Intellijel's Steppy is a four-track programmable gate sequencer that combines an impressive feature set with a tiny footprint. It achieves this by using multi-purpose, colour-changing buttons and by limiting edit functionality to one track at a time.
A glance at the panel reveals individual outputs for every track, each with LED status indicators. For me, the ability to monitor activity in this way more than compensates for the shared controls. The Steppy requires an external clock signal to function and if you send a pulse to the Reset input, it resets all tracks to their first step. Reset is useful to have, given that tracks can be of any length, from one to 64 steps.
With just 16 buttons to turn steps on and off, a system of pages is implemented, along with the option to scroll through them automatically during playback. I found operation easy enough that a single run through of the manual was all that was required. Actually, the one aspect I didn't spot right away was that a long hold on a step button specifies the end of track. The step buttons are augmented by a couple more — the first selects tracks and bars, leaving the second to deal with edit operations. There are only two 'hidden' options, which means you're soon flying around and doing fun things.
Having selected a track and set its length, you enable gates in typical X0X fashion, or by one of those hidden options I mentioned — tap recording. It's accessed by a combination of Select and Edit buttons and has the advantage that you can enter hits on all four tracks without all that selection business. Naturally this is the optimum way to make drum patterns fast.
For each track, you can edit the gate length, clock division, swing, delay and probability, plus you can shift all the events backwards or forwards. Edit options apply to all steps in a track and the interface gives you eight possible values for each operation. This might not seem a lot but in practice it's fine because the values chosen are so sensible. For example, clock divisions stretch as far as /64 and include triplets, while swing covers all the classic Akai MPC choices with ease. Probability is the means of setting a percentage chance that a gate is sent for each pass of the pattern, with a range from 12.5 percent right up to 100 percent, which is the default.
The second hidden option is 'ratcheting', and this is a splendid implementation, ideal for everything from classic Berlin School sequencing to faster, glitchy shenanigans. Ratcheting is notable for being a per-step setting, ie. you specify for any step how many repeats it should perform (up to 12), with a random value also offered. Random varies the repetitions on each pass, and don't forget that even simple repetition can be very handy as a clock multiplier. There's just room to add that a live looping function (inevitably named 'Loopy') allows you to temporarily shorten a pattern by looping between any two steps. Oh, and you can temporarily mute track outputs too.
The Steppy is capable of some quite complex trigger/gate patterns, so it's just as well it can store complete setups of its tracks — in eight memory locations. I found it to be an endlessly useful utility module, whether serving as a compact polymetric drum brain, a four-way clock generator, a clock divider/multiplier or as a source of random triggers for envelopes and other events. A great example of user interface design, the Steppy is flexible, cute, colourful and very possibly indispensable.