red if they contain Pattern data and inactive when empty. The currently selected Pattern is represented by a yellow LED and is also named in the display. In common with some Grooveboxes that word again!
Green track LEDs denote active but unselected tracks. If you wish to try out radical tweaks, it is therefore vital to copy the Pattern first. Fortunately, the Monomachine provides extensive copy and paste operations, making this as painless as possible.
Pattern creation and editing is done in Grid or Live Recording mode — the former based on the tried-and-tested method seen in classic drum machines. The 16 Trigger buttons are then used to set the position of note events, and holding down each button and playing on the keyboard sets the pitches. In this way, looping phrases are speedily assembled.
The other recording mode, Live Recording, is quicker still. Again, you hit Record, but before you release the key, you also hit Play. Recording is always quantised to the current resolution so you simply play in the notes, adjusting the keyboard range as required using the octave selector. The two record methods can be toggled during playback. A Swing function is provided as a means of breaking up the robotic rhythm of your loops.
Even in Live Recording mode, the sequencer does not record note velocity. Once upon a time sequencers were identified by a row or rows of between eight and 16 potentiometers. Because the loops they produced were relatively short, the sequencer was often directed to control tonal changes and dynamics too, in an effort to ward off monotony. During Grid Record, holding down one of the Trigger buttons and simultaneously pushing an encoder locks its value into that step. And it works during Live Record too — simply turn the knob!
For ease of identification, the LEDs of any step with locks present flash — and if you wish to see the value of locked parameters afterwards, hold down the Trigger button and they are displayed in reverse video. A total of 62 different parameters may be locked — in multiple steps throughout the Pattern. As an example of how this works, take an old favourite, the filter. If you set a low cutoff frequency value on the first step, and a high cutoff on the last, and activate the two steps in the Slide Track, the result is a smoothly opening filter as the pattern progresses.
Once activated, the synth voice on the currently selected Track can be played with up to six notes of polyphony — the remaining Tracks are disabled. Recording polyphonically in Grid Mode is as simple as holding down a number of notes whilst holding the relevant Trigger button.
Polyphonic mode is either all or nothing — you cannot divide up the six available notes over several tracks. Simply set those controllers to correspond to important parameters on your synth assuming it responds to MIDI CCs, of course and away you go.
Parameter Locks may be used too, as can Slide Tracks — sweet dreams are made of this kind of facility! If you find you need to sequence more external tracks, the internal ones can be muted and their output directed to MIDI, thus allowing you to control 12 external tracks in all. Although I have described this function briefly, in use I found it very powerful indeed.
When a Track LED is yellow, it means the Track is selected but also muted — you might do this in order to perform on the Track via the keyboard. A second, slicker method of muting exists, one that is especially handy when using both internal and external sequencer tracks. This is activated by holding Function and then pressing the Bank button. At this point, the Trigger buttons change purpose, serving as mute controls for all 12 available tracks internal and external.
Pressing the relevant button may then be used to toggle track muting or, if you press several Trigger keys while continuing to hold Function, the mute changes are held until Function is released. Track Mute status is global — so whenever a new Pattern is selected, the current mutes are maintained.
This is not always what I would prefer, but it does at least make operation uncomplicated. In order to understand why Trigger Tracks are useful, we need to peer, once again, back into the mists of time. Thus were we robbed of many cool tricks that sequencers, in particular, could perform.
Monomachine notes can be played for which no envelope Trigger is defined. Careful manipulation of long envelope release times lets us, for example, build dynamic patterns where some notes are heard to fade away during the release phase. I found plenty of scope for nostalgic experimentation here. During performance, Patterns may be chained, that is, played in an order you specify. The chain cannot be stored but setting it up is a doddle. The only restrictions are that the Patterns must be in the same Bank and you can select each of them only once.
Working with Patterns is good, clean fun, but at some point, you will probably yearn for something longer and more complex, and this is accomplished by creating a Song. Up to 24 Songs can be stored in memory at once.
Ordinarily, when a Song has played through to the end it stops. If this is not what you require, sections of it or the entire Song can be set to loop. The Monomachine provides a Loop command to achieve this — and loops may even be nested, providing considerable flexibility.
Two further commands — Halt and Jump — are used for automated stops, or branches to different rows within the Song structure. In keeping with the spirit of the Monomachine, Songs may be modified during playback using the Up, Down and Enter keys to effectively reorder the Song non-destructively. Or, you can switch into Pattern mode and work at Pattern level for a while, before returning to the Song, whereupon it continues from its last position.
Using the Offset and Length parameters, Pattern start and stop points can be overridden, which is useful for creating variations and breaks. Thru — although not strictly an effect, this option can be used to process external signals, or other tracks.
Remember, each machine also has a complete set of track effects delay, distortion and so on , plus the filter. Gate Space reverb — a characteristic reverb taken from the Machinedrum. Parameters include decay time, damping, gate sensitivity and high- and low-pass filters. The signal routing potential of the Monomachine is rather less than straightforward. The output of each track may be routed to any of three stereo pairs.
All of our discontinued products will forever have a very special place in the Elektron heart. For legacy product firmware and manuals, please see the Support section. Take me to the Support section Sidstation Our first product. The Sidstation was based on the legendary MOS sound chip, originally found in the home computer Commodore This gritty sounding synthesizer is the reason why Elektron as a company was formed in the first place.
Elektron MonoMachine SFX-660 Manuals
Check Prices Monomachine SFX The Monomachine combines several types of synthesizers with an intuitive beat-box-style programming interface. Think of it as five synthesizers in one package with a flexible sequencer and plenty of real-time controls for a unique twist on desktop music machines! It has 6-part multitimbral capability which allows for up to 6 mono-synth sounds at once, or a single 6-voice polyphonic sound. The SuperWave synthesizer, which is analog modeled, gives warm and thick sounds made from unique algorithms that makes sounds free from the artifacts normally associated with digital processing. Traditional and like saw and pulse waveforms and sub-oscillators give you fat bass synth and lead sounds, while the ensemble is specialized in creating polyphonic textures, chords, and harmonies. The SID machine offers one oscillator of high quality synthesis, complete with ring-mod and sync. Just like the original, the oscillators are derived from an extremely fast main counter, giving the crisp highly recognizable sound.
Elektron MonoMachine SFX-6 User Manual