Steinberg Sequel music software - Review

Steinberg Sequel music software - Review

Bring out your inner composer

Pros: Wide selection of samples and instruments

Cons: Cannot use VST instruments. Takes a little time to learn the interface.

Bottomline: Excellent music software that is well worth the time needed to learn, but it's a shame that third-party add-ons are not supported.

Manufacturer: Arbiter

Even though there are no guidelines for how programs should look, most software tends to look fairly similar.

This can lead to confusion when products buck the trend as Steinberg Sequel does. Installation wasn't a problem except for the amount of disk space required: 6GB is a lot and that's without space for recording at 250MB for three minutes of eight-track audio. The disc will work with Macs and PCs. Bear in mind that recording quality will be improved with better sound hardware, such as the M-Audio Mobilepre.

The other advantage of better-quality hardware is the greater chance that ASIO drivers – which improve audio performance – will be supplied. Performance also benefits from newer dual-core processors.
Sequel distinctly lacks familiar Windows landmarks, such as menus and toolbars.

The challenge of music software is that there is a huge amount of information to fit into a small space so the icons in Sequel are rather small. But this shouldn't distract from the clever thing about the Sequel interface: apart from opening and saving projects, there are no popup windows and the same options are always in the same place, which makes Sequel both intuitive and fast to use.

The samples used to create tracks appear in the bottom section of the screen, categorised by instrument and style. Recording is simple and effects can be applied afterwards. For instance, when recording a guitar, rather than using distortion on the amplifier, which is fixed in the recording and cannot be changed, the guitar is best recorded without any embellishment.

Distortion and other effects are built into Sequel and can be applied, changed or removed altogether. Sequel can also be used with Midi keyboards to record tracks. There are dozens of instruments included, from accordions to x ylophones, and they can be changed at any time should you decide on a different sound.

There is no option to use the computer keyboard for recording notes, which isn't a great way of recording music but can be useful for quickly sketching out ideas. Even with the slimline interface Sequel needs a lot of screen space – the specifications suggest a resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels. It can be used on a smaller monitor but it gets cramped.

Another limitation is that it cannot use VST instruments or effects, which are standard music software add-ons, such as the Studio Devil BVC amp simulator or the mda Epiano instrument. Thankfully the selection of instruments on offer is wide enough that this is not a great problem.