Midi Sequencer: Akai ASQ-10. Hexfix93′s take.

February 25th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Wow, I finally got it. 2 days of using it, plugging all my gear into it. First impression: It sounds so musical(think old meat beat manifesto, DR DRE, Aphex Twin’s older stuff. I had the sensation of 80s and early 90s music rushing through everything I was recording. This was not hard at all to use and figure out. The feel is so different to me. Not like the atari, not like the drunken computer pc jitter, and not like the I CAN’T SYNC MY TRACKS MAC. I would turn on the recorder, and magick happens. Wow, I can actually still write drums. What hurt my last release was my drums, I would sit for days messing with battery and recording myself playing and never be impressed, even with swing on logic, nothing ever sounded right. the sound quality of the software even with the elite fx did nothing for me. Now, I have an emu e6400 ultra sampler(known for fast midi response, you have to be aware that some gear will add midi slop on their inputs, old emu stuff was really bad, so was the roland s550 and 770 with out the turbo board, Akai S samplers are really quick with midi as well), those same libs, with the korg tr-rack, I can spit out any kind of drum sound I want and get it to sound great, swing, punch and hit tight and realistic. There is a swing all the time, and that is good because it makes it sound a bit more live and human, but not great for super robotic stuff like the atari ST does. I can put this thing in a single measure loop, and just write drums like mad and come up with tons of stuff fast. It records right. It plays back what I play in. PC would never be right in loop mode, I would have to stop and edit. Mac would drop notes and put quantized stuff in the wrong place. USB is the devil for midi. So recording rhythm is really evil on all computers. This has been my experience since I left the atari back in 1997(something I regret to this day). This takes some getting used to. I have never used hardware sequencers. I have always used graphical tape recorder style like Cubase 1.0 interfaces. Where I could copy and paste at ease, repeat stuff easy, move stuff around really easy. This is no longer the case here. Now, I have to pay attention to bars and measures and time. I used to edit my songs visually and I think this is a bad thing, now I have to use my ears and memory instead of my eyes. The way the asq10 is set up is pretty easy to understand, its kind of like patterns, but not really.
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Sequences are like patterns, except that you can actually turn a sequence into a full song if you would like. Sequence mode is “Main Mode”. Then there is “Song Mode” which is more like a tracker, where you sequence the sequences like patterns. You set how many times to play each seq. Once you set this up, you can convert this into a sequence as well if you want to do fine edits. Fine editing can only happen in “MAIN MODE”. I have managed to do some basic copy operations. But copying and deleting and arranging tracks is going to take some getting used to. I don’t mind because this thing records me playing way better than any PC or MAC I have owned over the last 15 years with almost every interface you can think of. I like how it makes my e6400 and tr-rack sound when writing drums. Love how it makes my bass lines play with the drums. I am so impressed so far. I can see why everyone told me on gear slutz to get an mpc60. The Asq-10 is the sequencer from the mpc 60 that roger linn wrote. That guy is a genius. His timing swing and tight midi is really good, so much better than any daw playing hardware(hardware sounds better than software, so I don’t care about tight soft synths and soft samplers because the sound is whack. I love how this makes my midi sound like a tight human band, not a tight robot. There is the head bobbing rhythm thing that can ensue when using the asq10 and mpc60. I figured out how to use the step editor and this really kicks ass compared to some of the other ones I have used. You go step by step by 16th and 32nd notes, so the screen isn’t so cluttered and confusing :) You can insert any midi CC stuff, bank and program changes if you know how to do the bank, its cc#0 value 0, cc#32 value 0 thru 10 for banks. Yay. I had to read on the net how to pull that off. Now you know too(also works on the mpc60). Loading and saving off the floppy drive I thought was going to suck, but guess what, its really fast :) Editing track names, and file names is cool, once you go into the name editor, you can use the buttons on the front, they all have a letter by them. I couldn’t be happier. One thing that sucks, there is no way to save midi files with the OS version I have. Not sure if there is a way to convert them in the computer or not. I love spinning the dial on the BPM controls. WOW, so cool ahahah. This thing is tight, musical, and sounds so much better sequencing hardware over modern computers and a lot of other hardware sequencers.
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I see this as the king of the hill when it comes to hardware sequencers with it’s 2 midi ins and 4 midi outs built in plus smpte ins and outs. It’s important to not send too much midi out 1 midi out, so having 4 outs and spreading out the midi load more really helps things sync and sound tight, the Asq-10 pulls it off. Sure it’s kind of big and the screen is ok but could be much bigger but that doesn’t put me off too bad. Another big plus is that this thing boots up and is ready to go in seconds, unlike my daw that takes me forever to get into and load stuff up. There is no latency with this, and switching through the outputs and controlling stuff with a keyboard via the inputs and out into external gear is really fast and responsive unlike computers with a heavy cpu and audio load. One bad thing I have run into is that there is no UNDO :( so I have to be really careful. There is a help button and it works in every mode you are in for most functions as well, this is a really user friendly hardware device. Also I really love how you can delete while in loop mode, you hold the erase button and hold down the key on the keyboard or drum pad you wish to delete. Also once you stop, if you don’t like erasing the bar on the track is like a two button task, so its pretty quick. I still wish that someone would make a hardware sequencer that is MIDI ONLY with 8 midi outs and 4 midi ins, swing options and robot options with a touch screen interface for drag and drop tape style cubase look and make it super tight and has smpte and all the sync options, self contained and turns on instantly like this one does. Honestly, even with the audio engine off on logic, it’s still not right even with the amt8. I am so sick of modern midi. Midi is fine if you have good hardware with fast midi response, and if you use an old atari or mpc60, mpc3000, or asq10, qy770. This is how you get tight midi that sounds more musical. This is how you get good drum sequences. Sure sample accurate software can have robotic timing or swing, but it sounds like crap to me(even with the best converters on the market), thin, lifeless, cold, tweety, stale, and boring sound. I need my hardware, I will not move out of the analog dedicated machine age of music composing ever again, so i need a midi sequencer that holds up sounds tight and records right. DAWS FAIL AT THIS. My emu, rolands and hardware sound thicker, punchier, more present, and sits in the mix way better and much easier to mix as well. I have proven to myself that I can infact still write drums, I just needed something that records midi correctly to do it well. I did try the MPC-1000 with the jjos and it has a crap sound, sounds like computers, crappy fx and cuts the transients of your samples off, so the attack is never right on some samples. I got this with out the drum brain for 350 + shipping. USB MIDI DOESN’T CUT IT on recording or playback on hardware. I think this is a gift from the GODs for me.

The above Video is the results of like 5 minutes of messing with it and my hardware, I was able to get a tight fast aggressive seq, with all instruments being played live real time with no slop or bad timing. I cannot believe how easy it is, how tight it is, how much more inspiring to use it is. I feel like a 10 ton weight has been lifted from my musical creation frustrations that I have had since leaving the atari in 1997 :( …. I make no jokes, I turned to guitar music on my last LP because of how bad midi timing on my DAWS were with usb. This will get me back to the aggressive dance sound of VAC. I welcome it. One last thing as well. With this, it turns on fast, feels immediate, I feel connected to it because it is so responsive, daws feel like a big fat clumsy elephant compared to this with latency. On this, there is nothing to distract me, no emails, no instant messages, no web forums calling out my name. This focuses me on music. Computers tend to distract me from music. I give this an 9 out of 10. Not perfect because the user interface could be a little better.


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Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | 14 Comments »


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14 Responses

  1. Brand Says:

    That bit is, even early on, extremely promising. The beat (is that flanging – I keep forgetting my damn terms) reminds me of Zix Zix Zix and one other track that I can’t put my finger on.

    What did you use for Pray for Life? There’s something about that track that is HEAVY.

  2. Hexfix93 Says:

    the flanging is because i used the camera mic to record it and i move the mic.

    pray for life was cubase 2.8 with motu micro express, trinity, nord lead, prophecy, asrx.

  3. Aaron Zilch Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciZpDnnnF2Q

    saw this while running around the net and figured you would dig it. Big screen, lots of midi outs, and x0x style programming.

  4. Danny Reakes Says:

    Hey, I’ve been reading your reviews and have just been given an ASQ10, wonder if you could awnser some of my questions, thanks in advance, Danny.

  5. Hexfix93 Says:

    What do you need to know?

  6. mj Says:

    the new lp is amazing.
    keep up the good work.
    very impressive.
    loving faithless + amnesia
    -just another fan

  7. Hexfix93 Says:

    Its not selling. My career is in the dumps.

  8. Anthony Says:

    Hi there, I have read your blog with interest. You dont need to post this because its long.

    First off. The ASQ-10 is tight but not as tight as you think it is. Your confusing tightness with groove Don’t get me wrong, I hear its tight groove and it will do you well that’s for sure but if you start to push that machine more than what your currently doing you may find it doesnt quite live up to your expectations. Its sequencer is much like the MPC 60, an overrated machine if ever there was one (and I have owned every MPC you can name) its great for down tempo stuff because of course timing drift is not so noticeable on down tempo stuff and theres no doubt it has a groove, but I repeat thats not tightness, thats a totally different ball game.

    By far the tightest of all the Akai sequencers is the MPC 4000 whether its triggering internally or externally. Its resolution which does matter on MPCs is ten times + higher than the MPC 60 and its also higher than every other MPC. Im talking about Akai ones, not those crap things that Numark make and stick an Akai badge over the top. They have ruined the MPC line for sure. Well of course they did, their made in China now by the cheapest means possible. It frankly amazes me to this day that a company that always made crap managed to get a hold of the Akai brand. Such a shame.

    Never forget that with MPCs its internal triggering will always be superior to its external midi triggering although the 4000 comes damn close.

    The MPCs sequencer reputation comes from the Hip Hop community who are blinded by what their peers use and is the reason something like the MPC 60 is revered. But strangely the very best MPC of them all the MPC 4000 has been mostly rejected by the hip hop community. But it hasn’t been rejected by those smart guys in the Electronica arena (interesting). Your ASQ was never made for Hip Hop, or any other genre so it escaped the Hip Hop users clutches and importantly the marketing dept of Akai which was eventually blinded by the Hip Hop scene. Later on as Akai began to promote toward the Hip hop community and forgetting about users from other genres this eventually lead to their downfall. I noticed the MPCs instead of becoming more advanced were being intentionally dumbed down. I mean this as no insult to to the Hip Hop community. Thats marketing Depts following wanabee advice such as “keep it pure to the hip ho scene blah blah blah”. This really hit home to me when the MPC 2000 came out. It was as if they were five years out of step in features with other companies gear. I was waiting for the MPCs to get multitimbral which I thought for sure they would do when I heard about the MPC200. Consider what something like an S750/70 Sampler could do over an MPC 2000, yet the MPC 2000 came years later. Eventually Akai saw the writing on the wall, and that Hip Hop nostalgics were not enough to save the company so they pulled out the stops and came out with the MPC 4000 (fully multitimbral of course). A highly featured modern day samplists/sequencists dream machine. If they had brought that out 3 years before which they could have easily done then things may be different today. I noticed the advertising for the 4k wasnt filled with hip hop culture. It was much more neutral. But that seemed to P off the hip hop crowd and to the noobs making electronic music on their Daws a sampling box with pads didnt mean much to them. I of course knew different but even I had gone Daw but I did actually buy a 4k.

    In saying that the Roland MV8000 has to be among the worst sequencer I have ever come across and they to have aimed that machine directly at the hop Hop market, not that it makes any difference. Sloppy akward groove doesnt even begin to describe that atrocious machine. Yet its got a resolution up there with modern PCs and Macs, higher than the MPC 4000. It makes no difference because the thing simply cannot groove. That is what ultimately counts and is really what your looking for.

    An Atari Grooves, your ASQ grooves, the MPC range grooves, all of them a little different. The MPC 2000 and 200XL is the next best to the 4000 (for midi tightness) incidentally.

    The Atari is tight, but again not as tight as you think it is. I can listen to loads of electronica made in the 90′s and its quite frankly all over the shop. I admit much of it is totally dependent on the external gear used. The Akai S1000 for example was slow to trigger but if you had a lot of stuff coming out of it then you wouldnt really notice it. Only when you mixed gear from different manufacturers would you notice. Take the Juno 106 for example, its a pretty sloppy synth.

    Even stuff from the same manufacturers can be all over the shop. Roland have been a particularly bad company in this area.

    So whats the tightest sequencers on the planet. Well they are in fact non midi sequencers. The ones that trigger sounds at light speed (ANALOG). But thats a whole different ball game. If you want tight, then get an old analog sequencer and you will hear tight :)

    But for midi what is the tightest sequencer out there. remember Im taling about tightness, not groove because tightness is what you keep going on about. Well it may surprise you to learn this. The three tightest sequencers I ever came across for triggering external midi are

    Yamaha QX1; A beast of a machine with features way ahead of its time and today is almost completely ignored. However those in the know how good this sequencer was and still is. It has a groove but it may not be to everyones taste. But its damn tight and you can throw a lot at it

    Roland MSQ 700: Limited, but what an amazing tight feel and groove. Linked up with a TR909 there is no MPC except for the 4000 which can match the timing of those two. It also has a certain and very like-able groove. it was used a lot in the mid 80′s but was soon suprpassed due to its limited note capacity. Roland brought out other MSQs but they were never as good

    Akai MPC400: For midi tightness Im afraid it blows your ASQ out of the water, but keep in mind you may prefer the ASQ’s groooove. But I would also say that the 4ks groove is second to none. In fact for me as an electronica music producer its about as good as you can get. Thats why I like this machine. No matter what BPM you work it the thing can seriously groove.

    Im actually surprised that during your investigations you didn’t come across one or manage to check one out. Maybe you did?

    You not only get a massive tight groovy sequencer but you have a machine that can make a lot of sounds and the sampler inside is excellent in almost every dept. You could do entire tunes easily with just that thing. It also has many advantages in that it can talk to your PC/Mac. It will sync up well if you need to record stuff to your DAW etc. I personally couldnt handle the limitations of sequencing in an ASQ, QX1 or MSQ these days. But I can easily handle a 4000 because the sequencer is a joy to use compared to what your using just now. Of course its not like a DAW which is good thing (no eye candy to distract you) but its damn good and you can get really fast on that thing. Just check out the specs of a 4000. Failing that your Atari or ASQ will do the job nicely. But if you ever feel a little limited do check out the 4k.

    On a personal note I was sorry to hear about your dog. I have no doubt hes running around the green grassy fields with my dog. Their really our best friends, never demanding, totally loyal…just the best.

    On another personal note: Your a pretty honest guy and face up the difficulties of a career that isnt as happening as it perhaps once was. I can tell you this which you will definitely understand. The advent of DAWs was a fairly major part in this in that it distracted your immensely from your music making. People like your self who grew up making music on real boxes had no idea what was going to happen when venturing in to Daw land, none of us did. Daws promised us so much and the possibilities seemed endless. Who wouldnt go down that road if their a music lover/writer. Yes, Daws deliver to those who know nothing different, have no experience to base their Daw usage on. But to those who understand the feel of playing without that weird midi from daws, the latency, the way music could be made without staring at a screen etc. It has been very destructive to many musicians careers. But once we went on that path we found it difficult to move away from it. I understand exactly where your coming from, but now its time to get on with the music again. You can obsess over this until the end of time :)

    As for me I eventually found a system that works. I treat my Daw (Ive used all of them) like a big fancy tape machine with fx and toys. I use limited outboard and simply record bits in to my Daw. In my case its pro tools. What I like about pro Tools is the ease I can manipulate the timing of audio, shifting parts a few samples back and forth and so on if I need to, and I can really see that audio and get right in there to edit single notes if I want to. Its as close to midi editing but with audio. Cubase, Logic, Live I just cannot do it the same way as I can with Pro Tools. I couldn’t ever go back to just using hardware again because to do that I would need a very expensive console to compete with the mixes I can do from Pro tools or any other Daw ++ I would need a lot more hardware. it was 2 years ago I started using some outboard again as I had stupidly sold every single piece of hardware I had owned, and I owned a lot of it. Ive gone back a bit for the very same reasons you have. Of course I had to buy back another MPC4k and have added the most excellent Roland S770 sampler to the set up which are two bits of kits I previously owned. I thought I could do it all with VSTs and whilst there are some I like, and I can get a great mix from using only VSTs I missed that interactive thing with the gear,and of course the feel of playing a real instrument. I of course found out like you that sending midi from Daws was a near waste of time unless it was for the most basic of stuff like a chord here and there. I didnt realise this until I had bought an S770 but as soon as I started sending midi to it from my Daw I noticed the problem straight away. It made no difference monitoring through my sound cards zero latency feature. I was going to get a 4k anyway the realisation that sending midi from the computer was total nonsense sped that process up. That gear will do me for now until I can pony up for an Alesis Andromeda which I simply must have :)

    See ya
    best wishes.

  9. Death To Reach A Star Says:

    I’ve been following your post on Midi timing. I agree completely. It’s been a crisis for me for years and I blamed myself. Just got an old Yamaha sequencer and saw the improvement in tightness immediately. My ability to do swinging grooves came back after a few tries. I was shocked and relieved at the same time. So the problems vary for everyone but thanks for helping us on it. So things like Midi input lag, output lag and audio buffer latency monitoring must always be considered. My FantomX is pretty bad when it comes to timing. I always have to correct note times in the event viewer. I have a feeling my MV8000 is like that to so I’ll check and post results when I have a chance. Music is all about sound arranged in time and timing is the very foundation of music. For many of us out foundation is off and we didn’t even know it.

  10. ??seo Says:

    This is your best post yet!

    http://www.nn-seo.com/

  11. Savagecircuits Says:

    I Have to say huge Kudos for using the ASQ-10, after 15 years using 2″ Analog & Sony 3324/48′s etc alongside Eventide, PCM80,’90′s EVentide H3000/4000 Akai S1000/EMU E64, 6400, Ultra5000 etc going into DAW LAND HAS BEN A FRIGGIN NIGHTMARE!

    I hate & loathe VST’s and Plug in’s & I’ve tried them all, nothing sounds like a real EQP1A-3 through an analog console, (Or any other hardware for that matter) Sure….. I’ve learned to live with new DAW systems, though if Kids of today new it took $1800 -2800$ to buy a Jupiter 8 or a Prophet – we’d be in a very different world scenario, musical emancipation is one thing.

    Beiber fever is another – as is Rap – Grandmaster Flash & the furious five, slave over 8 Track 1″ to make serious music, to see 8 babes in all Ass Booty in every clip of Rap/R&B etc – Nah……. not right!

    Technology in Music used to be a very hard fought for and practised art form as much as the actual music itself!

    Today – Buy an iMac and USB Keyboard – & hey everyone I meet is a Sound Engineer Producer!

    I’ll leave it as that as I can Feel little chunks of vomit trying to cough up ———— Music Technology & Music as an Art-form is near dead
    FAME————— IS EVERYWHERE & IN MORE THE 15 minute CHUNKS!

    Sorry Andy – Idea Correct / Execution – WRONG!

    Thanks a million for showing AKAI/LINN ASQ/MPC Seq./Drum Units still are the dogs bollocks!
    Cheers!
    CircuitSavage!

  12. Ted Says:

    Anthony – your comment about midi timing and the MPC 4000 is one of the best things i’ve read about music gear.

  13. Enriqueta Says:

    Hello, I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up!

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  14. Francois Buat Says:

    Hi,

    What’s up with your ASQ 10?
    Still happy?

    Regards,

    FB

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