The Arturia Beatstep Pro is a really powerful polyphonic sequencer which can also function as a MIDI controller. It is also a big improvement over the normal version at an affordable price.
Beatstep Pro Review Summary
The BeatStep Pro is the perfect sequencer for live performances. While you may be tempted by the lower price of the Beatstep regular, I recommend spending the extra money to get the Beatstep Pro.
The BeatStep regular cannnot be used in live sequencing and it can only hold 1 pattern. This makes it pretty limited when it comes to producing music.
You can connect pretty much anything to the Beatstep Pro. With a total of 18 mini–jacks, plus a micro–USB socket, you have a lot of options.
Between all of the connections, they provide MIDI In and Out, analogue clock (again in and out), eight drum triggers, and — last but not least — the CV, Gate and Velocity outputs of the melodic sequencer tracks.
Two grey plastic adapters turn those theoretical MIDI In and Out sockets into something a MIDI cable can recognise.
It can also send and receive MIDI clock, and so can act as either master or slave with almost anything.
The package also includes a Y–shaped ‘anti-ground-loop adapter’, which cuts the background noise you can experience when USB–connected to a computer.
Superficially resembling a typical drum pad–based controller for software synths and DAWs, the BSP is a slimline tablet of metal and off–white plastic.
It’s a solid and portable package of 415 x 163 x 36 mm and weighs a comfortable 1.45kg. It has a really nice aesthetic design, a clean layout and durable components.
There are three tracks, consisting of two ‘melodic’ parts and a drum sequencer, each with its own color. The two monophonic sequencers are functionally identical, and all three sequencers share some common features. The number of steps in each is set independently of the others, to 16, 32, 48 or 64.
How does the Beatstep Pro work
Sequences are programmed or recorded in real time using 16 step buttons. The system also lets you choose from a range of scales.
For post-performance editing, the 16 numbered rotaries correspond to the matching step numbers, and adjust things like the note of each step, Shift (nudging notes slightly off the timing grid), Velocity (effectively step volume) and Gate (the length of the note).
Up to 16 sequences can be stored in memory per sequencer, and the whole lot can be saved into 16 global preset slots. A particularly cool feature is the Randomizer, which uses Randomness and Probability controls to fire off random notes, the former determining how far from your programmed notes to stray, the latter defining how often that straying happens.
It’s really useful as you can take a simple pattern and make it more interesting while producing or even performing live.
Beatstep: Additional Features
There are also more buttons and knobs which serve different purposes, such as adjusting tempo or swing. And you can access additional or secondary features by using the Shift button.
Via firmware updates, Arturia has added even more features like the option to make polyrhythms (before you could only use polymeters), you can also chain patterns together and save them so you can create longer, more complex patterns even while performing live and the touch strip can now be used additionally as a roller or arpeggiator.
Beatstep Pro: My Thoughts
Personally I’ve found the Beatstep Pro to be really useful when making music. It is really easy and intuitive to start creating interesting drum patterns while using the other two sequencers to create a bass line or a synth riff.
Once you get over the initial setup it is really simple to just plug it in your DAW of choice and let your creativity flow. For example I love making polyrhythms in genres which usually don’t have any, like techno.
I haven’t tried it yet in a live performance setup but I feel like you need some extra hardware in order to make it work as just the Beastep Pro alone won’t be enough to make music live as you have some limitations.
For a complete live setup you might want to get a mixer (like the NanoKontrol), a drum machine and/or a synth.
Beatstep vs Beatstep Pro
Beatstep vs Beatstep Pro: Pricing
You can get the Beatstep for $129 and the Pro version for $299. It is a somewhat big difference in price but you get a lot more features and functionality for that price increase.
For that reason, I always recommend splurging a little and going for the BeatStep Pro instead of the regular version. The Pro comes with so much added functionality that it is worth the increased price.
Both share a similar layout as they have 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads but you’ll quickly start to notice the differences.
- First, the regular version is a monophonic sequencer, which means you can only program one sequence and it can’t be done in real time.
- The regular version only has Gate Out, CV Out, MIDI Out and can be connected only via micro-USB. In contrast the Pro version has a lot more options.
- The regular version can only store 16 patterns while the Pro version can store 16 different projects, each with 16 different sequences for each track. If you count the option to chain patterns and save them, you can store a ridiculous amount of more information in the Beatstep Pro than you can in the regular Beatstep
- While the regular version has no display, the Pro one has one which displays tempo and different parameters for each knob.
- The regular version has no drum sequencer.
Beatstep Pro vs Beatstep Regular: Which one do you need?
If you are just starting out in music production and are looking for an affordable quality sequencer I would recommend getting the regular version so you can familiarize yourself. If you want to update later, you can buy the Pro version but keep the regular one as an additional sequencer for live performance.
However, if you already have a live setup, I would also recommend the regular version if you just want to add a small sequencer and don’t feel like you need all the features the Pro version has.
In any case, if you have some extra money I would still recommend considering the Pro version as it has a lot more depth. Also, if you are really into making drum patterns, the Pro version can be a catalyzer for your creativity for a relatively low price.