We take a look at our favourite Hardware MIDI Sequencers, so you can step up your live and studio game, control your workflow and create some sick beats!
Whether you’re a live performance artist or prefer to create and produce music in the comfort of your home studio, there's something about using hardware products to sculpt your sound that feels so right! If you’ve a penchant for EDM, electronic music or sampling in general, chances are the hardware MIDI sequencer is a key component to your live sound. If you don’t already have one or use one - sort your life out! The MIDI sequencer is a fantastic tool that can really take your music to “Such Great Heights” - bonus points if you get that reference!
With so many different options out there, it’s hard to find the best hardware MIDI sequencer available. Sure there’s some great plugins that will do it for you, but there’s nothing quite like using a physical piece of kit to add those humanised dynamics to your sound and being able to switch up sounds manually. So today, we’re showing you the 6 best hardware MIDI sequencers for producers and musicians - all of which have their unique features, with some a little easier to use than others.
1. Korg Volca Sample Digital Sequencer
Choosing just one item from the Korg Volca series was pretty difficult considering most of them contain some kind of sequencer. However, today we’re just going to discuss the Korg Volca Sample Digital Sequencer. Whether you’re just starting out on your step or MIDI sequencing journey or you’re a seasoned pro, you’ll find this both fun to use and extremely useful.
Straight out of the box, the Volca Sample is loaded with an array of samples that you can use to sequence an array of different patterns. You also have a selection of effects to add to your sounds such as EQ and Reverb. Of course, when coupled with the iOS app, it becomes a sampler in its own right, so you can edit and trigger any spoken word, vocals or even static electric noises and glitches that you've captured using the AudioPocket for volca sample iOS app to create really cool sounds and complete songs, making it a great tool for unique music creation. You can add or remove steps easily and even enter notes via the 16 step keys and record in real time. In addition, you can also store up to 10 sequence patterns via the internal memory for live use.
The cool thing about the Korg Volca Sample is that it allows you to load samples from the dedicated AudioPocket iOS app, so anything you record on your iPhone or iPad can be used as a sample, meaning you can record anything, anywhere and load it onto the Volca Sample later on. The MIDI IN jack allows you to synchronise playback with the other items in the Volca series or even the Electribe units. Definitely worth a look considering how budget-friendly and easy it is to use.
2. Novation Circuit
The Novation Circuit is quickly becoming an industry standard sequencing tool thanks to its sheer power and portability. Offering musicians and producers a wide array of options, the Circuit is a 16 step grid based sequencer with two Novation polysynths and a four-part drum machine in one handy unit. This robust piece of hardware is stage and studio ready, and can be powered via battery or 12V DC power supply. Due to the fact the Circuit includes a built-in speaker you can make music anywhere, so those hotel recording sessions are covered.
The 32 pads make up the grid to allow you to view note information and the step sequencer, so you won't get lost mid gig. You can place different samples you’ve created into the unit via your DAW or use the existing drum sounds that are already built-in. You can also add effects, change pitch of your sequencers and enjoy quantized patterns – ideal for when you’re playing live.
The interesting thing with the Novation Circuit is that you can string the 16 step sequences together - in fact, you can string up to 8 x 16 step sequences together making a grand total of 128 steps. There’s a huge range of connectivity options too, as you have Left and Right Aduio outputs as well as the Mono output. You also have MIDI input and output via 3.5mm connector – but fear not they’ve also included a 5 pin MIDI breakout cable in the box! There’s also USB MIDI connection too, making it an ideal tool for producers and musicians of all levels.
3. Korg ESX2 Electribe Sampler
The Korg ESX2 Electribe Sampler is an updated version of the original Electribe SX with an array of new features made with the modern musician and producers in mind. You have 16 pads to get to grips with, allowing you to create patterns as well as an intuitive touch pad that works just like a Kaoassilator – simply move your finger around the touch pad and warp your sounds instantly.
The Korg ESX2 Electribe also includes MIDI IN and OUT, and Sync In/Out so syncing with any other Korg products or MIDI based devices isn’t a problem. The on-board synth engine is packed with loads of drum sounds as well as a selection of really great keyboard sounds that you can play in real time, record with and perform step sequencing patterns.
4. Arturia BeatStep Pro USB MIDI Drum Sequencer
The Arturia BeatStep Pro is far more than just a MIDI sequencer - it's a complete control hub for your studio! Packed within this super portable package is the ability to take advantage of up to 64 steps per sequence, 16 sequences per project and 16 projects – which should be more than enough for you to get to grips with. On top of that there’s an additional drum sequencer with 16 separate tracks making it an extremely powerful option for producers.
The BeatStep Pro is a powerhouse of connectivity options which allows you to take complete control over your workflow thanks to the MIDI, USB, CV/Gate, and DIN Sync Control capabilities. Whether you’re using new or vintage gear, drum machines, iPad apps, software instruments or analogue synths, you can manage your performance in real time. This is by far one of the best value for money products available on the market today. Yes, it’s a hardware MIDI sequencer, but it’s so much more. It’s a control hub for your entire workflow and one of the best MIDI sequencers you’ll ever have the privilege of using.
5. Pioneer DJ Toraiz AS 1 Analogue Synth
Pioneer have partnered with Dave Smith Instruments again after the extremely successful run with the Toraiz SP16 Sequencer. Announced at NAMM 2017, the Pioneer DJ Toraiz AS 1 Analogue Synth has already become a hot topic in the world of music production and EDM.
You have a 64-step sequencer to play with, an arpeggiator, the beautiful sounding Prophet-6 analogue synthesis engine and a touchpad-style keyboard with slider to really bring out the best in your live performance. One of the coolest things about this unit is the 7 built-in effects including a great analogue style distortion effect so you can add a harsh, dirty feel to your overall sound. In addition, you have ring Modulation as well as the coveted Bucket Brigade Delay to add great dynamics to your performance.
6. Native Instruments Maschine Studio
If you lean more towards making beats onstage or in the studio and don’t have any analogue gear you need to control, the Native Instruments Maschine Studio is a great option for you. This is ideal for those who prefer to integrate software as part of their live performances, and is perfectly matched with Komplete recording software as well as the Komplete Kontrol Keyboard range, however you can hook it up to your DAW of choice. You can also see and edit your sequencers via the software or the unit itself – the LED lights making it easy to see exactly what’s going on. If you don’t already have any software, fear not as it comes packed with MASCHINE 2, featuring 22GB of sounds and some exclusive drum synths. On top of that you also get KOMPLETE 11 SELECT packed to the brim with instruments and effects.
If you have a digital studio set up, you can take full advantage of the MIDI controller and also use it as a MIDI sequencer, making it a great option for the modern musician who might not have any older analogue synths as part of their workflow.