From Pioneer DJ, the same people who brought us the Toraiz AS-1 analogue monosynth and Toraiz SP-16 sampler, comes an amazingly comprehensive hardware sequencer that can hook up into MIDI synths, drum machines, modular, CV and USB devices including your laptop and DAW.
Every time a Toraiz product arrives from Pioneer DJ we all go “What? But you’re a DJ company!” and the SQUID elicits the same initial response. And then, as you watch the promo video your eyes start to widen and you realise your mouth is hanging open. How did they do this? This could be a huge product.
It has an MPC style to the design with the 4 x 4 pad layout which gives a similar workflow to other pad based production devices such as Maschine or the Novation Circuit. It can handle 16 tracks of 64 patterns with 64 steps and up to 8 notes of polyphony per step. These tracks can be routed through 2 MIDI outputs, 2 lots of CV/Gate or via USB. It’s not a USB host though, the USB is for connecting to a computer where you could fold in some VSTi’s. In some ways that’s a missed opportunity on such a feature-laden machine to be able to connect USB equipped synths directly via a USB Host hub, or a controller keyboard. However, the MIDI input can accommodate a MIDI keyboard if you want to avoid playing melodies on pads.
The SQUID is all about the performance. There are various modes for altering triggers, scales, transposition, interpolation, harmony, chords and randomisation all on the fly. And these are instantly accessible via buttons to the side of the pads. There’s a screen at the top of the pads relating all the information you need as you adjust the pitch of steps, gate times and velocity and knobs down the side dedicated to the task. You have a Phrase Arrangement section which gives control over the running direction of each track, rhythmic control, melodic control, speed control and “Groove Bending” with a crossfader. Again all the buttons are on the front panel giving excellent instant and menu-free control over your sequences.
Everything can be recorded as automation onto your tracks and up to 5 MIDI CCs on your external gear. Then you can throw in a load of probability to give some human flavour to your grooves. A handy Time Warp button lets you pick up previously overwritten sequences and refind that sequence that you ruined.
SQUID is a good name for it as it can get its tentacles into all sorts of stuff. The creative music production features built into this machine are pretty fabulous. It does have a DJ/EDM kind of vibe to it but then that’s Pioneer DJ’s thing. The Polyend may look more elegant and the Squarp Pyramid may have more tracks but I’ve not seen anything lay it all out on the table quite so comprehensively as the SQUID while being compatible with all the gear that most of us have (or would like to have). And then there’s the price of $599/£515 which is surprisingly competitive as the AS-1 and SP-16 both felt expensive.
Toraiz SQUID is available now.