Polyend Tracker+ review: Powerful but niche


Polyend has Tracker+ The Tracker is a significant update to their powerful (if somewhat anachronistic) sample-based groovebox. What made the Tracker so unique and surprising was that it was a tracker (small t), but in hardware form. The Tracker was an early form of music creation software that emerged in the late 80s. They were initially used primarily for video game music, but eventually became popular among a certain breed of electronic musicians, the most famous of whom was Aphex Twin.

However, they are products of their time, designed to work around the limitations of late 20th century personal computers like the Amiga. The new $799 Tracker+ has been developed to take advantage of modern technology, but its interface remains true to its ancestors. The best way to describe Tracker is that it’s like composing in Excel. They’re vertically scrolling, spreadsheet-like collections of letters and numbers that could easily intimidate a newcomer. But perseverance will reveal a surprising amount of flexibility.

the basics

Let’s get all the specs out of the way first. The Polyend Tracker+ is a 16-track groovebox. Eight of these tracks can support stereo samples, with various modes of playback, and the other eight tracks can control external devices via MIDI or one of the five built-in virtual synths. Samples can be simple one-shots or loops; you can slice loops, or even load them into granular and wavetable engines for sample-based synthesis.

All the tracks are monophonic. So playing one chord will take up multiple tracks, unless you use a sample of the chord. But the tracks aren’t dedicated to a specific instrument, so you can add kicks and snares on track one and squeeze your bass in between the hi-hats on track two.

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 are not chorus or reverb but things like chance, micro timing, and roll. These two effect slots are the key to making your music sound like it’s not written in a spreadsheet.

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

In use

The images above and below are close-ups of the music creation device's screen and buttons respectively

Photo: Terrence O’Brien

Polyend has nearly perfected the hardware of the original Tracker if you ask me. The Tracker+ has a few minor changes, but it’s mostly the same. It’s lighter and easier to carry in a bag, but it feels pretty solid. The buttons are a little clicky, but have a new soft-touch finish. The larger encoder has a little more resistance, and the screen is brighter.

The grid of 48 pads is consistent and usable even in the best of situations. If you plan on using the built-in synth, I recommend connecting a MIDI keyboard. The pads are small, not velocity-sensitive, and don’t feel comfortable to play at all. The quality of the hardware is important here as the interface can feel a bit like office work. But the feel of the keys and the resistance of the click wheel are all incredibly satisfying.

Polyend has put a lot of thought into the interface so that things don’t get too boring. There are shortcuts to quickly fill an entire track with data. For example, you can quickly create a four-on-the-floor kick pattern with just a few button presses, create a quantized melody on a specific scale, or randomly change the velocity on the hi-hat to give it a more natural feel.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:




More like this

Here are all the devices compatible with iOS 18

Apple's WWDC 2024 was full of announcements about iOS...

Will Smith broke Twitch’s biggest streaming record, the real reason why

Every summer, Spanish Twitch streamer Ibai Llanos hosts a...