Yamaha takes on Teenage Engineering with its colorful SEQTRAK groovebox

The all-in-one production studio mixes modern style with some classic synth DNA


Yamaha is a pillar of the electronic music making world, but it's perhaps best known for its stage synthesizers and studio monitors. Today, that might change as the company unveils the SEQTRAK ("seek-track") groovebox. Let's address the obvious first, yes, this looks very much like Yamaha had a meeting and decided to take Teenage Engineering head-on. The SEQTRAK (R.I.P. my shift key) takes more than a little inspiration from the Swedish firm's OP-Z portable studio and it even borrows the firm's favored gray and orange aesthetic (though the SEQTRAK also comes in dark gray/black).

The SEQTRAK includes a drum machine, sampler, FM and sample-based synthesizers, that semi-eponymous sequencer along with a built-in battery (3-4 hours expected play time) plus a built-in speaker making this a portable, standalone device. It also comes with a multi-platform (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android) companion app that allows more visual control, deeper settings, additional sounds and even a video visualizer. Wireless and physical MIDI plus USB connectivity with a built-in interface promise to make this something of an all purpose on-the-go idea machine that could also just live on your desk.

The drum section offers seven tracks, each capable of holding up to six sounds. There's a wide range of percussive samples pre-installed that can be tweaked and altered to your taste and then fed into the sequencer section below. Patterns can be up to 128 steps/8 bars in length while a substep feature lets you trigger a sound multiple times on the same step, to create flourishes and fills to your beat.

Given the company's heritage in the synth space, no surprise that there's a strong influence from the DX series here. The SEQTRAK's FM synth has four operators and eight-note polyphony. Meanwhile the company's long-standing "AWM2" sample-based synth engine has been shrunk down for the SEQTRAK and goes all out with a max polyphony of 128. If straight samples are more your thing then you can grab 16-bit/44.1kHz sounds using either the built-in mic, USB, aux-in or even resample what you're playing.

The footprint of the SEQTRAK is a little taller than the svelt OP-Z, or even the bigger OP-1 Field, but it still cuts a sharp silhouette. The step-sequencer/keyboard section benefits from the extra space though it'll be interesting to see how apt those keys are for performance. The lack of display isn't uncommon in this form-factor and of course the app is there if needed (again, much like the OP-Z). Many might remember the QY series of portable workstations, and their spirit lives on here but with an interesting new design direction. No doubt there will be a great many number of comparison videos made with its Teenage Engineering rivals once it launches (currently no info on when that is).

One key difference with the OP-Z is the price. While you can pick one of those up for $499, it cost $599 at launch. The SEQTRAK, however, is listed at for pre-order at retailers for $399, that's a pretty solid deal. There are, of course, many differences between them, too. For one, the slightly larger footprint will appeal or detract according to your needs and play style. The OP-Z sure is portable but it's very "hunt and peck" for settings and performance. The sampler credentials on the SEQTRAK also feel more robust than its Swedish rivals with 500MB of space rather than the OP-Z's skimpy 24MB (or the dedicated K.O. II sampler's 64MB for that matter).

Will that be enough to win over the same number and level of fans? Only time will tell. For now, you can register your interest in the SEQTRAK now and expect more information to surface during the NAMM show next week (we'll be there!).

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