If you’re into fun, hands-on machines (that can also do some work for you), the recently launched Polyend Play should definitely be on your radar. Play is an extremely intuitive, grid-based audio + MIDI groovebox (with 8 audio tracks and 8 polyphonic MIDI tracks), with advanced randomization/generative features. It comes with over 3,000 samples and eight tracks of audio sequencing so users can create beats straight out of the box and make them their own with a wide variety of playback tools and effects.
How To Play With Play
Entering Play Mode makes it easy to pick a sample — simply use the Sample knob to browse through samples in the project’s sample pool, then double-tap that knob (for Folder) or use the dedicated screen buttons to toggle between Sample and Sample folder — and place it anywhere on the 16×8 step sequencing grid that dominates Play’s easy-to-follow faceplate to start building tracks.
Thanks to Play’s positioning of familiar sample-based controls (such as Sample Start, Sample End, Sample Attack, and Sample Decay) well within reach, it is equally easy to independently adjust step parameters, as well as providing ownership of each track courtesy of that Play Mode (numbering no fewer than 35 custom choices), a Chance and Action combo (to set up some automated actions, with the former being an algorithmic or percentage-based probability of the latter), Randomize (to choose what and how much, whereby one knob can make a lot of changes at once), and Step Repeater (capable of making short stutters, pitch effects, volume fades, and more).
If inspiration fails to strike straight away, a smart Fill tool is also at hand to automatically fill any area chosen with an entire beat, a random placement of steps, or even a Euclidean spread. Simple Select, Copy, and Paste controls make moving data — steps, tracks, track pages, variations — around a breeze.
But why not keep it musical with scale filtering forcing Play to input and output only notes that fit the selected scale. Seriously impressive as all of that already is, it’s far from game over of course! Play’s Perform mode makes non-destructive changes to tracks via performance effects including Filter Cutoff, Resonance, Microtune, Overdrive, and much more, while an array of — delay, limiter, reverb, saturator, and sound enhancer — Master FX are managed with a bunch of professionally presented presets to spice up entire mixes. It is perfectly possible to live record automation (using the onscreen Live Rec button) or change individual step values on the fly, as well as record monophonic or polyphonic MIDI data (using the Note knob, the View controller function, or an external controller).
Customizable chaining of Patterns permit mapping out entire sequences anywhere on the grid for live performance, while it is possible to Save and Reset patterns — perfect for getting out of a tight spot, musically, if things end up going awry during a live performance.
Play’s sequencing abilities are also second to none with eight internal audio tracks and eight individual polyphonic MIDI tracks combining for powerful integration with external instruments. Indeed, there are 30,000 track variations available, thanks to 128 Patterns holding 16 tracks, with up to 16 variations in each individual track! Track Length ranges from one to 64 steps, while each track can also benefit from different BPM-related Tempo, and even Swing values, as well as various types of playback, so letting loose with pain-free polymeters and polyrhythms is also perfectly possible!
Polyend’s Play also makes it easy to control external synths and drum machines on individual tracks with the ability to output a separate set of MIDI values per track — not forgetting flexible MIDI CC mapping per track for its individual rotary knobs, so users can connect an external controller for MIDI note input. It is possible to output chords, arpeggios, program and bank changes, pitch bend, clock, and much more.
Design, Connectivity and Power
Polyend’s Play is built around a sturdy anodized aluminum faceplate featuring a split-screen high-resolution display with 15 durable touch-capacitive knobs (that can be tapped once to select and preview a parameter or twice to switch between upper and lower screen values) alongside high-quality mechanical keys and silicone pads (powering that 16×8 sequencing grid and an associated 4×8 control grid with flexible — Mute, Solo, Variation, and Select — functionality). Meanwhile, MIDI Out and MIDI In are available via 3.5 mm mini-jacks — mini-jack to MIDI DIN (Type B) adapter included — on its slimline back panel alongside a 3.5 mm mini-jack stereo Out(put), plus a Micro SD slot — 16GB card with microSD to USB-A adapter included — with (5V/1A) Power provided over a USB-C connection that is easily powered by a portable power bank, computer, or included wall adapter.
Can I Import My Samples?
Of course you can. Playcan import WAV files in any sample rate — 16-, 24-, or 32-bit, mono or stereo — and automatically convert them to the supported format, which will then be turned into a monophonic mixdown of both the left and right stereo sample channels. It is worth noting here that the overall per-project sample pool memory is six minutes of monophonic 16-bit/44.1 kHz sample files, yet halving the sample rate will double the sample pool capacity since Play can clearly work with different sample rates with the greatest of ease.
Can I Use Play To Sample Stuff?
No, you can’t. Play is a sample player, not a fully-fledged sampler.
Pricing and Availability Play is available to preorder through Polyend’s growing global network of authorised dealers at an MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of €799.00 EUR/$799.00 USD or directly via its dedicated webpage (which includes more in-depth information).
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About The Author
Founder & main editor here at ANR, 'non-musician' and music-tinkerer. His first keyboard was a cheesy Yamaha PSS-270. He still loves it.
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