Polyend’s Play is a stylishly designed sample-based groovebox

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Polyend is a fascinating piece of equipment. It’s not for everyone, but it’s hard to argue with the value and power it offers. This year, the company is adopting the same basic format and going in a slightly more familiar direction. The Polyend Play is a sample-based groovebox, but it does away with the confusing tracker (lowercase ‘t’) workflow.

At its core, Play is an eight-track sample sequencer, with eight additional polyphonic tracks specifically for sending MIDI to outboard gear. This means it can serve as the brains of a complete studio or stage setup, while performing the tasks of a drum machine. Like the Tracker, it also features punch-in effects for live performance and remixing, as well as a DJ-style master filter.

Even though the Play’s sequencer was designed specifically for the device, it retains many of the handy features like auto-fill, randomization, and randomization that helped make Tracker so powerful. The deck can contain 128 patterns, each of the 16 tracks having 16 variations up to 64 steps long. And tracks can have independent lengths, BPMs, playback modes, and swing amounts, letting you create truly complex interaction. Plus, it has a song mode to organize all your patterns into a finished composition.

Although the layout is completely different, Play uses the same anodized aluminum construction and seems to use the same delightfully clicky keys. The large click wheel is gone and the screen is smaller, but the pad grid has been expanded from 48 to 160 (if my math is correct).

It comes with 3,000 samples, although you can easily load yours from a microSD card (a 16GB card is included). There are 35 different play modes, although Polyend has yet to reveal the full list of those. And there are built-in effects like reverb, delay, and saturation to color your songs. And, just like the Tracker, Play is powered via USB-C so you can plug in a portable battery and make music on the go.

There are still a lot of details that we don’t yet know about the Polyend Play, but one of the most important is the release date. But whenever it lands (and we expect sooner rather than later) it’ll set you back $799.

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