Pioneer DJ TORAIZ AS-1: An incredible sounding dual VCO monophonic synthesizer that belongs on everyone’s desk.
It’s amazing how high quality VCOs can make the most basic patches come to life, and this collaboration between Pioneer DJ and Dave Smith Instruments is a testament to that. Basically you get a single voice of the Prophet 6 combined with a very easy to use sequencer/arpeggiator, multi-parameter touch strip, 2 insert effects, and a handful of knobs and buttons to cover the basic adjustments in a Pioneer box that is built like a tank. This thing can create sounds from mean and growling to old broken toy-Boards of Canada type sounds to sharp plucks and everything in between. Although every parameter can be adjusted from the front panel I found the software editor is the fastest way to sculpt sounds on this synth. There are more than enough user sound bank slots available to save your creations and the factory sounds are very good as well. At first glance it may appear that the synth is not super deep, programming-wise, but after spending a week with it I think you’ll find it’s range of sounds is very wide and satisfying. The VCOs are variable between shapes and the second VCO can be run in “LFO mode” which can produce asymmetrical sound modification when you map the pitch of OSC1 to it in an in-between shape somewhere between a triangle and saw. The synth has a great low end and can stand out on your tracks as a monster bass or soaring lead role but can also blend into the background as a supporting role of a warm droning sound or even semi realistic woodwind tones. The latch-able touch strip has the power to alter 7 parameters simultaneously which can be great for dramatically changing the sound on the fly. I never used the instruction manual when programming this thing. It is very intuitive. Programming the sequencer works exactly as you’d expect whether entering data by the touch keys or using a midi keyboard connected via midi. A few times I even connected an iPad running the stepPolyArp app and just hit record on the AS-1 sequencer and play on the iPad and it injected the midi sequence easily into memory. Transposing from external midi or the touch keys also works just as you think it should. For those who own a Toraiz SP-16 it is also possible to play the AS-1 from the 16 pads as well. The synth has a great ratio of “size to usefulness” as I like to put it. It can cover so much ground sound-wise that it could end up on every track in some way and the physical footprint of the synth is so small that it can easily be added to any live rig or desktop. I remember watching tons of demos on the old Sequential Pro One and hoping that I would find one someday but now I think this synth can scratch that itch. I highly recommend this synth and think that in time it will be one of the synths that all musicians and producers consider a staple for their studios and live rigs.
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