Great Hardware Sequencers (Part One)
Post date:Sat, 10/03/2020 - 09:06
The power and popularity of digital audio workstations have meant that hardware sequencers are no longer as coveted as they once were. However, this doesn't mean that hardware sequencers are obsolete or unnecessary. Many hardware synthesizers still include sequencers that can be used by musicians who enjoy not being bound to their computers while making music. Sequencers range from simple ones that can be used purely for making beats to complicated ones that can act as the heart of your entire setup. If you would like to incorporate a hardware sequencer in your setup, then take a look at some of the best options that are currently available on the market.
Mode Machines SEQ-12
The Mode Machines SEQ-12 is not the most affordable option on the market, bu tit is a very powerful sequencer that is actually more flexible than most DAWs in certain regards. It offers one MIDI input and three MIDI outputs while giving you access to 12 tracks that can either be drum, chord or monophone. Each track has 16 patterns that can be played in freely programmable sequences. The only drawback to the SEQ-12, apart from the price, is that the single color LED buttons can make editing the data a bit complicated.
Korg SQ-1 Step Sequencer
The Korg SQ-1 Step Sequencer is one of the most affordable hardware options and it is very compact as well. It works great if you have an MS-20 Mini, but can also be connected to other synthesizers, whether they are vintage analog synths or other compact synths. The highlights of the Korg SQ-1 is its 2 x 8 steps step sequencer and wealth of connection jacks.
The Squarp Pyramid was created to function as a modern and versatile hardware sequencer that is easy to use. It incorporates a powerful sequencer as well as a looper, real-time effect processor, midi controller, rhythm generator along with an input+output interface. It doesn't create any sound on its own, but can be connected to both modern and vintage instruments straight out of the box. The white backlit high contrast LCD screen of the Pyramid also adds to its ease of use.
The Deluge is the flagship product for Synthstrom and incorporates a powerful and robust synthesizer, sampler and sequencer into one portable package. It offers piano-roll style sequencing on 128 full RGB pads with scrolling and zooming. The deluge also has great visual feedback, is easy to use and does MIDI along with CV. In addition, Synthstrom has been doing a good job of releasing firmware updates to enhance the versatility of the Deluge even further.
Elektron Octatrack MKII
The Elektron Octatrack MKII is a powerful sampler, but it also features a very useful eight-channel MIDI sequencer. This deep, flexible sequencer has a wealth of powerful tools that have made it a firm favorite amongst fans. Each sequencer step can save parameter settings for almost all of the audio track's processors thanks to Elektron's Parameter Lock automation system. Also, the sequencer has swing timing triggers, one-shot triggers and many other types of triggers. If you are looking for something that is not just a great hardware sequencer, but sampler as well then the Octatrack MKII is worth serious consideration.
The analog-style interface of the Doepfer DarkTime fits in nicely with any vintage synth collection, but under the surface, you'll find a digital step sequencer in action. It's not the easiest sequencer to use, but if you are willing to put in the time it is possible to achieve great results. Doepfer originally planned the DarkTime as an add-on for their Dark Energy synth, but it can be used with other MIDI, USB or CV/Gate equipment too. Overall, the DarkTime is a feature-rich sequencer that will appeal to anyone who enjoys the tactile feel of knobs and switches over pads and buttons.
Let us know on the forum or comments below what your thoughts are on hardware sequencers and which ones you use for your own gear setup. Also don't forget to check back for the second part of this article where we take a look at the Cirklon hardware sequencer, the Polyend Seq Step Sequencer and more.