Easily one of the most fascinating devices I've had the pleasure of reviewing is the Polyend Tracker. It's hard to overstate what a unique piece of hardware it is. The company followed up last year with the Play, another sample-based groovebox that took a more immediate approach to music creation. Now the company is back, yet again, taking its undeniable sampling prowess mobile with the Tracker Mini.
The Mini takes the core workflow of the original Tracker and shrinks it down to something under one pound, and just 6.7 by 5.1 inches. That's not the smallest groovebox in the world, but quite a bit smaller than something like the SP-404 MKII. It retains full compatibility with the Tracker though, so you can start a song in the studio and finish it on the go, or vice versa.
The Tracker Mini does lack the satisfying jog wheel, versatile pads and FM radio, but it does gain a microphone and a built-in battery. What's more, it actually has more memory and a faster CPU, so the Mini can hold up to eight minutes of mono samples in its pool, up from just two. Plus it supports audio over USB, stereo sampling and even comes with it's own hard case — a must have for protecting your music making gear on the go.
The 4310 mAh batter should last up to eight hours on a charge, though that will largely depend on how you're using the device, obviously. The mechanical keyboard style controls and jog wheel are replaced with gamepad style buttons. It may make navigating the interface slightly more difficult, but many of the shortcut and function keys made the transition. So creating a track shouldn't require to much menu diving or gratuitous button presses.
Most importantly, though, it has eight tracks of audio and / or MIDI, all the same sample editing tools, effects, beat slicing features, granular and wavetable synthesizers. It is easily capable of not just sketching out an idea, but building an entire song or even album. It looks likely to be one of the most powerful and interesting portable grooveboxes on the market when it starts shipping in July. You can preorder one now directly from Polyend or through retailers like Perfect Circuit for $699.