Overall EM Rating (1 through 5):4.5
If you're a Mac OS X user and you're into step sequencing, Five12'sNumerology ($70) is almost too good to be true. Numerology is astandalone modular step sequencer that generates gate, pitch, Velocity,and controller data. Using CoreMIDI, Numerology interfaces withhardware or other software applications through two virtual MIDI ports.Each bidirectional port handles 16 MIDI channels, providing 32 channelsof step-sequenced data.
The latest version of Numerology hosts Audio Unit (AU) plug-ins,such as the included BitShift DrumSynth. To take full advantage ofNumerology, you'll definitely want some high-quality synthesis andsampling software or hardware. I tested Numerology with a virtual rackfull of gear in Propellerhead Reason and with MOTU MachFive running asan AU plug-in.
You build step sequencers to your own specifications in Numerologyby inserting modules in a rack. The simplest note sequencer, forexample, requires three modules: Control Sequencer, Gate Sequencer, andNote Output. The Control and Gate Sequencers, which can have as many as32 steps, generate pitches and variable-length gates. The Note OutputModule combines signals from other modules into MIDI Note messages androutes them to an output. This example uses the Control Sequencer'soutput for pitch and the Gate Sequencer's output for gates, applying afixed Velocity to each note. You could use another Control Sequencerfor Velocity, if you like. In more complex setups, the ControlSequencer can generate MIDI continuous controller messages forautomation.
Paint by Numbers
Numerology supplies a variety of other modules for specificpurposes. The Four Track module combines four 16-step controlsequencers that you can use simultaneously for polyphonic sequencing,or you can string them together to make two 32-step sequences or one64-step sequence. Its matching Multiple Note Output module routes thefour sequences to separate MIDI outputs. The Drum Seq module holds twosequences, each with a maximum length of 32 steps. Each sequence playsa single pitch (meaning a single drum sound), and the module generatesa Velocity value and a gate at each step. Drum Seq has its own outputrouting, so no other module is required.
In addition to sequencing notes, Numerology provides modules thattransmit MIDI CC, Pitch Bend, and Program Change messages. Twospecialty modules, Signal Processing and Mixer/Scope, allow you tocombine and numerically modify the outputs of other modules and monitorthe results. The Dual LFO module generates control signals in sine,square, sawtooth, or triangle waveform patterns, either free-running orsynchronized to tempo. You can route the Dual LFO's output to any othermodule's input or to any AU plug-in using the Parameter Modulationmodule. A Fader Box module has 16 sliders you can assign to individualMIDI CC messages.
You connect modules using drop-down menus, and you can connect justabout any output to any input. That might sound a little dangerous, butit's very nice to be able to assign pitch values to control Velocity,for example, perhaps after some processing with a Signal Processingmodule.
Numerology also lets you build step sequencers that runsimultaneously. Each sequencer, called a Group, has its own rack andits own presets containing all the settings for the modules in theGroup. In addition to the Modules view, in which you create Groups andtheir presets, a Mixer view offers a channel strip representing eachGroup and a Tracks view with a timeline track for each Group. The Mixerstrips allow you to select presets, mute and solo any Group, and sendMIDI Volume messages to the Group's outputs. The Track view is a kindof metasequencer for Group preset changes, and it even allows you toloop subsequences of preset changes. You can go a bit loopy keepingtrack of everything, but you're unlikely to run out of options. Theonline file NumeroUno.mp3 is an example of a multitrackNumerology sequence.
On the Level
Without a doubt, Numerology takes step sequencing to a new level. Itis complex, but once you've built a couple of different step-sequencerGroups and used the Track and Mixer views a few times, it will becomealmost second nature. The ability to save your step-sequencerconfigurations and multiple presets means you don't have to reinventthe wheel each time you want to generate a new sequence. Try the demoand listen to some of the MP3 examples on Five12's Web site. If stepsequencing is your bag, you'll probably like what you hear.