Sequel 1.0.1 Review
Trying to beat GarageBand at its own game, Sequel 1.0.1 seeks to appeal to both entry-level musicians and music pros frustrated by the daunting interfaces found in most high-end music-production software.
Sequel encourages a loop-based style of composition that lets you drag and drop audio and MIDI loops into a single window – everything is automatically adjusted for key and time signature. The program includes more than 4,500 loops (plus another 500 when you register the software) and more than 600 instruments covering a variety of musical genres, including dance, metal, electronic, and world music.
You don’t have to be a musician to make professional-sounding music with Sequel. In fact, DJs will be delighted to hear that it excels at creating the kind of techno music you’d hear in Berlin clubs.
Everything – recording, arranging, editing, and mixing – takes place in a single window. The layout is logical and follows typical sequencer conventions. Most functions are available by clicking on icons rather than scrolling through lengthy menus. At the top is the Pilot Zone, which includes transport controls like those found on a tape recorder, along with a display indicating tempo, key, and song position.
Below this is the Arrange Zone, Sequel’s track view, which shows linear tracks along a timeline. Tracks have basic volume and pan controls, and each track can be easily muted or soloed.
Sequel excels at streamlining common sequencer functions. For example, the SmartTool cursor, which changes its function depending on where you place it, provides access to most common editing functions (mute, repeat, resize, split) without requiring a trip to the menus.
Creating a song is as easy as dragging in audio and MIDI files from the Media Bay browser in the Multi-Zone editing environment, or by directly recording audio or MIDI into tracks. The Media Bay lets you search and filter loops by instrument, genre, and musical attributes, making it easy to zero in on the perfect sound for your tune. Steinberg has even gone to the trouble of organizing the loops for you. You can filter by family to find loops that are practically guaranteed to sound good together.
At the bottom of the window is the Multi-Zone, which provides basic sample and MIDI editing, along with the ability to apply high-quality effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, and EQ on either a track-by-track or a global basis.
Your finished mix can be uploaded to iTunes as an AAC file or exported as uncompressed WAV or AIFF files at up to 44.1kHz, 24-bit stereo.
Sequel so closely follows the look and workflow of Apple’s GarageBand that comparisons are inevitable. It’s swings and roundabouts between the two programs to a certain degree, but there are a few key areas that should help you decide which is best for your music production needs.
GarageBand handles video and has features designed for producing podcasts, whereas Sequel is more of a dedicated music program. Despite this, GarageBand’s ability to incorporate plug-ins and work with other programs gives it the edge when it comes to professional music production.
Much of the power of GarageBand comes from its support for third-party VST (Virtual Studio Technology) and AU (Audio Units) plug-ins, which allow additional virtual instruments and effects to be used with the sequencer.
GarageBand supports ReWire, a means of linking to another program so the two can be used in tandem. GarageBand’s use of the Apple Loops format, an established standard also used by Logic, allows extra loop libraries to be added. Sequel offers no such support for these key plug-ins and formats, nor does it offer GarageBand’s standard notation view. Sequel is also limited to MIDI and audio editing.
On the other hand, GarageBand doesn’t have anything like Sequel’s Arrange Mode, which lets you assign sections of songs to pads and arrange music in real time (see the ‘Going live’ boxout for more information).
Sequel 1.0.1 may look like a clone of GarageBand, but it’s aimed at a specific user. Club DJs will love Sequel’s superior audio stretching and live performance tools – they’re fantastic for producing groove-oriented club music – no musical knowledge required. It’s worth its price just for the large loop library. Even jaded musicians might be surprised at how quickly they can throw a song together – and how much fun they’ll have doing it.