Few companies persevered with hardware samplers after the introduction of powerful software options in the early 2000s. The market for expensive standalone sampler boxes seemingly disappeared overnight – at least until Elektron released the Octatrack in 2011.
The Octatrack tore up the rulebook. It’s a deliberately complex and multi-faceted piece of kit, requiring serious investment of time to get to grips with its potential. Unlike most other hardware sequencers, it also prioritises live performance and sound mangling above all else.
A lot of people find it hard to get into the Octatrack’s complex and multi-layered workflow, which is a perfectly legitimate complaint: this is by no means a simple instrument. You can scratch the surface of the features and understand how it works within hours, but you won’t get the most out of it without truly studying the manual and exploring the deeper functionality. Those who put in the effort got a fantastic instrument just as capable of reworking loops and hits in the studio as being the centrepiece of a live setup.
Elektron updated the model to the Octatrack MKII in late 2017. It wasn’t a radical overhaul so much as a refresh. Aside from a new look and upgraded components, the most notable difference was a smattering of dedicated buttons, helping smooth out and speed up the workflow.
The Octatrack remains one of the best choices for dedicated hardware sampling. Such is its unique approach that it’s hard to name a software alternative. Similar things can be achieved using DAWs and plugins, but the focused approach of the Octatrack is hard to replicate.