They say that good ideas are in the air, and if they are not implemented in time, it will be someone else. So did Pioneer: without waiting for the emergence of a new autonomous model AKAI MPC or NI Maschine, engineers from Pioneer got down to create a full pad sample Toraiz SP-16!
So, Toraiz SP-16 is the first device from Pioneer, designed for musicians and producers of electronic music. Externally, the device looks quite impressive: a durable metal case, bright pads with RGB backlighting, keys of a step sequencer, a touch screen…
By the way, as for the touch screen, the Pioneer engineers were first who installed it on a hardware-sampler, drown ahead of AKAI, and completely duplicated all the functions of the screen with six rotary encoders located beneath it. So the problems associated with dirty or sweaty hands will not occur! One of the weaknesses of MPC Toys by AKAI was and still is the Grid mode: most users sooner or later face with the difficulties caused by the placement, movement and editing of the imprints of keys on a small touchscreen. The Pioneer engineers solved the matter in a simple and tested way: they simply added to Toraiz SP-16 a section of a step sequencer with analog keys, which is lacking in MPC Toys!
In general, the build quality and forethought of the interface of Toraiz SP-16 do not raise any doubts. Years of experience of Pioneer of producing professional DJ equipment and its leading positions in this market speak for themselves. In the world of club equipment, in which the drinks spilled on the deck, continuous vibration of concert acoustic systems, dust from the dance floor, confetti and sparks continuously flying out from the installation effects are very common, to earn the status of “best devices” is not easy. To do this they must be truly reliable and comfortable!
However, what lies beneath the convenient, reliable and, by the way, with a quite pleasant design, case of Toraiz SP-16? Ordinary toy for DJ or studio professional-stage device?
Overall Build and Features
Surprisingly, but rather the second option than the first one. Apparently, the Pioneer marketers expect to take their place in a new market quickly and confidently: this is eloquently demonstrated by the specifications of a new device.
Of course, the main advantage of Toraiz SP-16 in comparison with the same AKAI MPC Touch or Ableton Push is its separateness! To use this device you do not need a computer. The device already has everything you need! At a cost of about 1.5 thousand euros, the device has an offline memory 8 GB, the possibility of a direct memory access of any USB drives, a sixteen-track MIDI sequencer, effects, recording “everything” on the fly, and — most interesting — real analog filters from Dave Smith! For those who do not know about this, the company Dave Smith Instruments takes the same positions in the market of analog synths that Pioneer in the market of DJ equipment. The filters installed in the new Toraiz SP-16 are identical to the filters of flagship analog synth from DSI — Prophet-6!
Each of the filters (and here there are two — low and high frequency) has a controllable parameter of cutoff frequency, and low frequency filter has also a controlled resonance and overdrive. So, there is a “warm analog sound”, that is so loved today, as well.
On the other hand, Toraiz SP-16 is primarily a performance tool, so don’t expect it to have 16 individual analog filters in each channel, as it is done, for example, in a powerful and very complicated analog percussion synthesizer DSI Tempest by Dave Smith. No, the filters are kind of DJ effects and control a master bus, i.e. the overall sound of the instrument. Of course, you can pass separate samples through an analog filter, and then resample them — there are no restrictions.
Now a piece of information about the memory of the device. The device is equipped with an internal memory of 8 GB (try to recall at least one modern or vintage sampler with the same amount of memory!). There is also a possibility of a direct connection of any USB drives (flash drives, hard drives, etc). Toraiz SP-16 can read samples directly from flash, without copying to the internal memory. Well, when you connect Toraiz SP-16 to the computer, the device will appear as a normal external hard drive: drag with a mouse any sample packs and go!
By the way, you can record samples directly. On the rear panel, Toraiz SP-16 has a separate stereo input with a control of level recording. Vintage records from vinyl, tracks or sketches from Iphone, a synth solo or even loops from DJ-decks – all these without any problems are recorded on the fly!
Let us study the possibilities of working with samples. At the moment, the device firmware is still under development, so a full list of features Toraiz SP-16 is still unknown. However, according to available information, the samples represent something like audio clips in Ableton. At the moment, we can confidently say the following that samples can be pitched, streched (i.e., to adjust the tempo of a track), cut into separate slices, looped, etc.
By the way, a startup of samples and tempo of loops Toraiz SP-16 can be automatically synchronized not only with an internal tempo or a MIDI clock signal, but with a tempo of your DJ set, through the use of the synchronization algorithm Pioneer DJ Link. Shortly, if you are a DJ and work with Pioneer controllers, any samples and loops on Toraiz SP-16 will always fall to the beat!
Other editing options are individual ADSR-envelopes for each sample and an ability to control the volume using the dynamics of pads.
A mixer of a new tool offers a standard control of volume and panorama of tracks and variety of effects in the gap and in the send and powerful possibilities of routing channels that allow you to assign individual tracks to any of 8 individual audio outputs located on the rear panel.
To the left of the front panel, there is a touch slider that allows to control the height of samples, the Repeat 2 function and any assignable parameters.
As for the sequencer, the work is at full speed. Of course, we can record patterns as “on the fly” and with a standard stepper xox programming. The length of the sequence in this case is limited to 16 steps. For those who think that it is not enough, the device offers the function to create chains of patterns (up to 4 patterns in the chain), extending the length of sequences up to 64 steps.
The keys of sequencer, as well as dynamic pads, have full RGB-LEDs used for color coding of recorded data. What exactly you can record in the sequencer is unknown, however, the support for automation of individual parameters should appear here.
Despite the fact that at the moment the MIDI ports of the support only the reception and transmission of MIDI clock, the developers have announced the addition of sequencing capability to external devices, and complete MIDI implementation. Data capabilities will surely please fans of “iron”! Also, in the future, it is planned to create a specialized VST plugin to control the engine of Toraiz SP-16 with DAW.
Three Reasons to Buy
- Pioneer Toraiz SP-16 has a 16-step sequencer.
- The function to create chains of patterns extending the length of sequences up to 64 steps.
- 8GB of flash memory and real-time processing for non-stop music production.
Final Verdict on Pioneer Toraiz SP-16
Overall, the new device leaves the most pleasant impression. A standalone capability, a great design and good build quality, a touch screen, dynamic pads and keys sequencer, a large supply of memory, effects and an analog filter together provide a powerful and rich arsenal both for beginning producers and experienced live musicians. The device, apparently, have to fit for work in Live looping and Finger-drumming — the most spectacular and technically complicated performance styles of electronic music! It only remains to wait for official information about the features of samples and operation of the sequencer to make sure of the power of the new device! However, already now it is possible to tell with confidence that Pioneer clearly seized the initiative of AKAI and does not intend to stop. Perhaps, Toraiz SP-16 will be able to replace even everybody’s favorite NI Maschine or Elektron Octatrack! As they say, it remains to be seen!