Review: Arturia Beatstep

Here’s another new product we would like to talk about, Arturia’s new Beatstep. Does it look a little like the OP-1? Hmm, maybe its dimensions are the same but no, these two can’t be compared, at all. Before discussing anymore biases just read what we have to say about this little piece of magic.


Features

    • MIDI controller Mode – RED LED MODE
    • Step Sequencer mode – BLUE LED MODE
    • 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads
    • 16 encoders
    • 16 MIDI Controller presets
    • 16 Sequence presets
    • Works with MIDI Control Center Editor
    • Internal and External clocking
    • CV outputs
    • USB I/O
    • MIDI output
    • iPAD compatibility (using camera connection kit)
    • Transports can send MIDI CC or MMC
    • Kensington Lock
    • Standalone MIDI or CV operation
    • USB Class compliant (no drivers)


First Impression

With its solid metal plate this piece of hardware feels great. It’s heavy enough not to move around while using it and the overall (build) quality is just super.

It’s only $99 / 99 euros which definitely makes it a cheap Step Sequencer / Midi Controller.

It comes with a 5-din Midi cabel and USB 2.0 cable which is (thankfully) quite long.


Setting it up

Before playing around with the Beatstep, it’s good to download and check out MIDI Control Center. In this program you can adjust settings and create templates for your Beatstep. You can edit the modes for each Knob, as well as some Global Parameters (Pad Velocity, Gate Time, Swing etc.). See the screenshot.

Once you have finally opened your favorite DAW it’s time to start jamming. You can use the Beatstep as MIDI Controller (in combination with e.g Drum Racks or VST’s), or as a Step Sequencer.

You’re able to store 16 sequences that you can use for each MIDI track you’re creating. Switching between these sequences can be done with the “RECALL” button (hold it in and select 1 – 16) and saving can be done with the “STORE” button.

CNTRL/ SEQ switches between modes. CNTRL to use it is a controller, SEQ to edit your selected sequence.

In SEQ mode you can change the length of your sequence by holding SHIFT and CHAN at the same time and then pressing a pad to determine where the sequence should end.

Read the full manual here (English).




So, is it any good?

Hell yes! This is so easy to set up and use. It’s very portable, you will love the buttons and you won’t be able to stop tweaking your sequences.

This is definitely a piece of equipment you want to buy if you’re either low on budget or travel around a lot. Want to make some beats at a friends house? This is probably all you need (as we’ve told before, it’s both a Midi Controller and sequencer).

Isn’t there any cons?
Well, there’s a few.

What I really miss about the BeatStep (which I know is quite hard to add for the low retail price) is a small display. Sometimes you’re editing your sequence and can’t really check how your parameters are set. You can sometimes miss the overview and might wonder how much you pitched a specific pad.

Next to that it doesn’t have a record button which would be great if you just want to record 8 bars.

Then again, this all has to do with expectations. For example, the Arturia SparkLE covers up all these flaws, but then again, it is a little bigger and more expensive.


Conclusion

Let me keep it short here.
Beatstep is a MIDI Controller and Step Sequencer in one. Solid. Small. Cheap. Great pads. Easy to use. No advanced features but if you’re looking for those (displays, more buttons etc.), this simply isn’t the product for you. All I can say is I love this piece of hardware for what it is. Beatflakes recommends.