In 2022 Polyend announced the Play, a fascinating sample-based groovebox and MIDI sequencer that was pretty much universally beloved by anyone who could get their hands on one. The pandemic fueled chip shortage made them pretty hard to come by, at least initially. But my, how things have changed in a little over a year. In just around 18 months, the company has managed to bring the cost of the Play down from $799 to just $499. More exciting though, is the availability of the Polyend Play+.
The updated version is dramatically more powerful than the original. It still has eight tracks of sample playback and eight tracks of polyphonic MIDI sequencing. But, it now supports stereo sample playback and there are four built-in synth engines that can be controlled by the dedicated MIDI tracks. There’s also support for audio over USB-C. And impressively, it’s multitrack with 14 individual stereo tracks available for each of the eight sample channels, the three synth slots, the reverb and delay sends, plus a master audio out.
The synths are limited to eight voices collectively, but you can divide them up over three tracks however you see fit. So you can have a monophonic bass, a duophonic lead and then have a five note polyphonic track for chords. The four different engines are ACD, FAT, VAP and WTFM. The first three are different flavors of virtual analog synths, with ACD delivering simple single oscillator not unlike Roland’s famed SH-101. While FAT and VAP are more complicated, with the former delivering thick three-oscillator tones, and the latter having a pretty extensive modulation matrix for evolving pads. WTFM, is a two operator FM synth that, at least based on the samples posted on Polyend’s site, is far more capable and versatile than you’d expect.
While you can do some menu diving and customize the synth patches to your liking. There are plenty of presets, each with macro controls for quickly dialing in something pleasing. That is the big selling point of the Play in general, its immediacy. There’s still the semi-generative pattern filling options, and that includes being able to auto-generate bass and chord progressions using the synth engines.
One of the more intriguing things, however, is that Polyend is allowing owners of the original Play to trade theirs in for the Play+ for $399. This gives people who shelled out for a unit an upgrade path to the new more powerful hardware, but also reduces waste (and potentially saves Polyend some money) by allowing it to sell those returned units as refurbished down the road.
The Polyend Play+ is available now for $799.