by ELLISON WOLF
Winter Modular’s Eloquencer sequencer is very easy to get along with. Its intuitive layout and functionality lends itself well to being a great performance tool, and means that you won’t need to study the well written manual too hard, or commit too many button combinations to memory. I decided when I started that I would see how far I could get without looking at the manual or watching any tutorials, as I deemed from first look that I could figure it out without any help. I was mostly right.
Front and center on the Eloquencer is an LED screen that displays which steps of its 8 tracks are activated, and where in the sequence you are for each of its tracks through a moving blinking cursor. Left to right is its default movement, however the direction can be changed, both overall for the entire sequence, as well as for each individual track or groups of tracks, and there are several patterns [forward, backward, pendulum, random, etc.] to choose from.
From left to right above the LED screen is a play/stop button and buttons for the step parameters for each step that are available; CV, Gate, Gate Length, and Ratchet. Pushing each button will cycle through additional options related to their button nomenclature. The CV options are CV note, CV variation probability, and CV range probability. Cycling through the Gate will bring you gate, gate probability, and Tie [for tying steps together]. Gate Length holds its namesake, as well as gate length variation probability and gate rate length probability. Lastly, the Ratchet button also has ratcheting probability and ratchet variation probability. One thing that separates the Eloquencer from many of its sequencing brethren is what Winter Modular calls “Controlled Chance”: the ability to decide when and where to randomly effect various parameters for each step, controlled by the probability parameter. The Ratchet feature puts this on display quite well, as you can control the frequency and randomness of these parameters to give variation–sometimes subtle and sometimes not–to a sequence while still retaining its core feel and values. This "Controlled Chance" is a really important feature that helps give the Eloquencer the ability to surprise, something I relish, and something most sequencers lack.
Next, we come to the Function button, which gives you access to the 16 step button’s secondary functions, which are: Tempo, Shuffle, Scale, Step Mode, Track Shift, Track Length, Random, Fill, Live Recording, Mute, LFO, Mod, Aux, Clock, Freeze, and Revert. Third tier functions are also accessed by pressing the Function button and holding each step button for a longer duration of time, and are mostly for programming a song or pattern and copying/pasting parts around.
On the right of the Eloquencer you’ll find each of the 8 track’s Gate and CV/AC [accent] outputs, which can be either linked or unlinked for a given track, while the other side of the Eloquencer has a MicroSD card slot [card included] for saving up to 128 projects–probably more than you’ll ever need. Also on the left side is an OLED screen and push button encoder, which is where all of your menu options abound. For those of you who bemoan menu diving–I feel you–but I didn’t even think twice about it when using the Eloquencer as the menu section was laid out well and easy to navigate.
At the top of the unit you’ll find 2 assignable CV inputs for modulating any aspect of track parameters, a RESET input, CLOCK input [which can be divided or multiplied] for external clocks, AUX output [for configurable trigger/gate options], and CLOCK output, used for controlling other devices, which can also be divided or multiplied.
At the bottom of the Eloquencer are 16 step buttons. Pushing one will activate the step and when held–in conjunction with the push button encoder–enables you to adjust the parameters of the selected state. While only 16 step buttons are present, you can configure the Eloquencer to run a sequence up to 64 steps. These step buttons also serve second and third tier functions depending on how long you hold the button down along with the “Function” button.
While some secondary functions, such as Tempo, Shuffle, and Random, are more geared towards setting up a sequence, the ones I utilized the most were the Step Mode, Track Shift, and Track Length functions. Hold Function and Track Len. to select and then choose which track you’d like to adjust with the track buttons on the right. Then just hold the two step numbers that you’d like to cycle through on that track and you can see the parameter settings on the OLED screen. As far as performance tactics go, it’s one of my favorites, along with manipulating entire sequence lengths on the fly. I find it fun to run through a sequence a bunch, then stutter through just a few steps for a while, before opening it back up to the full length. It’s like the physical version of a drop: Take something out, and then put it back in. There are other live performance functions which are really fun, such as FILL mode, which activates all steps in the selected tracks, overriding all Gate and Gate probability settings, thereby “filling” the track until deselected, and the Live Rec mode, which has three different sub-modes: Gates Mode, CV Mode, and Free Play Mode. These are useful for adding/changing things in real time and the changes are recorded into the sequence–except while in Free Play Mode which allows you to add CV wherever in the sequence you are without making it a permanent addition to said sequence.
There’s a random [RAND] function that makes it possible to randomize every aspect of your sequence, from gate length to CV, as well as the probability of each feature for a completely 3 tiered random sequence. This is really simple to do by just selecting the RAND button and choosing the track/s and what you want randomized. It’s a quick and easy way to change things up with little effort.
The third tier options mostly have to do with pattern arrangement and song construction, and are features that I don’t use much. I might alternate between a few different sequences during performance, in real time as I move along, but I usually don’t construct pre-arranged songs, or sequences of patterns. I like to feel free to go wherever the mood takes me. Having said that, it was a nice surprise to find that it was easy to figure out how to do this with the Eloquencer.
Inputting melodies into a 16 step track is a bit of a chore, and more so if you want to do it for multiple tracks, as you currently have to select each step in the selected track, then use the encoder to choose the note for each step. However, by the time you read this Winter Modular will have released the EME, their MIDI interface for the Eloquencer which will make this much easier by giving the ability to input information using a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI device–a welcome enhancement.
Perhaps the most amazing thing I find about the Eloquencer is that apart from the song mode, I use almost every function. There’s nothing superfluous or unnecessary to it. It’s not going to do everything, but its feature set is so well suited to playing instead of programming, that it can be played as an instrument. There are a couple of things, however, that I wished the Eloquencer had.
One is the ability to play only certain notes or steps in a track in real time by holding down said step/note buttons as the sequence is going. It’d be cool if there was a way to do that for the entire sequence at one time as well–so that the entire sequence could cycle through, say steps 5/11/14 while holding down those 3 step buttons–as it could make for a really cool performance aspect. An octave up/down function would be nice as well.
There are features present that I have hardly mentioned, and some not at all, let alone gone into depth with [the ease of changing a scale, the LFO feature, etc.] but they are merely icing on the cake. The Eloquencer should be on your list if you’re looking for a sequencer that you can perform with in real time [as well as program] with an intuitive layout that can handle both rhythmic and melodic sequences well. It's become the brain, heart, and soul [yes, soul!] of my setup.
38 HP 170mA +12V 60mA -12V