Thumpingly solid and sleek looking button-based sequencer the SQ-64 puts all 64 steps on the table with 4-tracks for modular, MIDI, USB and drum triggering.
The Korg SQ-1 hung around as pretty much the only affordable hardware step-sequencer for ages, until Arturia came along. The Beatstep Pro has probably become the most popular hardware sequencer in the modular community. It’s taken a while for Korg to respond, the SQ-64 was originally planned for release around Superbooth in May, but now it’s here and it’s a beautiful thing.
The SQ-64 features 64 pads or buttons that can be used as steps for enabling notes and gates or as a playable interface for melodies and chords. It has 4 tracks A-D where A-C have pitch, gate and modulation CV outputs while D has 8 CV trigger outputs for drum programming although it will do 16 parts over MIDI. There are two MIDI outputs on mini-jack, a Sync output and USB complete the connections.
Steps up front
The greatest thing is that every step is there right on the front – 64 pads for 64 steps. I hate it when step-sequencers move to the next page and you lose track of where you are. Switch between the tracks with the side buttons and you see your whole sequence – fabulous! You can also view all 4 tracks at once in 16-step pages if you wish. For D the drum track you can select which of the 16 sub-tracks you want to be displayed.
In Gate mode you simply press the steps you want to enable and hold the pad down to change length, offset, probability and ratchet or Step Division as Korg calls it. In Pitch mode you hold the pad to set the note value. There’s plenty more like arpeggiator and chord functions, scales and loop points and in Control mode you can play it like a MIDI controller. For MIDI sequencing the SQ-64 can handle 8-note polyphony. Each track can have 16 patterns which chained into songs and stored into 64 projects so there’s lots of room to run your whole set.
The OLED screen adapts to the mode and shows you what the 4 encoders will be controlling. There are options like “Rotate” which moves the sequence about itself, “Fill” which adds in extra steps and “Slide” for the sort of curve you want for pitch sliding. These all change to reflect where you are and come up with all sorts of interesting things.
Under the Shift button you have all sorts of performance controls such as muting the tracks, changing time divisions, reversing or bouncing the direction of the sequence and randomisation options. There’s a Stochastic sequence mode which chooses a step at random either ahead, back or 2 steps ahead which is a very lively function taken from the Volca Modular.
The SQ-64 has more tracks than the Beatstep Pro and a smaller, more stylish (I think) and compact form. It’s dark and serious, intuitive and very very cool. No price yet but it should be available in early 2021.