Polyend Tracker Mini

Sequencer & Sampler
By Rory Dow

Polyend’s hardware tracker has got smaller — and at the same time bigger...

The Polyend Tracker, released in 2020, took the concept of old‑school software trackers and put it in a hardware box. The result was a fun, hands‑on desktop experience that gave you all the power of tracker sequencing and sampling in one affordable package.

The Tracker Mini is Polyend’s first revision of the Tracker concept. The new version has shrunk to an almost handheld size and gained a battery, an onboard microphone, stereo sampling, extra RAM and a 12‑track stereo USB‑C audio interface.

The original Polyend Tracker did a great job of packaging the tracker concept into a desktop device. I reviewed it in the November 2021 issue of SOS and found it a fantastic machine for retro‑style music making. My only real complaint was the lack of stereo sample support, which Polyend have fixed in the Tracker Mini. Bravo!

What’s New?

The features of the Tracker Mini are mostly the same as the original Tracker, so rather than repeat myself, I refer you to my original Tracker review for the gritty details, and we’ll concentrate on what’s new or different.

The most significant difference is the size. The Tracker Mini is a portable, battery‑powered device aimed at music‑making on the go. Its 170 x 130 x 21mm case is too large for single‑handed use but fits comfortably in two hands, with most button‑pushing done with your thumbs. It feels similar to many handheld gaming devices.

The case is textured plastic that has a practical, non‑slip finish. However, it quickly picks up fingerprints. In fact, beyond some very cheap phone cases, it’s the worst fingerprint magnet I’ve seen. The buttons are a curved plastic design. They feel somewhat spongy and require more force to press than you might imagine. I found that sessions over 45 minutes caused thumb fatigue, and buttons sometimes didn’t register a push. The Shift button, which is used to access many secondary functions, was particularly bad. I am hopeful this was just a fault of the pre‑production model Polyend sent us.

The desktop Tracker had a large data wheel and a grid of buttons to input data, select options and play samples and melodies. Due to size constraints, these are missing from the Tracker Mini, which uses a D‑pad with an Enter button and four +/‑ buttons for navigation. I was initially wary of this change, but I didn’t miss the data wheel or the button matrix at all. Polyend have done a great job of keeping the fast workflow of the original despite having less space. I particularly like the four programmable buttons, which can be customised as shortcuts to whichever pages you use the most. Once you find a setup you like, navigating the tracker’s various pages is fast and intuitive.

At 170 x 130 x 21 mm and 350g the Tracker Mini is certainly, er, mini.
The Tracker Mini’s screen is a 5‑inch LCD. Despite being slightly smaller than the original Tracker’s 7‑inch screen, I found it big enough to convey all the necessary info without eye strain. I did notice that the screen seemed somewhat unprotected, though. A gentle press on the screen (which isn’t a touchscreen) causes the liquid crystal to pool around the finger. Polyend could have put a tougher piece of transparent plastic over the screen to prevent damage. I certainly wouldn’t want to toss the Mini into a backpack without its smart, zip‑up case, which is thankfully included in the package for free.

I think Polyend have missed a trick by not including a touchscreen. Several times in the first few days of using it, I found myself absent‑mindedly touching the screen in an attempt to edit something. This wasn’t something I found with the desktop version, but perhaps the similarity to a smartphone, or its lack of a data wheel and keyboard, makes the lack of a touchscreen more obvious.

The Mini’s battery and portability will undoubtedly be the biggest reason for buying. Polyend claim that the battery will last up to eight hours. I left a song playing from fully charged and got slightly over eight hours before the battery went flat. It took around three hours to charge it back up to full again. One thing that would help is to have a screensaver or auto‑sleep mode. It’s unusual to have a battery‑powered device with no battery‑saving options.

The USB socket used for charging and the audio interface is found on the top of the unit, which seems like a sensible place for it, along with the micro‑SD card slot used to store samples, projects, and update the firmware. But Polyend have placed all the audio and MIDI input and output jacks on the bottom of the unit. I cannot understand this decision. The Mini’s handheld operation invariably means you will be leaning on something — your lap, a table, the bed covers, etc. You will always need something plugged into the mini‑jacks, like headphones, a line input for sampling, or MIDI cables to control an external synth. That means you can no longer lean the unit against your lap or the table without applying pressure to the mini‑jack sockets — and we all know how delicate they can be. The jacks would have made much more sense on the top or sides, with the SD card slot on the bottom. This would have allowed you to rest the unit on top of something without compromising those fragile mini‑jack sockets.

The other use for the USB‑C socket is the all‑new audio interface. Plug into your computer, and you have 12 stereo channels available. One for master output, one for each of the eight tracks, and the reverb and delay effects. My computer also showed a single stereo output, which I assumed was for sampling. However, the firmware that shipped with the review unit did not utilise it. Hopefully, it’s something Polyend will add in the future.

On The Tracks

The Tracker Mini’s capabilities are mostly the same as the original Tracker, but there are some important improvements. The sequencer is still based on eight tracks of monophonic sample playback with up to 128 samples loaded into RAM. But the Mini had four times the amount of RAM, upgrading the original 8MB to 32MB. It is a welcome improvement, especially with the Mini’s new ability to load stereo samples. These two improvements alone would justify getting a Mini over the OG Tracker.

Another significant change is in the Sampling section. The Tracker’s onboard FM radio is gone. In its place, however, is a built‑in microphone. It won’t win any awards for sound quality, but it is capable of fun field recording applications. Head into the Sampler screen, select the microphone as your source, and start making music from the world around you. I like this feature; it makes good sense for a handheld device.

In all other ways, the Mini functions precisely like the OG Tracker. The sequencer has all the same fun tricks that allow you to manipulate your sample collection easily. Each sequencer step will enable you to insert a note, instrument number, and two ‘effects’. The effects range from simple volume automation to probability functions, ratchets, repeats, LFO manipulation, sample slicing, pitch glides, effect sends and more.

Patterns are the basic building block of a Tracker project. A Pattern holds eight tracks with up to 128 steps. A Song is made from a playlist of Patterns. An Instrument consists of a sample, or wavetable, that can be played back in varying ways, including slicing, looping, and even a basic form of granular synthesis. Then you can filter it, apply LFO or envelope to pitch and cutoff, and send it to the global reverb, chorus and delay effects. There is even a sample editor that includes essential functions like normalisation, trimming and fades, and more complex effects like reverse, overdrive, time‑stretch, chorus, flange, EQ, bit crush, compression and limiting. The master page holds a global EQ, side‑chain limiter, and two single‑parameter effects named Bass Boost and Space. Your compositions can be deconstructed and remixed on the fly using the Performance mode, and there’s even decent MIDI functionality, including MIDI sequencing and external sync.

Performance mode allows you to remix your song on the fly and is an excellent example of how Polyend have dealt with the lack of the button grid originally found on the desktop Tracker. You choose 12 performance effects from a list of 21, including things like effect sends, volume, panning, sample start and end, step repeats, pattern playback direction, LFO speeds, etc. For each performance effect, you can choose four values to switch between. In the desktop tracker, this was handled by the grid of 12x4 buttons, with 12 effects and four values to switch between. In the Tracker Mini, you select a column (effect) with your left hand and then use the four master volume buttons on the right to select a value. It isn’t quite as immediate as the Tracker desktop, but it doesn’t feel crippled either. It remains a valuable and creative feature.

If you are a fan of trackers, and the battery‑powered aspect appeals to you, then you will love the Tracker Mini. It is a great way to make music on the go, and you’ll barely notice the space or weight it takes up in your backpack.


The Tracker Mini hasn’t lost any of the core enjoyment and immediacy that made the original Tracker a hit. Making it portable and battery‑powered makes a lot of sense. During my time with the review unit, I wrote several songs on the sofa and spent a highly productive five‑hour train journey making beats. The tracker format is ideal for this kind of handheld, portable device.

The lack of stereo sample playback was probably my biggest gripe with the Tracker, so its inclusion here is very welcome. The extra RAM will come in handy, too. The finger‑grease magnet case, flimsy screen protection, and baffling placement of the input and output mini‑jacks are far less welcome.

The Mini will cost around the same price as the Tracker desktop, or a little more, depending on where you are in the world. So how do you chose between the two? Perhaps a MkII desktop version with stereo sampling, microphone, and USB‑C audio interface would level the playing field somewhat, but in the meantime, the Tracker Mini is the more powerful of the two, and would be my choice until an improved desktop version comes along.

If you are a fan of trackers, and the battery‑powered aspect appeals to you, then you will love the Tracker Mini. It is a great way to make music on the go, and you’ll barely notice the space or weight it takes up in your backpack.  

Er, What’s A Tracker?

A quick recap: Tracker is both the name of Polyend’s product and the sequencer paradigm on which it is based. A tracker combines a software sequencer and sampler. They were popular in the early 1990s when computers like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were found in every young person’s bedroom. The sequencing takes on an unusual top‑down scrolling spreadsheet approach filled with hexadecimal values, which can bewilder newcomers but quickly becomes efficient to program once you become familiar. If dealing with hexadecimal sounds like your idea of a nightmare, Polyend have included a setting to work in good old decimal.


  • Battery‑powered portable tracking.
  • Stereo sample support — yay!
  • Four times the RAM of the original Tracker.
  • USB‑C power and audio interface.


  • Putting mini‑jacks on the bottom was a questionable decision.


The Tracker Mini is a portable, battery‑powered tracker device that retains all the functions of its bigger brother and improves on it with stereo sample support, more RAM, and a USB‑C audio interface.


£619 including VAT.


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Published October 2023

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