Here are two quick takeaways about the TORAIZ AS-1 monosynth introduced by Pioneer DJ, in collaboration with Dave Smith. One, it sounds great – but we figured that, given it’s basically a single voice from Dave Smith’s Prophet-6. Two, it’s got a surprisingly powerful sequencer/arpeggiator, with some extras like alternative tunings.

And it’s that second point that matters. If you just want to add bass lines to a DJ set, Pioneer has some competition. Roland can sell you not one but two different variations of the classic 303 – either the AIRA TB-3, or the Boutique Series TB-03. As many observed, the AS-1 even looks a whole lot like the AIRA, down to the touchscreen.

For that reason, I think it’s not enough just to buy a Pioneer AS-1 on the basis of its Dave Smith sounds. You need more.

I’m meeting with Pioneer later this week at Musikmesse for a closer look at the AS-1, so I thought I’d put out this hands-on now to see if y’all have any questions for them. The folks at soundrope have done an insanely video hands-on. It’s narrated in Japanese, but it won’t matter – you can follow the demo easily. (As usual, hearing Japanese voice over just makes everything seem better. If you want to be thoroughly confused, turn auto-translation on. We’re not at Babelfish level quite yet)

Through the power of computers, we don't even need to learn foreign languages any more! Uh... actually, wait, maybe we do.

Through the power of computers, we don’t even need to learn foreign languages any more! Uh… actually, wait, maybe we do.

To me, though, what’s nice is the workflow on sequence creation, arpeggiator, and adding alternative tunings – plus the added power of having a complete effects section. You can see those below.

I’m finishing a review of the companion TORAIZ SP-16, but that’s a bit on the pricey side. If the AS-1 has the same solid build feel of the SP-16, it could be a real winner. Pioneer Link support can attract CDJ users, but then having a balanced monosynth here is terrific – and even though it says Pioneer on the front panel, this could wind up being the best Dave Smith monosynth we’ve seen in some years. Major correction: this doesn’t sync to the CDJ line. There’s no support for Pioneer’s Link protocol on the CDJ.

So, have a look, and let me know what else you’d want to know about it. Hopefully we can also rig up some DJ hybrid setups via the CDJ in coming weeks, too.

Here are those videos:

Scale mode isn’t a terribly new idea, but with switchable scales does a decent job of cramming melodic playing (and curves) into a small space (sorry, more Japanese talking here):

Alternative tuning looks especially interesting; I’m curious if you can load other tunings via the editor:

Quick access to programs and transposition are both useful live:

Arpeggiator, yes.

The effects section is really nice, as well, though now we’re potentially deep into prog rock / ambient / Tangerine Dream territory rather than DJ stuff (not that that’s a bad thing):

What I didn’t expect was a copious editor, including a sequencer, but you get that, too:

And here’s a nice demo with Ableton Live:

And if for some reason you wanted a listen to every single sound in the factory bank, well, SYNTH ANATOMY have you covered for the next 20-odd minutes:

Official site. Hey, what do you notice about this URL? Are we getting one in white? Chrome? Pink? Camo? (I think KORG shipped each of those at one point.)

Correction: It seems Pioneer is not adding Pioneer Link support, for plug-and-play sync with the CDJ and so on. That’s too bad – ideally, it would seem Pioneer would standardize on its own proprietary DJ LINK protocol, or else put MIDI on its CDJs, or else support Ableton Link. Here, it’s doing none of those – acceptable for a synth, but not something that integrates with Pioneer’s DJ products. CDM regrets the error (and will ask Pioneer about this, naturally.)

  • heinrichz

    awesome little box with a great workflow!


    ” the fact that it’s got plug-and-play sync with Pioneer CDJs”
    the fact that it doesn’t… if it worked alone with a current CDJ system or if the club could buy these and not have to buy a SP-16, or make me own a SP-16 to program one at a club…
    the lack of performance DJ considerations, while using performance DJ marketing… makes this a huge disappointment… even if its the best sounding 500 dollar analog mono synth on the market.
    sadly its does sit right along side the skinned calculators roland is selling…

    it shouldn’t be branded toraiz… they should update it with performance DJ consideration, and then add the toraiz branding.

    “Pioneer Link support can attract CDJ users”
    yes it can… too bad this is just in your imagination.

    “what’s nice is the workflow on sequence creation, arpeggiator, and adding alternative tunings – plus the added power of having a complete effects section.”
    yeah… and how do i use these in CDJ like fashion? even if i buy 2 fully complete toraiz systems!

    • Ugh – yes, you’re right. And this seems a major oversight (hence it popped into my imagination)

      I’ve corrected the article, and will absolutely ask Pioneer about this tomorrow.

      Thanks for finding the error.


        sorry if im a little harsh… but gosh, i can usb plug and play with any ARIA product with the ARIA mix… how did roland do this better?

  • Spankous

    No Audio In. Bummer

    • You’d use that to take advantage of the filter, I suppose?

      (also reasonable to ask about)

      • Spankous

        Yes thats what i would like to do. Not being able to do that is bit of a knock out argument. But it’s ok. I have enough synths to be honest

  • Mafgar

    Is the editing software made by Soundtower? Cause I will literally not even think about buying this synth if people are still partnering with them for their editor software.

  • Jacob Stadtfeld

    Insane that they wouldn’t utilize Link. I’m sure it’s a great, accessible little synth, but the addition of a pro link, providing, say, patches, sequences, and more through the SP16 would’ve been a legitimately cool innovation. Although being that this is Pioneer, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were saving it to boost sales of a version 2 in 6 years.

    • Jm

      Insane that you’re not selling your own badass mono synth with all these features for under $500, since you know so much about it.

      • Jacob Stadtfeld

        What I know is that I have no interest in, admittedly, this accessible and great sounding synth, over any other similarly spec’d device. The addition of link would have made this absolutely worth the +$500 price to me. But as it is, I see no functional benefit to using this over a TB3, even if it might sound better.

        • You do get more hands-on control … and way more sound control with the editor.

          Of course, the TB-3 has two things the Pioneer lacks: one, sequence randomization, and two, it sounds like a 303.

          I’d say different rather than better on either.

    • Two theories —

      One, it didn’t fit physically. There’s not much room on the back panel.

      Two, price point. Adding Ethernet adds to the cost of the chip that does communication, plus the jack itself.

      Or both, of course.

      It wasn’t a priority I suspect because Pioneer realize most of the customers for *this* don’t care about plugging into a CDJ.

      But I think you may be missing some things here. In fact, you can do all that stuff over MIDI. And Pioneer *did* add patch integration. I’ll do a little update soon… and include that integration in my SP-16 review I’m about to finish (was waiting on this very info.)

  • Adam Jay

    If only it had motion sequencing.