Polyend’s is a fascinating piece of gear. It’s not for everyone, but it’s hard to argue with the value and power it delivers. This year the company is taking that same basic format, and going in a slightly more familiar direction. The Polyend Play is a sample-based groovebox, but it does away with confounding tracker (lowercase “t”) workflow.
At its core Play is an eight track sample sequencer, with an additional eight polyphonic tracks specifically for sending MIDI to external gear. That means it can serve as the brains of a full studio or stage setup, while still handling the duties of a drum machine. Like the Tracker, it also has punch-in effects for performance and live remixing, as well as a DJ-style master filter.
Even though the sequencer on the Play was built from the ground up specifically for the device, it still retains many of the convenient features like autofill, randomization and chance that helped make Tracker so powerful. Play can hold 128 patterns, with 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, allowing you to create really complex interplay. Plus it has a song mode for arranging all your patterns into a finished composition.
While the layout is completely different, Play uses the same anodized aluminum build and appears to use the same delightfully clicky keys. The large click wheel is gone and the screen is smaller, but the grid of pads has been expanded from 48 to 160 (if my math is correct).
It comes loaded with 3,000 samples, though you can easily load your own from a microSD card (a 16GB one is included). There are 35 different playback modes, though Polyend hasn’t revealed a full list of what those are yet. And there are built-in effects like reverb, delay and saturation for coloring your songs. And, just like the Tracker, Play is powered over USB-C so you can plug into a portable battery and make music on the go.
There are still a lot of details we don’t know about the Polyend Play yet, but one of the biggest is the release date. But whenever it does land (and we expect sooner than later) it will set you back $799.