Grid recording gives you the traditional drum machine type programming interface, which works great for synth lines also.
Realtime recording lets you play notes in via the mini-keyboard or using MIDI controllers, great for capturing a live performance.
Step recording moves automatically from step to step as you enter note events. This is great for generating unexpected grooves.
Changes are intelligently quantized when necessary, so patterns always stay in sync.
Engine has no concept of saving and loading, all settings are saved behind the scenes without interrupting the creative flow.
Tracks and MIDI clock can be configured to output on either or both MIDI outputs, so you could use one output as a dedicated MIDI clock port for synchronizing external devices.
The isolated USB port ensures that ground loops aren’t a problem when connecting to analog gear.
With 16 configurable output jacks, each track can have a dedicated CV/Gate pair, or you can choose from several modes to send clocks, controllers, triggers and more.
Precise 16-bit outputs with a true bipolar output swing from -3V to +7V make it possible to get the most out of your analog synthesizers.
Gates output a +10V signal, which is perfect for triggering some older machines.
Dedicated pattern types for both drum and synth control can provide anywhere between 32 synth and 128 drum notes of total polyphony.
Engine was designed with specific attention to timing accuracy from both external and internal clocks. With support for the Elektron TurboMIDI protocol, you can take advantage of even greater accuracy when connecting to certain other hardware devices.
Two MIDI outputs can be configured to maximize throughput to multiple devices, this can also be used to isolate MIDI clock messages for the tightest timing when synchronizing external devices.
The ability to send or receive DIN24 sync clock allows Engine to maintain perfect sync with older synths and drum machines.
With USB-MIDI, Engine can be connected directly to a DAW for composition and control, while at the same time controlling additional hardware devices. The six control knobs allow Engine to become the physical interface for softsynths or mix parameters.
We chose to work with local suppliers for PCB assembly, metalwork, screen printing and packaging. This allowed us to be intimately involved in every aspect of part selection, production and design.
We test every Engine in our studio during final assembly and inspection.
User feedback drives our development, with major new additions added even before our official release. Changes in hardware to add additional MIDI outputs, support for polyphonic synth tracks, features such as adjustable gate lengths, soloing and more have been the direct result of user feedback. We are dedicated to improving and refining Engine.
Used for sending MIDI or CV control in realtime. Also used for setting parameters in some modes
Used to start or stop the sequencer
Used to access secondary functions
Used to select tracks, drum instruments or enter pitch in semitones
Used to edit pattern steps and select patterns
Used to set certain step attributes or enter other modes
Used to enter the arpeggiator for synth type patterns or drum roll mode for drum type patterns
Used to enter time mode or set pattern playback direction
Used to select pattern sections, banks and polyphonic pitches
Enter and leave record mode
Varies the tempo of the internal clock
Usually displays tempo, but used to display other information in some modes
Use 2.1mm, 9V DC power supply, center positive, 300mA or more
Push to turn Engine on or off
Use to connect Engine to a USB host, such as a computer. USB can be used for firmware updates or sending MIDI over USB
Connect to external MIDI devices for sequencing or synchronization
Can be configured as either DIN SYNC master or slave for synchronization.
Connect to external MIDI devices such as MIDI controllers or a MIDI clock master for synchronization
Mounting bay for optional expansion boards, such as the CV/Gate output expansion
This started with the form factor, specifically the sequencer needed to be a compact tabletop unit, with ergonomic angles reminiscent of classic drum machines.
We chose to go with a folded sheet steel enclosure for durability and machinability. The side profile doesn’t require plastic or wood end cheeks, keeping a sleek form. Using powder coat with silk screening instead of a printed adhesive overlay makes the machine feel sturdy and cool to the touch.
Early design sketch
Raw steel enclosure
For the interface and graphic design, we wanted something that echoed early rave culture with a “sporty” feel, but with a few modern touches. At the same time, the workflow needed to be completely intuitive, with a clean layout and text labeling.
The functional requirements were based on experiences with various machines. The sequencer needed to be playable as instrument, much the same way classic drum machines and synth modules have become “old friends”. This meant that the hardware should be a physical experience that doesn’t require peering at a small LCD display to perform.
With practice, control movements are committed to muscle memory allowing the focus to stay on creating music.
Streamlined synth and drum programming required both a traditional 16-step grid and a mini-keyboard, instead of a combined step/keyboard interface. The buttons are real mechanical switches with a firm click, rather than molded silicone pads.
To tweak parameters while sequencing, we decided it was necessary to add 6 controller knobs across the top of the machine. We chose potentiometers because the physical location of the knob pointer will always correspond to the current value of the parameter. The large tempo knob gives fine control and anchors the design on the right side of the machine.
We paid close attention to making a usable song mode. It is common to see live performances that use a handful of looping patterns, with the performer muting and switching patterns. With eight tracks playing simultaneously it would be difficult to switch so many patterns by hand. To solve this we introduced snapshots, which store settings across all of the tracks into a single slot.
We also saw that the tedious method of step song programming wasn’t used much, so we added a live song record mode. This allows snapshots to be selected and played in realtime and a song is recorded from the performance.
Metal contact switches
Rugged MIDI port
We found that sequencing softsynths with Engine was just as satisfying as hardware alone, but we also wanted expand the connectivity to include modular synthesizers when needed. To achieve this we added a full array of input and output possibilities.
MIDI over USB is perfect for a minimal laptop driven setup and two standard MIDI outputs can connect most modern devices. The expansion port was added to allow for even more options. The optional 8-channel CV/Gate output expansion adds 16 analog outputs and opens up many possibilities for additional control.
We have been frustrated by many newer CV/Gate devices only offering a limited 0-5V range. This makes it difficult to play synthesizers that require negative voltage for the lower octaves. The Engine CV board uses a true bipolar power supply to achieve a range of -3V to +7V with 10V gates.
With all of these goals in mind, we decided to make Engine a reality.
Nearly 4 years later, we proudly present the result of our passion.
We hope you will enjoy using Engine as much as we do!
Function Cheatsheet v0.93: DOWNLOAD (598KB PDF )
Update Utility: MAC, Windows7,WindowsXP, Linux (32-bit), Linux (64-bit) (3MB ZIP )
Boot Options: DOWNLOAD (38KB PDF )
Installing Expansion Boards: DOWNLOAD (36KB PDF )
© 2017 · Social Entropy LLC