The electronic music machine makers from Gothenburg in Sweden are at it again with a new offering in their ever-growing range of thoughtful synthesisers, sequencers, samplers and drum machines. For those of you who are not aware of Elektron, then you must have been living under a rock, or a blues guitarist perhaps. Either way, it’s time to pop your head up and have a listen, because what’s on offer here is really going to change the way so many of us perceive FM synthesis. It’s not just another grey box with a very Swedish design and cool colour palette; this is a new way of finding your sound within a machine and giving it life. Have a look at the Elektron Digitone with me and see if you can hear some new inspiration from what it has to offer.
Elektron have delivered FM synthesis like no other in the Digitone. It takes additive and subtractive synth methods and brings them together for an FM synth engine that really dispels some of the mystery of FM synthesis and makes it very easy to understand. The compact yet rather crowded screen offers so much information, so you can always see just how your movements on the controls are affecting the signal path at the same time as hearing the results. This eight-voice polyphonic synthesiser really does make synth-play fun again. It’s a slick European design, with controls that are easy to work with and thoughtfully laid out. Newcomers to sound synthesis and old hats will all find something to work with in this little box. It has plenty of those all too familiar sounds on offer with the wide range of presets that come loaded in the box, and a whole host of sounds that will challenge your perception of just what FM synthesis is capable of. It’s more than just an oscillator with a filter, and LFO and VCA. This is a complete engine designed to help you design sounds that work for your needs.
Something I really love about the Digitone is the complexity that the Elektron sequencer delivers. There is really no limit to your imagination with this feature as it allows you to program every step with total control. You can actually assign different presets to each step in the sequence, as well as assigning and adjusting EQ, filter and effects parameters for each step. Think about it: you can have totally unique sounds with every note as a sequence plays out, something that simply isn’t possible with an analogue synthesiser. Plus, you can micro adjust each step to add a more human feel to the rhythm of the notes and give it less of a digital vibe. This means the Digitone is really working overtime when running the sequencer to deliver what can sound like several synthesisers operating together. It seems pretty complex, and I suppose it is, but the workings of the step sequencer make it very easy to adjust each individual note and create some truly diverse patterns. Not only does the Digitone offer a great range of sounds, it delivers in ease of use too, so you have no excuse for serving up a boring sound.
Hits and Misses
Incredible expanse of sound possibilities
Great control with the sequencer
So much variety and so simple to operate