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Arturia BeatStep Pro Review - MIDI Controller & Sequencer

February 22, 2024

Today we have the Arturia BeatStep Pro to review. The BeatStep Pro was announced at the beginning of 2015 at the Winter NAMM Show. It is the second generation of the BeatStep hardware sequencer with more advanced functionality and features. Specifically, Arturia BeatStep Pro has multiple displays, new operating and control modes, an additional independent sequencer, and many connectivity options. But we'll talk about the features of this device a little later, let's start our review as usual with the specifications.

Best Price on Arturia BeatStep Pro Controller

The Arturia BeatStep Pro is a versatile and powerful MIDI controller and sequencer that offers unmatched control and creativity in music production and performance.

Arturia BeatStep Pro Package Classic Package

Arturia BeatStep Pro Specifications:

  • 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 16x2 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
  • Connectivity: CV/GATE outputs (1volt per octave CV, 10volt gates) / 8 drum gate outputs / Clock sync with multiple standards / MIDI In-Out with supplied MIDI adaptors / USB
  • Supports full parameter and sequencing editing capability via free MIDI Control Center software
  • Kensington Lock
  • Dimensions: 415 x 163 x 36mm (16.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches)
  • Net Weight: 1.5 Kg (3.20 lbs.)
  • Set Includes: Arturia BeatStep Pro unit, quick start guide, registration card, USB cable, 2x MIDI adaptor, clock adaptor, anti-groud-loop adaptor + (Ableton Lite, Analog Lab Intro software)
  • Color options: Classic White / Black Edition

Overall Build, Design & Features

One of the main advantages of BeatStep Pro is the ability to control multiple analog synthesizers simultaneously via the CV connection. Although the device can work as a traditional MIDI controller connected to a computer via USB, the uniqueness of Arturia BeatStep Pro lies in the centralized control of multiple hardware synthesizers and drum machines.

Modular analog sets have been gaining popularity among sound producers around the world. But it is still more related to the geeks of audio composing, mainly because of the high cost of modular analog synthesizers and quite specific sound. Nevertheless, for the last few years, there has been a trend in the industry favoring modular hardware configurations. In any case, audio equipment manufacturers are paying more attention to this trend, such as the Arturia company.

Arturia BeatStep Pro Picture 1

Unlike its little brother, the Arturia BeatStep (see our full review), the BeatStep Pro has grown in size, but remains compact. The slim body makes it easy to carry in a backpack, and the sturdy metal base prevents it from breaking.

All connections have been moved to the back of the unit. Considering the new possibilities of the controller, there are now significantly more of them. Mini jacks are still used for CV connections, and special adapters for standard 5-pin MIDI connectors are included.

Arturia BeatStep Pro Connection Options

The following connections are available on the rear panel of the sequencer:

  • MIDI input and output. The vast majority of music equipment has a MIDI interface for synchronization.
  • CV/Gate outputs for sending pitch, time and velocity data. A total of 6 outputs are available, 3 for each sequencer. This switching is mainly used in modular or vintage devices, although other compatible devices are available. Arturia has considered that there are different CV/Gate standards, all configurable in a special utility.
  • 8 Gate outputs for controlling compatible devices, mainly drum machines.
  • DIN/Clock input and output. DIN is suitable for working with some rare models of vintage devices, and Clock can be found in modern devices, for example, in the now popular Korg Volca.
  • USB for power supply, connection to a computer or tablet. It is necessary for controlling plug-ins and applications, as well as for updating firmware and configuring Beatstep Pro via the MIDI Control Center utility.

Obviously, Arturia has made a special effort to make the device as universal as possible, and it seems that they have succeeded.

When connected to a Mac or PC, the unit is powered via the USB bus. In standalone mode, the manufacturer suggests using a traditional adapter for charging mobile devices. To avoid power supply interference, the kit includes a special USB splitter to break the ground loop.

So How Does BeatStep Pro Work?

Let's get to the main part of our Arturia BeatStep Pro review and answer the most pressing question - how does this Beast-Controller work?

There are two modes: Project Mode controls the built-in hardware sequencers; Control Mode lets you control virtual instruments and software sequencers on your computer, as well as external devices via standard MIDI messages. The most interesting thing is that these modes can be used simultaneously. Moreover, it is the joint work that significantly expands the possibilities of the device and allows you to dilute the specific sound of analog mono synthesizers.

Arturia MIDI Control Center with BeatStep Pro

The only difficulty of the Control mode is the independent assignment of controllers. No special presets for working with any specific programs are provided in the device. Therefore, to make the task easier, the manufacturer suggests using the proprietary MIDI Control Center program with a clear graphical interface of the device. To use BeatStep Pro as a conventional controller, it is more convenient to use the learning tools of the sequencer or plug-in. By and large, using BeatStep Pro as a MIDI controller is quite trivial and does not present any difficulties. Controlling the built-in hardware sequencers in Project mode is much more interesting.

BeatStep Pro features step-by-step sequencers that synchronously play a given melodic or rhythmic pattern in a loop. The controller features two melodic sequencers, SEQUENCER 1 and SEQUENCER 2, as well as a DRUM drum sequencer. Up to 16 different patterns of up to 64 beats in duration can be set for each sequencer and can be switched between them sequentially as you play. All of these are part of one global project, of which BeatStep Pro has 16, so you can create up to 256 unique sequences for each sequencer and store them in the device's memory.

Arturia BeatStep Pro pads large

The control is very simple, accompanied by a bright indication, and does not differ from other similar devices. Illuminated pads indicate the notes played, and a running cursor indicates the tempo and current playback position. The most interesting thing is the pads, which in SEQUENCER 1 and SEQUENCER 2 modes turn into a kind of musical keys. Unlike the common chromatic representation, pads in the form of a keyboard are much more convenient and greatly simplify the performance of melodies.

The sequencers used are designed to control analog mono synthesizers via CV connection. With SEQUENCER 1 and SEQUENCER 2, you can control synthesizers with three parameters: Pitch, Velocity, and Gate. The DRUM drum sequencer controls only one parameter, Gate. Consequently, there are three CV slots for melodic sequencers and eight slots for the DRUM sequencer on each rear side of the unit.

Let's be honest about the biggest disadvantage - in Beatstep Pro both melodic sequencers are monophonic, and this is very limiting. You can use the sequencers for bass, arpeggios or solos, but you can't control parts that need chords. Perhaps chord support will be added in the upcoming firmware at least for MIDI and USB, because CV/Gate technically doesn't support polyphony.

Arturia BeatStep Display Large

The device features four displays that show information about the parameter being controlled or the number of the current preset. For ease of operation, all controls are touchless and touch-sensitive. This allows you to see the value of the adjustable parameter on the main display without changing it, just by touching the controller.

Very interesting in the controller is a touch strip that allows you to activate the magnifier and change its magnification from 1/4 to 1/32. This feature was borrowed from DJ controllers and is very often used in modern electronic music. In this case, the sensor works like a slider and activates when pressed and switches modes when moved.

Also interesting in BeatStep Pro are the RANDOMNESS and PROBABILITY functions, which allow you to take away the extreme precision and give the sound a more lively performance. Randomization is percentage adjustable and affects absolutely all parameters. RANDOMNESS allows you to change the intensity, and PROBABILITY how often random variations will occur.

What can we do to humanize the music created on Beatstep Pro?

There are several options:

  • Randomizer. With varying degrees of probability, it can affect the volume, duration, and pitch of notes in existing melodic or percussive sequences, which, with small values, sounds like the performer is allowing himself to improvise a bit. The randomizer only works with the notes that are already in the sequencing, so there's virtually no dissonance. In the case of drums, it sounds like rare small dissonances, and this is very good, because one of the most famous problems, especially for beginners, is the monotony of drum parts. With more radical settings randomizer turns your workpiece into a simple IDM, but it is quite possible to get an interesting sequence of sounds, which you would hardly guess yourself. In short, random is random. This function is regulated by two knobs - the first one adjusts how much the randomizer distorts the original sequencing, and the second one adjusts the probability of triggering.
  • Swing. If you want to add some groove, twist a special knob and everything will swing. Swing makes small shifts between notes, which removes the "machine-like" feel. There are global swing settings that affect all sequences, and individual settings for each. For example, you can add groove to the drums, and leave the melody quantized.
  • Shifts of individual sounds relative to the grid. The best drummers are known to be good at delays and micro shifts. With the Shift function, we can move individual notes and beats to the left or right of the grid, thus achieving the desired groove. The advantage of this function over swing is more precise tuning, but the disadvantage is that it is very labor-intensive.
  • Velocity, aka pressing force. People rarely press a piano key or pull a string with the same results - there are usually differences in volume and tone. Working with velocity on Beatstep Pro allows you to customize changes to volume, filter, or whatever you want, you just need to assign a velocity influence to the desired parameter on the controlled plugin or device. Velocity can be edited with encoders, or you can directly play the pads at the desired effort. Everything will be recorded, as Beatstep Pro's pads are sensitive to force.
  • Working with a looper, which is controlled by a touchstrip, can add life. With it, you can loop small chunks of a part in live and make glitches and glitches. It's always fun, but not always appropriate.

Final Verdict on Arturia BeatStep Pro

Arturia BeatStep Pro is a very interesting and unique controller that combines the capabilities of several devices. At the same time, it remains a compact and easy-to-use tool that allows you to simultaneously control multiple analog mono synthesizers, virtual instruments, and a software sequencer shell.

In our opinion, BeatStep Pro is primarily designed to work with Arturia analog synthesizers, and the available MIDI controller functions should be used as additional features. You should not consider BeatStep Pro as a MIDI controller for working in Ableton. There are much more convenient and specialized devices for this purpose.

We hope you enjoyed our Arturia BeatStep Pro review. Feel free to leave any questions, comments or suggestions in the section below. We will be happy to respond to all your comments as soon as possible.

  • Extensive Control: 16 pads, 16 encoders, and numerous dedicated buttons for hands-on control over MIDI instruments and parameters.
  • Powerful Sequencing: Three independent sequencers with 64 steps per sequence for intricate musical patterns and arrangements.
  • Versatile Connectivity: MIDI, CV/Gate, and clock sync outputs, as well as USB and MIDI inputs, for integration with hardware and software devices.
  • Performance Features: Drum sequencer, randomization functions, and pattern chaining for dynamic and expressive performances.
  • Intuitive Interface: Backlit pads, touch-sensitive encoders, and LED displays for tactile and visual feedback.
  • Build Quality: Sleek design and rugged construction for reliability in various performance environments.
  • Learning Curve: The BeatStep Pro's extensive feature set may require some time to master, particularly for users new to MIDI sequencing and performance.
Our Score

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