Polyend’s Tracker+ is An important update to the powerful (albeit somewhat outdated) sample-based groove box, the Tracker. What made the tracker so unique, and also confusing, was that it was… Keep track of (small t), but in hardware form. Trackers were an early form of music-making software that appeared in the late 1980s. They were initially used primarily for video game music but eventually found favor with a certain breed of electronic musicians, most famously Aphex Twin.

However, they are very much a product of their time, designed to overcome the limitations of late 20th century personal computers such as Amiga. New $799 Tracker+ It has evolved to take advantage of modern technology, but its interface remains faithful to its predecessors. The best way to describe the tracking tool is that it is similar to authoring in Excel. They’re vertically scrolling, spreadsheet-like blocks of letters and numbers that can easily intimidate a newcomer. But perseverance will reveal tremendous resilience.


Let’s get all the specs out of the way first. The Polyend Tracker+ is a 16-track groove box. Eight of these tracks can support stereo samples, with different playback methods, and the other eight can either control external hardware via MIDI or one of the five built-in virtual synths. Samples can be snapshots or simple loops; You can chop up loops, or even load them into granular and waveable engines for sample-based synthesis.

All tracks are mono. So playing a chord will take up multiple tracks unless you use a chord sample. But the tracks aren’t dedicated to any specific instrument, so you can combine kicks and snares on the first track and maybe squeeze the bass between the hi-hats on the second track.

The tracks themselves can be up to 128 steps long, and each step contains instrument and note data, as well as two slots for FX. The “FX” in this case is not chorus or reverb but things like coincidence, partial timing, and rolls. These two effect holes are key to making your music not sound like it was written in a spreadsheet.

In addition to increased sample memory, virtual synths, and stereo sampling, the other big upgrade from the original Tracker is support for audio via USB. This means you can connect the Tracker+ to your computer and get 14 stereo audio tracks straight to your digital audio workstation (DAW). This makes it easy to put the finishing touches on the arrangement you’ve created on Tracker+.

In use

The top and bottom images are close-ups of the screen and buttons respectively of the music making device

Photo: Terrence O’Brien

Polyend almost nailed the hardware with the original Tracker, if you ask me. The Tracker+ offers some minor tweaks, but it’s mostly the same. It’s lighter and easier to fit in a bag but feels solid enough. The buttons are a little clicky but have a new, soft-touch finish. The larger encoder has a little more impedance, and the display is brighter.

The grid of 48 pads is the same and remains usable at best. If you plan to use the built-in synths, I recommend connecting a MIDI keyboard. The pads are small, not velocity sensitive, and don’t feel particularly natural when playing. The quality of the hardware here is important since the interface can be a bit like doing office work. But the feel of the keys and the click-wheel resistance are all incredibly satisfying.

Polyend has put a lot of thought into the interface to keep things from getting too boring. There are shortcuts to quickly fill entire paths with data. For example, you can quickly ground a quadruple kick pattern with just a few button presses, create a quantized melody to a specific measure, or randomly adjust the speed on a hi-hat to give it a more natural look. Feel.

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