Memotron digital Mellotron... but why?

A German company called Manikin Electronic have announced they're about to produce the Memotron , "a digital remake of one of the most unusual and fascinating electronic music instruments". I'm all for gratuitous retro instruments, but this does seem strange. Isn't the wonderful Mellotron a very easy instrument to recreate electronically? It was just a tape player, so if you sample the tapes, you're there. G-Media's M-Tron does it very nicely for about £40 in software. As far as I can see, the Memotron is just a very basic sampler with an artificially limited interface and a teeny keyboard in a nice wooden box. There's no price yet, so maybe it's absurdly cheap - but I very much doubt it. If you've got the money, you can buy a real, new, Mellotron from Streetly Electronics. (via the increasingly good Module Records Blog)

I agree a digital Mellotron is kind of like "synthetic water", but judging from the sound libraries included it may be aimed at someone who wants a nice performance keyboard that's really close to a real Mellotron, only less (not) failure-prone. And doesn't know squat about sampling or softsynths. And is rich too.
I bet it ways less though. This must be aimed at the Genesis-clone crowd.
I wonder if it has pressure sensitivity, like a real mellotron?
Not that it's either intentional or much use on a real one.

I like the idea of this clone, as it's an instrument, rather than another generic soft sampler. If I play a real piano then I play differently to how I play a real hammond as the action, controls, layout, feel, everything is so different. With softsamplers I have the same controller keyboard for every sound. It's more inspiring for me to have to work an instrument to build up chops within it's limitations, and take advantage of any useful quirks it has. Even the physical layout of controls on a monosynth can make you perform in a different way, as some make adjustments while playing easier than others.

With this Memotron, there are techiniques to be learnt like learning to play 'spider style' to keep up long sustained chords. I think so few people play their instruments rather than sequencing them nowadays that the concept of keyboard 'instruments' each having their own charm to a performer is being lost.
Why not try Hollow Sun's awesome Mellotron sample CD "New Tron Bomb"
I had toyed with the idea of creating a digital Mellotron a year or two ago using midi controllers and a PC, but if this is available for a decent price, I'd totally pick one up.

I also have the M-Tron and two of its tape expansions and love the simplicity of it, but putting it all in a portable keyboard that I don't have to defrag, maintain, update, etc. would rule.
They need to make a see-thru one...they should also make optigan sound sets for it as well ( hell, make it emulate ALL of those old sample-based keyboards from the 60s and 70s!
It seems to me that the real strength (and weakness?) of the Mellotron was that when it got really hot the tapes start to make really strange and unpredictable sound distortions.

How could you possibly recreate that?
"How could you possibly recreate that?"

Well, it will be done, if it's not done already. You'll have your plugin with adjustable warble and heat, and maybe a random hiss/tape fault generator.

It seems that computer emulation of instruments now dominates the realm of new synths/fx/etcetera. And, it's pretty much available (free) to anyone with a computer via cracked software. While that may make it possible for more people to make music, it removes the impetus to find obsolete old gear and use it in creative ways. I mean, why go scour the second-hand/pawn shops or flea markets when you've a billion good sounding fx and softsynths ready to go?

Hopefully, you find that question rhetorical.
I wish I could play piano
I knew we'd entered the Twilight Zone when I saw people buying plugins with sliders marked "Hiss", etc. They are now willing to pay for things they complained about non-stop before.
I heard the price is supposed to
be 1,599 Euro, or about £1,100 UK.
'...but why?' Because hardware sounds different from software. For the same reason that outboard digital reverbs usually sound better than their plugin counterparts.
Hi Troniacs!
Oh boy, how interesting to read all those different opinions about the MELLOTRON, the M-Tron and the brand new MEMOTRON.
Dare I say that I had 35 Mellotrons and more than a hundred tape frames in over thirty years of my musicianship? Half of the M-Tron's library, the MELLOZONE samples and the complete MEMOTRON library stem from my machines.

I am happy that the often so mistreated MELLOTRONS are back on stage and that their marvellous sounds can be heard (in old and new songs) on the radio again. Maybe some of my publications about the MELLOTRON in various musical papers helped a bit.

Let's be honest: there are actually at an absolute maximum only 1900 M 400s (including the new MkVI) and maybe some hundred other Tron models on this planet. What about all those ten thousands or more musicians who want(ed) those mellotronic noises for their compositions and performances? Keep them away from the sounds that often became part of their musical life and inspiration? Absolutely: NO!
Nowadays technology has improved considerably, enabling sounds and possibilities no one would have dreamed of forty years ago. So why not use it? Do you hate DVDs because they lack your video tapes' drop-outs? As times are constantly changing musicians do no longer need to carry 65 or 180 kilos to produce only three sounds on stage.
The main idea behind G-Media's M-Tron was to give all those younger (and older) guys who could (or would) never afford to buy the real thing the chance to add mellotronic flavours to their computer-created music and believe me, they did it and created a lot of interesting music!
The MEMOTRON makers have a different approach. They know that the original M 400 is heavy to transport (and for most of its users hard to adjust and repair). So they created an instrument which gives the player a bit of the M 400's flair without its bulkiness, but with a programmable (stereo) effects unit, MIDI in/out, a CD-Rom drive for the library CDs, a Compact Flash card for your personal sound combinations, for 'dramatic sound effects' a "one-octave-down" switch, a volume pedal input (for the authentic MELLOTRON feel) and the capability to use M-Tron sounds besides the MEMOTRON'S own library (= different from the M-Tron!) which presently is the best you can find on the market!

Some guys who only played the prototype at last year's Frankfurt Music Fair or at the NAMM Show did not have the chance to listen to the final version of the actual sounds that will come with the machine. Unlike the M-Tron the MEMOTRON uses a sample rate of 32 kHz which is more than enough to cover the MELLOTRON's up to 10 kHz (+- 3dB) frequency width.
The MEMOTRON library uses completely different samples than in any other library before published. It is divided into two parts:
The 'VINTAGE' collection faithfully reproduces the original MELLOTRON sounds of Genesis, Yes, King Crimson with all the typical oddities, a pinch of tape noise and pitch inaccuracy added plus the tiny differences between each key in volume (including the wow, flutter and occasional attack clicks) of let's say a 1964 MkII, a 1968 M 300 or a 1970 M 400. You will be amazed how realistic the MEMOTRON can sound when it comes to reproduce a superb sounding vintage MELLOTRON.
The 'STUDIO' collection has the producer in mind who wants to add those famous warm MELLOTRON sounds to his productions but who is not interested in hard tape endings or background hum noises (think of the 60Hz hum in the famous 'Violins'). The 'STUDIO' collection presents an ideal MELLOTRON with proper sound endings and a considerably reduced background noise level where the mighty choirs and all the other orchestral instruments create such an enormous sound impact that simply blows your mind in its clear power and perfect intonation - but with a character (so often missed in present-day samples) you won't believe until you have heard it yourself. For sure Les Bradley would have liked it.
Last but not least - the MEMOTRON enables the musician to blend all sounds of its (still expanding) library with each other for an unequalled variety. A creative tool for the working musician and the lover of those (unlooped - of course) 8 seconds long noises that make our hearts warmer.
Have fun with the instrument of your choice (be it vintage or modern) but use those marvellous sounds for your music and keep your minds open.
Yours mellotronically
I like this idea and it is actually one I thought someone should do a few years back. While I am sure playing the Memotron is not like playing the real thing, I think listening to a Memotron is probably almost like listening to the real thing. This keyboard has way more 'vibe' than a sampler or a laptop with M-Tron on it does.

This is important on stage. I think this is an idea that is lost on many people today. There is a certain presence that those old instruments had because of the way they looked and their sheer size. While the memotron is much more compact than a real mellotron it still has a vibe that is somewhat vintage and you can place another keyboard on top of it just like in the good old days.

The downside, and the only one I can see, is the price. It should be at least half as much as it is. If it were I bet they would sell like hotcakes, but as it is I am not so sure if the demand is high enough for a 2k price tag. But seeing as a real mellotron will run you three times as much, is much harder to move, less reliable. and not to mention the price of all those tape banks, I think the memotron will be great for touring bands who use mellotron sounds a lot. My 2 cents.
The price is too high. I would pay $1499 max for this thing and that is if it came with many sounds. This should have came out in the 1980s.
Jan 20, 2007. Just got home from the Anaheim, California NAMM show. The only thing that completely knocked me out in the entire show was this unit. Upstairs, across from the Vienna Symphonic Library display, they had a for-reals M400, with the back wood removed so you could see the tapes moving around, the clean newly designed motor and tube power amp. Last year, I got to watch them remove a tape frame from an Anvil case and swap it. Nearly a dozen operations, with two people doing the work, about five minutes. Tedious. But the real McCoy. $4500. Downstairs, at the Analoguehaven booth they had this Manikin Memotron unit $1995. Dead on identical look from the top and 100% sound, but also a very pretty blue LED screen and the ability to not only choose your A-B-C sounds, but from a list of ?8-10 different patches. They take a few seconds to load into memory. For live, this is the absolute bomb. Great for studio, too. I want one really really bad LOL!! Very lightweight, one person could easily move it and set it up. So cool! And the keyboard touch is EXACTLY the same. Smooth, flat black keys and a worn in feel, pressure is exactly the same as the real one. Amazed!
Wanted to add, check out their demos at:

What I heard through the headphones this afternoon at NAMM. The church organ is great sounding, too!
is this ever coming out? last year they said, summer of 06..then fall..etc.
I received the first Memotron That Analogue Haven shipped out. It's is a great keyboard. I wanted the sounds and experience of the Mellotron with out all the problems. I don't have time for all the maintenance and adjusting.
when is it going to make it to california ? been waiting to try one out.
there's no perfect substitute for a real mellotron, just as there's no sub for a real piano or hammond organ.

Good sounding things that are lighter weight and easier to transport, yes.
june 21, 2007

without using his brains for spelling

Todd Fletcher said...
I bet it ways less though. This must be aimed at the Genesis-clone crowd.

"I wanted the sounds and experience of the Mellotron with out all the problems."

You can forget about experiencing a Mellotron via the Memotron. If you've ever played the real thing, you know there's no comparison. They are not in the same league.

"I don't have time for all the maintenance and adjusting."

Then you don't have time for all the maintenance and adjusting of a guitar either, since a guitar requires more of both than a Mellotron does.
"Then you don't have time for all the maintenance and adjusting of a guitar either, since a guitar requires more of both than a Mellotron does."
It would be too nice if it were like this. I agree to your statement only when somebody bought a Tron let's say thirty years ago and always kept it in good condition. But today the general state of Mellotrons for sale mostly is that bad (filth, rust, broken or shorted tapes, maladjusted motor...) that it needs a lot of knowledge to make them do their job again properly.
Having restored dozens of Trons I can tell you how badly those wonderful machines were often mistreated through the years. The usual lies of most (not all!) Mellotron sellers are: 1)the Tron has always been in a dry room, 2) it was still used some days ago, 3) it has always been well-maintained, 4) the tapes are not shortened...
Is there any chance to get this German keyboard miracle in NYC or Boston?
The Mellotron and the Memotron are from diferent ages,but both keyboaards are based in the same idea.Chambelins & Mellotrons are exellent source of sounds and they have a wonderful sound library.But it's a logistigal nightmare to mantain a Mellotron!
In other hand, the Memotron is great for studio...But I wanna a keyboard with a good perfomance, with a vintage sound, and the pratice of a workstation.Maybe, a Korg, Kawai, Kutzwell...P.S: I'm living in Brazil...And, belive me,folks...My people don't find a true Mellotron Keyboard in... 35 years!So, I choose the M-tron.Good & Cheap.
I think this is a great idea but... a digital Mellotron kind of defeats the object of *ANALOGUE SAMPLER KEYBOARD* dosen't it really. Then again it is alot more poratable and cheaper but even if i had one i'd probably say to myself: "It's good. But still no mach to the real thing.
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