November 26, 2013

Elektron Analog Keys Preview

The Elektron Analog Keys synthesizer was unveiled on November 23rd at a very intimate showcase in Berlin, Germany. A few blogs and other media outlets were on hand to capture the first real glimpses of this new hyped up synthesizer and eager synth nuts were glued to their browsers for the unveiling. A few days have passed since the unveiling and Elektron have released a full set of specifications for us to peruse. A quick look at the Analog Keys leads one to believe that this is simply an Analog 4 with keys. It sure does look that way and Analog 4 owners are asking, “so what are the actual differences between the Analog Keys and the Analog 4?” Those that do not already own an Analog 4 are simply asking, “do I need this synthesizer and why?” These are great questions to ask in a marketplace that has seen a boost in synthesizer production from the low end of the price spectrum all the way up to high end. To familiarize yourself with those on the lower end, we did a rundown of some of the most talked about mini synthesizers on the market.

With something like the Elektron Analog Keys, you are looking at a synthesizer that’s going to be in the high end price range, but this should come as no surprise considering the price tag on other Elektron products. Just like you, we want to see what separates the Analog Keys from the Analog 4, as well as what features are on the Analog Keys when compared to other synthesizers. While the specifications do provide some answers, we ultimately will have to wait a bit before getting up close and personal with the Analog Keys. Until then, here is a preview of what the Elektron Analog Keys has to offer.

Analog Keys vs. Analog 4

As a proud owner of an Analog 4, I find myself looking at the Analog Keys and thinking to myself: did I make the right choice here? Has buyers remorse blinded me from what actually separates these two? The reason I am asking is because in addition to the Analog Keys being released, the Analog 4 is getting an OS update which should include polyphony. Yep that’s right folks. Your Analog 4 just got a whole lot cooler, if that was even possible. So if the new OS adds polyphony, then what are we really getting on the Analog Keys besides a key bed?

Well for starters theres a joystick. This is reminiscent of the joystick on the Elektron SFX-6 Monomachine. It is a completely assignable and customizable toggle for everything from FX parameter tweaking to pitch and modulation control. You can assign and control up to 15 unique parameters on the joystick. No word on whether or not it can double as a Pac Man controller. More to report as it comes down the wire.

The preset bank has been expanded tremendously when compared to the Analog 4. You now have 4096 sounds which is a staggering upgrade from the very limiting 128 sounds you have on the Analog 4. This is great when setting up your projects and taking full advantage of the step sequence capabilities. Another cool feature are the LED lights along each of the keys which makes step sequencing even more intuitive. This is where, in my opinion, the Analog Keys has a leg up on the Analog 4 in terms of workflow as well as general project management and sequencing control. Speaking of the step sequencer, something you have on the Analog Keys and is currently absent on the Analog 4 is the ability to set per-step presets and control external gear via control voltage. While there is no MIDI out for step sequence control through MIDI, you can enable the keyboard to communicate via MIDI and become a MIDI controller.

The filter and oscillator control is almost identical to what you find on the Analog 4, but they have added a new filter mode which may find it’s way onto the new Analog 4 OS. It’s called “extreme resonance,” but as of writing this, there doesn’t seem to be a demonstration of how that sounds or how it’s integrated into the control on the Analog Keys.

There are other notable differences worth taking a look at but they are found mostly when comparing the specs of each machine. For a full list of the specifications you can visit the Elektron Website. But because I am eager to share, here is the full list:

Elektron Analog Keys

The specs look pretty impressive, but we will make up our minds when we have a chance to play with all the features.

Should I get one?

If you are an Elektron enthusiast or a synthesizer nut, I can’t imagine a world where you aren’t looking at the Analog Keys and already thinking about where it’s going to fit in your studio or how you can incorporate it on stage. Trust me. I get it. For others, especially those that own an Analog 4 already, the Analog Keys might seem a little redundant, but there are some performance and workflow features on the Analog Keys that are lacking on the Analog 4. As an Analog 4 owner, I look at the Analog Keys and I am delighted at the prospect of having 512 presets shipped with the Analog Keys as well as the ability to store your own presets. Hopefully the OS update will make this feature available on the Analog 4, and an even better addition would be the ability to put these presets on the Analog 4. If it doesn’t, then the Analog Keys moves even closer to the must have category.

A glimpse into your future.

A glimpse into your future.

If you are new to synthesizers, or have only been dipping your toe into that water, the Analog Keys might seem like overkill. It shouldn’t though, and I can tell you that learning the basics of synthesis on the Elektron machines is not only fun, but it really helps you learn how oscillators, filters, and envelopes work and sound. The announced street price as of November 26th is $1845 which if you know Elektron’s machines, fits the pricing of their existing catalog. When you consider all that you would be getting at that price point, it’s hard to deny that there is a lot of value in the Analog Keys.

We will have more to report on the Analog Keys from our annual Winter NAMM coverage so look for that content towards the end of January 2014. Some of you may get to it sooner than that as orders begin shipping December 9th. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the Analog Keys or any other Elektron machine in the comments below. To purchase Elektron gear, head on over to