Elektron’s latest compact groove station takes a welcome new look at FM.
The Digitone marries a four-part FM-synth engine with Elektron’s much lauded performance sequencer. Despite loving most of what Elektron do, I noticed a curious air of ‘meh’ in my own reaction to the Digitone’s launch. A little introspection revealed an ugly truth I’d not acknowledged about myself: I’m a bit FM-ist. Maybe it’s because I started my journey into synths and audio production in the early ’90s, when every studio seemed to have a dusty DX7 standing against a wall, as past-it as rolled-up jacket sleeves.
But then at Superbooth I wandered onto Elektron’s booth and braved the communal demo headphones to check out what all the fuss is about. Oh mummy; a couple of presets in and I was all beardy grin. Not a lifeless electric piano, half-assed flute or lazy bell to be heard, just a gorgeous wash of crystalline synth beauty, warm clarity, and solid low end that goes down forever. I should have known better, I love these types of sounds; looking through my DAW projects from the last 15 years I’ve put FM8 in nearly every one in spite of myself.
So what exactly is the Digitone all about? Fundamentally it’s an FM synth workstation, offering four-part multi-timbrality with eight voices. You could treat it as a sound module that — when Overbridge arrives — will offer discrete outputs for each synth track over USB. Overbridge will also give you remote control, recall and automation of the whole machine via a plug-in. But all this would be missing out on half of what the Digitone has to offer; the real fun is to be had working directly with it hands-on, building multitrack patterns and performances with the internal sequencer.
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