If you need a wider sound palette, the Verselab has sampling capabilities as well. You can use the built-in mic, an external microphone, or the line on the back to capture audio of whatever you have lying around. You want to make a drum kit out of yourself by tapping plastic buckets, capture the sounds of your favorite softsynths on your computer, or slice up a soul sample – you can do all of that on the Verselab. The only problem is that the small two-line display makes cropping samples quite painful. And I didn’t quite understand how the sample slicing function works.
This itty-bitty screen makes a lot of tasks harder than necessary. Considering the amount of sound and effects, along with the sequencing and arranging tools, a bigger screen really seems necessary. One can only hope that the promised future integration with Zenbeats will help to simplify things somewhat.
The screen is however my only complaint on the hardware front. Although the Verselab is made entirely of plastic, it is solid. The buttons all have a good click, and while the encoders don’t have a ton of resistance, they don’t feel cheap. The sequencer keys and pads are also very nice. In fact the pads are probably the best I’ve come across on this side of a Akai device.
A final way the Verselab tries to shift the focus from beatmaking to songwriting is to simplify the actual process of creating musical ideas. You can quantize the pads so you’re always in the key, there’s a one-pad tuning mode for establishing harmonies and the “style” mode spits out a bunch of rhythm and arpeggio patterns.