The Model:Cycles offers an easy and affordable way in to Elektron-world, and has a sound all of its own.
Cycles is Elektron's second release in their 'Model' range, joining the Model:Samples. A lazy summary would call these entry-level Elektron devices. They are certainly more affordable than other Elektron products, but there's more to them than that: they stand out in the range in terms of portability and straightforward performance control.
Model:Cycles is a focused deployment of Elektron's Digitone synth technology; the result of their sitting down to make a sequenced synth groovebox without samples. They've packaged up the already accessible FM synth engine into six ready-to-play voices, each with four predefined macro controls. Driving these is a six-track sequencer, with all the familiar features and potential found on the other Elektron boxes.
In contrast to the metal militarism of the Digitakt and Digitone cases, the Model:Cycles is slim, lightweight and plastic. It feels reasonably rugged, though, and the stubby rubberised encoders are tough and stable. The backlit buttons are small and a bit wobbly, but you get used to them. The panel takes a similar approach to the Analog RYTM in having both 16 standard-issue 'trig' step buttons and velocity-sensitive drum pads. As on the RYTM, the larger pads require a finger-bruising poke to reach high velocities, and I couldn't find an option to change the sensitivity globally.
The unit comes with a small power supply. As on the Model:Samples, there are connection points for a forthcoming Power Handle (great metal band name) which will power the unit from AA batteries and provide a handle-cum-kickstand (great folk band name). The battery port accepted the connection from the small DC battery pack that I've used to run other Elektron boxes. You can't power it from the USB port, but I noticed the Model:Cycles only needs 5 Volts, so I tried a USB-to-DC cable into the regular power port and it worked! I guess Elektron chose not to allow power via USB as it tends to cause noise problems. The USB port provides MIDI comms with your computer, and lets you use the Cycles as a stereo audio interface. Sadly, there's no Overbridge for plug‑in-based control and DAW integration. However, you can stream audio using the audio interface feature, and I like that you can choose not to include the effects. Unfortunately, I never got this to work.
The panel has a small display controlled entirely from...