Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

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masstronaut
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Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by masstronaut » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:57 am

I've been interested in the Monomachine since it came out. On paper it looks great and just the kind of thing I could really use. And yet somehow whenever I check out demos or sounds it just doesn't quite grab me.

Some reasons why I have been considering it:

- I need a new sequencer and this aspect looks good for my purposes. Bonuses include the arp and the fact that patterns can be transposed in song mode. Negatives might be that you can't have different clock speeds or lengths for different tracks.

- I need some additional synthesis. Obviously that's covered here and what it has looks intriguing. I like morphing modulating s**t and with three LFOs / parameter locks and cross track modualtion I figure there's lots of possibilities.

- I like self-contained and 'playable' units. The way this is designed looks great with a nice balance of deep features and immediate controllability.

And yet, I just don't know if I like the sound of the thing. It's so hard to tell from demos or from what other users are doing with a box but by now I really should have heard something that makes me just go YEAH! I'm sure I could get lots of stuff out of it I like but it's also a reasonable wad of cash that could be possibly used more effectively.

Obviously I'm also looking at a number of alternatives / combinations too but there's something that still intrigues me about the MM. I'm also wondering if it isn't about time that Elektron came out with something substantially new, maybe with some of the things I'd miss on the sequencer etc. What have they been doing all this time?

So tell me why you love it / hate it.

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by JSRockit » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:18 pm

I think you are on the right track with your thought process... what alternatives are you thinking about? I don't have any demos that will blow your socks off...
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by killedaway » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:24 am

i love that the MM can do brittle, cold digital; it excels at bleepy-bloopy video game stuff; hissing, roaring noises and chaos; fizzy glitching and j**k sounds; manic HARD electronic sounds; massive digital distorted kicks, noise-burst snares, and TONS more...

the sequencer is ridiculously good for all types of electronic music. you just can't comprehend the usefulness of parameter locks -- you will always find something unique, unexpected and useful to do with them. 6 internal synth tracks and 6 external MIDI tracks is a LOT of value for the price, considering just how varied and deep each synth machine is.

i have a few complaints with the machine: i don't like that patterns automatically save as you tweak them. if you delete a handful of notes "just to see how it sounds", kiss 'em goodbye. for the most part i can remember this, but sometimes it slips my mind and i'll kill an awesome pattern because of it.

i also don't like that the same button used for to initiate track mutes (the Function button) is also used to Clear and Paste, which can suck BIG TIME if you get a little excited and do some stop/start action while also quickly muting and un-muting tracks.

kits/patterns: the Monomachine stores sounds in 6 part "kits" that are independent of patterns, and must be saved when you make changes to them. i wish Elektron would take a page from Korg on this one: my preference would be for kits to save automatically, and also be tethered to patterns, so i don't have to worry about saving over a "shared" kit if i make tweaks to one pattern, but not another (that's related to the first).

lastly -- and this isn't Elektron's "fault" per se -- i wish patterns had more than 4 measures. 8 measures means i can throw different changes and drum rolls on the 4 and 8 to keep things a little more lively without having to switch patterns as often, and obviously it works alot better for bridges and choruses.

anyway, i still really like the MM, and i think its positives far outweigh its negatives. i would recommend one in a heartbeat to anyone doing sequenced electronic music that enjoys the more digital-sounding side of synthesizers.

i'll add this caveat: do not choose the MM if you're looking to emulate classic analog or even a lot of VA sounds. yes, it has standard waveforms, EGs, LFOs, etc., but it sounds nothing like your average "subtractive" synth. i won't say it's thin (though i hear this alot), but it is viciously cold, mechanical, lo-fi, noisy, bright, harsh and metallic! (most of why i like it!)
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by space6oy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:36 am

great take by killedaway. i'd especially agree with hating its auto save. pain in the a*s if you're making changes live that it doesn't revert to saved settings for the next time, the way electribes do.

associated with the 4/8 measure scenario, i wish the mnm would allow chaining of more than just two within pattern mode.

despite that description of its sound though, in addition it's still capable of very smooth, soft, beautiful sounds. keep settings simplified and it almost does that by default.

i need to use mine more...

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by killedaway » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:47 am

space6oy wrote: despite that description of its sound though, in addition it's still capable of very smooth, soft, beautiful sounds. keep settings simplified and it almost does that by default.
this is quite true, but in my experience, it is quick to get nasty, and takes a little finesse to get (or stay) elegant and subtle. while i mentioned that it sounds "cold", i purposely did not say that it can't get "warm", 'cause i can get some smooth, round, rubbery basses and low, humming, pad-type sounds that, to my ears, sound very warm. to me, the MM fills a similar sonic void as that of FM synthesis (whether or not you employ that particular machine), as it is quite adept at smooth, shiny, glass-y sounds and cyborg/robot/computer/spaceman quirkiness too. if i want a big, rich, unisoned pad (or similar) i look elsewhere, but on occasion the MM does surprise me.

i need to use mine more...
you and me both! though i technically use mine quite often, i never exploit its flexibility as much as i'd like (ie: TONS of p-locks, slides, LFO chaining, external MIDI tracks, etc.). i tend to go at it "bread and butter" when i mean to go "turkey and Dr. Pepper".
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by space6oy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:00 am

killedaway wrote:
i need to use mine more...
you and me both! though i technically use mine quite often, i never exploit its flexibility as much as i'd like (ie: TONS of p-locks, slides, LFO chaining, external MIDI tracks, etc.). i tend to go at it "bread and butter" when i mean to go "turkey and Dr. Pepper".
that's actually another good point though, both of us feeling we don't use ours enough... i have to be full energy and have plenty of time if i want to sit down w/ my mnm. more often i jump to simpler gear like future retro stuff & drum machines if i'm just wanting to f**k around for a few. same goes for the md. all day to make music = mnm + md. half hour before i have to go do something else = fr & tr.

also even back before i went veg i found turkey repulsive. :thumbleft:

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by killedaway » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:37 am

space6oy wrote:all day to make music = mnm + md. half hour before i have to go do something else = fr & tr.
hey, we have this in common as well. if i don't have a lot of time to goof off, i'll usually mess with just my Revolution. if i've got all day, i hit my Monomachine and microKORG; my Electribes land somewhere in between.
also even back before i went veg i found turkey repulsive. :thumbleft:
ah, that's 'cause you didn't have it over here. i deep-fry a turkey so delicious you'll question whether it's actually even turkey, or just pure joy become flesh. (ew? oh well.)
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by RobotHeroes » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:01 am

masstronaut wrote:I've been interested in the Monomachine since it came out. On paper it looks great and just the kind of thing I could really use. And yet somehow whenever I check out demos or sounds it just doesn't quite grab me.
The "on paper" is where I felt I went wrong in buying Elektron stuff. I was enthralled and impressed at capabilities and blah blah blah. Then I bought them and it's all been gradually downhill from there. Since this is about the Monomachine I will stick with that one.

Off the bat it's super easy to use. I went a very long time without opening the manual. If you've used enough synthesizers and drum machines you get to it in a snap. The sequencer is great and I love the arpeggiator. You can just about write whole songs just with the Monomachine alone.

Sound...you either like it or you don't. So far I don't so you should def try it yourself. This is the part where Elektron has failed me and broken my heart. To me the Monomachine is a supporting role rather than the star of a track. For little sounds here and there sure but it always feels like it needs help, a lot of it. So the sound is up to your style and vibe. I think killedaway described it fine.

Yeah on paper having multiple synthesis machines sounds great but I only use SuperWave and SID and they aren't even good. When I find something to replace it with it goes on the chopping block. But damn those Elektron sequencers! I wish they would just make a sequencer sampler and I wouldn't be able to throw the MD and MnM out fast enough.
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:39 am

RobotHeroes wrote:...you should def try it yourself...
With the 'current economic crisis' pushing used prices down now could be a great time to buy one used, try it out and then if you don't like it sell it on ebay just after everyone in the US gets their tax returns and has money to blow on useless s**t like music equipment. ;) You might even make money!

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by aeon » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:09 pm

Like other posters in this thread, the one thing that I do not love about my Elektron MonoMachine SFX-6 is the nature of the sound. Overall, it is thin and cold in character - crisp digital. This is not to say there is anything wrong with the machine - indeed, that is more a reflection of my personal taste in sound. There are plenty of pleasing timbres to be created, but I wouldn't want to base an entire track on its direct output.

To that end, it is great fun to use those direct outputs and route the synthesis channels through external effects - pedals, racks, and otherwise.

On the other hand, there is nothing saying you have to use the internal sound engines at all. The MonoMachine is good times driving a half-dozen external synths. My usual setup in this regard:
  • Clavia Nord Modular
  • Roland SH-2
  • Korg OASYS PCI
  • Roland JD-990
  • Elektron SIDStation Rack Custom
  • Waldorf MicroWave XTk30
It is a fun, inspiring machine in terms of composition and programming, but make sure its sound character is a good blend with the rest of your setup and that you like its basic sonic fingerprint first. Sound aside, I've never worked with a more fun digital sequencer.


cheers,
Ian

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by JSRockit » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:00 pm

Hmmm... a lot of hate here. I guess I'm the only one that truly loves this machine. RH was right in saying this though:

"Sound...you either like it or you don't. So far I don't so you should def try it yourself. This is the part where Elektron has failed me and broken my heart. To me the Monomachine is a supporting role rather than the star of a track. For little sounds here and there sure but it always feels like it needs help, a lot of it. So the sound is up to your style and vibe. I think killedaway described it fine."

I used to try to make tracks with all elektron stuff... and the results were, among other things, cold and thin... now that I added the x0xb0x and 888 to the mix, I feel better about what I am trying to do. So, like RH states, I have the MnM in supporting role and I love it. That said, this is partly due to my shortcomings... because I have heard all Elektron MnM tracks that are great and don't sound thin and brittle. I'd say that the overall descriptions of the machine's sound were good especially KilledAway's blurb below:

"....in my experience, it is quick to get nasty, and takes a little finesse to get (or stay) elegant and subtle. while i mentioned that it sounds "cold", i purposely did not say that it can't get "warm", 'cause i can get some smooth, round, rubbery basses and low, humming, pad-type sounds that, to my ears, sound very warm. to me, the MM fills a similar sonic void as that of FM synthesis (whether or not you employ that particular machine), as it is quite adept at smooth, shiny, glass-y sounds and cyborg/robot/computer/spaceman quirkiness too. if i want a big, rich, unisoned pad (or similar) i look elsewhere, but on occasion the MM does surprise me."

So, i.e., it is easier to get cold and digital, but warm can be done with some effort...
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by killedaway » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:10 pm

JSRockit wrote:I guess I'm the only one that truly loves this machine.
no way, i'm right there with you. even if we were just going by sound alone, the Monomachine is my favorite bit of gear out of my entire studio. it's also my favorite sequencer ever. it just isn't my most often used machine, but that's because my EMX is sooooo easy to put a pattern together on, that even if it doesn't sound as good, i tend to head there first to get an idea out of my head quickly, and on to the pads. the problem is that i'm slow to go back and transfer those ideas onto the MM when time allows.

my feelings are that in spite of what i feel are the MM's shortcomings, as a hardware machine, it is unparalleled and unsurpassed in what it can do. it is capable of creating precisely the type of sounds i like. if you like them too, the flexibility of the machine will bowl you over. it is that good.


there, how's that? :wink:
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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by space6oy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:34 pm

killedaway wrote:
JSRockit wrote:I guess I'm the only one that truly loves this machine.
no way, i'm right there with you.
there, how's that? :wink:
same here. love it despite having some irks with it.

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by Bitexion » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:52 pm

I tried one in a store a while ago. I thought I'd easily figure my way around it, since I am experienced with synths generally. But this was a complete mystery to me. I couldn't even find out how to listen to the pure waveforms. So I left the store.

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Re: Convince me on the Monomachine, or not

Post by killedaway » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:42 pm

Bitexion wrote:I couldn't even find out how to listen to the pure waveforms. So I left the store.
i can just imagine you leaving the store furious -- like, because you couldn't find the waveforms, you lifted your head back and let out a roar, flipped the MM in the air, and ran out screaming. :lol:
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