We often get the impression that the humble controller (and this goes for some sequencers, too) doesn’t matter as much as your big-ticket items like synths, drum machines Where samplers? Of course, they’re not designed to make sound, but come on, without them most of our productions would be cacti. To the right?!
MIDI controllers and sequencers come in all shapes and sizes, and as such, it would be difficult to divide them all separately. We will therefore leave the adulation contained in the first paragraph and regroup them in one vote.
So whether you like to control your synths using keys, knobs, pads, or all of the above? Or maybe you prefer to control your DAW rather than a synth, that’s good too, we’re not the type to judge. Either way, it’s all there with the results of our reader survey.
And in case you were wondering where are all the Eurorack sequencers? We’ve left them to their own devices, literally, which you can find in the results of the Best New Eurorack Modular Equipment of 2021.
1. Winner, Korg SQ-24
There is something satisfying about the ’80s about Korg’s new SQ-64 sequencer. We’re not sure if it’s the red LEDs that look part Cylon and part KITT, or the white-on-black paint job, but it works. The SQ-64 manages to return to a bygone era while assuming understated modernity. It is a good-looking piece of gear, with a sleek but confidence-inspiring weight. Best of all, it’s intuitive and very musical gear and one that we believe will stand the test of time.
Read the full Korg SQ-64 Poly Sequencer review
2. Akai MPC Studio MKII
The MPC Studio is essentially the controller version of Akai’s rhythm-centric production hardware peripherals. While Live, One, and X come with MPC 2 software on board, you’ll need to be connected to a laptop with the Studio. This year, version two of the controller landed and brought all of the design features and functionality of its standalone siblings. Of course, these are those famous MPC pads, and while it doesn’t quite give you the full experience that diehard MPC fans get, Studio is a low impact way to add the MPC flavor. to your configuration.
Read the full Akai MPC Studio MKII review
3. Electronic Torso T-1
2021 saw a new contender in the hardware sequencing game enter the ring and it was Torso Electronics’ T-1. Looking a lot like Arturia’s original Beatstep, the T-1 has more of the features of the Beatstep Pro up its sleeve. Weighing in with 16 banks, each containing 16 patterns, and each pattern has 16 polyphonic tracks, the T-1 packs a good ol ‘punch, but what puts other controllers on the strings is the inclusion of Euclidean rhythms. It’s very adaptable, works great with software, syncing via Ableton Link, and music hardware via MIDI or CV – it will be welcome in just about any platform.
Read the full Torso Electronics T-1 review
4. SSL UF8
Solid State Logic’s large format consoles are found in most high-end mixing and post-production facilities around the world, and they are considered by many to be the best money can buy – although you have to note. that you’ll need a bunch of stuff if you’re going to buy one for your own studio! The closest thing we mortals can achieve with our modest budgets and home studio spaces is UF8, designed to bring a slice of SSL’s unrivaled expertise and enviable cachet to this particular area of studio technology. It’s a sleek, attractive, and highly usable DAW controller that exudes legendary SSL quality and attention to detail.
Read the entire SSL UF8 review
5. M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49
M-Audio’s brand of MIDI controllers Oxygen is now in its fourth season and as such has received a proper overhaul to reinvigorate the brand. Neither does the inclusion of the Pro 49. The “Pro” line is now, of course, at the top of M-Audio’s controller tree. Featuring a fully playable velocity and aftertouch sensitive keyboard, the Pro is also joined by new performance features. You can output the keyboard in a classic chromatic piano voice, with the new Chord and Scale modes. You’ll never hit a ‘bad’ rating again, but maybe the best part is that M-Audio has been successful in cutting costs, so it won’t break the bank.
Read the full M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 review