The original Arturia BeatStep already looked good. Start with a compact drum pad controller, add some encoders for more control, then add a step sequencer that can control MIDI and analog gear.
But the problem is, the execution of the sequencer idea is complex. It turns out you need even simple sequencers to do a lot. And so the original BeatStep, while still an amazing buy for a hundred bucks, was a little disappointing. It was just hard to actually sequence on the thing. You could get one sequence going, but that’s not enough for really playing, and simple rhythmic operations could too easily knock things out of sync.
And that’s why I’m excited about the Arturia BeatStep Pro, coming in April. Because it doesn’t just tick the boxes on my complaints about the BeatStep. It rethinks the whole control interface to make the kind of sequencer that could be at the center of a really amazing gig.
In other words, even if the price is jumping to US$299/€249 list, this could be a time for them to shut up and take my … you know.
And at its heart is a really simple concept. See, you probably don’t want to sequence one bass line, or one drum pattern. (Oooh, minimal!) No, you want more than one thing at once. So, there’s this simple idea: Combine two melodic sequencers with one drum sequencer. Run them independently. And provide easy access to all three.
I don’t care what sort of music you make, whether it’s techno or experimental ambient klezmer. The ability to do three things at once well is better than doing one thing sort of poorly. And doing more than one thing at once is the essence of live electronic music. So, yes, it’s about time.
As before, play each live in real-time or step sequence. Then add the ingredients together:
Two monophonic step sequencers
Add your melodic sequences here…
Up to 64 steps per sequence
Note, velocity and gate time settings per step
This is beautiful too — Arturia tells CDM exclusively that all changes to the sequences can be linked, or independent. So, for instance, you can transpose your melodies individually, or all together, all at once, right from the pads.
One drum sequencer
Multitrack drum sequencing makes it easy to add rhythms…
16-track drum sequencer (one track per pad)
MIDI controller mode
Fully customizable for knobs, step buttons and velocity and pressure sensitive pads
Send MIDI CC, note data, program changes
You can combine your setup into a single project – think “song.” You get 16×2 sequences, 16 drum sequences and a controller map.
Touch sensitive knobs – with (finally) feedback on the display so you can see what you’re doing
Per-sequence swing settings
More performance goodies
This is like being on your way out of the door and someone running after you and shouting “wait, no – we want to give you a free cake! And a bottle of champagne!” Because while you don’t need it and didn’t ask for it, Arturia are adding more:
There’s a Randomizer for spicing up the sequences, with Amount and Probability settings. (That’s one of the things I very much like on another step sequencer/controller, the Faderfox SC-3)
And there’s a real-time looper/roller touch strip.
Apparently this functionality came partly from Spark, adding the features from that excellent drum machine software to the Beatstep-inspired step sequencers.
That makes this into a performance instrument and not just a utility.
Oh, and it’s a USB controller
This is still an excellent compact drum pad controller with mappable knobs, so ideal for controlling performance. Add in those new touch-sensitive knobs, and you’re in even better shape.
Play Spark, your own drum machine software, Ableton Live clips, whatever.
I almost forgot about this after the much-expanded sequencing features.
You get everything you need. USB alone is enough to justify the purchase, probably, but there’s also standalone operation.
CV/GATE outputs (1 volt per octave CV, 10 volt gates)
8 drum gate outputs
Clock sync with multiple standards
MIDI In/Out with supplied MIDI adaptors
Competition: It’s On
So, there’s now both this and the new Korg SQ-1 step sequencer, which has a street price of just US$99. The Korg has some really nice volca-inspired step/jump features, the price is terrific, and those knobs are cute – and it also does CV.
Then again, that mostly means the Korg is something you might pick up after this. But with the added functionality of the pads, the multi-layered sequences, and so on, there’s no question that this will be more useful if executed right.
It looks like we’ll be testing some step sequencers this spring. And we’ll have ultra-mobile live rigs, just in time for open air season. And no reason to worry about glare or heavy loads, as a result. Bring drum machines, not records; bring synths, not laptops.