Adam Black’s new 8802TE electro-acoustic guitar review

Adam Black have created an affordable electro-acoustic guitar that may be perfect if you’re starting out, on the road or small-time gigging.

When you first pull Adam Black’s new electro-acoustic guitar out of the happily included guitar case that comes with it, the fine grain wooden finish resembles a beautiful, rustic guitar that wouldn’t look out of place on the shoulders of a nomadic folk singer.

Upon whipping it out your audience might be in silent awe at the gorgeous sapele finish and mahogany neck and for the general ear, what you play may be enjoyable on the fitted steel D’addario strings that come with it.

The 3/4 size makes it easy to transport and its lightweight build makes pulling it out to play simple wherever you might be. The body lends itself to player of smaller build along with the very streamlined v-neck that is easy to hold first position chords particularly. The nut on this guitar is just a bit smaller than the Vintage V-300 of which we compared it to, this may be a hindrance for some more experienced players but for those with smaller hands i.e. children, it is a lot easier to make those beginner’s stretches – I am talking G major in first position, we have all been there!

Unfortunately the action on this guitar is a bit high and this may make it harder to fret bar chords for a beginner however if a beginner can get used to this strengthening exercise, they may take to a bigger guitar with heavier strings easier in the future.

Its power is certainly improved when plugged in but the quality of the guitar’s tone isn’t as bright as you might expect from the compact acoustic. The controls and Fishman pickup for the guitar are hidden just inside the sound hole so you can’t see any wiring when you look at it. In fact apart from the input and battery slot on the bottom, you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s not a native acoustic. To adjust it’s volume and tone you simply reach your finger in above the strings and roll the dials.

To someone more experienced with guitars and tone, I was a little disappointed in how Adam Black’s new electro-acoustic guitar sounds acoustically. It lacks sustain for an acoustic and the low end is not amplified as well as it could be – even for a guitar of this size. I think this guitar prefers a lighter gauge which again would suit the beginner players, it may be improved by experimenting with string gauges.

To conclude, this guitar lends itself to someone who is thinking of getting a first steel-string acoustic with simple plug & play-ability. I rather like the fact that there are no controls for the EQ of this guitar because it makes the player use their fingers as the primary source of tone control. In the same way that we learn on a 3/4 size nylon string classical guitar and crave an electric, until we are good enough to play the nylon and hone our skill to match, only then will that Squire Stratocaster be presented on the foot of our beds on the morning of our 13th birthday! The 8802TE is for the more practised beginner who’ll be eventually suited to the more advanced acoustic guitars In the Adam Black range. For example, the O7-CE solid top electro-acoustic.

This guitar is good for the price, at a reasonable £179 with strings and gigbag included. However it may need a bit of setting up to reach its true potential. Lighter strings are advised. This guitar could make for a perfect beginners guitar as for the budding bedroom producer.

Over all, not bad Adam Black.

If you’re looking to get your hand on your own head here.

Eclipse by Rosetti guitar strings review

We recently got our hands on some of Rosetti’s Eclipse strings to see how these slinky strings measure up. Spoiler alert: They’re pretty good.

The nice people at Rosetti were kind enough to send us a set of their Eclipse strings for electric and acoustic guitars. We tested them out to see how they feel and what they sound like.

I tried their 9-42 thickness, nickel roundwound electric guitar strings. The strings are incredibly slick to the touch with a slinkiness that makes playing on them feel incredibly smooth. They’re solid strings with a gorgeous tone that are flexible enough for serious bending. They are great for rhythm guitar with an even tone when playing chords whilst providing a formidable treble sound for playing lead parts.

I’ve found the Eclipse 9-42 strings perfect for playing funk stylings. If you’re looking for a chunkier tone for rock or metal the strings still perform but you’d want to look at some thicker strings – which I can’t speak of the quality of for Eclipse though I imagine they’re of the same good standard.

For acoustic guitars we played a set of the Eclipse 12-53 strings made up of 80/20 bronze. Thanks to their 80/20 bronze make up the strings ring out incredibly bright and sit at their best on a full-bodied, dreadnought guitar. They sound powerful with a good volume that doesn’t infringe on clarity at all.

They feel great whether you’re a 3 chord singer songwriter or you’re speedily playing up the neck. These are great for a full-bodied sound though lighter strings may suit you if you’re more into playing complex acoustic guitar parts.

Overall I was impressed by Rosetti’s Eclipse strings. They feel great, they sound great and they’re flexible enough to suit most guitar players. At £4.99 for the electric guitar strings and £5.49 for the acoustic strings they are incredibly reasonably priced for a really nice set of strings.

Check them out at: www.rosetti.co.uk

Finally, a frequency splitter made for musicians – KMA ‘Tyler’ pedal review

KMA Machines offer a sexy solution to frequency splitting in their pedal – ‘Tyler’.  Lewis from the wonderful post-hardcore/math-rock band Hypophora gives the low-down after taking the pedal on the road for their latest tour.

Crossovers used to split the high and low frequencies of an audio signal have long been commonplace in the Hi-Fi, PA, and Pro Audio worlds and offer many advantages by allowing precise control of specific frequency bands, but unfortunately few crossover units have been designed with musicians in mind. The KMA Machines address this issue in the form of the ‘Tyler the Frequency Splitter’ crossover pedal.

The ‘Tyler’ is roughly about as wide as two standard boss-size pedals and is powered by a standard 9v adaptor. This relatively compact size and standard power requirements allow for easy integration into a pedalboard – a must for the gigging musician. It features two independent circuits that each have their own effect send and return loops – a ‘Wood’ side (handling the low frequencies) and the ‘Steel’ side (handling the high frequencies). The two sides are able to be independently turned on or off via their own dedicated footswitches (as well as a separate master footswitch for the unit).

The premise and operation of the pedal is simple: both the ‘Wood’ and ‘Steel’ sides contains separate filters sweepable from 3Khz down to 20hz (a low pass for wood and a high pass for steel) that allow you to designate the frequencies you want your independent loops to contain. These loops are then combined together and this is controlled by a ‘Mix’ knob which allows you to choose whether your signal contains more of the wood side (Mix knob fully left), steel side (Mix knob fully right) or a 50-50 blend of the two. Of important note is a ‘Phase’ switch which allows you to correctly set the phase for the blend of the two signals – incorrect phase can often lead to ‘thin’ sounds.

KMA Tyler pedal frequency splitter bass instrument guitar FQ

As a bass player that uses a moderate amount of pedal-based distortion, I found that by putting my distortion pedal in the ‘Steel’ loop, with the HPF set to around 800hz and a compressor set to a high ratio and compression amount in the ‘Wood’ loop with the LPF set to around 200hz, I was able to achieve a crisp, defined distortion with a clean, powerful low end – something that can easily be lost with most bass distortion pedals.

For my relatively simple, bass-distortion focused needs, the ‘Tyler’ allowed me to choose my distortion character via my pedal of choice and retain the thick, clean low-end I was looking for, which it did perfectly. My only real issue is I did find myself wishing for independent volume controls for each frequency band rather than a master mix knob, but this is picking at straws. For someone who is more creative and liberal with pedals, I believe many interesting combinations of split frequencies running through all sorts of effects could certainly lead to interesting and unique possibilities, and the compactness of the ‘Tyler’ allows players to do this with an ease and portability that hasn’t been available before.


This review was written by Lewis Pilcher. Check out his awesome band Hypophora below:

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Blackstar HT Dual and HT Metal are 2 of the beefiest distortion pedals around

The Blackstar HT Dual and HT Metal blow us away with a big sound worthy of Rock n Roll Kings.

As a musician starting out in today’s musical climate, we see a lot of our idols and even peers using some of the most high-end gear imaginable. When starting out we know this will be a long journey before we ourselves can afford this. Therefore, for the purpose of this review, we decided to use a simple Marshall MG30 amplifier to really test the versatility of these pedals.

Blackstar dual pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fxWhen looking at the HT Dual, it offers both a crunch and overdriven mode, ranging from crisp bite-y distortions typically associated with artists such as John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan, ranging all the way to rich overdriven tones that you could find in any rock/metal sub-genre.

As a guitarist, a good overdriven tone seems relatively easy to come by. With a wide range of guitar companies offering solid-state amplifiers with everything to offer. When starting out we typically only consider what amps and guitars to get that would best suit our needs, ignoring the wide range of pedals we have at our disposal, but these two pedals are nothing to ignore.

The HT-Dual transforms our simple practice amps into something much more monumental. With BlackStar’s signature ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) included, it separates BlackStar’s distortion from many other distortion companies giving consumers the chance to either model American amplifiers turned to 0 or model British amplifiers, when the dial is turned all the way to 10. This feature is also included in the HT-Metal.

Blackstar Metal pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fxThe HT-Metal does what it says on the tin and ultimately provides one of the widest range of metal distortions imaginable. With the HT-METAL there are two channels available, Channel One offers a Clean/OD switch that enables you to use the pedal as a boost in Clean mode and add more gain as you turn the dial clockwise. Offering a more gritty and harsh clean/crunch tone.

There is an interesting notable difference between the HT-Metal’s distortion tone to the Dual in the way it responds to the style of playing. The Metal’s Bass response is very tight and sounds almost compressed in a good way. This allows for that big ‘woof’ in the low end that you would normally only achieve with a 4×12 cab but you can get the same effect with a smaller 1×12! The Bass response for the Dual is still very tight but with the added control of the ISF dial, you can really hone it in to get more of a Marshall tone on the right and American Hi-Gain on the left.

I compared the distortion tone to an orange rockerverb which is not so much a metal amp but it is full valve pre-amp and power. I only had the gain of the heavy distortion channel at about 3 o’clock to get as much gain as the rockerverb could produce but you could get a similar kind of gain with this pedal as well as pushing it right up to a MESA Boogie Rectifier kind of scooped tone.

Blackstar Metal pedal distortion gain heavy valve effects fx dual

Another attribute to note with this comparison is the way the Mid is controlled for the HT-Metal. It is a nice mid frequency that lends its self to the style much more than the Dual but what is good about both these pedals is the control over the amount you can boost and scoop the mids for the desired tone. The earlier LT-Metal, which is not valve driven does not have this kind of control over the mids but you can still get that kind of scoop with the HT-Metal pedal.

The beautiful thing about both of these pedals is if your guitar amplifier has an FX-return channel at the back, you can plug the Dual or the Metal straight into this and effectively use both channels as the new voicing for your amp. Two well constructed valve pre-amps for your desired metal or rock tone!

The emulated out on both pedals is great for bedroom recording and allows you to use the pedal in a more limited situation for space and volume. These pedals are both extremely versatile – I personally find that the HT-Dual offers a much wider range of crunch/overdriven tones and is a more usable pedal for the every day guitarist whereas the HT-Metal would be more suited to a smaller group of guitarist’s.

Blackstar Metal Dual pedals distortion gain crunch guitar bass instrument fx effects

The price could be considered quite high for both these pedals with the HT-Metal at around £180 and the HT-Dual coming in at around £150 but for the quality of these pedals, that’s a very reasonable price to pay.

In summary, I would very much suggest both these pedals to anyone looking to try out valve distortion and highly recommend them to any rock or metal guitarist.

Mooer’s amazing Black Truck offers quality multi-fx in a size you can handle

Mooer Black Truck Multi-FX pedal gives you a huge range of effects in a rather neat little console. I recently got the chance to test out this amazing multi effects pedal and it just blew me away with its capabilities – it has everything you need right there in front of you.

The Mooer Black truck holds a wide range of effects that come under 6 distinct foot switches. All effects can be used separately to each other or together to create whatever sound you feel best at the time.

The first feature I used was the ‘Space’ foot switch which has a range of effects including Reverb, Delay and a dual Reverb/Delay feature. I really loved the reverb capabilities on this pedal, the ability to change the amount of reverb in the mix and the decay is a lovely addition to the pedal.

The delay also comes with the ability to change the level, feedback and time which was really cool. I managed to get some lovely acoustic tones using both of them together creating a sound I loved.

The second switch I looked at was the Mod switch which has three great controls – Phaser, Tremolo and Flanger. I found if you combined the reverb with the very warm tremolo you can create a really earthy acoustic sound. The phaser and flanger were better suited to my electric guitar, creating sounds you might associate with an old rock band. This is something I really enjoyed playing with and changing around.

The next thing I looked into was the EQ switch effects. Something I really enjoyed about this was the option of changing the EQ pre or post effects. This can really change up the sound you get from the dynamic EQ settings. This then works really well with the gain and overdrive switches. being able to apply a nice EQ before or after distortion and gain is a really great feature. The gain switch applied with the overdrive creates a bite-y distortion that any rock guitarist would be proud of and I think its an incredible addition to the pedal.

The range of effects available in a multi-fx pedal the size of Mooer’s Black Truck is just incredible. This pedal also suits every guitar and guitarist from electric rock guitarists to the singer /songwriter. Whilst versatile the black truck is best suited for an electric rock guitarist with stunning gain and overdrive features.

The compact build of this pedal makes it perfect for any guitarist to easily carry around to live performances and supply a good amount of effects to there sound. I think what separates it from other multi-fx pedals is the size but also the control with each effect. You can very easily change the tone and features of each effect to absolutely perfect the sound you want.

A difficulty I did have with this pedal was differentiating between the switches in a hurry, when trying to quickly trying to switch on/off an effect, because of the compact size its easy to also switch on/off another of the effects either side. This is only in issue when trying to change effects in a hurry if having to concentrate on other things also but in a live gig scenario I could see this being a problem.

Pros

– Versatility allows you to fine tune the sound you want

– A compact build makes it very portable

– Size doesn’t impinge on it’s quality

– Great for electric or acoustic guitars

Cons

– The size does mean the foot-switches are close together which could cause difficulty in a live setting

Mooer’s compact Baby Bomb will blow your mind

This tiny Mooer baby bomb amp proves that size isnt everything with the smallest amp we’ve ever seen.

When you are thinking about how much gear you have to carry around as a guitarist or singer/songwriter, its an incredibly heavy amount. For the standard guitarist, carrying around a big cab and amp is an every day occurrence but this little treat might just save your arms and a load of time. The baby bomb is a neat little power amp and a pocket size wonder, it has everything you need to create a simply big sound in a pedal size unit.

The baby bomb has two very simple controls – Master Volume and a Warm/Bright Control. When turning up the volume, the baby bomb also starts to unleash some gritty post stage overdrive with the volume increase which is an amazing feature as it means you get the additional choice of a clean and distorted sound within the amp.

Adjusting the Warm/Bright control will completely change the presence and tone of your cabinet with a very distinct two tone feature.

With a true 30 watts of power, this unit packs a punch and can be connected to any cabinet with an impedance of 80-160 Ohms. This amp doesnt hold back on power or volume as you may expect it to, we all stood back in wonder as it created a sound worthy of a professional rock set up.

Alongside this little amp, we were lucky enough to test out the Mooer GC112 Speaker Cab. This reasonable size cabinet comes with a powerful and dynamic celestion vintage 30 speaker which adds rich tones and diverse sounds to any pedal and amp set up.

Producing 60 watts of output I would say this speaker cab was ideal for anyone playing in any setting but definitely well suited for any solo guitarist/solo performer as it creates enough sound to fill a good variety of venues. The cab really does let you cut through with precision high notes at the same time as creating warm lows and an earthy middle tone.

These units work so well together creating a simple, easy, rich sound and beautiful textures to any guitar. Having tested both units out with a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, I would fully recommend this excellent duo to any guitarists looking for a simple set up to use at live gigs or at home. With the amp being so small and the speaker being light and easily manoeuvrable, this pair just goes so well together in so many settings.

 

Red Panda Raster Delay Pedal Review

This stunning delay pedal from Red Panda combines delay and pitch shift in one incredible unit.

Delay is a big market in the pedal world at the moment with many artists seeking to find a delay pedal that suits their sound. This excellent compact Raster delay pedal from Red Panda has all you need in one pedal. I personally love this pedal and find that it has such a rich tone compared to many other delay pedals on the market.

What is it?

The Raster is a Delay/Pitch Shift Pedal which can be used in a number of different ways. Red Panda have built in the ability to use either feature individually with 2 foot switches, one for delay, one for shift. The pedal has main controls:

Shift – Changing the level of pitch shift, clockwise from central shifting higher than the note an anti clockwise shifting the note lower.

Feedback – The feedback possibility’s are amazing on the Raster with what feels like endless feedback you can keep the delay going for any amount of time you want.

Delay – This controls the frequency of the delay, turning clockwise for a longer delay.

Blend – This control is for blending the delay in with the original signal. This can be used to control the level of delay noticeable, turning clockwise for a bigger echoey sound.

This pedal also comes with three delay modes and three shift modes enabling up to 750ms of clean delay time available.

You can also use this pedal with an expression pedal for varying levels of delay.

Our Thoughts

I’ve been testing this pedal for a few weeks now and I just cant stop using it. The endless capability’s of this delay pedal are second to none. I will definitely be grabbing one of these for my pedal board. This delay pedal tops any other delay pedal I have used and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for that Ben Howard like feel to there sound.

Pros

  • Full Sounding Tone
  • Easy to Use and fits well into any pedal set up.
  • Delay and Shift features together create amazing echoey sound

Cons

  • Reasonably pricey amongst other delay pedals costing around £230
  • Not as many delay controls as other pedals around the same price

TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Review

The Voicelive 3 will change your live performances forever with brand new vocal harmony modes and rockin’ guitar effects.

What is it?

This amazing pedal is the latest in the leading series of products from TC Helicon and has so much to offer from state of the art vocal effects to brand new guitar sounds and an easy to use looper setting. The Voicelive has always been the pinnacle of vocal effects but in the latest model they have really worked all you need into one unit.

It contains over 200 Vocal FX with hundred’s more available to download, these include such a wide range of features from harmony modes to octave shifts to hair raising reverb’s.

The guitar effects that this pedal comes with are also definitely something to rave about with over 180 different styles available, you can transport your sound to any era. The pedal has built in reverb and delay controls separate to any preset function meaning you can switch on and off reverb and delay at the press of a button. You can also change the quality of the given effect to your personalised needs within the console.

 

Whats New?

As I mentioned earlier, a very exciting new development with the Voicelive 3 is the added looper setting. This is a single button looper switch meaning you can easily and quickly add loops to your live performance, you can do this by simply tapping the ‘looper’ foot switch once to record and tapping again to playback.

Another new feature is three new harmony modes:

Pedal : Sings the root note of any given chord you are playing at any time.

Fixed : Allows you to set a fixed note that it will keep to throughout.

Mixed: The capability to mix between Pedal, Scale, Fixed and combine them all creating endless possibility’s.

Other new features include a brand new Vocoder with voice controlled synth and robot modes, choice of amp emulations and new bass and wah effects. Find the full list of new features on the TC Helicon website here – Voicelive 3 Features

Our Thoughts

Testing this out for me was a great deal of fun, I added the Voicelive 3 into my live set-up and tested it out both in the privacy of our studio and at a live gig setting. I would suggest this pedal for any singer/songwriter looking to create a bigger sound with minimal equipment. Due to its compact size, its the perfect pedal to take to a gig and be able to use on its own without bringing a whole pedal board.

Pros

  • Every effect you want in one box which saves carrying around lots of gear
  • Ultimate flexibility on sounds and features
  • Huge banks of preset effects

Cons

  • Can be complicated to the average user
  • Real-time editing and changing between sounds will need some practice
  • The price is quite high coming in at around £450

Arturia MiniLab MKII Review – A quality MIDI controller at an affordable price

Whether you’re new to the MIDI controller world or a veteran, the MiniLab MK 2 by Arturia could certainly be a great asset to your set-up.

Firstly, I need to mention how aesthetically pleasing this MIDI controller is. As soon as you get this bit of gear out of the box it feels approachable and makes you sweat with creative juices as you reveal it from hibernation. The actual build of the MiniLab MK 2 is nice and solid; it feels almost unbreakable, which is ideal if you’re producing in various locations.

The MiniLab MK 2 comes with a few bits of Arturia minilab midi controller keyboard music production creation reviewsoftware to get you started, namely Analog Lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite and a Steinway concert grand piano provided by the UVI engine.  Once you’ve installed all the necessary drivers and software, it’s time to plug in your MiniLab Mk 2. You’ll notice that the back of the device is incredibly simple, there is a footswitch Jack for sustain, a USB Type B jack and Kensington security slot. That’s it! 

The USB Type B jack also powers this device, so there’s no need to lug around a power cable if you are making music in your portable studio.

Here are a few other technical specs:

  • 25 note velocity-sensitive slim keyboard
  • 2 banks of 8 velocity & pressure sensitive pads with RGB backlighting
  • 16 rotary encoders (2 of them are clickable)
  • Touch sensitive pitch bend
  • Touch sensitive modulation wheel
  • Octave up and octave down buttons

Arturia minilab midi controller keyboard music production creation reviewI found this tool easy to get along with for the most part. When you open up Ableton Lite Live the MIDI is automatically assigned to the keys and editable parameters and you have a lot of wiggle room through the MIDI map within Ableton. I must say I’ve had hours of fun using this as a creative tool.

The 25 note velocity-sensitive slim keyboard is nicely crafted with a well-built key bed. The keys are solid at the front of the key, a step up from the first Mini Lab by Arturia. The keys feel really sturdy and have a good velocity range. I usually don’t like slim keys but these are easy to move around, possibly because they are slightly wider than most other small controllers. There are some MIDI controllers that you wouldn’t even dream about using in a live scenario due to the lack of velocity, but with the MiniLab MK 2 you have that capability. This might be down to how the keys feel and the resistance. You have the ability to make some filthy, jarring synth noises and there is also nothing stopping you from playing some Debussy-esque romantic piano with the sustain pedal becoming a welcome addition.

Personally, I’m not overly happy with the velocity pads, they’re relatively stiff to touch and there isn’t much of a variant in sensitivity like you will find with an Akai MPC for example, however the pads themselves are an endearing feature for the price.

All pots are assignable to any editable parameter, they also have continuous rotation and pot 1 and 9 are clickable. The rotary pots are a really great tool to perfect the sound you are looking for or playing with sounds in a live scenario. I was easily able to assign the pots to various macros using Ableton which felt like a natural way of developing sounds as it gives you the freedom of using your ears and not relying on your eyes to click and drag different parameters. You can also use them as a handy navigation tool in your DAW.

Arturia minilab midi controller keyboard music production creation review

I’m on the fence as to how I feel about the touch sensitive pitch bend. On one hand I like the fact that there aren’t any clunky wheels and it makes it easier to just chuck this in your bag with a laptop and set up anywhere, but I do find that using the pitch bend can be a little difficult to refine and can easily slip out of the exact pitch you want if you’re not careful. Perhaps a wheel would be better here. However I’ve found a love for the modulation strip. I’m not one for flaring my hands around like some kind of untouchable disc jockey, but that action came naturally the more I got into a composition.

The MiniLab MK 2 is impressively integrable with Ableton. I had a little bit of difficulty setting up the velocity pads with a drum rack, however after a bit of fiddling with the MIDI control centre, I was able to use the velocity pads as a drum pad in Ableton as well as a sample trigger, arming and recording tracks, they are pretty versatile.

If you’re planning on buying a MIDI controller that doesn’t break the budget, has great functionality and is easily portable you can’t go wrong with this little bit of kit for €99 ($105 / £85)


To find out more about this fantastic MIDI controller and nab one for yourself you can head to: www.arturia.com/minilab-mkii/overview
Whilst you’re at it why not check out our review of Arturia’s wicked step sequencer / controller the Beatstep Pro: routenote.com/blog/arturia-beatstep-pro-review

Arturia Beatstep Pro: step sequencer / controller review and hands-on performance

Arturia have been making some really interesting gear in the past few years, from analogue synths and drum machines such as the Mini/Micro & DrumBrute, to very impressive modular systems like the Matrixbrute. Wherever Arturia decides to focus their attention exciting things seem to happen, and the Beatstep Pro is certainly no exception.

The Beatstep Pro (BSP) acts as a controller, performance sequencer and composing tool all at once.  You have the ability to easily connect and sequence multiple hardware and software instruments, a problem that is often faced by music producers and performers. The BSP can be used as either a brain, slave or controller with a huge array of gear, meaning it can be the heart of your setup, or just a sideline controller. You can even use it without the aid of a laptop. 

Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW productionFirst Look

The first thing you notice about the BSP is just how swish this bit of kit is. The sleek design coupled with the crisp white finish is enough to get any hardware fanatic excited. And it doesn’t just look good either, the build quality is exceptional. The BSP is compact but solid, making it ideal for lugging around from venue to venue.

 

Off the bat, you can see three channels named drums, sequencer 1, sequencer 2 and an additional control mode on top. The original BeatStep only had the ability to create one monophonic sequence at a time, so the possibility to create 3 separate sequenced lines already sets this device apart from its predecessor.

Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW productionTo the left of the channels you have a number of buttons and knobs that allow you to adjust project parameters and control the inner workings of the BSP. You also have a touchpad ‘roller/looper’ which might be one of my favourite features. It acts as a slicer tool that cuts and replays part of the loop in a very effective way; a feature you might find on certain DJ programs and devices.

 

Like the first BeatStep, to the right you will find 16 velocity sensitive pads with aftertouch and 16 rotary knobs. What Arturia have cleverly done with the BSP, is sandwiched an extra 16 on/off buttons in between these sections. These are used for displaying where you are in a sequence, adding notes and adjusting a number of various control features. The BSP also comes with a nifty program called midi control center; from here you can edit built in default parameters, edit/save/backup projects as well as loads of other convenient features.

On the back you will find a satisfying number of output choices, these consist of;

  • Sequencer 1 – Pitch, Velocity & Gate
  • Sequencer 2 – Pitch, Velocity & Gate
  • Drum Gates – 1 – 8
  • Clock – In/Out
  • Midi – In/Out
  • Micro USB

Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW production

Once you delve into the full connectivity options, you begin to realise the endless combination of equipment arrangements available. This makes the Beatstep Pro attractive to a wide variety of electronic music producers and performers. Simply having the ability to sequence multiple instruments from one device is a huge asset for live electronic performance, and can also be used as an incredibly efficient composition tool.

 

Step Into The Box

With the BSP comes a quick guide to setting up and basic features,Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW production however I would strongly recommend downloading the manual from Arturia’s website, particularly if you are new to step sequencers. There is also an array of interesting looking cables and adapters which I have listed below:

  • 2X Midi – 3.5mm jack adapter (grey)
  • 1X Midi – 3.5mm jack adapter for clock input/output (black)
  • 1X USB – Mini USB
  • 1 X Y shaped anti-ground-loop adapter

This combination of cables allows you to hook up a variety of kit, and with the addition of CV (control voltage) and gate cables you can play with just about anything. I put the BSP through its paces to see just how well it coped when dealing with a number of different signal outputs. A list of the gear I tested with the Beatstep Pro is included below,  as well as a link to a performance showing off its capabilities.

 

Taking Steps To Get Connected

After plugging in the cables to various devices, I was amazed at how  easy it is to connect up everything I had; admittedly I did have to refer to some troubleshooting forums for one or two things. I found that when you hook up certain analogue synths, it causes the pitch to jump up by an octave or two. I believe this is caused by the CV signal output being disrupted and selecting the wrong default midi note. After a quick google I found a video link on Arturia’s website that had a fix. I had to to go into the midi control center and change the default midi note to my desired pitch.

I also found mild latency issued when running through a DAW (Ableton), however this can be fixed by adjusting the output buffer size in Ableton’s audio settings. Despite minor connectivity problems, the BSP smashes other step sequencers out of the water for simultaneously sequencing multiple hardware and software devices.

   

Functionality

The 16 MPC like drum pads can be used to record notes or be played as a standalone synth or drum rack. As mentioned earlier the 16 on/off pads can be used to manually write in notes or change a number of extra features when the shift button is held down. Above these pads you you’ve also got 16 rotary knobs which can edit pitch, gate or velocity for sequencers 1 & 2. When the drum channel is selected they affect shift, velocity and gate.

When in ‘control mode’ the rotary knobs have some very handy features including the ability to midi map the rotary knobs and selected buttons. You can chose to arrange maps or use the ‘Macki Control’ setting for a pre-set arrangement. I found that by midi mapping knobs and buttons to mute, record and various effects within Ableton, I was able to control my performances almost entirely via the BSP.  

Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW production

As previously mentioned the ‘roller/looper’ is a truly great element of the control surface and I had endless fun playing around with it. Alongside this feature you have three separate rotary knobs labeled ‘swing’, ‘random’ and ’probability’, with these you can tweak rhythms and swing. If used tastefully you can create some interesting results, however depending on the current rhythm being played, too much can cause confusing and incoherent rhythms.

Once you get to grips with general functionality, the BeatStep Pro is a very intuitive piece of kit. I really enjoyed playing around with different loops created from hardware instruments, then using my Ableton Push to build other loops and clips on top. Personally I found this to be a great process for developing live sets and creating tracks based around simple looped hooks.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to electronic music hardware I am a bit of a spontaneous buyer.  I see something I really like… I want to buy it immediately. This in turn can cause issues when I  try to integrate something new into my setup. It’s great having a lovely piece of kit, but if it doesn’t talk the same language as your other gear it’s going to be a nightmare to arrange in a playable format. This is where I feel the BSP raises the bar for step sequencers.  It really doesn’t matter what equipment you’ve got, the BSP will find a way to integrate into your arrangement.

Although it came out nearly 2 years ago, the BeatStep Pro maintains a solid buzz of excitement from musicians and producers of all kinds. And based on the ratio between what the device can do in conjunction with what it costs, it’s really not surprising. You can own one of these for just over $250 (£200) which is considerably cheaper than its competitors. You just don’t find control surfaces with as much functionality as the BSP for under $400, Arturia have found a way of producing a sophisticated and durable product that the masses can afford.  

What does it for me is the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you are using hardware or software, Midi or CV, the BSP will talk its language and know what to do with it. Personally I wouldn’t refer to the BeatStep Pro as a sequencer or a controller, but as a mechanical chameleon that can combine your devices into one super-control surface.

Arturia Beatstep Pro sequencer controller MIDI music equipment drum machine DAW production

 


Getting Hands on with Beatstep Pro

For this video my setup included:

  • Arturia Beastep Pro (Brain)
  • Arturia DrumBrute (Midi)
  • Arturia MiniBrute (CV)
  • Korg Kaoss Pad KP3 (effects module for MiniBrute)
  • Ableton Push
  • Ableton (DAW)

If you are interested in finding out more or purchasing one of these badboys you can check it out on Arturia’s website – www.arturia.com/beatstep-pro/overview