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Steinberg Sequel 3 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £59
inc VAT

A classy recording package that's packed with ready-made sounds but also offers sophisticated recording and mixing tools

Low cost music software generally falls into two camps: consumer packages such as the eJay series and stripped-down versions of professional software, such as Steinberg Cubase Elements 6.

Steinberg Sequel sits somewhere between the two. Its interface is highly graphical, with the bare minimum of menus and no complicated toolbox or right-click menus to contend with. However, there’s an attention to detail that’s rare among consumer packages, and it doesn’t shy away from advanced functions and concepts that are vital for producing high quality recordings.

Sequel Mix
Sequel’s ties with Cubase show in the new AmpSimulator guitar amp plug-in

It supports up to 48 audio tracks and 24 virtual instrument tracks per project, with EQ and three insert effects on each track. A limitation of just two auxiliary effects per project is rather stingy and we missed the ability to crossfade audio objects, especially when recording live instruments. Otherwise, though, Sequel is surprisingly well equipped to handle ambitious recording projects. Virtually any parameter can be automated, either by drawing curves or by recording changes in real time. This version introduces support for tempo changes too. There’s a new Performance mode, whereby the arrangement is carved up into blocks that are triggered using onscreen buttons or a MIDI controller. The new time-stretch and pitch-shift algorithm allows samples and audio recordings to be manipulated with much less audible artefacts than before.

We’re surprised to find support for VST plug-ins in this update, as one of the key attractions of Sequel was its fully self-contained design. However, only VST3 plug-ins are supported, which rules out a large number of third-party plug-ins.

VST3 support also reverses Sequel’s ban on pop-up windows, but the benefit is that Steinberg has been able to port a number of excellent plug-ins across from Cubase, complete with their graphical interfaces. These include HALion Sonic SE, a sample-based virtual instrument that comes with 500 built-in sounds. Prologue is a virtual analogue synthesizer with lots of buttons and dials to experiment with. Groove Agent One is a sample-based drum machine, and it benefits from a new Beat Page where drum patterns are arranged on a grid. AmpSimulator is a cut-down version of the excellent Amp Rack that we first saw in Cubase Artist 6.

Sequel Beats
The new Beat Page makes it easy to draw drum patterns with the mouse

There are over 4,000 samples provided, plus almost 2,000 short MIDI phrases for playing the virtual instruments without a MIDI keyboard. All of these – plus the virtual instrument presets – are extensively tagged by instrument type and musical genre for quick browsing.

Overall, Sequel strikes an excellent balance between instant gratification and flexibility. There’s enough off-the-shelf content to let beginners dive straight in, but it stops short of patronising them by making it impossible to produce bad results. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of depth for those who know their way around soft-knee compressors and filter envelopes – or those with the time and patience to learn these techniques. The two things it lacks are expansion potential – due to the limited number of VST3 plug-ins currently available – and a clear upgrade path.

Cubase Elements doesn’t have these restrictions, and also includes audio crossfades, more effects plug-ins and more effects slots in which to use them. On balance, it’s the better product, but Sequel comes a close second with its shallower learning curve and built-in sample and MIDI phrase library.


Price £59
Rating ****

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