- Are they samplers? Are they drum machines?
- Elektron gear can often be hard to differentiate at a glance
- We break down the key differences, similarities, and benefits of each model
- Also, check out our shootout on the Elektron Digitakt vs Digitone
24 years on from Elektron’s inception in the industrial city of Gotheburg, the Digitakt and Octatrack have emerged as two of their most treasured products.
True to their surroundings, they sought to create external gear for electronic musicians that was easy to use and durable, from hardware synthesizers to samplers and drum machines.
If you prefer turning encoder knobs and moving sliders with the click of a mouse or scroll of a trackpad, you might be drawn to Elektron drum machines, samplers, and synthesizers.
Due to the reasonable complexity of much of Elektron’s range, it can be tough to choose from their products.
If you can’t decide between the Elektron Digitakt and the Elektron Octatrack, we’re here to help.
Digitakt vs Octatrack: Which Is Best?
Both the Digitakt and the Octatrack give you eight internal audio tracks and eight internal dedicated MIDI tracks. They’re both MIDI and USB compatible with real-time stereo sampling as well as internal and flash card storage.
Depending on the rest of your setup, and if you want a sampler that can act as a drum machine too, you might prefer the Elektron Digitakt over the Octatrack.
Read on as we break down some of the key features and benefits of both units and walk you through the main differences.
Elektron Digitakt: 8-Voice Digital Drum Computer and Sampler
With a powerful digital sound engine, sampling capabilities, and a performance-friendly sequencer, the Elektron Digitakt excels on its own as well as being a sweet sequencer for your hardware synths.
- Robust MIDI capability
- Great-sounding built-in effects
- 8 stereo audio tracks
If you want a drum machine with MIDI sequencing and sampler capabilities, the Digitakt is likely the choice for you.
Equally at home in the studio, as it is on stage, the Elektron Digitakt has 64 MB of sample memory and 1GB of additional drive storage, so you can do everything in the box without ever touching your computer.
However, if you want to connect it via USB MIDI or 5-pin MIDI, you can do that too.
You can even use it as an outboard soundcard with two inputs and two outputs, or use the Elektron Overbridge plugin software to stream your tracks to your Digital Audio Workstation while keeping your sounds and samples organized.
The Digitakt comes with over 400 factory samples, including 83 oscillators and noise loops, and 42 one-shot synth samples.
It’s a versatile instrument with a multimode filter and two assignable LFOs to get some extra gritty and weird sounds.
It’s also got drums galore with 23 electronic kits, one percussion kit, and four acoustic kits which can all be layered and looped across eight audio and eight dedicated MIDI tracks.
While most of the samples are drums and percussion, you can also record and create your own samples using any of its four inputs, using the main and cue channels, or using any of its internal tracks.
As an extra sweetener, additional samples and preset packs can also be downloaded from the Elektron website.
Built-in effects include reverb and delay, a variety of filters and phase effects, Supervoid reverb, a Saturator, and Overdrive. Additionally, each track has two assignable LFOs or two insert effects.
Elektron Octatrack: An 8-Track Dynamic Performance Sampler
Elektron's premier performance sampler and sequencer are better than ever with the Octatrack MKII. It packs everything you need at the heart of your electronic music rig.
- Loaded with effects
- Extremely powerful and flexible
- Ultra-smooth contactless crossfader
The Elektron Octatrack MkII specializes in sampling for composition and live performance.
If you’re used to working with loop-based control surfaces in DAWs such as Ableton Live, its workflow will likely feel pretty natural to you. It’s been used by everybody from Nine Inch Nails to MGMT to Thom Yorke of Radiohead.
If you’re an electronic musician who performs live and wants a lot of control and instrumentation with just one piece of gear, the Octatrack MkII has an assignable crossfader so you can switch between samples or drum loops and mix it up even further, all live and on the fly.
With four inputs and two effects per track, you can sample from other instruments easily and use effects including reverbs, filters, and phasers to build your sample library.
You can also pull from nearly 5GB of samples and sounds, including loops and one-shots from Loopmasters and Samples From Mars among others.
Once you’ve got your samples set up, you can lay them out in the Elektron sequencer or store them via CompactFlash card storage.
The sequencer has retrig, swing, slice, chromatic, and freeze mode for even more arrangement possibilities and gives you up to 64 steps per pattern.
There are 256 patterns available per project and 256 sample slots per project.
The Octatrack MkII is also loaded with effects, including but not limited to a multimode filter, Lo-Fi mode with several distortion modes, a chorus effect with Tap mode, a DJ-style EQ, and several types of reverbs.
Cost and Accessories
The Elektron Digitakt is about $875 USD, while the Elektron Octatrack MkII sits pretty at around $1600 USD.
For the cost of the Octatrack, you get more storage, more effects, and more sampling and sequencing capabilities.
However, the Digitakt is a great affordable choice for musicians on a budget or for beginners, and still has plenty of built-in sounds and functions for performers and studio producers alike.
Sound packs for both the Digitakt and Octatrack MkII start at around $12 USD, so not much of a difference there.
Both modules offer a number of accessories such as backpacks, carrying cases, extra power supply cables, and even merchandise such as patches and t-shirts.
So, Which Is Best?
This ultimately depends on how you define “better”. The Octatrack does have more features and is geared more towards live performance.
Even though it costs more, it’s ultimately a better bang for your buck which puts it ahead.
However, everyone has their preferences and if you don’t need all those functions, then the Digitakt might be better for you personally.
Especially if you’re new to hardware samplers, the Digitakt has a much more forgiving learning curve than the Octatrack, which is often coveted as one of the most complex samplers there is.
Is the Digitakt a groovebox?
The “groovebox” concept was first created by Roland with their 1996 MC-303. A groovebox is a self-contained instrument with drum machine, synthesizer, sampler, and sequencing abilities.
The Elektron Digitakt is considered part of the groovebox family and is considered to be one of the most versatile, compact, and easy-to-use grooveboxes.
Does Digitakt come with samples?
Not only does the Elektron Digitakt come with over 400 samples ranging from drums to noises to synth loops, but you can buy additional sample packs directly from Elektron, as well as from various other companies such as Isotonik Studios.
How much RAM does Octatrack have?
The Elektron Octatrack mkii has 80MB of flex RAM per project.
When RAM is in flex mode, it means each of the Octatrack’s functions can be set to use a certain amount of RAM, which comes in handy when recording large amounts of data at once, or when you want to store a lot of samples.
How do I update the firmware or operating system on my Octatrack or Digitakt?
Occasionally, Elektron will release a firmware update for its instruments. Since the Octatrack does not have USB MIDI, the steps are a little more involved.
To update your Octatrack, the easiest way is to download the new firmware onto the Octatrack’s CF card by putting the Octatrack into USB Disk Mode and connecting it to your computer.
Once the firmware is on the CF card, follow the update prompts in the Octatrack System menu.
Alternatively, if you have SysEx software, you can use Octatrack’s 5-pin MIDI connection to install the firmware update.
To update the Digitakt firmware, connect the Digitakt to your computer via USB and use the Sysex Transfer software (available on the Elektron website) to send and receive the new firmware or OS upgrade software.
Does the Digitakt have a chromatic sampler function?
To play a sample chromatically on a keyboard (so that the pitch of the sample changes as you go up or down the keyboard), use the function menu to put it into chromatic mode.
Is the Octatrack a polyphonic synth?
Neither the Digitakt nor the Octatrack has polyphony. However, there are a few ways you can fake it, either by sequencing chords via MIDI or mapping the same sample over more than one track and then pitch-shifting them accordingly to make a chord.
There are also a few third-party software applications out there you can try, including one for Max/MSP.