Pioneer Toriaz. Misunderstood, and bit of a Monster.
The sub 600GBP synth market has been an absolute garden for the synth lover of late. Like nothing we have ever seen in this sector since, well, ever. A raft of analog and V analog from a swathe of manufacturers old and new spilling off the shelves. No longer is it ‘if only’, but ‘which one!’. We have re-boots of classics and modern takes from many and various legacy rich marques, and all new vanguard companies offering all manner of analog and digital exotica.
Enter the Toraiz As-1. An unexpected manoeuvre from Pioneer DJ, coming to market at the top end of this sector and for the current synth market, with limited real time control, it was a real curve ball follow up to Pioneer’s equally unexpected collaboration with synth legend Dave Smith, the Toraiz SP-16. The question is; Have you actually had a listen to this thing yet?
I am going to guess broadly speaking the answer to that question is no, aside from maybe a demo streamed through your portable device. But this apparently diminutive little synth, with a genuine sleeper legacy of its own, is about to peak your interest. Out of the box the sonic weight of the AS-1 more than affords it space at this price point. The definition and impact of it sounds set it apart from literally ANYTHING in this class. Trading real time control for atomic grade punch and build quality will without doubt serve this synth well in the spotlight of the stage. We all know Pioneer DJ’s legacy in terms of road proven, all night, club conquering sturdiness and that legacy is apparent all over the build of this thing.
Metal case, sturdy pots, a white on black display. These guys know exactly what you really need when push comes to shove out in the field. But how will it sit in your studio? Well if you are not a keyboard player, but you do understand the fundaments. If you grasp the basics of sequencing on any DAW or, alternatively, if you are just old like me and remember classic step time sequencing, you will find the AS-1’s deceptively powerful built-in sequencer a very comfy couch indeed. The intuitive note input, the Tie/Rest step functions, and touch simple transposition of this little monster will have you (re)creating classic baselines and catchy riffs at the drop of a hat.
Fundamental sonic integrity given, and aside from the bite and snap of its unique envelope architecture, do you like lovely DSI style analogue synth drones and soundscapes? You are not covered so much as smothered here with the richness of its glorious individually tuneable oscillators and added dimension imparted by its flexible internal effects processor. You will hear stranger and stranger things with every episode you have with this ‘little’ synth from ‘that’ DJ company.
The criticisms of this unit are real, but on reflection, they are not really negatives at all. In this sector of the market you are always trading something for something else. No Audio in? It has Tyson grade sonic punch, matchless at the price. No VSTi? It has literally ‘drop down the stairs’ build quality, you could spill a jaeger bomb directly on the top panel of this thing and I am sure it would be just fine. Plus a VSTi could (hopefully please Pioneer) be in the post…No USB power or USB audio? Again, why compromise that signal path by shoving it through cheap AD/DA for the sake of a tick on the spec sheet. A VSTi would be the key here for me. Being able to integrate the synth into your DAW seamlessly using USB connectivity, a system akin to the one MOOG music have implemented the latest Minataur 2.2 software would make this a absolute bonafide giant slayer.
This synth may well have passed you by on your last visit to the store whilst people were huddling around the latest redux. But next time you get the chance, do have listen to it in the flesh. I for one am fairly sure you will be very pleasantly surprised, perhaps even convinced, the TORIAZ AS-1 is way bigger than its box.