Steinberg Sequel 3 review
It’s been more than three years since Steinberg last updated Sequel. We’d like to say a lot has happened since then, but in truth things have been quiet on the sub-£100 music software front. There are cut-down versions of professional applications such as Cubase and Sonar, but these days very little is designed from the ground up for home users.
Sequel feels more polished than its price suggests, though. There’s an attention to detail that’s sensitive to demanding users’ needs, and features such as 24-bit recording and ASIO sound card support mean it’s highly capable. Much of this stems from the influence of its pricier sibling – there are lots of visual and operational similarities with Cubase and, we suspect, further similarities under the bonnet.
A feature that separated Sequel 2 from its peers was a lack of VST plugin support, which restricted projects to the built-in effects and virtual instruments. This wasn’t necessarily a drawback for people who predominantly record live instruments, and the self-contained approach meant projects would open on any PC with Sequel on it.
Version 3 introduces support for VST effects and instruments, but only the latest VST 3 standard, which hasn’t been widely adopted by third-party developers. As such, Sequel works with Steinberg’s own (very expensive) plugin range, plus those from a handful of other developers such as iZotope and Brainworx; plugins from leading publishers such as Native Instruments, Waves and Arturia aren’t compatible. This is disappointing, but it isn’t a disaster; Sequel 2 users coped without any kind of VST support.
We suspect the real reason for VST 3 compatibility is to allow Steinberg to port existing Cubase plugins over to Sequel. There’s HALion Sonic SE, a sample-based virtual instrument that comes with more than 500 high-quality sounds and reasonable scope to tweak settings. Prologue is a synthesiser with a tendency towards complex, yet somewhat digital-sounding noises. Groove Agent One is a drum machine that accommodates up to 128 sampled sounds, each with its own pitch, volume envelope and filter settings. There are thousands of bundled drum samples, but they aren’t tagged by genre for easy browsing.
Groove Agent One is driven by a pattern-based sequencer, with 12 loops up to two bars long, which are edited with the mouse and dropped onto the timeline. We were confused to find drum kits could be auditioned with a MIDI keyboard when browsing presets, but not while editing the sounds or programming patterns. It’s possible to convert the Beat tracks into normal Instrument tracks, thereby losing the pattern-based sequencer and gaining MIDI control, but it’s a one-way process that can’t be reversed.
These new instruments are welcome, but Sequel 2’s HALion One is notably absent. Upgraders will need their Sequel 2 installation disc to open old projects.
|Software subcategory||Audio production software|
Operating system support
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||yes|