When GarageBand is not for you, Sequel may be just the thing. (July 1st, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH
Price: $129.99 US
- Large variety of music samples. Simple one-window design. Aesthetically designed. Arranging track is a helpful feature. Good manual for beginners. Do not have to play an instrument to use.
- Small icons and many detailed cursor functions. Lacks video support. Lacks plug-in support. Loop naming conventions is inconsistent.
MacNN continues a detailed look at Steinberg Sequel in Part 2.
Like GarageBandYou can record using a MIDI controller or through an external microphone in Sequel, which is very similar to GarageBand. I recorded live audio from a microphone and it worked well. The intuitive design worked as I thought it would. Cutting and arranging segments of recorded material is also similar to GarageBand. You can move segments freely or snap them to a metronomic grid. Sequel also uses the common MIDI editing area for pencil based drawing of certain parameters such as velocity, pitch bend, and modulation. Sequel limits you to one time signature for the whole project, which common is consumer level music software.
Not Like GarageBandThere is no video synchronization support in Sequel. There is also no way to export or import MIDI data, and reWire support, unlike GarageBand. The editing window is always present in Sequel, while you can hide it in GarageBand. The tradeoff is that you can change the ratio of your console using the recording area (Arrange Zone) versus the editing area (Multi Zone), and you can almost eliminate each window; from a 98% to 2% view.
In GarageBand the editing window cannot be reduced below a 30% view, so if you need to see less, you simply hide it, similar to the windows in Apple's iLife programs. Sequel gives you more viewing flexibility and both sections are present at all times, although you can minimize one or the other. The transport area at the top of the page never moves, which is a benefit, but that doesn't really matter if you are operating it from the keyboard. If you change the window sizes in GarageBand, it moves transport area around the screen, which I don't like.
Another Sequel strength is its ability to create a track exclusively for designing an arrangement with already recorded parts, called the Arranger Track. It is helpful when you review the project and it makes dragging sections of music around the project a thing of the past. This lends itself to electronic music more than does GarageBand.
The ways to create the arrangement are two fold. You can create on the fly in Live Play mode or with the Chain Play mode, which creates sections in a set order. You click buttons for each section of music, to create an arrangement in Live Play mode and sections are named in the Arrange Zone's Arranger Track. Creating an arrangement using the Chain Play mode lets you click each button many times in any order and then you have the option to save many combinations of parts to hear which one you like. This is a quick way to see how your musical parts sound in a succession without all the copying and pasting necessary if you were to create the same section order in the Arrange Zone.
Software PerformanceWith only 1GB of RAM, I experienced some lag when other programs were running. The CPU use meter is very general and has only three dashes and an "O" for max usage. There is no percentage of CPU use shown, but it matches the icon style of the rest of the console. Projects using more than five tracks with multiple effects and EQ begin to slow the performance, even when Sequel is the only application running. To create large projects more than one 1GB of RAM is suggested.
Sequel Needs a SequelIf competing with GarageBand is Sequel's major goal, it has fallen short since GarageBand is a more fully functioning music creation program. A lack of major plug-in support seems to be the defining quality of consumer-level music creation software, but all other features are fair game, and Sequel does lack some of those features. For PC users who don't receive GarageBand with their machine, Sequel may very well fit their needs. However, for Mac users, there is no reason to purchase Sequel with GarageBand as a baseline product included with all machines.
RecommendedFor beginners in electronic or dance music this is a good product to explore how to make music, as opposed to dropping significant funds for Propellerhead's Reason or Apple's Logic. You can experiment with effects and loop editing is an easy task. The manual explains the fundamentals of this kind of music creation sufficiently for the beginning composer. Sequel is quite the comprehensive product for the price.
Please also read Sequel Review Part 1 that covers the interface and sound loops.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor