Dave Smith ushers Pioneer DJ into the analogue synth game
The Toraiz collaboration continues with the AS-1 monosynth
Pioneer DJ joining forces with Dave Smith Instruments for last year’s SP-16 sampler was one of the more unexpected hardware collaborations we’ve seen in recent times. It makes a lot of sense though; Pioneer DJ have long been known for innovative effects and performance features but lack studio heritage – where better to outsource that than DSI? That meeting of minds has now spawned its second instrument in the shape of the Toraiz AS-1 monosynth.
The two brands appear to have worked in closer collaboration this time around; whereas the SP-16 felt like a Pioneer DJ instrument with a DSI filter attached, the AS-1 looks to have Dave Smith DNA running right through it. In essence, this analogue monosynth is built around a single voice lifted from the Prophet-6. This offers a pair of voltage-controlled oscillators, two voltage-controlled filters and two envelope generators. There’s also a voltage-controlled amplifier and an LFO.
Rather than a traditional keybed, control comes via a touchpad-style keyboard and slider, accompanied by a scale mode and an arpeggiator. Grooves can be sequenced over 64 steps, though if you want to create more complex patterns you can hook the AS-1 up to the aforementioned SP-16. There are dual effects engines offering a range of seven effects. Six of these come directly from the Prophet-6, and there’s also a brand-new digital distortion.
Our first impression, having got our hands on the AS-1, is that it is an instrument more geared towards sequencing and on-the-fly tweaking than playing or deep sound design. There’s no real ‘feel’ to the touchpad keyboard, and the OLED display that handles most parameter feedback is small, meaning lots of menu scrolling. Fortunately there’s a generous bank of 495 presets (with an additional 495 users slots). While its monosynth design might make it look like a mostly bass-focused synth, the preset sounds show off an impressive sonic range, with plenty of leads and general purpose synth sounds. That said, there’s plenty of low-end to the sounds, and the analogue filter is capable of convincingly squelchy 303 and 101 style bass sounds.
The AS-1 is priced at 549 euros, which puts it at the top end of the compact synth market. Bearing in mind Korg’s Monologue and Arturia’s MiniBrute both retail around the 350 euro mark, the AS-1 is going to need to live or die on the strength of its performance-friendly workflow and the combined appeal of the DSI and Pioneer names. We’ll investigate all of this in a full review later in the year. From our first hands-on, there’s no doubt the AS-1 sounds great, and it’s good to see the DSI and PioneerDJ relationship bear more fruit.