Steinberg Sequel 2 review

£76
Price when reviewed

Steinberg’s pedigree for professional music-production software is unrivalled, with Cubase dating back to 1989 on the Atari and still going strong today on the PC and Mac. Various cut-down versions of Cubase are available for those on tighter budgets, but Sequel is Steinberg’s first and only software created from scratch for home users. First launched in 2007, this latest release brings a handful of minor improvements while keeping the focus on simplicity and efficiency.

It’s good to see that installation and copy protection is more streamlined in version 2. However, while the installer makes it clear that the serial codes can only be used once, it should be made clearer that users must both activate and register the software in order to protect their purchase against a hard disk failure.

Sequel shares a few traits with Cubase but it looks and feels quite different. Multiple floating windows are rejected in favour of a single-screen interface with a tabbed lower section.

The main arrange panel is devoid of toolboxes or right-click menu options, which makes arranging MIDI and audio recordings neat, intuitive and highly efficient.

The tabs below reveal a simple mixer, more comprehensive mix settings for the selected channel, the Media Bay for choosing sounds, an audio or MIDI editor for the selected object, pads for triggering sections of an arrangement and general preferences.

This isn’t the only music-production software to use this tabbed approach but its execution is first-rate, and we can’t think of a simpler, more approachable recording interface. It not only manages to look elegant but also succeeds in distilling a range of complex functions into a digestible format for inexperienced users. The only area where they might come unstuck is in the global effects section; aside from the name, there’s nothing to suggest that editing settings on one channel will affect those on all others.

The downside is that Sequel’s mixing capabilities are limited, even compared to most low-cost software. The fixed signal path includes compression, EQ and just two other effects per channel, plus two shared global effects. There are only a few basic controls for each effect, with presets providing a simplified front end for advanced parameters.

Unusually for music software at this price, there’s no support for third-party VST plug-ins. These limitations rule out advanced mixing techniques and experimental sound design, but there’s enough here to produce music in a more conventional manner to a high standard.

VST instruments aren’t supported either but the bundled Halion One instrument provides a comprehensive sound palette for those composing with a MIDI keyboard. Its 600 presets cover a wide range of acoustic emulations and abstract sounds, and although editing potential is limited, quality is generally high.

Meanwhile, the Media Bay browser elevates Halion One beyond most bundled virtual instruments, sorting its presets – and the bundled library of 5,000 samples – by instrument type, musical style and acoustic character. Version 2 adds a numerical readout of the number of matches in each category, making it quicker to zone in on suitable sounds.

It also brings support for additional Content Sets. Each of these three sets comes as a 300MB download at £11.77, adding more presets to Halion One in hip hop, industrial and rock genres. They integrate seamlessly into the Media Bay, which is great for users but makes it impossible for us to evaluate the relative merits of each.

Details

Software subcategory Audio production software

Requirements

Processor requirement 2GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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