Wohl jeder kennt den einen oder anderen Step-Sequencer. Aber trotz der langen Entwicklungsgeschichte ist das Konzept schrittbasierter Taktgerber noch langst nicht ausgereizt und immerwieder fur einen frischen Ansatz gut: Signal Arts MIDI Ananlog Performance Sequencer, kurz MAPS, bietet einen solchen.
Durch die Demokratisierung der musikalischen Produktionsmittel in den letzten Jahren gibt es eine wachsende Zahl von Musikern, die sich mit elektronischer Musik und alternativen Kompositions- und Performance-Instrument beschaftigen. Genaudiese Zielgruppe adressiert der sehr flexible Step-Sequencer MAPS von Signal Arts.
Untergebracht in einem etwas pummelig erscheinenden Metallgehause, wirkt der MAPS sehr solide. Sein Design erinnert hingegen eher an Labortechnik als an ein Musikinstrument. Die Oberflache besteht aus einer Step-Matrix mit acht Steps, die jeweils uber eine Taste mit LED und einen eigenen, gerasterten Endlos-Drehregler verfuger. Tatsachlich bietet der MAPS nur acht Steps pro Sequencz, doch dazu spater mehr. Es handelt sich letztlich um das bewahrte Lauflicht-Konzept, das Roland anno dazumal so erfolgreich vermarket hat. Die Endlosregler erlauben in Verbindung mit der Alt- und Mode-Taste und dem zweizeiligen LC-Display einen guten Zugriff auf die recht komplexen inneren Werte des Sequencers. Sequenzen werden dabei nicht nur uber MIDI-Noten ausgelost, sondern konnen auch uber die acht Taster gespielt werden, was den instrumentalen Charakter des MAPS unterstreicht.
Wie der Name bereits vermuten lasst, gibt der MAPS nicht nur MIDI-Daten uber seine zwei MIDI-Ausgange aus, sondern erzeugt zusatzlich auch jeweils drei separate, analog Gate-Signale und Steuerspannungen. Auch analog Clock-Ein- und -Ausgange fehlen ebenso wenig wie der DIN-Sync-Ausgang. Die analogen Schnittstellen konnen dabei fast alle bekannten Spannungsund Trigger-Skalierungen erzeugen (V/Hz und V/Octave fur die Steuerspannungen, positive gate und Moog S-Trig fur die Gates), was auch ohne die Sequencer-Engine mit Hilfe des MIDI-Eingangs moglich ist. Der MAPS ist also zusatzlich ein machtiger MIDI/CV-Konverter, Abgerundet wird die Ausstattung durch Eingang fur einen Fubschalter und ein Pedal.
Der eigentliche Kern des MAPS ist die Arbeit mit den Sequenzen. 24 Banke mit jeweils acht Sequenzen fasst der Speicher. Jede Sequenz verfugt dabei uber acht Steps mit jeweils sieben Parametern. Wer sich dem Gerat zum ersten Mal nahert, wird frustriert feststellen, dass ohne das Handbuch nichts geht. Und selbst danach ist die Lernkurve immer noch recht steil. Dies liegt vor allem daran, dass der MAPS ein erheblich offeneres Konzept verfolgt, als die meisten seiner Verwandten, Der MAPS ist ein Echtzeit-Gerat. Samtliche Parameter konnen im laufenden Betrieb Verandert werden. Dabei hat Signal Arts die Kombination aus Funktionsvielfalt und minimalem interface recht elegant gelost. Die Endlosregler werden sowohl zur Werteeingabe fur die einzelnen Steps, als auch -- im Zusammenspiel mit zwei speziellen Tastern -- zur Navigation und Auswahlder Menus genutzt. Es dauert eine Weile bis man weib, wo man hingreifen muss -- dann aber geht es flussig von der Hand.
Die Fulle an Moglichkeiten sprengt den hier verfugbaren Rahmen, wir beschranken uns daher auf einige Grundkonzepte. Pro Step stehen Tonhohe, Scale, Detune, Controller, Schrittlange, Notenlange und Portamento zur Verfugung. Die Sequenzen werden entweder von den acht Step-Tatern auf der Oberflache des MAPS ausgelost oder durch eingehende MIDI-Notenbefehle. Damit lassen sich klassische Step-Sequenzen erstellen und zu langeren Einheiten verketten, um altbekannten Arbeitsweisen zu fronon. Der MAPS bietet sich aber auch fur ganz andere Dinge an. So konnen die Sequenzen voneinander unabhangig und unsynchronisiert laufen. Ein und dieseibe Sequenz darf mehrfach laufen und Sequenzen konnen sich gegenseitig modulieren. Man kommt, egal ob man die Sequenzen uber den MAPS auslost, uber eine MIDI-Tastatur spielt oder eine Sequencer-Software nutzt, sehr schnell zu auberst komplexen Melodie- und Rhythmusverlaufen, die -- etwas Organisationsarbeit vorausgesetzt -- sogar richtig "spielbar" sind.
Mit den Trigger-Modes bestimmt man, wie eine Sequenz auf einin Trigger regiert. So konnen etwa Sequenzen ein- oder mehrmals laufen und dann anhalten oder so lange spielen, wie der Trigger vorhanden ist. Daruber hinaus konnen Trigger durch die Steps schalten oder diese zufallig auslosen. Uber eingenhende Noten konnen Sequenzen trasponiert, in ihrer Velocity verandert werden oder ihre Notenlangen an die eingehenden MIDI-Noten angepasst werden. Und damit die erzeugten Noten nicht ins Chaos abgleiten, gibt es 50 Skalen, die sich um Wohlklang kyummern. Nicht zu vergessen: Die Sequenzen durfen sich sowohl gegenseitig als auch rekursiv sich selbst modulieren. Heir tut sich eine Welt an neuen, halbgenerativen Mustern auf. Dabei sind polyrhythmische Verlaufe, bei denen sich mehrere Sequenzen unterschiedlicher Lange gegenseitig modulieren, erst der Anfang.
Der MAPS ist kein herkommliches Kompositionswerkzeug, mit dem man Projekte umsetzt, die im Kopf bereits fertig sind. Heir ist eher der Weg das Ziel. Mit den Moglichkeiten polyrhythmischer Stapelung und interner Modulation ergeben sich immer wieder uberraschende und trotzdem sehr musikalische Ergebnisse.
Was die Moglichkeiten zur Mustererzeugung angeht, gibt es nicht viele Sequencer, die dem MAPS das Wasser reichen konnen. Diese Flexibilitat, kombiniert mit dem charaktervollen interface, machen den Sequencer zu einer echten Wunderwaffe, wenn man auf der Suche nach rhythmischer oder melodioser Inspiration ist. Ganz nebenbei entpuppt sich das Gerat als machtiger MIDI/CV-Konverter. Man sollte allerdings Zeit und Nerven fur die Einarbeitungszeit mitbringen.
The Signal Arts MIDI Analog Performance Sequencer was specifically designed for experimental composition in the sense that it requires the user to focus on the sequencing process instead of the end product. Unlike modern matrix sequencers designed to chain preconceived sequences together to create a finished song, the MAPS makes it difficult to preconceive a final product. Contrary to traditionally-styled analog sequencers like the Analogue Solutions Oberkorn and the Doepfer MAQ 16/3 that only repeat synchronized sequences, the MAPS allows unquantized triggering so that sequences can run completely independently of each other. Although the MAPS can be programmed to launch chains of 16-step staccato sequences in unison like a matrix sequencer, or to randomize steps or create complex envelopes like a traditional analog sequencer, its real power is in its ability to use a set of relatively simple user-defined parameters to aggregate polyrhythmic counterpoint in real-time.
The deceptively simple building blocks of the MAPS are sixteen* banks of eight sequences of eight steps. Each step has its own note duration, step duration, velocity, slew rate, and one-other control message--all editable in real-time. Each sequence can be chained to another sequence, can be triggered from its own MIDI channel or trigger button, and can be sent to the same or another MIDI channel and one of the sequencer's three CV/Gate ouput pairs. Each sequence can be synchronized to the bar line so that the difference between the sum of its step durations and a full bar is added to or subtracted from the last step, or the sequence length can equal the sum of its step durations. What's more, a sequence's step parameter values can cross-modulate those of another sequence, providing the aleatoric transformation of sequence parameters over time. For example, a simple 8-step melodic sequence cross-modulated by a 7-step sequence with different velocity values can produce a 56-step rhythmic cycle.
Central to the MAPS's identity as a real-time tool is its array of Trigger Modes that determine how each sequence reacts to a trigger. Trigger modes like RunStop and SeqReset exhaust the entire Run/Stop/Reset functionality of most analog sequencers, but the MAPS does much more with triggers. Release mode fires a second sequence at the trigger's release to facilitate complex envelopes and other two-stage events. Multiple mode fires a copy of the same sequence for each identical trigger received, creating rondo-like counterpoint on polyphonic synthesizers. In Duration Follow mode, the sequence's note durations track the trigger duration so that, for example, a legato sequence will follow a legato trigger. Sequences also track other properties of MIDI triggers, as they are pitch-transposed and vary dynamically respective to the trigger's MIDI note number and velociy.
The MAPS is intuitive and easy to navigate. It updates Roland's famous step-matrix interface, although sadly there are only eight step buttons instead of sixteen. But the MAPS compensates with multifunctional, continuous, rotary controller for each step that quickly changes step or sequence parameters in real time. The MAPS also has extensive interface functionality. It sends MIDI clock, analog clock, and DIN sync. It also outputs CVs in an array of logarithmic and exponential curves scaled to either V/Oct or V/Hz. It can be configured to output Moog S-trig. It converts MIDI to CV. And it sends and receives SysEx and has a user-upgradeable OS.
With all its innovative functionality, it is unfortunate that the MAPS doesn't quite realize its analog potential. It only outputs quantized voltages* and lacks the per-step gate outputs standardized by the seminal ARP Sequencer and Moog Sequential Controller. CV or trigger inputs could leverage the MAPS's functionality by allowing it to be configured as a sample-and-hold unit, pulse divider, shift register, or logic processor. The same input could provide analog access to the sequencer's individual steps as is the case with the multiplexer on board the Analogue Solutions Oberkorn or the CV/Clock input pair on Peter Grenader's Milton sequencer.
But rather than emulate the practice of traditional analog sequencing or the conventions of modern matrix sequencing, the hybrid MAPS draws the best from both the traditions to facilitate a unique workflow. In this sense, the MAPS fills a niche that was previously vacant, and it's one of the rare tools designed specifically to generate new ideas rather than to regurgitate preconceived ones.
~Geoff Farina, www.geofffarina.com
Signal Arts review in "Tape Op" #42/Reviews
* Revision 2.0 includes:
24 banks of sequences
Unquantized CV output
Well, I was going to wait and do a full write up on it, but since this topic is hot, I'll do a short 'place holder' review of the Signal Arts MAPS until I have more time...plus, I'm at work, so no time now anyway.
Bottom Line: the MAPS is the best sequencer i've ever used for generating true, real-time, intuitive musical composition. It is so intuitive, and even the most powerful features are seamlessly blending into its operation. Bang for buck, even, it's also the best I've used.
Construction: solid as a rock. I take it to a coffee shop with my powerbook and a Virus, and I'm sorted for hours. Encoders are the best i've ever handled...true professional grade, like what you might find on a missle launch system or something 'uber' professional.
Ergonomics: Considering its spartan interface, it's genius, IMO. Everything is quicly accessible, and there is only ever one 'layer' of menu system, ever. No digging, and no need to read the manual...just dive in and go nuts. I have a few quips WRT the LCD not being positioned directly above the encoders such that sometimes I grab knob 5 instead of knob 7, or whatever...but that was only in the first 30 minutes of using it.
Power: Second to none, as far as I am aware. You can have sequences modulating sequences, to infinity, and can trigger multiple iterations of one sequence one after the other...so think of it like a 'delay' effect, or a 'round' effect, like a cannon... applied to techno-lines and arps, it's ingenious. Then, use another sequence iteration to modulate just the filter cutoff, and another for reso, and another for LFO rate, or whatever the heck you want to modulate via Midi CC values. I've even used it to also drive powerful drum grooves for Psy-trance, etc. The swing and massive legato ranges can produce incredible bouncy basslines and then combined with filter modulation, well, you are set. As for live, the whole thing can be easily driven FROM midi In channels, too. So imagine what you could do with a novation remote SL-zero for example...it's rediculously powerful, but instantly musical and creative, which is what I like.
Approach: This is the only HW sequencer I've used that can be an 'internal approach' dream, or conversely, and 'external feel-your-way-into -the groove with knobbies' instrument. I've been tweaking the encoder knobs for filter cutoff, pitch changes, and tapping the trigger butttons on the unit to launch sequences in tandem or one after the other, etc...hard to describe until you just jam with it.
Midi-to-CV: Almost worth the price of admission alone... it's the most full-featured, expressive and powerful midi-to-CV you can buy, and three pairs, to boot! Not only that but you clock the MAPS to a modular's LFO or clock timing, or even trigger sequences with a CV in jack, so that the MAPS can be a natural extension to a live Modular performance, without the need to even use it's internal clock! The CV routing possiblities in relation to the sequencing itself and triggering of sequences in relation to Midi values, well, you'll have to see it to believe it, and it's all only ONE menu level deep, and can be changed/configured real time without stopping the groove. The timing is dead on...meaning if you trigger one synth via midi, and another via cv/trig outs, they are syncronized perfectly. This is much more than I expected and I can't even think of a single 'wishful' feature that isn't already there.
Customer service: Jeffry is tops. Totally responsive, and proactively incorporating features all the time into new software builds. he's a totally nice guy, and has already implemented a few suggestions I had right off the back in the first few weeks.
Display: the LCD is bright and is very powerful. it's very intuitive to operate, and I am NOT a programming wiz or anything, so no need to take that comment with a grain of salt. A guitar player can get off on this thing in 10 minutes.
Fun Factor: I can't put mine down, and I bring it everywhere I go along with my powerbook. Even when you just use it with softsynths in Ableton live via midi... it transforms your powerbook into a orchestra...I've created tracks already with this setup, driving 5 or 6 synths and modulating them as well as via the MAPS. Want a Moog MURF? You got one with a MAPS (if you have the Moog VCF in one form or another already, of course, or a convincing soft synth ladder LPF (cheese!))
Improvements: Jeffry is already working on all of these, but I want to see a rack version with 16 dedicated steps vs. 8. [woops, edit, didn't mean he is working on a rack version, but that he is working on the software features...sorry -S) (Having said that, you already can link any one sequence to any other sequence for indefinate amounts of steps....very easily, too) But I'm a knob tweaker, so..... Also suggested centering the LCD over the knobs and drawing an ARP like line from the knob directly to its reserved spot on the LCD.
The other suggestions are all small software additions, which I won't mention so that Jeffry can implement at his discretion.
Comparison: The MAPS is a hybrid, IMO. It is somewhere between a traditional 16-step 3 track analogue synth design, and a [...@%...] programmer's wet dream. The crazy thing is, it excels as either. It's hands down nicer to use than the P3, and does things the p3 will never be able to do. And, no clunky PC-keyboard keys, lol. It's probably just as good as the Zeit will be on many levels, just with far few knobs of course. It will surpass the Zeit in other important areas at the same time.
As for midi to CV, I'd take it over a Kenton Pro 2000 in a heart beat, even if it didn't even have a sequencer, lol. The Modular options are also very attractive to me since I have a eurorack...but I think ultimately, I'd still prefer the MAPS sitting in front of the modular, and hot jacking CV trigger points as desired. The MAPS is also portable and groovy like that. It gets lots of looks everywhere I go. The only other sequencer that has my interest piqued at this point is the Octopus...which has more knobs and looks spectacular. The MAPS doesn't NEED more knobs, somehow. Probably b/c of it's flexibility in terms of what you might want to modulate...but I *could* see a version that has a knob for each of the 6 or 7 parameters it's able to sequence.... but for only $1000, the MAPS is just fine the way it is, and I'm not slowed down for lack of knobs whatsoever.
Disclosure: I spent $1000 on it. But I've tried and used a lot of others, almost all except for a Notron and some of the more esoteric modulars. There are 4 that I chose from, and price was not an object: MAPS, P3, Zeit, Octopus. I went with the MAPS b/c the Octopus was not yet available, and it is not worth several grand more. The P3 just felt wrong and clumsy, as much as i wanted to love it and design a custom case for one. other than that, I'm just a normal home project studio dood and an electronica artist (name withheld, sorry).
Equipment used with the MAPS so far: Softsynths in ableton live, eurorack modular, MEK, Viruses, filterbanks, Moog Parametric EQ (modulating via the pedal cv input!), Propellerheads Reason Subractor and Redrum... :p
hope this helps any one on the fence, and I wish I had more time!
Ease of Use: 8 Having had a read of the PDF manual available from the Signal Arts web site before purchasing the unit, I had feared that this sequencer might be difficult to use. Fear not, within a few hours I had pretty much worked everything out and realised that the manual is in fact very clear.
Many functions are selected from a menu and then edited with knobs. As long as you have an understanding of what each function does it is not hard to edit at all. Considering this machines complexity I think it is very easy to use.
Features: 10 This is an 8 step analogue style sequencer similar in concept to sequencers such as the Doepfer Maq 16/3, Arp Sequencer, Frostwave Fat Controller etc. It can address 32 channels of midi and also has 3 sets of CV/Gates for use with analogue gear. It also has DIN Sync out and analogue clock input plus a footswitch input. It has 8 knobs on the front panel as well as a range of buttons. There is also an LCD display where various config options can be changed and note values etc for each sequence step can be viewed (in a range of formats - ie. Note number, bar graph etc).
As far as sequencing goes, the unit can store 16 banks of 8 sequences. Multiple sequences can run at the same time and sequences can be chained together or set to modulate the values of other sequences. A sequence consists not only of note information per step but octave, pitch bend, controller, step duration, note duration and velocity (think thats it). Sequences can also be set to different lengths (by setting the number of active steps) and sequences can contain steps that have different step/note lengths. Sequences can also run at different speeds to each other, step skip etc. No reverse but this hardly matters with this sequencer*. Sequences are triggered either by front panel trigger keys (of which there are 8) or information coming in on different midi channels - how they are triggered is determined by a menu setting. When triggered by midi a sequence inherits the properties of the incoming note (ie. velocity, pitch etc). There are also another menu settings to determine how the sequence behaves once triggered - these are called trigger modes. Without going into detail, these modes enable multiple sequences per channel to be triggered (amongst other things) so things can get quite complicated.
Oh, the cv/gates can operate as a totally independent (of the sequencer) midi/cv converter while the sequencer is running. It supports both Volt/Oct and whatever the Korg standard is (hz/oct ?). The gate are also switchable to S-trig if required.
I don't really think I'm doing the machine justice here but it has A LOT of features.
Expressiveness/Sounds: 9 Doesn't make any sound as its a sequencer but everything on the sequencer can be edited and changed while it is running. The ability to trigger sequences via midi and its "live" nature make this potentially "very" expressive machine (well, for a sequencer anyway).
Reliability: 9 Its built like a tank. Build quality is very nice and sturdy. Only had it for a week though so can't comment on long term reliability. The rating is for appearance.
Customer Support: 9 Signal Arts is clearly a small company but the few e-mails I've sent them have always been answered quickly and have been friendly.
Overall Rating: 10 Overall, for the money nothing even comes close to touching this. Its an amazingly powerful device. Given the legendary status that machines like the Latronic Notron have gained over the years (and price tag), I believe that this is a similar device at a much lower price "new" than what people are asking for old Notrons. Plus this has 3 cv/gate outs and can operate as a totally independent midi/cv converter. Sounds too good to be true really.
Submitted by Simon Birds at 05/12/2004 03:58
Home > Keys & Synths > Keys & Synths User Reviews > Signal Arts > Performance Sequencer
* Revision 2.0 includes:
Pendulum (reverse) Mode