Fun, cheap sequencers, Korg SQ-1 or....?

A little bit of background…

I’m lucky enough to own a Moog Voyager Old School and a Korg MS-20 (mk2), the MS-20 sits atop the Voyager with an array of guitar pedals to the side. Back when I was working these 2 synths were my most used, they’re both in my (home) office, and each workday I would turn them on, and then have a 5-10 minute noodle as a break several times a day.

What made them so appealing was their total immediacy, no patch memory (and only a few patch cables). Just turn them on and off you go.

Anyway rolling forwards (and through a few changes in circumstance), I’d like to take advantage of that immediacy and low mental overhead again, but this time with a sequencer in the mix too.


So… what’s good in the fun, cheap and simple sequencer camp? (CV out too please).

So far I’ve got:

  • Korg SQ-1 (2 CV channels, can do Hz/V, but can’t set different trigger types on each gate output)
  • Arturia Beatstep (1 CV channel, no Hz/V, encoders give no feedback? too complex?)

Any others? Any comments on these 2?

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The SQ1 is really great, especially for the price. It is very immediate and fun. Yet you can do quite a lot with it. It pairs very well with a clock divider or another SQ1, so you can send it irregular clock and get all funky with it.

I have two of them and use them in everything I do.

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I did think about the potential for 2…

It looks like you can take the gate out from the first into the sync in of the second, for the irregular clocking you mention. Is that right?

I have an SQ-1, and would recommend it, with some caveats. Thoughts:

  • You can pick one up for, what, a hundred bucks? It’s definitely worth a hundred bucks.
  • The CV pots are not amazing. Feel is inconsistent; they can slip a bit. Apart from that it’s built like a small tank.
  • No swing, which is a bummer. But, as pointed out by @boboter, you can get creative with the sync input.
  • Can be used a USB-MIDI-to-CV converter. Worth the price for that alone.
  • The interface for changing settings is completely impenetrable. With that said, you can change CV from V/oct to Hz/V, as you mentioned, and also gate polarity, meaning you can use it with a lot of odd hardware.
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Yes, exactly. I usually have a channel of Pamela’s new Workout controlling each SQ1. But it works with the gate out as well.

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Crazy8 fits into this category, tho I would prop still rather have a SQ-1 or two

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SQ-1 is limited in many ways, but it is a very fun and playable sequencer.

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I have a Beatstep (not pro). I bought it before the SQ-1 came out. By the time the SQ-1 was out, I was already down the Modular rabbit hole, so never picked one up. Just wanted to throw in a couple of pluses for the Beatstep - the build quality is really nice, the pads are nice and squishy-firm, it quantizes notes based on one of a handful of scales. You can create your own scales in the included software. It also acts as a competent MIDI controller, Bitwig has at least one mapping that lets you use it to do more than construct sequences, though that’s never gelled for me.

Based on your criteria and interests, I’d go for the SQ-1 - but figured I’d at least throw in some of the pluses of the Beatstep. I still get it out on occasion and use it to mix things up a bit in my setup. I was on the Arturia path for a while, the Beatstep and Microbrute combo were a great way to start for me.

Oh - and the SQ-1 can sync with other Volca stuff, which is a big plus if you’re into Volcas.

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No experience with it but I remember seeing the Division 6 Business Card Sequencer at Thonk. Its cheap and simple. Looks like it would be handy.

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I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anyone pair an SQ-1 with a clock divider. I’m definitely curious, since I’m hoping to build one of those 4ms RCD kits sometime soon.

I do it all the time. With both, standard clock signals and irregular/shuffled clocks. Pam is especially great since it can do so much more than just divide/multiply a clock signal.

MIDI only and no CV but Zillion by Future Retro it’s a lot of fun!

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A cool thing about the sq-1 is that you can play the sequence(s) mlr style (“step jump”). I also use it to quickly hammer in notes/offsets and gates (same function, without sequencer running). and clock in to midi is very useful too.

all in all great value! haven’t even thought about having two, might be fun with some utilities.

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One thing to bear in mind is that the voyager doesn’t actually track to v/octave so some of these options may be no good ( I’m assuming the sq1 is quantised?). I partook in a thread or 2 on the other forum about this. There is an inelegant work around. I’ll find the links later when I’m home.

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Good point!

I am aware of this already… the Old School is supposed to be slightly different though, so I’m going to double check by patching in one of my sequencers from my Eurorack to check the tracking.

Either way, I think I’ll get a SQ-1 just to use with the MS-20, which has a rather handy ability to do 2 voice paraphony.

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I got an Arturia Beatstep (basic, not pro) just a couple of weeks ago and one thing it definitely isn’t is too complex. I plugged CV and gate to my modular and started playing within minutes of opening the box. To use it to trigger drums in Ableton, I had to figure out of Ableton’s settings, as it automatically mapped to launching clips, but that’s not too hard either. The scales are a very nice touch, as are the global transpose knob, the play directions and tempo division buttons, but what really made me choose this thing for sequencing is that you get a separate pitch knob for every step of the sequence, so you don’t need to step through it changing one note at a time, as with most eurorack sequencer modules.

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Another fan of the SQ-1 (which I own) here, and also endorse the Beatstep Pro (which I don’t own but have played with). I “play” the SQ-1 quite a bit in live performance. Given its limitations, you can still generate endless variations with a sequence. I’m often in Active Step mode, turning notes on and off to get longer and shorter sequences of different combinations of notes on the fly, which you can’t do on a lot of linear sequencers unless there’s a skip switch for each step. Even with the Beatstep Pro, you can specify the length of a pattern, but you can’t skip steps as far as I know. Combining Active Step wtih Gates On/Off to get longer and shorter notes, and Step Jump, which is like a reset, but you can reset from any point in the sequence…I really just use those few things to get endless variation. The only complaint is that you can’t save patterns, so if you work more with longer patterns and song structures, the Beatstep Pro would be a better option. The SQ-1 is like a brilliant, playable morphing arpegggio machine, with an emphasis on its playability.

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A quick follow up. I connected my Voyager OS up to my ER-101, it looks like I can get about 3 octaves before the tracking gets too offensive. Good enough for having some fun.

Also, thanks for all your opinions, looks like the SQ-1 is preferable over the Beatstep (lack of presets is a plus point for me).

Unfortunately I’ve got a few other things to buy from my allocated ‘having fun’ budget, some stationery for 2018 (diaries, pens, etc), and I also need some new running clothes now that the weather is turning. Should hopefully pick up the SQ-1 in December of early January.