Sequent is a very cool FSU plug-in that is a virtual Swiss Army knife of ways to treat and abuse sound. It’s modular, very easy to use, is rock stolid, and cleverly designed to introduce elements of surprise in your composition or live performance. Everything from subtle changes to all out mayhem is possible. Predictable elements, elements of chance, and combinations of both. Want to globally control the behavior of a patch with a single press of a key? Covered. Want to control individual parameter adjustments via a MIDI controller? Covered. Want to improvise using two different processing streams? Covered. Want to tweak for days and then save only portions of a patch that you’ll reuse? Again, covered. With few exceptions Sequent is only limited by your imagination, and provides many opportunities for auditory surprises.
Easy Modular Architecture
There are a million FSU plugs, from glitchy buffer effects to modulated delays to sequenced multi-effect chaos. Many of them are quite good. Some have limitations such as note divisions for only simple meters. None of them are as easy to use for such a wide variety of tasks.
Under Sequent’s hood are modules for a looper, 2 separate filters, distortion, gate, panning, and delay, each with it's own set of configurable variables (many randomizable). These modules can be configured in any order; if, for example, you want a delay BEFORE the looping module, that’s very easy to do. Just drop it in place in the routing window and wire everything together. Additionally, there are two signal paths (not a left and right output, as it might seem from first glance at the interface), which is actually quite ingenious. Not only can you can setup up effects on two different lines and control the amount of crossfade between them with the “crossfade” knob in the output section (upper right of the interface), but you can also use a single line and control when and how the signal passes through the plug-in. Any of the modules can be patched together in any order and go to either or both of these lines providing a wide variety of possible configurations.
Each of the modules has a main control section on the top left, with two more sections right below it that control individual parameters. The central window uses a graphical display of sequential changes to represent what will happen as the parameters are modulated. The nice thing about the modulation in Sequent is that it is not achieved by LFOs or multi-segment envelopes. Everything is handled by scaled steps that can be as smooth or as rough as you like.
The module that gets the most attention, of course, is the looper, which is where everything glitch happens. There are variables for the number and length of repeats, offset and reverse, changes in pitch and pitch decay, sync, and adjustable levels and level decays. For each module parameter in the list (see Fig.1 above) there is a corresponding trigger control and variable scaling and randomizing controls. This is useful if, for example, during a live performance you wanted to temporarily turn on or off a particular parameter.
The module itself, like all of the modules, is independently controlled by note division (the speed at which the playhead-type sequencer moves) and the number of steps the sequencer iterates before it finishes each cycle (adjustable up to 32 steps). The graphic representation for each of the parameters is done by selecting the parameter name from the list and filling in the corresponding vertical bars in the sequential graph in the middle of the interface.
Other modules include two filters with independent cutoff and resonance controls, distortion with saturation and bit crusher modes, a gate with depth and slew, and a delay with adjustable time and feedback levels. Many of the modules allow you to lock values, which is useful if you want to create a small comb-like filtered delay with consistently small values.
Ease and Tweakability
Now that I’ve covered the basics of how Sequent works, I’d like to talk a bit more about how simple to operate and clever Sequent is. I’ve already mentioned the innovative use of two-lines, which is handled by the “crossfade” knob, and that every module has the same basic controls for both the module and its parameters. Each module also gives you the ability to save a partial preset just for that module. So, for example, if you know you’ll be focusing on glitchy type buffer effects, you can tweak highly personalized presets for that module and recall them whenever you want to use that module in a chain. Another time you might want to use similar glitch effects, but maybe you want to process the signal through a filter first. You can drop the modules into the “Routing” window, make your filter adjustments, and then load the partial preset for the looper. This is extremely useful and time-saving if you find yourself looking for certain types of effects and don’t want to spend time recreating the wheel.
It gets cooler. You can assign different note divisions and number of steps for each and every module. If you want 29 steps with a little randomization of the delay feedback, but only 23 steps for the looper level decay, that is very easy to do. Just adjust one knob on each of the modules. This polyrhythmic approach to effects is a unique way to create variation and interest in a patch. In addition to partial presets, there are ways to randomize both the preset partials and the behavior of the parameters themselves, creating many opportunities for chance and intelligent accident.
Patterns and the Master Module Controller
Sequent has two more tricks up its sleeve, and they’re very cool. Above the window that displays the modules there are two buttons. One reads “Routing,” which graphically displays the signal path of the modules, and another that reads “Patterns.” You can literally program scenes for any variable setting for any module by selecting “Patterns,” highlighting the note name (for example, “C”), the name of the module (for example, looper), and any available variable name. The good thing is, you can do this for multiple modules and parameter values. The bad thing is, you can’t “at a glance” see the behavior of all parameters assigned to a key. Of course, you can ignore this feature altogether and just use the main window and assign MIDI knobs to any variable you want to control.
Lastly, there is the Master Track (see Fig. 3). With “Pattern” selected, you can select “Master” from the module list (I know it’s not a module, but I’m guessing they couldn’t figure where else to put it) and you will get a list of module tracks similar to the layout of Effectrix and Glitch 2, where you can “paint” sections of the tracks to turn the modules on and off. These patterns can be assigned to keys as well.
A Few Thoughts
I know this seems like a lot to take in, but Sequent is really quite simple to use once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Every module, every parameter is basically setup the same way. It’s so easy and useful that it has become my go-to plug-in for creative effects and rock solid, dependable performance. Wire in a module, set the note division and number of steps, then click on any available parameter you want to adjust and simply draw bars. If you don’t know where to start you can load presets. You can also click a little icon in the trigger and/or parameter sections to randomize the graphic representation (not to be confused with randomization in the output, which is controlled by the “rand” button) of any variable. Load and save partial patches as templates to save work and save global patches for easy recall. You can even start with sections of the factory patches and save whatever works best for you for your own patches.
Okay, a Few Gripes
At this price point, it is really difficult to find fault with Sequent, but there are a few things on my wish list. I wish there were some way to switch between time-based and synced values in the delay unit; right now, all the time values are adjusted manually. I wish the distortion / bit-reduction module were a little more robust. Lastly, I wish there were a reverb unit (or some mechanism to patch it into the signal chain). While I use Sequent a lot, I often use it in conjunction with other plug-ins, such as configuring the looper after a good quality reverb (such as Aether) or as part of a chain with a more comprehensive sound degradation unit. While the presets are very good and cover a wide range of applications, there could be more. I suppose, though, the reason why it functions so well is that it is not bloated with CPU intensive effects.
This is an amazing unit that can perform a wide variety of tasks. It’s fun to use, has never once choked on me, and is intelligently designed and implemented. And it comes with a decent manual. I can’t stress to developers enough not to overlook the importance of a good software manual. Often it makes a big difference whether or not end users are able to use a tool in creative, personal ways.
Here is a song I wrote called Doomsday Clock that uses Sequent extensively. The tuning is 23edo, 23 notes per octave.
Ease of Use: 10
Price: £50 (+VAT) around $80 US