Pioneer DJ really stunned the DJ/production community when it announced they were releasing a hardware sampler and on top of that a collaboration with the legendary Dave Smith — the superstar synth guru. The TORAIZ SP-16 is the result of their happy union.
A piece of hardware that is equally at home in the studio, on stage or as part of an extended DJ set-up. Looking quite cool and unmistakably Pioneer DJ with its brushed black styling and its 4x4 Performance Pads sharing centre stage with the Touch Screen display, the TORAIZ SP-16 has all the hallmarks to be quite a decent bit of kit, but will the TORAIZ just be a vanity project for Pioneer DJ or does it mark the move into a new direction?
Showing serious intent that Pioneer DJ are now looking at the studio domain as their next target for industry domination?
DJ Mag Tech called on the help of one certain DJ/producer, KiNK who just so happens to have ably demonstrated the TORAIZ SP-16 at this year's SONAR festival to give us the lowdown on the new sampler.
KiNK is a DJ/Producer who loves to get his hands dirty with all the new bits of kit that are thrust his way. He is a serious player when it comes to testing out new bits of gear. DJ Mag Tech accosted him recently whilst he was working out of RBMA Paris Studios for lowdown on this new bit of music-making kit. Luckily for us he didn’t mind (he's a thoroughly nice bloke!) and was only too happy to answer a few questions, especially considering he was one of the first people to get his hands on Pioneer’s newest baby...
At what stage did you come on board with TORAIZ SP-16?
“I was lucky to get my hands on the sampler, while it was still in development stage, even though it was in its infancy. I already loved what I saw and it was obvious that with the new firmware updates it was just going to get better and better. In fact, I can happily say I was the first artist, who used the device live on stage. It was an instrument demonstration panel during this year's SONAR festival in Barcelona. I believe the performance was a success. I made the audience and the camera crew dance, which I don't see often during a workshop or an instrument demonstration.”
And why Pioneer DJ and the TORAIZ SP-16?
“I have a side project, called Cyrillic. The goal with it is to compose and play live pure techno music, by using mostly standard DJ equipment. I decided to use a setup, based primarily on Pioneer products, because I think the functions of their mixers and DJ players can be stretched beyond a regular DJ set. I am in the second year of the project now and I have been in touch with Pioneer for a while, it was around about last February we decided to work together more closely because of my project, and the TORIAZ SP-16 came along which is filling a big gap in my hybrid set-up.”
What is it about the TORAIZ SP-16 sampler that you like?
“Many things, but most important — the sound. Also the fact that it can be the missing link in terms of synchronisation between other hardware and the CDJs.”
How does it compare to what you were using before?
“As long as I know, there is no other sampler, that covers so many options for composing on the fly. There is a step sequencer, there are performance pads for tapping and recording on the fly and also a touch screen for many of the functions. I’ve used devices with step sequencers, others with pads or touch screens before, but I never had a device, which combines all these options in one box to be able to write or perform music together.”
When it comes to work flow how do you use the TORAIZ SP-16 and how does it fit into your set-up?
“My plan was to use it only live with the project I mentioned above, but soon I realised I could use it in the studio too. I found I could make really good beats with it in a very free and intuitive way. I guess it's the combination of the many sequencing options and current sound aesthetics that can be had working with the SP-16.”
How do you find the sound of the TORAIZ SP-16?
“Like every other modern machines on the market — the sound quality is great. But what makes it interesting for me is the colour and character you can add to it. Of course, you can get clean and transparent sound out of the sampler, but it gets really interesting when you push it to the extreme; the sound is still big but not digitally squashed.”
The association with Dave Smith has been well and truly hyped. How do you find the sound of the filters and how do they actually work in use?
“The sound of the filters is great. Well, they are Dave Smith filters! I would say — believe the hype. I think every artist will find a different way to get the best out of the filers, I use them more like a very radical equaliser and character effect. In combination with the distortion circuit the sound becomes real. And the coolest thing is you can process other gear through the filters and the saturation circuit, using the samplers’ line input.”
How do you find the build quality of the TORAIZ SP-16?
“Like all the Pioneer stuff, the SP-16 feels very solid. The face-plate is of a metal construction, and as a piece of kit it looks good too. Surprisingly it’s not that heavy considering the stable build. Which is perfect as I believe the sampler will survive many wild situations in nightclubs.”
As a standalone piece of kit, is it easy to use — as in jump straight on it and start getting results?
“Yes, absolutely. When I received the prototype, a manual didn’t exist and some features were not implemented yet, so I had to guess how to bring a sound out of it. It took less than three minutes since I plugged it in to make a basic beat. Of course, I have some experience with music machines, but I believe making music with this unit will be fun and easy for everyone. I personally don’t like complicated instruments.”
What are some of the stand-out features of the TORAIZ SP-16?
“The combination of most of the known sequencing platforms — Performance Pads, TR-style sequencer, Touch Screen — also the Dave Smith filters and saturation circuit.”
How do you think it stacks up against other samplers in the marketplace?
“Beside the stand-out features I have just mentioned above, TORAIZ synchronises perfectly with Pioneer’s CDJs, which are industry standard in the DJing nowadays. I believe it’s currently the only hardware instrument that does it, which is a major thing. It's pretty amazing to shape the sound with your fingers, directly on the screen.”
Build Quality 9
Ease of Use 9
Value for Money 9
Sound Quality 9
The Dave Smith filter makes the sound real. Also there is no other sampler, that puts together TR-style sequencing, pads and a touch screen.
I wish there were more knobs and sliders, although they are quite a lot for this type of instrument.
Great sounding sampler with state-of-the-art filters and drive circuit. The device covers all known options for live sequencing and it's the missing link between a standard DJ set-up and hardware music machines. Equally great for the studio and on stage.”
Words: Mick Wilson