A 2.02 update adds a drum pad mode, step recording, record quantise and more to the sleek and fabulous SQ-64 polyphonic sequencer.
Korg got a lot of things right with the SQ-64, but there was some room for improvement. For me, the biggest issues were the lack of step recording and frustration around note editing. It looks like these have been tackled along with quite a few other useful improvements.
Improved Step Input: You can now add and delete notes from a sequence while holding down the step button.
Drum pad mode: Track D is the percussion track and now you can play the 16 sub-track pads as realtime drum pads.
Rec Quantise: The SQ-64 will now automatically quantise notes during recording rather than you having to edit them afterwards.
Step Record: You can now enter a bunch of notes in an SH-101 sequencing style. Press a note and it moves to the next step. You can add rests and ties as you go. You can also now copy steps to another step.
Shift Latch: A complete no-brainer update. The Shift button gives access to a whole bunch of performance features but you previously had to hold the button down to get to them. Now it can be latched.
Loop Mode Stays: Loops are no longer cancelled when you switch back to gate or pitch mode.
As an early user of the SQ-64 these are things I’ve been calling out for and it’s so good to see them finally implemented. Still nothing on the strange per-note arpeggiator. It is a great sequencer, with lots of cool ideas and some awkward flaws. It looks like most of the flaws have been dealt with.
- SQ-64 Update page.
Original post from November 2020:
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.
- Korg SQ-64: Korg