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Electra One MkII

MIDI Controller By Rory Dow
Published June 2024

Electra One MkII

Does a modern hardware MIDI controller with the ability to add your own features sound too good to be true?

The Electra One, by a company of the same name, is a small desktop MIDI controller with a touchscreen, a dozen high‑resolution rotary pots, six buttons, and USB and DIN MIDI ports. Its superpower is a mature Web MIDI platform that allows you to create custom controllers and switch between them at the touch of a button. There’s even a scripting language enabling anyone with a small amount of programming or scripting skill to create custom features, including two‑way MIDI communication, bulk SysEx interpretation, custom display formatting, and MIDI effects like arpeggiators and LFOs.

In essence, the Electra One can be a controller for DAWs, live performances or an editor/librarian for any MIDI equipment, new or old. At first, I was most excited about making editors for some older rack equipment in my studio, like the Roland MKS‑50, Yamaha TX81Z, and the Korg 03R/W. These are great synths hamstrung by awful UX design, and many software editors no longer work on modern Macs and PCs. The idea of having a small desktop device that can easily edit sounds on these old synths, switching from one profile to another, with the added reliability of hardware, is very appealing. However, I quickly found other uses for the Electra One as a DAW controller and partner for specific pieces of equipment, essentially adding more physical controls and features.

MIDI Chameleon

At 206 x 189 x 38mm, the Electra One will take up very little space on your desktop. The aluminium enclosure is reassuringly solid, and there is no wobble in the touch‑sensitive knobs. The screen is a 7‑inch colour LCD with 1024x600 resolution and looks great. Power comes from the USB Type‑B port on the back, which also supplies two virtual MIDI ports and a control port for sending data back and forth from the Web MIDI interface. While I would usually moan about the lack of a dedicated power supply, in this case, it’s OK. The Electra One does not generate audio, so those pesky ground‑loop hums caused by USB‑powered equipment are not an issue.

On the rear of the unit, we also find a USB Type‑A host port and two sets of MIDI DIN in/out ports. The USB host can be used to connect any USB MIDI class‑compliant device. If you want to connect more devices, you can use a USB hub. All these MIDI ports can send and receive MIDI, and a programable MIDI router and merger allows you to configure the unit to your setup.

A typical setup might be USB Type‑B to the computer for power, Web MIDI editing, and two‑way DAW control; USB Type‑A host port connected to a a master keyboard and modern sequencer for live performance enhancement; and MIDI DIN ports used for older equipment without USB. With this setup correctly configured, you can switch between presets to use the Electra One as a DAW controller, sequencer partner, or ancient synth editor without rewiring. You can also use the Web MIDI environment any time to edit your presets and upload them to the unit.

At the back of the Electra One we find a dual pair of MIDI I/O sockets and a brace of USB ports.At the back of the Electra One we find a dual pair of MIDI I/O sockets and a brace of USB ports.

Hands On

The Electra One screen can contain up to 36 parameters, and an instrument (or ‘preset’ in Electra One lingo) can have up to 12 pages, allowing you to configure up to 432 parameters per preset. The screen is divided into three rows with 12 parameters on each row. One row is active at a time, and the 12 endless encoders control the parameters of that row. You can use the buttons on the left to move between rows or just touch the screen.

A preset contains everything you need for one configuration — perhaps a synth, DAW, or something more unusual like a bank of MIDI LFOs or a custom MIDI Clock generator. If required, you can address up to 32 different devices from a single preset. Devices are configured separately and contain information about what MIDI channel they respond to and what port they are on. The unit can store 72 presets and switch between them at the touch of a button. On the newer MkII unit, an upgraded CPU allows you to run up to 12 presets concurrently, which means that even background presets continue to process. The older MkI units could only process one preset at a time. Once you transfer a preset to the unit, you can disconnect it from the computer and use it standalone — ideal for live performers wanting to take it on stage.

Creating your own presets is entirely optional. Electra One have a busy community of creators uploading their work to the Electra One preset library, part of the broader set of Web MIDI tools that communicate directly with the Electra One hardware. Adding one of these presets to your preset library and onwards to one of the 72 preset slots on the hardware is easily achieved using the Web MIDI online interface.

Electra One’s online preset library contains pre‑made MIDI controllers that you can use and edit.Electra One’s online preset library contains pre‑made MIDI controllers that you can use and edit.

The library contains hundreds of presets, including synth editors, MIDI processors, sequencers, DAW controllers, and useful code examples. Sometimes, when using presets created by others, they need some tweaking to get working. MIDI can be a complex beast, and if the creator has set up their preset to use specific MIDI channels or SysEx IDs, you might have to edit the preset before it will work in your setup. If the preset has been configured correctly, this is trivial. However, sometimes, the preset creator may have written scripts that use specific MIDI channels, which can be more challenging to fix. As a non‑programmer myself (although I dabble in a bit of scripting), I got most presets working, if not instantly then with a small amount of editing. And if you do get stuck, Electra One’s helpful forum community is willing to help.


Although you don’t need to, if you buy an Electra One, it’s probably because you want to make something specific to your needs. The suite of tools available to assist you in this goal is impressive and, perhaps, a little bit daunting. The good news is that you don’t need to do any scripting to get started.

The online preset editor works via Web MIDI, a browser API that allows your Web...

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