The 5 Best Hardware Sequencers for Your Rig

Standalone sequencers are pieces of hardware that you can use to control anywhere from a single synth to a more elaborate, fully fledged live rig, in lieu of a computer. Though much of what a hardware sequencer can do can also be done within DAWs like Ableton Live, sequencers are great options for musicians looking to get more hands-on with their music production. Additionally, standalone sequencers can be more stable than running your rig through a DAW, and with lower latency, which is very beneficial in a live performance setting.

There are plenty of excellent modern sequencers that have flooded the market in the past few years at all price points, packing a variety of different features and build profiles. Some are robust, demanding a lot of space in exchange for fuller feature suits and are worth considering if you know what you want and are looking to totally replace your computer. Others with smaller footprints are more affordable and favor portability, which is great if you're looking for a sequencer for live performance or if you're brand-new to standalone sequencers.

Below, we've collected some of the best standalone sequencers currently on the market, taking into consideration things like size, feature set, and price. Read below to figure out which one is right for you.

What is it? What makes it cool? What does it cost?
Korg SQ-1 Step Sequencer Gold standard for simple and affordable sequencing. $70-$100
Arturia BeatStep Pro Plays well with everything. $130-$250
Novation Circuit Built-in drum machine makes it great on the go. $185-$300
Elektron Digitakt Where value meets quality. $570-$740
Squarp Instruments Pyramid Capable of more than you'd expect. $555-$640
Korg SQ-1

A bite-sized, pared down version of Korg's more robust SQ-10, the Korg SQ-1 analog step sequencer was originally designed and created to control Korg's legendary MS-20 monophonic analog synth. But if you don't have an MS-20 yourself, this sequencer is worth considering for controlling both vintage and modern synths alike.

The SQ-1 features features 16 steps, with two CV/gate output channels and one MIDI out, so while it's not functional enough for a complex live performance, it's a great tool for a beginner just getting started. It's also very compact and lightweight, making it an easy tool to pop in your bag and take with you.

Arturia BeatStep Pro

No wider than a laptop, the Arturia BeatStep Pro can do more than its size would suggest—equally adept at programming melodic lines for a modular synth or sequencing a drum machine in Ableton Live. It features two independent melodic sequencers paired with a full-featured drum sequencer, all controlled by tactile knobs and pads that make it especially great for live performance.

What also make it great for performance are all of its outputs. It features a wide array of CV/gate outputs, as well as USB and MIDI connections, making it super friendly with vintage and modern synths alike. With 16 slots for projects, which comprise 16 sequences each for both melodic sequencers and the drum sequencer, you can compose an entire setlist's worth of material on the BeatStep alone.

Though it's only a monophonic sequencer, the feature set, portability, and price point still amount to a very solid option for controlling your rig, whether for recording or live performance.

Novation Circuit

The Novation Circuit is a grid-based groove box that, in addition to its intuitive sequencer, packs features like two polyphonic synths and a four-part drum machine. The synths feature two individually controllable oscillators, three distortion modes, and one multi-mode (high-pass, low-pass, or band-pass) filter.

Novation's signature grid of 32 tactile, velocity-sensitive RGB pads, paired with its portability and feature set make the Circuit a great tool for laying down ideas and making music on the go, no matter what your proficiency level.

Elektron Digitakt

The Electron Digitakt gives musicians a way to capture the renowned Elektron workflow in a smaller, more affordable package than the flagship Octatrack. Its formidable sound engine sports 1GB of onboard storage, as well as eight intuitive MIDI tracks and eight stereo audio tracks, which are complete with individual multi-function filters and an LFO.

The ability for each sequence step to have its own sample and parameter values and the fact that you're able to sequence chords up to four notes makes the Digitakt an especially creative tool, and its often lauded for how user friendly it is and uncomplicated it is to learn. A great representation of where value meets quality, the Digitakt is more than a worthy pick for commanding your setup.

Squarp Instruments Pyramid

Saving what is perhaps the most unique for last, Squarps Pyramid was built for the modern musician, with its small and sleek profile, two separate MIDI outs, and lots of CV/gate ins and outs. It also gives musicians the ability to send patterns to a whopping 64 tracks, so it's certainly up to the task of running a larger setup.

The Pyramid is a polyphonic sequencer and even includes a setting for polyrhythms for livening up your drum machine. That said, there is a steeper learning curve with a piece of hardware as complex and feature-rich as this, so make sure that you have the time to dedicate to learning it before picking it up for your rig.

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