Sequencers & Samplers

Review: Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid

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Worth £519/$599
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Pioneer DJ already dominates the DJ booth with its range of CDJ players and DJM mixers and in 2016, the company turned its attention to a more musical range of units aimed toward reside electronic-music efficiency and studio use – the Toraiz vary. Launching with the SP-16 sampler and AS-1 synth, Pioneer DJ has now launched its most original gadget thus far, a multi-track sequencer capable of controlling 16 instruments.

Joining an ever-expanding world of DAW-less jamming, reside electronic-music efficiency and an eagerness for producers to shut the laptop computer, the Squid fills an analogous area to efficiency sequencers similar to Arturia’s BeatStep Pro. Opening the field, you’re greeted by a familiar-looking format of pads and controls on the surface, but in contrast to other hardware sequencers, the Squid packs in lots of more options and artistic control choices.

Let’s be clear right here although, the Squid doesn’t make any noise. In a world where new hardware synths, modules and plug-ins are being released weekly, you may discover plunging your hand into your pocket for a sequencer difficult… But we’ll explain why it is best to think about it, particularly if you have already got some outboard package.

Squid’s Sync

Connections across the again of the unit are in depth and embrace two CV and Gate mini jacks, Clock in/out, MIDI in/out, MIDI out2/Through, USB and even DIN Sync for syncing older gear akin to Roland’s basic synths and drum machines. What’s fascinating is that with the Squid, Pioneer DJ has left off the Pro DJ Link ethernet-connection capability that might let you join CDJ, mixers and different Toraiz units together – so the Squid isn’t as plug-and-play as a few of the company’s different units. However, in fact, you would nonetheless sync by way of MIDI when you select.

Pioneer Toraiz Squid

This slew of connections means the Squid instantly takes a short lived house instead of my BeatStep Professional, connecting as much as all my gear, both previous and new. The downside of getting so many artistic options and connections is that the unit isn’t as instantly familiar to function, requiring slightly little bit of menu diving throughout the two screens and a smattering of shift features to entry certain options when setting it up. Configuring the Squid isn’t a stroll in the park, however it might be troublesome to have this degree of flexibility and connectivity without some type of complexity.

A problem I have, which you may experience too, is a cushty familiarity with different sequencers and how they operate, which led me to anticipate that the Squid would work the identical method. I additionally instantly missed the 16-step horizontal format for 808/909-style drum programming.

Squid Vicious

As mentioned, getting began with the Squid is a bit of problem and a learn of the guide is definitely beneficial – it’s not probably the most instinctive gadget. Though it is value mentioning that regardless of these preliminary frustrations, there ultimately comes a eureka second when operating the unit instantly makes a variety of sense and it feels far more intuitive.

When your patterns are programmed and you’ve set all the right MIDI channels and notice assignments on your gear, then jamming with the Squid is implausible and seems to be immense fun. Programming patterns and utilizing the size and arp features to generate key-locked melodies can also be a breeze. The pads are velocity delicate and really feel pretty strong; they’re slightly smaller than those on an MPC or Maschine. Change the lights off and these backlit pads, screens and buttons glow up and work nicely – although shift-function parameter labels are pretty troublesome to see in low mild.

Pioneer Toraiz SquidInitially, you may end up concocting inflexible, Giorgio Moroder-esque sequences, but with just a little more exploration it’s obvious which you could wobble-up grooves and step nicely past these extra static patterns. Creating polyrhythms (multiple rhythms that run concurrently with out being based mostly on the identical rhythmic meter or timing) with the Squid adds quite a lot of curiosity. Using the Fastened Length button, you possibly can management a pattern size and even make it fractional. So, if you would like a hi-hat sample that loops every 3.5 beats, you’ll be able to.

If you discover the power to vary the number of steps that correspond to each pad with the Rely rotary and use the Divide rotary to vary what number of notes are triggered on every step, you start to actually have the ability to make complicated and weird sequences. You possibly can actually dive deep once you begin combining this with the velocity modulation controls, allowing you to primarily slip notes forwards or backwards by oscillating the playback velocity with totally different wave shapes. You may as well hit the Velocity Management buttons to set off notes at 2x and 1.5x, good for these trappy, rolling hi-hats and buzzy snare fills on the fly.

Into the groove

As you may anticipate, including swing to every sample can also be potential and is operated by a easy rotary, but won’t have an effect on the master-clock output timing – in case you needed to swing the general clock, for some purpose. Unique to the Squid is a function referred to as Groove Bend. It’s a spring-loaded crossfader or kind of horizontal pitch-shift management which adjusts the set off step timing to be up to one step quicker or slower, relying on the amount the Groove Bend is pushed left or proper. You possibly can input this when the automation is switched on, enabling you to vibe with the sequence and customise your groove.

Pioneer Toraiz Squid

All these variations on timing, step quantities, velocity modulation, swing and groove are sensible enjoyable and make the journey of discovering the artistic prospects of Squid actually incredible. If you report automation to these elements, start dialling within the trigger chance, then jam towards the elements you’ve programmed with the rhythmic controls, you possibly can flip primary patterns into really eccentric sequences. There’s also the choice of adding randomisation to pitch, gate and velocity features, too, so if you find yourself creatively challenged, the Squid is comfortable to supply its own enter.

It’s additionally potential to assign management modifications through the use of MIDI CC knowledge assigned to the five rotary knobs on the right-hand aspect of the unit or by step-sequencing CC values in per step. Cleverly, you may as well maintain down a number of pads and provides them all the identical MIDI CC value. Useful, for example, if you wish to assign a filter to offbeat hi-hats to offer the impression of tonal velocity modifications on a single sampled hit. It additionally means, if your external gear permits it, you possibly can sequence issues like filters, LFOs and no matter else your gear will settle for by way of MIDI CC.

Shifting onto utilizing the Squid with the free downloadable Squid Supervisor software, it’s a simple little software that lets you back up and retailer your patterns to and from the Squid with a simple click on, or transfer MIDI file patterns forwards and backwards to the Squid by dragging and dropping them inside the software. It’s not as in-depth as the software program for Arturia’s BeatStep Professional, nevertheless it appears obvious that this shall be one thing that is developed by Pioneer DJ in the future.

Suckered in

The Squid is sort of merely a really clever sequencing gadget with a great amount of depth. In the course of the course of this evaluate, it has positioned itself on the very centre of my studio. The Squid appears to be fixing so many problems of drugs sync throughout a stay efficiency, while additionally providing more than enough artistic prospects and random spark to generate those moments of unintentional brilliance when constructing concepts.

Pioneer Toraiz Squid

It’s truthful to say that the more I dig into the Squid, the extra I really prefer it. It has additionally reignited my love for a few of my extra primary monophonic synths and drum modules that weren’t getting as a lot consideration in the studio any extra. Pioneer DJ has discovered a really nice center ground here. Regardless that there’s undoubtedly a learning curve, it’s still simple enough to dive into as your first hardware sequencer, yet wealthy sufficient when it comes to options to satisfy advanced customers trying to construct giant, complicated stay exhibits or connect a variety of hardware. It’s an funding that hopefully may have options added by way of future firmware updates and can show a useful gizmo for a lot of, a few years.

Do I actually need this?

If you already have a drum machine and a synth, including the Squid will rework your workflow, adding a direct but various approach of producing usable concepts and truly forming them into preparations and tracks. For anyone already software program targeted, utilizing Ableton Reside and Push or anybody deep into NI’s Maschine, it’s in all probability truthful to say you can arrange a fair amount of the performance from your DAW controlling exterior gear. That stated, you’d still have to purchase a MIDI/CV interface and wouldn’t have the DIN sync choice.

Pioneer Toraiz Squid

The Squid is a tool that may develop alongside your gear within the studio and help inspire you for years, but take it to the stage and it’s a beast. For anyone trying to take their digital music stay, the Squid presents so much capability and connectivity it ought to definitely be on your purchasing listing. Although units corresponding to Arturia’s BeatStep Pro supply superb value, I discovered the Squid to be a tool that provided so many features I might really grow into it – definitely value the additional expense and studying curve. Do I want it? No. Do I would like it? Sure.

Key features

  • Multi-track sequencer with 16 tracks
  • 64 patterns and 64 steps per monitor and as much as eight notes per step
  • 128 tasks, with Squid Supervisor backup/switch software
  • Multiple Undo historical past and Time Warp function that recollects performances even when not recording
  • Multiple sequencing options per pattern with Groove Management options and Groove Bend fader
  • Connections: MIDI In, MIDI Out, MIDI 2 Out/Through
  • 2x CV Out (V/Oct, Hz/V)
  • CV output range: 1V, 2V, 5V, 10V, ±5V (V/Oct) / 8V (Hz/V)
  • 2x Gate Out (V-Trigger, S-Trigger)
  • Gate output range: 5V, 10V (V-Trigger)
  • USB B, 1 Clock In (Step, 1, 2, 4, 24, 48ppqn, Gate),
  • 1 Clock Out (1, 2, four, 24, 48ppqn), 1 DIN Out (24, 48ppqn),
  • 1 DIN Sync In/Out (24, 48ppqn)
  • Dimensions (w x h x d): 374 x 223 x 72mm
  • Weight: 1.9kg

Options

Arturia
BeatStep Pro £225

A massively profitable piece of drugs spotted in lots of musician’s reside rig and producer’s studio. It gives MIDI connectivity, CV/Gate, drum triggers and nice software updates adding more options. For one-third of the worth of the Squid, it’s all the time going to be heavy competitors.

Synthstrom Audible
Deluge £640 (plus supply and import expenses)

Synthstrom Deluge

A synth, sampler and sequencer, this boutique system is small and very powerful. It’s comfortable to sequence exterior gear as nicely. It’s costlier than the Squid, however makes noises all by itself.