Pioneer revealed its Toraiz SP-16 hardware sampler earlier this week, along with the news that analog filters from Dave Smith were baked in. But beyond that, online specs were a bit vague. So we’ve just gotten to meet up with Pioneer (and Dave) and get close to a prototype unit. Firmware isn’t done yet, but we got to learn a lot more – and there’s a lot to like.

Please note – this is early firmware (see the cheeky shot of the firmware about page I took). Some appearance and functionality may change. Actually, I already quite like the way it looks, so it does seem well on its way.

sps16 - 4

Yes, it samples live. There are stereo input jacks on the back. From there, you can sample live as you play, including the ability to slice samples on the fly and assign them to pads. Unfortunately, those screens weren’t ready to show yet on this firmware, but Pioneer confirmed this is designed for live performance. I think that’s huge, given that part of the pitch is connecting this in a booth and doing hybrid DJ sets.

Audio I/O means you can re-sample after the filters. There’s 8 out jacks, including the 2 stereo outs, as I noted in our first preview. Run cables back into the inputs, and you can re-sample sounds after the filter – very nice.

Load samples via USB stick or USB connection to the computer, as well as live sample.

Load samples via USB stick or USB connection to the computer, as well as live sample.

There are other ways to get samples on the device. True to form for a Pioneer device, there’s a slot for a USB stick. And if you connect to a computer, the SP-16 shows up as a Mass Storage Device. We didn’t get to test that, but I did try browsing through samples, which you can do from the rotary encoder.

Our first look at sample editing. You can adjust the envelope here via the encoders, or via the touchscreen.

Our first look at sample editing. You can adjust the envelope here via the encoders, or via the touchscreen.

Touch, twist, or press. If you want to use the touchscreen, you can – it makes navigating screens and selecting samples easy, and you can even use it to do things like graphically adjust envelopes. Latency was a bit noticeable on the prototype firmware, but Pioneer says later firmware will address that. What’s nice about the layout of the SP-16 is there’s basically never a case where you have to use the touchscreen for something critical. Most everything is also mapped to the pads, encoders under the display, rotary, and so on. So it appears you’ll never have to worry about sweaty fingers in a live gig.

sps16 - 14

The touch strip looks useful – and gives you your repeat/roll. The touch strip, something we’ve seen on devices from Native Instruments and Ableton recently, performs several functions. It’s also your roll/repeat.

Hardware feels and looks pretty solid. Up close, this feels like a Pioneer DJ unit. It’s much more attractive in person than in product photos (probably also true of my product photos), and fit and finish is all similar to other Pioneer gear – if you’ve used a recent Pioneer DJ mixer, in particular, you know what the knob caps and so on feel like. But the touch strip was responsive, and the surface on the touchscreen felt good. I found the x0x buttons a bit spongey and wasn’t blown away by the potentiometers, especially given this unit as a premium price, but I found no deal-breakers so far. The main thing is, I didn’t get to test the thing I most wanted, which was the pad sensitivity.

sps16 - 13

You get basic pattern and sequencer options. The four buttons at bottom right let you chain up to four 16-step sequences together, or trigger them individually. Hit “PATTERN,” and the sixteen x0x buttons on the bottom let you trigger patterns. There’s also a song/playlist mode coming, though we couldn’t yet see that screen.

MIDI output is coming. Cough, Elektron, cough. Pioneer says they plan to support MIDI output from the sequencer to external hardware in future firmware. (It’s unclear whether that will be ready when it ships.) That of course makes sense in a booth where Pioneer were standing next to Dave Smith (literally, Dave himself, not just the brand), father of MIDI, and a rack of a couple of Prophets. We also hear a VST plug-in for DAW integration could be in the works.

Dave Smith Instruments like the sound. Well, no surprise there: it’s their filters! But I do know the DSI crew want us to hear it, even if Pioneer don’t.

And some other tidbits, seen in pictures:

The mixing screen.

The mixing screen.

A closer look at the pad overview.

A closer look at the pad overview.

The (prototype) tempo screen - note, shuffle.

The (prototype) tempo screen – note, shuffle.

sps16 - 5

sps16 - 3

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It's always great to get to talk to Dave - if surprising to see him in a Pioneer DJ booth!

It’s always great to get to talk to Dave – if surprising to see him in a Pioneer DJ booth!

More questions answered:

  • Those filters are on the master. I didn’t mention this, as I thought it was obvious: yes, for both low-pass and high-pass, signal is routed through filter pairs at the master out, not individually for parts.
  • All of those outputs could be useful for effects. And right now, it looked like the SP-16 might be a bit deficient in the effects department (relative to something in software like Maschine).
  • MPC meets x0x. Yep, those x0x buttons on the bottom are very reminiscent of the ones on Roland’s AIRA TR-8. The feel is a little different (Roland’s are click-ier somehow), and of course the main thing is, here they’re paired with an MPC-style 4×4 pad layout, too.

I think it’s worth commenting on the filters, in particular. Remember, the whole selling point is that you’re getting analog filters. And you have ready access to both low pass (with resonance) and high pass right on the top of the unit.

Now, let’s say what you really want is more flexibility over each voice. Software like Maschine will happily do that for you. And if you’re describing a drum machine with 16 pads and a per-voice architecture more like a synthesizer – with Dave Smith filters on each voice – well, you’re really describing the Dave Smith Tempest.

But this isn’t a Pioneer Tempest. I think it makes loads of sense to have filters on a master bus when you’re playing live – not only for the DJ market, but for accessibility in general. Also, remember, what the SP-16 is that the Tempest isn’t is … a sampler. So anything you want done to a particular drum part can be done to the sample.

I like the Tempest. I like the SP-16 (so far, at least). I also like chocolate and oranges. But I don’t complain that chocolate doesn’t make good juice or that oranges aren’t able to melt over my ice cream.

If they get this right, I expect this could be the first sampler some DJs buy – and the first Pioneer hardware some producers buy. It’ll be great to put it up against its rivals from Akai, Native Instruments, Elektron, and others.

For more pictures, check out our gallery on Facebook:

Hands on with the Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP-16 [Facebook]

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  • Alessandro Automageddon

    Can you play samples chromatically?

    • My main question!!!
      And also… does it play chords ? If not… I’m not interested. Not even the Octatrack does that

      • As far as I know, no, it doesn’t. If you want chord mode, you’re thinking Maschine again.

        I mean, this is the thing — software definitely bests hardware for functionality/power. But… that’s not always better, not for everyone and not for every situation.

        • realmpclover

          https://www.gearslutz.com/board/11824042-post168.html

          No you can not… So no pro sampler this time of the year πŸ™

          • Carson Day

            If you want to play a chord, you could load a sample of the chord. Alternately, you can assign the same sample across multiple pads and change their respective tive root pitches.

          • Armando

            That’s what I thought. I wish next month would get here already! Ready to stop using my laptop for music.

        • Freeks

          Point of the product is to get away from computer and you keep suggesting Mashine. Sure computer does this and that, but we want standalone.

          Maybe SP-32 will offer that. But the problem is realtime stretch. You can’t really have both, polyphony AND realtime stretch. Anyone who have tried it with Ableton Simpler knows how hard it’s for computer. If proper laptop can’t handle one big chord then what can we expect from standalone box with 16 channels.

          • Aaron Zilch

            Not necessarily true. A standalone, dedicated box can often get a LOT more performance for it’s processing power. No extraneous OS and application bloat to bog things down.

            Also you might get better results with Simpler’s performance if you get the latest 9.6.1 release of Live that just came out.

      • Dubby Labby

        Combine it with modstep or garageband ios. Sample chord seq into it and mangle… Grab few chords and pitch them up or down and resample… Sometimes is more a matter of workflow than expecting the same possibilities than computer based solutions.

    • Yeah, don’t see why you couldn’t set it up that way.

      • Dubby Labby

        And pitched! Why people don’t see the potential of pitchshifting chopping!? Variphrase come back please… XD

        • You can definitely pitch shift individual slices.

          • Dubby Labby

            I expected this from Roland from years but maybe it will not going to happen never… Pioneer did a good job imho.

      • Carson Day

        There is a “scale” button which allows you to play a sample chromatically. Pioneer also plans to implement constrained scales in the future.

  • seismologist

    So the DSI filters are static? As in, not tied to envelopes or mod? edit: answered my own question, it’s just a global mix efffect.

    • Tony Scharf

      And that makes them a real dud, in my opinion.

      • It’s a drum machine/sampler, not a synth.

        The thing is, to make them useful on all sixteen parts, you would need *sixteen* of them.

        So, what you want here is really not any analog filter at all. You want a digital filter… and then if you want that, tools like Maschine are perfectly useful. But I personally would be very happy to have this kind of filter on the master output – especially in a live context.

        • Freeks

          That is the problem. Pioneer said they have been listening audience, but audience didn’t want yet another drum sampler. There is a market for standalone Mashine that NI will never do.

          This is so expensive that i personally could’t justify the cost for just drums. But it’s good that some can, so Pioneer can do something for producers too. And the sampler/seq that can also do basic synthesis/modulations.

          • Aaron Zilch

            Even a global filter across the master can SERIOUSLY benefit from some LFO or envelope follower love. If it’s not there I kind of fail to see the real benefit of an integrated filter over running into an external unit. If anyone would rather buy my Electrix Pro Filter Factory make an offer. I hardly touch it since I got The Drop…. πŸ˜‰

        • seismologist

          I’d expect Pioneer has designed digital filters into the architecture per sound/sample… and that’s perfectly fine. (And if not, uh, move along.). Point being, if we’re really talking about losing the laptop, we need system addressable, automatable fx.and not what amounts to an external stompbox.

  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    A pet peeve of mine is the order of the filters topographically and how they’re represented physically. HPF should be on the left before LPF. It makes sense if you’re looking at a graphic representation of an EQ: the HPF cuts the low frequencies from the left and the LPF carves down the high frequencies from the right. The knob order should really be from left to right: HPF, Drive, Resonance, LPF. (That said, I don’t know where Drive sits in the signal chain, maybe it should be first.)

    • squirrel squirrel squirrel

      Also I hope there’s internal re-sampling (like in the Octatrack) so that you don’t have to physically run an output cable back into the input in order to re-sample.

    • loop

      I strongly disagree here! even thoug it would phisically make sense, the LPF belongs to the left for me

    • Tony Scharf

      If you look at synthesizers from the past, (I’m thinking the Juno’s) the HPF was after the LPF. That’s pretty normal design, actually. Same on the DSI stuff.

  • looks like and MPC (or NI) and a TR-8 had a Love child. I like it!! the AIRA line is missing something like this and this looks like it will slide into my setup just fine. (looking for stuff that doesn’t NEED a PC). and the Elektron just don’t do it for me. Premium Price? What are we talking about?

    • Dubby Labby

      Maybe Roland will going to release something over the Messe or the rumor was just vapor? It could be really similar with 4 linear faders and crossfader assignable (similar shape to a F1/D2… 4×4 but screen and faders plus xf… Can you imagine it?) πŸ™‚

  • Name

    can this play loops like ableton/push?? a row of loops as a scene etc.

    this is how i would use it if so

    • Yeah, you could use it that way, though… I’m not sure you’d want to try to turn this into Ableton Live!

      • Dubby Labby

        Probably in between maschine and Ableton Live. You could use it as a remix deck or drum rack even with melodies (chop slice). Seems legit and well focused.

      • name

        id like it to be as close to live as possible because a laptop and push 2 is more cumbersome for launching loops than a dedicated device. i dont need all of the intricacies of the software just the ability play loops and long soundfiles

        • name

          let me elaborate:
          to play loops in sync with one another and the ability to change loops in a quantized fashion ala session view

  • Mark Kunoff

    If it’s just essentially a playback machine for audio loops….. then DJs will like it, but why would a DJ need 8 separate outs? As far as a sampler for a Live PA, maybe… let’s see how that firmware shapes up.

    • Effects.

      So far, it seems you don’t get much in the way of effects, so those separate outs become useful. And I think they’re looking at this as a serious studio machine. I’d be glad to have them.

      “A playback machine for audio loops” – I mean, that’s true of any sampler, no? πŸ˜‰ Not sure what you mean.

      • Dubby Labby

        Also to paired it next to a 4 channels mixer and use linear faders ala F1/D2 standalone box…

      • Mark Kunoff

        I just think 8 *extra* channels is way overboard for a DJ set. You’re going to have to have a fairly hefty mixer to do that and I just don’t see DJs wanting to lug around that much gear, not to mention a dedicated effects rack.

        On top of that, with no synthesis options it’s going to be a tough sell at $1500. I’m not trying to discount this device, there will be a lot of people who will choose this over the Octatrack because they were looking for Ableton-Live-like functionality in the first place. It just seems like an attempt to have Traktor remix decks in hardware – which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just not that innovative, we already have plenty of viable alternatives and there are similar and just as powerful solutions costing so much less.

  • Mijk van Dijk

    Amazing. This looks like the missing non-computer hardware link between creative DJing + live performing for me.
    Peter, how’s the form-factor? Are those XOX buttons the same size like the TR-8.

  • Tony Scharf

    Beyond the two analog filters, is there any sort of FX chain to speak of? If it’s just basically a playback device with only those filters for processing, I’ll take a pass.

    • In the sonicstate video they said it has a whole punch of pioneer’s fx you can apply on tracks – presumably the same you’d find on their previous mixers/fx units.

  • kobamoto

    so Peter is this basically the ableton session mode in a box, is the time stretch realtime, and does it have follow actions?

  • kobamoto

    Also did I read correctly that you have to run cables out and back in to do ‘resampling’, so does this mean that no internal resampling exist?

    • realmpclover

      this is total BS! It’s funny that they advertise this as feature, lol, never seen and heard before.you can not do this with anything else , hahahah…. this is for the generation porn, in/out done.. next.

      • You can’t do it easily with something that has only two analog outputs. (I.e., you can, but then you can’t hear!)

    • Well, you’re in analog signal chain by the time you hit those analog filters, so yeah – you would need cables to resample.

  • Virtual Flannel

    Looking more and more like a must have.

  • Virtual Flannel

    Looking more and more like a must have.

  • Carl Lofgren

    Any word on sync and recording on sync? And does anyone know if there’s any limit on how much of the 8GB you can record in one go? All of it?

  • Douglas Johnson

    Peter, not sure if someone already mentioned this but towards the bottom you start referring to the SP-16 as the SP-12 which is understandable given the similarity in name between this new Pioneer sampler and the legendary EMU sampler. I just thought you would want to know. Thanks for the deets.

    • I knew I was going to do that. πŸ™‚ Sleep deprivation is a dangerous thing! Heh, I’m glad there are no *more* trade shows next week…

      • Dubby Labby

        Hehe

  • Rex Wesley Reyes

    looks nice but a bit late for me. i already went down the mpc1000/tr-8 route for my sampler/sequencer/drums.

    On a side note i don’t see a digital out which i think is weird for such an expensive box. I guess the analogue filters are a big focus and maybe they didn’t want to convert the signal back to digital.

    • Gunboat_Diplo

      I went back to an mpc1000 and was immediately shocked by load/save times. It took 2016-me by surprise.
      In the end, i sold it and now im on a BeatStep Pro. Different beasts, but i both fulfill my needs.

  • m fischer

    Thanks for the coverage Peter.
    If this thing can be used as an asynchronous multitrack looper (like octatrack’s pickup machines w/o all the issues) I would pick this up in a heartbeat.

  • Charles

    Definitely got my attention. I’m hoping the sequencer isn’t crippled. For instance, 4-bar loops really aren’t enough.

  • This looks really like the combination of everything that was missing so far in the usual suspects’ offerings. I am just wondering: Is the sequencer able to send notes out via MIDI, so that I could run some synths with it? That could really replace some older MPCs – and would be a nice competition to the Octatrack, while being the product separator to DSI’s Tempest, wouldn’t it?

  • mckenic

    Old guy (semi) rant –
    I remember when the S950 was *almost* affordable, after the S1000 came out. Then again I remember when hacking 32mb of third-party ram on to a Creative Labs AWE 32 was as bleeding edge as it got (64MB!!!), sequencing it in Twelve Tone Systems Cakewalk Home Studio where you could unofficially trigger one sample and everything else was soundfont v1.

    That is just a preface to say its stunning what has happened in music tech and what we can do in the past 15 years. If I told the 25 year old me who had just got a Roland VP9000 that in 15 years time people would be unhappy with something like this – I would have laughed at myself.

    I for one am excited to see how this pans out. Will I buy one? Perhaps, if it replaces or is an update to my mpc1000 but it will most likely have to be the same as the rest of my stuff – 2nd hand. Just couldn’t afford new. So like it and want one or dislike it and pass, just think how incredible it is that something like this is an actual thing.

    I dont know – my 2 cents.

  • me

    A chocolate orange is a thing. Just sayin’

    • Cubilas

      So is orange chocolate πŸ™‚

  • Aaron

    I don’t understand the Elektron/MIDI jab. The Octatrack can sequence up to eight pieces of outboard gear. There are eight separate MIDI tracks. Can the Pioneer do better? Somehow I doubt it.

  • couic

    I have a few questions…

    is the actual memory limit 8G (i.e. are samples streamed from the flash drive) or is there a smaller RAM limitation ? i.e. is it possible to play one huge several hours liveset without having to load anything ?

    what about triggering patterns with pads and having other functions on x0x pads (such as mutes, solos, or one shots) ? my live routine is based on pattern triggering rather than indivudal sounds, so i’d really prefer patterns on pads when playing live.

    what about the master compressor/limiter ?

    anyway I have a personal ergonomical problem with this : I always prefer my pads on the right. this may be a deal breaker for me. can’t wait to test one in real though. I hope the local shops in my city will have this machine quickly.

  • Anton Kozlov

    Sorry if this is a dumb question – can you edit parameters for the individual steps in the sequencer, and if so, to what extent? ie. change the volume, attack/decay etc…

  • Lukasz

    Pioneer joke. 16 steps hahaha
    The funnyest things are pads to play just 16 steps lol.
    I gues next step is going to be 1 step sequencer, that is good for techno it will force Dj-s to make les mistakes. Or maybe thats to much just go back to your play button and think you are musician.

  • Aiki

    As a rampant finger drummer I’m really interested in this. I do have a few questions though.

    1. How good are the pads in terms of sensitivity? Will I be able to do subtle drum rolls etc?
    2. Will we be able to layer samples on a single pad MPC 1000 style? If not why not?
    3. Will I be able to send pad velocity/pressure to things like filter, FX send etc? Take a leaf from the analog RYTM perf mode here Pioneer.
    4. Will there be any routable lfos or other mod routings for FX and so on?
    5. When is the damn thing out so I can test it in the flesh πŸ™‚

  • Erick Morißon

    1600 Euro for a looper playback.LOL !get lost dsi with your crazy price for rich bitch

  • Can’t believe this one completely passed by me without noticing. You’ve been very early reporting about this thing and now it’s out there and we even know what’s planned for the next couple firmware updates. With MIDI out coming, this could become the machine Akai never made after they discontinued the original MPCs. But let’s wait, what *exactly* those updates will mean in reality.