OCTATRACK // uses / tips / tricks //


#101

Where did you see that?


#102

#103

Here’s the list of MKII features:

They will run the same firmware, as only the hardware is changing. Crazy.


#104

This makes me very very happy.


#105

Any OT users out there with experience using a Eurorack sampler such as the Morphogene?

I’ve been using the OT in live and studio situations for years and I love it. Great tool. But as I have delved deeper into modular and monome use, I’m just wondering if having a sampler under more direct CV control is worth exploring.


#106

Not sure about the morphagene, but I use a phonogene and I dont think it can occupy the same space as the OT, at least for the way I use the OT. From reading the manual, I don’t think the morphagene could either.

I’m not too informed about it, but from what I’ve seen I get the impression that the er-301 is closer to “octatrack in modular” than anything else out there right now.


#107

well that is amazing! Let’s hope they also sort out the host of bugs that still plagues the OT. I had to revert back to version E because H has a series of showstopping bugs if you want to work with pre-sliced recording buffers.
But yeah… trig conditions are really something I was secretly hoping for!


#108

I’ve used a bunch of different euro samplers, and I do still kind of miss the particular way that Phonogene sliced and diced, but the control that the OT allows for is WAY more useful.


#109

The ER-301 is amazing. I have had one since nearly the beginning. I just recently added an Octatrack to my setup and I’m still coming to grips with it. I see them as very very different instruments. The ER-301 has no built in sequencer, but pairing it with an Eloquencer makes it feel rather Elektron-like. But the great thing is you could also pair it with any sequencer (monome modules are fantastic for this!)

I got the Octratrack on a bit of an impulse trade. I’m glad I did, because I’m now thinking about a mobile setup that is more or less Octatrack + one other thing (with that other thing varying). Whereas the 208HP Eurorack case feels a lot less road-worthy to me.

The ER-301 is more than just a sampler though. I’d think of it as a DSP computer. You can do things with it that aren’t remotely possible on an Octatrack.


#110

I agree. part of the reason i’m putting my octatrack up for sale is because of the vast capabilities of the ER-301. of course the octatrack does a lot more in some aspects but also does a lot less.
the 301 w/ Ansible is a fantastic combo both with a grid or arc.
White Whale is another gem. I’ve been meaning to try and do some MLRish stuff with those two. I’m sure you could approximate it (but never replace it)


#111

My live sets are always OT + one other thing, that’s certainly one of the things I love most about the OT. It’s hard to do that with any other piece of gear that’s not a pc without making a lot of sacrifices.


#112

Looks like we have trig conditions on the OT now!

Too bad the bug that would prevent you from saving slice information on a record buffer introduced with 1.25H has not been fixed yet, at least I can’t see anything about it in the changelog


#113

It says in the changelog:

  • Unsaved RAM recorder slices are not discarded at startup.

Isn’t that it?


#114

Yeah, that could be it, must have overseen it since it was not under “bugfixes”.
Still… the wording is a bit strange: why “unsaved”?
Anyway, I’ll test it when I have a moment.

Apart from that, conditional trigs are really cool, I hope they work on an improved way to access the modal window, since right now it’s a bit cumbersome (press trig+right, then turn the encoder a lot to get to the right setting, and do that for each trig/lock you want to “conditionalize”), but still, it’s a really awesome addition! Apart from the probabilistic aspect, the fact that you can basically create two patterns in one using FILL mode is really handy.


#115

yeah it’s slightly awkward but the OT is so jam packed with functions and alt-functions already that I’m having trouble imagining where else they could have put it.


#116

Yes indeed. The placement actually is ok I think. It makes sense to make a “trig/lock options” windows out of the shift/repeat screen. I think though that there might still be things that can be done to improve the workflow, like making the window “stick” as suggested by some people on elektronauts. Or adding a third line where the upper chooses the condition type and the row below changes the condition’s parameters. So things like probability and counter-based logic would be selected in row 2 and their parameters would be tweaked in the row below.
Though you can get around a lot of workflow issues by copy-pasting trigs and editing those.
And anyway… to be honest these are minor things compared to all the cool stuff that you can now do with conditional trigs/locks!


#117

Did dome testing on the pre-sliced recorder buffer and it seems to work alight. So I definitely stand corrected, they did fix that bug, even if they don’t acknowledged that it was a bug :slight_smile:


#118

Interesting technique


#119

Octatrack, 1 year later

Experiences, thoughts, workflows and issues

Note: this is going to be a bit long…

I’ve had the OT for over a year now, using it for the most diverse purposes. Some things worked, some less and in general I still am trying to figure out how to make it really fit into my setup. Still, I have collected enough experiences that it feels worth to write about them, mostly with the hope that they might be useful to some of you (who are maybe considering to get one, or trying to figure out how to use theirs) and with the hope to get some feedback on these thoughts from people who have more experience than me in the use of this device.

I’ll group my thoughts based on the intended use cases I have over the time I have used the OT

1) the field recording playback machine

One of the first things I did was load it up with relatively long field recordings and basically just play them back with some fx on them. I used the master out for the dry output and the CUE out to send certain tracks to the modular for further processing. Also I used a track to resample the master output and do some live slicing/sample mangling and the MIDI sequencer to send pitch data to the modular.

This did not work very well for me, in fact I have since abandone the OT in favour of a Pd/pisound based setup. This does not give me multiple outputs, but makes it a lot easier for me to set things up in a meaningful way for live performance. My issues have mostly been:

  • If you want to do lots of slow changes in levels and fx, you need to pack everything into one PART. The reason for this is that – since all parameters are stored inside a PART (including levels) – when you cange it you will get jumping values. So for example if you fade a track down, then change to a new pattern that has a different PART assigned, which has the level set to 90, it will suddenly jump from 0 to 90. In a context where you improvise with the material – so you cannot set things up in a deterministic way beforehand – this becomes a problem.
  • If you want to crossfade two recordings you need to use two tracks on the same PART, most of the time you’ll only have 6-7 tracks available (considering one might be a recorder, and maybe one is a master track), so that is eating up your resources pretty quickly.
  • It’s hard to keep track of what is playing and what isn’t. Listening is of course essential, but sometimes – when there’s a lot going on – it’s very helpful to have some visual hints. But the OT does not give you many of these.
  • You actually need to work around the way the OT is concieved to play long files. The standard way the OT works is with stuff getting triggered inside patterns, which loop after a certain amount of steps. If you have very long recordings you need to use one-shot tracks or trigger the samples directly from the buttons. So far so good… but I always had problems with stopping them, once they are playing.
  • Most of all… if you just use the OT to play files it feels like total overkill.

2) drum machine replacement

The OT is a nice drum machine, albeit a bit of a quirky one. It gives you a lot of power to work with sampled material, you can tweak and mangle the samples a lot, plus having 3 LFOs and 2 fx slots per track is really great.

The downsides are pretty much three: no polyphony, a very menu-divy UI and only 8 tracks.

The polyphony part needs a bit of exaplaining. The issue is not so much that you cannot play two sounds at the same time on a track (which would – at worst – be a challenging creative limitation) but rather that any sound is cut off by the following one. So if you have a percussive sound with a long release tail, and trigger another sound before this one has finished playing, the release tail will be cut off. So you need to work around that or use more tracks… but there’s only 8.

I found that you always need to use one track as a master track, since the OT needs a bit of compression to not get buried in the mix, and you usually need one FX slot to do some tricks like beat-repeater effects and stuff like that.

I usually am able to use only 4 tracks for the actual drums, which means you need to get really creative to fit everything in.

What is killing it for me a bit is the fact that it takes a lot of effort to make thing work, plus any change you want to make is also a huge amount of work. So sometimes you have an idea, but for the time you are able to actually make that happen, the magic of the moment is kind of gone. It’s also very bad when you develop a song in a band context, since you’re always holding up the others when trying to make changes to the patterns/parts/sounds. This is also due to how the UI works, it’s very menu-intensive, with lots of button combos and hidden stuff. You can’t just dial in a sound and carry on jamming.

I don’t think the OT was ever conceived to play back one-shot samples. It’s really focused on loops, be it live-sampled or ready-made ones. This explains why it does not work very well as a drum-machine and much better in other areas, which takes us to the next point.

3) looper and live sampler

This might be the area where the OT works best. Though if you want to use the OT as a classic looper you’ll find it to be a bit of mixed bag.

If you want multiple pick-up-machine looper tracks with overdub and all that, and want to be able to have them phase (different lenghts) you’re out of luck, at least afaik. You can do that with flex machines (which are a lot more flexible indeed) but doing overdubs is a bit more tricky (albeit feasible).

Apart from that using the OT as a multi-track looper/live sampler is what has proven to be most rewarding for me. It’s not very hands-on (you need to practice a lot and know your moves beforehand) but once you get the hang of it, it gives you a lot to experiment with and to mangle your sounds live.

One thing to keep in mind though is, that you need to have most things set up beforehand. Tweaking things live is possible, but feasible only to certain extend in my experience, but more about that below.

I also have a Boss RC-505 and that is a lot more immediate, big illuminated buttons, mostly a 1:1 interface. But the OT just has so much more going on under the hood that I do not use the Boss much anymore.

4) performing live

It’s funny that Elektron chose to call the OT a “performance sampler”, because I find this to be both true and utterly misleading. In almost every case the device feels like it’s much more at home in the studio than in a live performance context. And it actually feels more like a tool than an instrument.

It does have at its core a powerful live-sampling engine, which let’s you ideed use it in various ways as a performance instrument, but the way the interface is made, and how the features work, make its live-capability somewhat limited (to say the least).

While live-sampling indeed is quick&easy, everything you can then do with the sampled material needs a lot of preparation and is not really something you can do on the fly in most cases.

Since you have to prepare most stuff beforehand, performing on the OT often boils down to switching patterns and wiggling the xfader (often not knowing what exactly will happen, since the UI makes it really hard to reconstruct what is doing what, since the UI gives you really little visual feedbacks).

Two other things I have found to be hindering live performance and jamming:

  • Gain staging: the OT is very sensible on wrong gain staging and not doing it properly will result in various audio problems (like things lacking punch or having a much lower volume). The problem is: gain staging is very fiddly and has a relatively narrow “sweet spot” which you need to hit. Proper metering is essential for this, but the OT only has one LED which gives you a very rough idea of the incoming level, and totally lacks any type of metering for internal audio flows.
  • Creating patterns on the fly: this might seem a minor thing, but I find it very frustrating. There’s no way afaik to create new patterns without stopping the audio. You can’t copy a pattern to a new slow without having to first change to that slot. So what happens normally is: you copy the pattern, switch to an empty slot (audio stops, because the pattern is empty), then paste-in the pattern data. You can of course prepare a “bare pattern” in all slots, so there’s at least something in there, but when working on a track with the band I find that I continuosly feel the urge to copy the current pattern to a new one to create a variation on the fly (and often repeat that process).

5) Octatrack and the computer

Here’s another interesting thing I found: While the OT and Ableton Live are very different in what they do and how they do it, they also cover a lot of common ground.

The OT would be a great studio tool, but it has one huge bottleneck: file transfers. The process involves changing to “USB disk mode”, which exits the current project, tranfer the files, then exit this mode again, going back to your project. If you don’t want your creative flow to say good by in a good moment you better have ALL your samples loaded onto the OT… but even doing so, you’ll still need the computer for many things.

Basic audio editing is possible on the OT, but it’s very bare-bone, so you’ll still need a computer to prepare the samples (it’s also much quicker, and you want to spend more time making music and less doing preparations, don’t you?). So you still need to transfer lots of stuff back and forth. Also recording stuff is much easier and controllable on the computer, thanks to proper metering.

I found that for my workflow it works a lot better to prepare the materials on the computer, then transfer finished stuff to the OT. Following this road the OT quickly becomes a mere playback machine, which is not really what I had intended it to be in the first place.

Final thoughts

I still like my OT, and want to use it, but I’m less sure about it now. A lot can be done with a bit of practice. One thing I found to be great on the OT, that it’s very flexible and there’s a workaround for most things. You just need to be a bit creative with it and be aware of its limitations. So maybe I can still find ways to make it work for me.

For more ambient/field recording based sets I think I’ll use the Pisound box to play back field recs, do basic pitch and fx processing on them, and use an AUX channel on the mixer to send the audio to the OT for some slicing/looping and live sampling. This frees the OT from having to do the basic footwork and let’s it do the stuff where it shines.


Op-1 vs octatrack mkii?
#120

I think this frame of mind is where you need to be to get the most out of the OT. I did a performance a while ago where I used the xfader to fade between long samples while the other people I was performing with were doing other synth/sampler/vocal stuff, and then I also ran some modular stuff through it for light effects.

I feel like it’s an excellent hub, where a lot of stuff can come together, but that doesn’t mean it excels at everything it does. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d never do a live set that was just OT. It needs friends around so it can do its thing!