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Old 05-18-2016, 11:10 PM
Tommy Zai Tommy Zai is offline
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Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 135
Default N4 User Review (with a few screenshots)

Disclaimer: I am a Numerology Fanboy!

Numerology by Five12 is a unique and powerful modern modular step sequencer workstation for Mac.

The purchase, download, install, and authorization process is fairly straightforward. Copy protection is by online activation. The pro version allows three concurrent installs, and the SE version allows two concurrent installs. There are no dongles or annoying protection devices of any kind. Upon the initial launch, users will be presented with a start page that provides a list of demos and other project options. The main interface is cleverly designed for fast, efficient, intuitive operation. It inspires creativity and a robust workflow. Controls are intelligently and logically arranged. Overall, the GUI is utilitarian and attractive.

I can no longer keep the secret. For years I have keep Numerology to myself and only shared its wonder with an elite group of fellow users. In a saturated audio software market, Numerology shines brightly. For one thing, it’s so cool that over the years it has developed a cult following of dedicated users. There are many eMusicians using this application, and most of them are probably wondering when the rest of the eMusic world will finally discover the beast they have grown to love. I’ve been heavily involved in the eMusic scene since it all began and totally immersed in plugin-mania for nearly 10-years. I’m mystified! Why isn’t Numerology being used by everyone creating music on a Mac. If you do an internet search — Best Sequencer for Mac, you’ll mostly get a bunch of links for various DAWs. Occasionally, you’ll find Numerology flying high on a well-informed Top 10 Sequencer list. But mostly, Numerology flies under the radar. This is the biggest reason I am writing this user review. I want to spread the word about this fascinating sequencer that I discovered a few years back. I can no longer be selfish and hide it under my pillow. I apologize to all my fellow underground users, who have enjoyed using their very own secret weapon. I’m truly sorry, but it’s time to go public!

N, my affectionate nickname for Numerology, is an extremely flexible application that can be used to suit your personal needs and fit your workflow. Users can select desired modules and create templates that serve as a framework for future projects. Inside the set of Factory Modules, lies seven powerful note sequencer modules:

N - Note Sequencer Modules.png

• MonoNote (1-128 steps): One note at a time — perfect for most bass and leads.
• PolyNote: Polyphonic — perfect for anything that requires multiple notes and/or overlapping notes. Can be used for chords, but there is a another module specifically designed for chords.
• ChordSeq: Chords! This module is cleverly crafted to provide an easy way for users to select intervals and arrange chord sequences. Unlike the PolyNote, the ChordSeq is limited to three or four-note chords on each step; however, with 11th & 13th chords, users can have up to 6 notes per chord, The chord type may be selected with the A traditional Roman numeral system may be selected as the chord type. ChordSeq will handle which type of chord to use (major vs. minor)

PolyNote vs. ChordSeq: The PolyNote is free-form — any note at any time, but users must know which notes they intend to use. The Chord Sequencer limits itself to an array of pre-defined chords with a very flexible set of modifiers (inversion, spacing, octave, etc). For users proficient in music theory, it offers a very quick way to enter a chord progression and explore it a bit. For users with less music theory experience, it provides a way to experiment with chord progressions while not having to manually calculate which notes are in which chords.

• DrumSeq-8: 8 tracks.
• DrumSeq-16: 16 tracks.
• MatrixSeq: The Matrix Seq is a polyphonic sequencer where users can easily re-assign the sequenced notes.
• MatrixArpeggiator: This is like the MatrixSeq with arpeggiation turned on by default. The module is loosely based on the programmable arpeggiator in the Korg Z1. The pattern of notes is fixed, but users determine which notes to play by sending MIDI in.

Each of these modules have their own control signal generators. Users will find a grid for choosing notes along with other parameters like gate, groove, step length, repeat, divide, velocity, probability, random jump, CV1, CV2, CV3, ShPress, etc. Several of the sequencer modules have the auto-randomizing features Generate and Evolve, which can morph the entire pattern. All manual parameters can be adjusted in real time, which is very cool. Groups of modules can be assembled into Stacks, which provides the basic framework of a project. The hierarchy is modules into stacks and stacks into projects. “[It is] also a bit like a track in a DAW: it has a channel in the mixer, and a track in the arrangement timeline.” A Stack includes one or more step sequencers, control generators, AU instruments, and AU effects. Users can combine countless Stacks.

N - Clock Stack.png

The arrangement of Stacks begins with the Clock Stack, which controls BPM, bar length, groove length, groove amount, etc. Although the Stacks are not linear, per se, they can be arranged on a timeline to create a song structure. Each Stack has its own track on the Timeline. Users can then create and stack-up the stacks, and they can be recorded to MIDI clips to share with a DAW via drag-n-drop. The stack tabs are color-coded, which makes it easier to see and aesthetically appealing.

It’s easy to sync to an external hardware or link to a DAW via ReWire. It can also run as a VST with many DAWs, or as an AU MIDI Effect in Logic or MainStage. The latest GarageBand has AU sandboxing turned on — which N4 does not support; still, users can run N4 as an AU in any AU host. It’s better to use the VST with VST hosts, and as an AU MIDI Effect in Logic & MainStage — the MIDI timing is (almost) always better with the VST or AU MIDI Effect. In standalone, the AudioUnit effects and instrument plugins are hosted, and they are very easy to use within N. I prefer launching this app to demo new plugins — it’s provides faster and easier access than any DAW I’ve tried, including GarageBand. This helps make N a self-contained music creation environment. External controllers may also be used as a trigger device. I enjoyed using a Novation Launchpad for quite some time. In addition, the software can now be controlled with Ableton Push and Livid's OHM RGB line. Multiple pieces of hardware may also be linked together enabling Multiple grids to run simultaneously.

• Clean, modern GUI
• Plays nice with others (DAWs, hardware synths, AU plugins, external controllers, etc)
• Unlimited undo/redo, plug-in delay/latency compensation (Pro Edition only)
• Awesome creative environment
• Excellent routing system
• Extremely stable and CPU efficient
• The Five12 forum is a great resource
• Amazingly responsive developer — active on forum and users may sometimes receive personal responses to inquires.
• Frequent updates

• Numerology has the ability to capture audio files that can then be triggered in a sequence.
• The signal processing and routing is graphic and flexible.
• Users can route almost anything from modules.
• Users can modulate just about any parameter with an LFO, sequencer or envelope — just control click on the parameter and choose “Add Modulation.”
• N has four CV sequencers that are capable of doing really powerful things, but I’m not able to give much info or spin on them as I haven’t experimented much with them — yet! I consider CV my sequencing desert, and I’m postponing gratification by saving it for later.

• Dedicated external hardware controller specifically designed for Numerology
• Standard MIDI File player module, i.e., simple piano, bass, drums, etc.
• Simpler, smoother real-time recording
• Ability to store individual plug-in presets within each Stack

On the surface, N looks simple, but there is a lot going on under the hood, and users are invited to grab a tool and go to work. Hence, there is a moderate learning curve, and it’s well worth the effort! To help speed up the process, there are easy to follow video tutorials and an excellent forum that is filled with friendly users. My favorite thread is called General Questions where no question is too silly!

Numerology is a deep and flexible note-making machine with a great work flow. It is actually many step sequencers (via its modular system). It can be used in a simple manner or be as complex as you need it to be. Inherently, step sequencers are limited, but that’s not the case with Numerology. It’s breaks barriers, knocks down doors, and is the Star Trek of step sequencing — Boldly going where no eMusician has gone before. Some words that come to mind are: Adventurous! Flexible! Fun! Interactive! Note: N is not DAW and doesn’t want to be one. Yet, it is an amazing modular workstation. Generate! Evolve! Humanize! The development of this music app is clearly a brilliant developer’s labor of love that we get to enjoy. If you have a Mac and want sequencing tools that go above and beyond piano roll and MIDI event editing, give Numerology a go. But be warned! It’s addictive, and you may very well develop a lovely little habit. I personally enjoy having a little monkey muse on my back! I give Numerology my very highest recommendation. It’s a fantastic tool for creating music, and it’s unlike anything else on the market. Thank you, Five12, for developing such a cool thing!
Attached Images
File Type: png N - GUI.png (190.8 KB, 73 views)

Last edited by Tommy Zai; 05-19-2016 at 12:09 AM. Reason: OCPD
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Old 05-19-2016, 11:49 AM
stubbsonic stubbsonic is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Lafayette, CO
Posts: 112
Default Nice review

Thanks for writing that. It is well-written, and helpful to introduce the software and to help folks get a "big picture" understanding of what it does.

One kind of "meta" point that might be worth including is an introduction to the concept of a "step sequencer" vs a typical DAW sequencer. Though Numerology blows the doors & walls off of what a step-sequencer can do, it might be clarifying to talk about the workflow differences.

Again, thanks for a very enjoyable review.
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Old 05-20-2016, 12:04 AM
Tommy Zai Tommy Zai is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 135

Originally Posted by stubbsonic View Post
. . . One kind of "meta" point that might be worth including is an introduction to the concept of a "step sequencer" vs a typical DAW sequencer. Though Numerology blows the doors & walls off of what a step-sequencer can do, it might be clarifying to talk about the workflow differences.
Yes! I agree. I thought about adding that, but there are many different DAWs and workflows and probably a few different ways to use N.

Maybe it'd be cool to have a thread whereby users list their workflow in simple steps. It would be interesting to compare that to common DAW workflows.
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Old 05-23-2016, 02:27 PM
stubbsonic stubbsonic is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Lafayette, CO
Posts: 112
Default Step Sequencer Essence

I'd be curious how others would describe the "essence" of step sequencing. Two qualities that pop to mind are:

1. Often pattern-based- rather than linear
2. Often rules-based, meaning you can program how a sequence will behave, with rules, probabilities, constraints and a control-matrix
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