The Arturia BeatStep Pro is a very portable device that features three independent step sequencers and a set of general purpose MIDI controllers.
Arturia BeatStep Pro Review – An Overview
The original version of the BeatStep is a hardware sequencing controller that introduced a brilliant concept, the ability to sequence both MIDI and CV and provide output CV from a computer. Despite the great intent, its single monophonic sequencer held back its potential. In fact, the machine lets you take control over a device without having to look at the computer screen, which is great if you only have one device. If you’re trying to control more than one at the same time, the BeatStep won’t help. However, the Arturia BeatStep Pro has been built upon the original idea improving both possibilities and workflow. It’s a very useful and versatile device for both studio producers and live performers. With this sequencer you’re able to control hardware synths, samplers, plugins in your DAW, music apps, whatever you want basically. With that being said, let’s take a deeper look at the features.
Arturia BeatStep Pro Review – Functions
First of all, this multifunction device is both a controller, a performance sequencer and a composing tool. The Arturia Beatstep Pro lets you create sequences using the pads, and adjust velocity, pitch and duration using the knobs. There are two monophonic sequencers for melodies and basslines, while the third one allows you to sequence up to 16 channels of drums. You can either program or record in real time using the 16 step buttons (an improvement on the BeatStep, which could only be step programmed).
You can also choose from different scales available in the system or create new ones. Each sequencer has 16 velocity-sensitive pads (with aftertouch), 16 step buttons and 16 rotary knobs. You can set the number of steps individually, (16, 32, 48, 64 or 15, 31, 47, 63 by manually adjust the end point of the sequence). Each sequencer can save up to 16 different sequences in its memory, which can be saved into 16 global preset slots.
The 16 numbered encoders can be used to change the note of each step, shift them or adjust the velocity and the duration. These are very useful for post-performance editing, and they are also easy to use and intuitive. Also, there’s a Swing/Randomiser section on the left of the device with three knobs that allows adding random notes and achieving more organic drum patterns using the Randomness and Probability controls.
For those who are looking for a live performance sequencer, keep in mind that the Arturia BeatStep Pro doesn’t have a pre-quantize function. On the other hand, the sequencer dedicated to drums allows the user to both program and record live the patterns he will use in the performance. The recording process is the same used for the monophonic sequencers, with the only distinction being the range of 16 channels that can be recorded.
The device is also able to record incoming MIDI notes from an external instrument, and there’s also a MIDI controller mode, where you can use the hardware controls to change almost any parameter on your MIDI devices or software instruments. The Arturia BeatStep Pro comes with a dedicated software application that lets you make assignments, customise setups and save them for future use.
The Arturia BeatStep Pro has a lot of other features, the most important being the roller/looper strip, the note repeat function, the MIDI-to-CV conversion, the Roland TB-303/TR-909 connectivity, etc.
Arturia BeatStep Pro Review – The Layout
The structure of the Arturia BeatStep Pro is very reminiscent of the original BeatStep layout. We can see the same array of 16 pads and 16 endless knobs, both divided in two rows. Moving on to the new additions, we find a row of 16 step buttons and a completely different left section. The LCD screens show current values of the knobs, which are touch-sensitive by the way, and also the note names when controlling pitch and ranges from positive to negative when controlling timing shift. The global controls are in the leftmost section of the controller : transport buttons, tempo controls, buttons for sequence length and transpose, a set of knobs for swing and randomization and a touchstrip dedicated to note roll and sequence looping.
The Arturia BeatStep Pro has a lot of screens, pads and controls, but at the same time it still remains portable and easy to use. The device is about 9 cm larger than its predecessor but it’s packed with a great number of new functionalities.
Arturia BeatStep Pro Review – Connectivity
There are nineteen ports in all: MIDI via USB and in/out mini jacks, and a thorough smattering of CV ports. While most voltage-based sequencers give you CV/gate outputs, the BeatStep takes it to the next level, adding clock-in and -out, a separate velocity output for each of its two melodic sequencers and eight individual drum triggers.
As mentioned, the Arturia BeatStep Pro supports three simultaneous sequencers, two melodic and one rhythmic. Each of these are hardwired to a set of CV outs, and you can configure each to also output to their own MIDI channel via the USB and hardware jack. The Arturia BeatStep Pro also supports MIDI input, but it requires the MIDI Control Center software to set the input channel. If you’re connecting several devices via MIDI, you can change the channels each sequence transmits on by using the same software (though you might need to use an additional MIDI-thru device to do so).
- 2 monophonic step sequencers
- Up to 64 steps per sequence
- Note, velocity and gate time settings per step
- Note tie
- 16-track drum sequencer (one track per pad)
- MIDI controller mode
- Fully customizable for knobs, step buttons and velocity and pressure sensitive pads
- Send MIDI CC, note data, program changes
- 16 Projects, each with 16×2 sequences, 16 drum sequences and a controller map
- Performance controls
- Randomizer with Amount and Probability settings
- Real-time looper/roller touch strip
- Independent swing amount per sequence
- Touch sensitive knobs
- Tap Tempo
- CV/GATE outputs (1 volt per octave CV, 10 volt gates)
- 8 drum gate outputs
- Clock sync with multiple standards
- MIDI In/Out with supplied MIDI adaptors
- USB class compliant
- Supports full parameter and sequencing editing capability using the free MIDI Control Center software
Arturia BeatStep Pro Review – Conclusion
The BeatStep Pro from Arturia is a great device that allows you to have complete control over DAWs, drum machines, synths and more (as you can see in this video that shows a fantastic approach to live performance by KiNK). It’s a fun way to change up your workflow and focus more on what you’re doing rather than looking at a computer screen. We are very satisfied with the features that the BeatStep offers.