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Toraiz AS-1 Review & Feature Requests... Good, Bad & Ugly!

 Ok, I have had about a week to play with the Toraiz AS-1 and here is my conclusion....

 

First of all, trying to even post HERE was a huge challenge because A. There is no TORAIZ section listed in the support forum menu (don't ask me how I even found this page because I don't know). and B. Safari seems to have a hard time loading this correctly. So, little bit of a headache just to get to this post! 

 

Now....

The sounds of the AS-1 are incredible, I love the variety and the way the presets are laid out. I had ordered this unit and thought this would be the perfect unit to make awesome lead's and bass lines and use it with my LIVE performance. I am a techno guy so I was really interested in using the step sequencer. The Step Sequencer plays really nicely when it is in sync. The big thing here is WHEN it stays in sync. If Roland had this figured out in 1982 with the TB-303 then why in 2017 does Pioneer have a hard time making this work properly? That is by far my biggest let down with this unit. I have two friends in Chicago and Minneapolis who both purchased the AS-1 and have been scratching their heads like me trying to figure out how to get this to play nice. Both are contemplating using an external sequencer as the AS-1 WILL NOT STAY IN SYNC! I have tried using the gate inputs, adding CC's to dummy clips in Ableton, USB sync, MIDI  Cable Sync. Even when locking the sequencer pattern there is a pause and the AS-1 looses sync. This is a MAJOR PROBLEM AND SHOULD BE ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY! 

The second gripe I have with the step sequencer is how the notes are entered and edited. Entering the steps should NOT stop the sequencer first of all, secondly when you go to edit each step you have to scroll past other parameters corresponding to the step. Making the process of editing notes tedious and time consuming. Another HUGE MISTAKE is to not provide the ability to play the notes in real time and be captured by the 64 step sequencer. I hate to give more credit to Roland but the engineers of the AS-1 need to look at how the TB-3 plays and records in real time in addition to the step recording all without losing sync! Cant there be an option to lock sync, or only change pattern on measure be added? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Further more another bug or problem that I have found with the unit is the sequencer does not seem to play when I power up the unit unless I hit the "global" button first. Surely scares the crap out of me everyday when I go to make some noise. I end up turning the volume up on the AS-1 and then I remember I have to hit global to get the sound to play and its LOUD, really dont want that to happen on stage. 

 

Another thing I want to mention is the SoundEditor software as a companion to the AS-1. I really like the software as well and I will be using it frequently. I wish there was a Randomize pattern and a better way to draw midi notes. The sequencer sounds good but entering the notes is painful. 

There has to be some light at the end of the tunnel with this.... The AS-1 has the potential to be a real game changer. These issues must be addressed or I will NOT be taking this out for gigs! 

 

Any suggestions anyone? Does anybody know if these issues will be adressed in a future update?

djmichaelwenz Answered

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To start at the top, I'd love to know where you had the difficulty because we want to make sure everyone can get here! Here's how most people find the TORAIZ forum:

Clicking that takes you straight here:

I realize the description only says "SP-16," looks like we forgot to update that when the AS-1 came onboard. I've changed that just now.

But even if you couldn't find the TORAIZ forum, when you create a new topic, it's one of the options in the drop-down:

Please do let me know, I can make design changes to assist with navigation where needed!

Regarding the product feedback, I'll certainly pass it along to our AS-1 team, as they want to make improvements the the product through updates, although I can't say what might be in those updates or when they might be coming. If there are any announcements, you'll find them on our social media and news section of the forum.

Pulse

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19 comments

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Thanks for the reply, I see its actually under Production Instruments....... Really hard to find though since its under DJ PRODUCTS when you read another post......

djmichaelwenz 0 votes
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Oh I know, don't get me started on trying to debug that... it was a nightmare to put it where it is now! lol It's on my "to fix" list. ;)

Pulse 0 votes
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Thank You kindly! I am more then willing to beta test or do anything to get this sequencer across the finish line! So close..... Just needs more live playability! 

djmichaelwenz 0 votes
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Typically the firmwares won't be available as beta, but if there's any information, it will certainly be posted to the news section of the site, or on our social media. Thanks for putting up with this growth into a new area! :)

Pulse 0 votes
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Thanks for your comments about the AS-1 sequencer, you are not alone.  I was pretty excited when I unboxed the AS-1 and hooked it up to my rig (in place of a TB-3), and in disbelief within the first minutes of playing it.  In its current version, the AS-1 is usable as a sound module, but the sequencer is like a gimmick only for demoing patches with no other gear attached.

How does it stay in sync with the SP-16?  Does it stay in sync?  Or is the AS-1 being sequenced from the SP-16 and not its internal sequencer?  Has anyone seen an SP-16/AS-1 demo where the AS-1 changes patches during the track?

Changing patches with the encoder while the sequencer is running loses sync.  Changing patches with the quick access keys while the sequencer is running also loses sync.  

 

Erich Zann 1 vote
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@Erich > The SP-16 receives the beatgrid data from rekordbox (if you have incoming signal and that's your sync source) and sends a MIDI BPM signal out to the AS-1, or the signal is generated internally on its own tempo clock to send the MIDI BPM signal.

As noted, there are a couple of users who have complained about the AS-1 not keeping sync with other MIDI devices, and we have reported that so I hope the product team is able to address the concerns - I know they're interested in making this a solid product!

Regarding the patch changes, I'm not certain as I haven't tried that myself, I'll ask if one of our other specialists can provide a bit more insight.

Pulse 0 votes
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Thank you for providing a glimmer of hope for us out here..... It feels like a part of me is dying inside after having such high hopes for this little groove box. The reason I purchased it was to avoid having to use a computer all the time to write patches. 

 

I know I said this in a different way earlier but I think the best thing would be to have the engineers take a look at how the TB-3 can program steps and steps can be entered in real time WITHOUT STOPPING THE SEQUENCER EVER and it always is on point when I bring the roland gear back into the mix. With the AS-1, its a nightmare........I am possibly going to shelf this unit or only use in the studio for now as it is more then likely to aggravate me and ruin my live gigs. Elektron or Melekko grooveboxes are what I am looking at now, feels like I wasted $500.... Thanks for your input though! I will give it a little time..... Just get them engineers to try the TB-3 with a drum machine, play with the darn thing. I bet Dave Smith is sad, lets get him his legacy groovebox perfected here people! .....THANK YOU!

djmichaelwenz 0 votes
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@Michael > Dave LOVES this thing! Seriously, he does - but I understand your frustration, and our team is working to improve it. I just want to clarify a couple of things for the engineers...

1) You said: "when you go to edit each step you have to scroll past other parameters corresponding to the step"

To me, this makes sense (having the parameters behind each step), but not everyone works the same way! Where would you propose the step's parameters exist within the menu?

2) You said "Another HUGE MISTAKE is to not provide the ability to play the notes in real time and be captured by the 64 step sequencer."

How is what you're saying different from the method of entering steps in the recording mode? Per the manual, page 10:

How is what you're describing different from the instructions of pressing a key to "record" a step? Did you mean to have rests included -- so as the sequence is playing if you don't press a key at that step that it skips entering a note and continues?

Pulse 0 votes
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@Pulse - Thanks for your response regarding sync.  

The AS-1 restarts sequencer playback when it receives a patch change, either from the quick access keys, the preset encoder, or MIDI.  

Using DSI's Tempest as a model, the missing feature is Beat Quantize.  

Currently the AS-1 has no quantization, this is like launching a clip in Live with clip launch quantization set to NONE.  Beat quantization would delay patch change/sequence start to a beat boundary, like the way the Tempest can switch between patterns on a selectable bar or beat division.  The quick access keys would work like Tempest pads in Beats mode, or Live clip launch buttons in legato mode.  Always on the beat.

 

 

Erich Zann 0 votes
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@Pulse. Thanks for chiming in here! 

 

My answers are in Bold below. All of my answers are simple and can be thought of as no brainers if you are programing and playing the AS-1 with another synchronized device...

1) You said: "when you go to edit each step you have to scroll past other parameters corresponding to the step" To me, this makes sense (having the parameters behind each step), but not everyone works the same way! Where would you propose the step's parameters exist within the menu?

 

Yes!  VELOCITY AND SLEW......having those parameters next to each step is cool but when you have three or four choices per step to scroll through and you have to think about what step has what note the process becomes tedious and less music inspiring. How about a "step edit" mode that would allow you to go from one step to the next without having to scroll through the additional "velocity" AND "slew". Or having a way to scroll through each step and hit the key you wanted to change or preview. When you are editing the steps the keyboard buttons on the unit do not respond or allow programming. This makes programming very slow... Cant there be one screen per step and you turn a button either on or off like a TB-303?

 

2) You said "Another HUGE MISTAKE is to not provide the ability to play the notes in real time and be captured by the 64 step sequencer."

How is what you're saying different from the method of entering steps in the recording mode? Per the manual, page 10:

Let me explain....It would be ideal to have the AS-1 playing a sequence and you hit record and play the notes into the sequencer with the timing you choose by *playing the notes live* NOT step sequencer style. Just like every other modern groove box.... Like hit record and play the notes and it loops and records over and over and it also responds to your velocity. Just how I would imagine a groovebox to be designed.... And also to STAY LOCKED IN SYNC! 

 

Seriously though, thanks for the feedback.... If I did not love the unit I wouldn't be here trying to make it better! 

djmichaelwenz 0 votes
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its nice to see these issues finally being discussed. the sequencer behavior is a showstopper. the as-1 desperately needs real-time/performance recording. the workflow grinds to a halt the moment you have to stop and manually step-program every pattern. i also use mine with a Tempest and am having painful flashbacks to how difficult it was to get the most basic sequencing/timing issues and feature gaps addressed on that machine.

supernaut 0 votes
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this is pretty spot on:

"...but the sequencer is like a gimmick only for demoing patches with no other gear attached."

the AS-1 is earning its place on my desk based on the sound quality, the quick-access arpeggiator and the slider. clunky sequencer or not, it simply sounds amazing. that said, i find myself using it less and less because of the under-powered sequencer and timing issues. while i'm grateful for the wealth of awesome, diverse-sounding presets, the workflow places too much emphasis on surfing and editing existing sequences. if i could simply sit down and jam and write and build programs the way i can on any other device, the AS1 would be more or less perfect for me and my other, far more expensive instruments would be the ones gathering dust..

 

 

supernaut 0 votes
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Our lead AS-1 product designer has provided some answers for you guys...


1. entering the steps should stops the sequencer
This is the specification matter of the AS-1.
At the moment, the only way to edit the steps while you play the sequencer is that you edit “Note”, “Velocity” and “Slew” step by step through the parameters.

2. the sequencer does not seem to play when I power up the unit unless I hit the "global" button first
If this issue is correct, I think this issue caused by the bug, however, we have never seen this issue during the design. I think this issue occurred due to the setting of “6. MIDI Clock Mode” in the global setting. When the setting became “Slave”, “Slave Thru” and “Slave No S/S”, the sequencer does not play although the play button light up. This clock mode setting is maintained if you turn off the AS-1. So, we would like to ask the user to confirm the setting before playing the sequencer.

3. changing patches with the encoder while the sequencer is running loses sync
4. changing patches with the quick access keys while the sequencer is running also loses sync
These are the specification matter of the AS-1. The AS-1 keep the BPM based on the midi clock from external instruments when you change the patches, but when you change the patches, the AS-1 restart the pattern from the step 1, therefore, the users feel the sequencer loses sync.

The team will be investigating if these items can be improved by way of a firmware update, thanks for your patience in the meantime.

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SoundEditor software complaints:

5. I wish there was a randomize pattern
6. better way to draw midi notes

The editor was developed by Soundtower Inc., so it's basically their product, and unfortunately we cannot handle the specifications and the request - but they are rather friendly to the user feedback, so I think they can face these requests with honesty. We encourage you to contact them from their website directly in order to improve the editor.
http://www.soundtower.com/

Pulse 0 votes
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I can only agree to all complains mentioned here:

1) Losing sync when changing a patch

Pulse: „but when you change the patches, the AS-1 restart the pattern from the step 1, therefore, the users feel the sequencer loses sync.“ It doesn’t just feel that the sequencer loses sync, it simply isn’t in sync anymore. Each sequence has bars and if these aren’t in sync, it isn’t musically anymore… It sounds like a mess. After changing patches I have to stop and start all my midi devices to get the AS-1 in sync again or restart the AS-1 sequence manually perfectly in time.

This is by far my biggest complain and I read about this complain in almost every forum every published review.

Amazona,de, the biggest tech music website in Germany gave the AS-1 just a one (out of four) star rating because of this bug. The website has a huge influence on sales here in Germany (the reviews are linked to Thomann.de) and I nearly didn’t buy it because of this bad review. It's also the lowest ranking I saw in years for a synth. Just because of the bug.

There are two solutions to it:

a) Change the pattern on time when a new bar starts.

b) Change the pattern instantly and have the sequence at the same position as the previous sequence. If the previous sequence was at position 5, have the next one also be on position 5… If a new sequence is shorter than the position of the previous sequence (lets say current position is 19 and new sequence has only 16 steps) calculate the new position accordantly (it would be 19-16 = 3)

 

2) The step sequencer is horrible bad

I agree to everybody in this thread. The sequencer is not very musically to use.

Please take a look at the TB-03, TT-303 or basically any other box with built in note sequencer. They both don’t have a graphical display and are still much better and more intuitive to use. I don’t know any box with built in sequencer that has such a bad sequencer.

a) The manual step recording mode (aka pressing record) shouldn’t stop the sequence. I want to hear the sequence while I edit it. I also want to edit the velocity in this mode Velocity is super important…

Right now I have to finish the recording and menu dive to the sequencer settings.

Most importantly however the sequencer simply shouldn’t stop!

b) Have a live recording mode that should work like that: The sequence plays. I press, lets say, shift+record to enter live recording and the sequence continues to run. Now when I press a note it replaces the note at the current playing step. So If I press a note when the fifth note in the sequence plays, it replaces the fifth note… If I hold a note for 3 steps it ties the notes for three steps. Same should apply to rest and slew… It adds or removes it on the fly.

This is 10 times more intuitive and every sequencer works like that…

Both these changes are much more musically and would make it possible to hear my sequence instantly and live. When I go on stage I want to change my sequence live on the fly. It also much more creative.

 

3) Changing patches accidentally

I very often accidentally touch the patch encoder especially when I just want to change the parameter encoder. The sudden change in sound and sequence is of course a nightmare when playing live… It would be great, if one can somehow lock the encoder. I don’t know how, maybe with a shift function? Shift+Hold would e.g. work (aka „holding the program“)

   

4) „Lock sound“ Locking the sound and changing only sequences on patch changes

Have a feature that is opposite to the current „sequence lock“. Maybe with another press on shift+play. So shift+play toggles between 1) normal 2) lock seq 3) lock sound.

  

5) Bug: Volume knob isn’t working when in recording mode.

 

6) Nice to have bonus feature request: Separate envelope changes

Have a setting that allows to change the envelopes separately with the two envelope knobs. If the function is activated the attack / decay knobs always change the amp envelope, while pressing shift + moving knobs always change the filter envelope. 

 

7) Nice to have bonus feature request: Custom keyboard scale

Would love to have harmonic minor. Or add harmonic minor :)

  

8) Nice to have bonus feature request: Accent

Well… I don’t have high hopes for it, as it would mean to change the whole sequence save structure, but accent would be nice. Accent isn’t just a higher velocity on a step (else we could use the different velocities), but also the opening of filter + resonance.

————————

The AS-1 has the potential to be a killer weapon. Sound wise I was already thinking about getting a second one…But the sequencer and the sync bug are an absolute no go and make it impossible to use it in a live setup or to even use the sequencer in my home studio. Right now it’s unfortunately just a preset machine.

Another suggestion Pioneer: Please check forums like Gearslutz, Sequencer or read reviews. Everybody mentions their love for the sound, but hate for the sequencer and sync bug.

Btw: Is the software developed by Pioneer or DSI people?

 ------------------------

Oh and it took my three weeks to be able to write this message. Your forum is really broken. I tried in firefox, safari, chrome, opera on both mac and windows… I can always log in, but in threads there were never an option to answer to posts (also no text field). Only "Please login to write posts" while I was already logged in… Also pressing on the "New post" button top right just forwarded me to my profile page…?

flocked 0 votes
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Well I was talking about the embedded software on the AS-1. I know that the Soundtower software is by Soundtower…:D I was wondering about it, because the UI shares many similarities to some other DSI synths. Anyway…

No comment about my long post? took a long time to write :D We all love this synth, but you should really check out what's written about this synth elsewhere at other forums. All the comments in this forum aren't single opinions, but common criticism for the as-1.

Again: I would easily buy a second as-1, if the sequencer wouldn't be buggy and so underfeatured compared to even a 150$ volca…

:)

flocked 0 votes
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These are some great suggestions made here, and I'm really happy to see that Pioneer is aware of, and working on fixes for the sequencer not staying in sync. 

I'd love it if this sequencer could have step muting, currently that feature would have a problem due to how the sequencer information is displayed to the user. I have some other thoughts on how the sequencer could work that would address some of these issues. Currently we have to scroll through a potential of 64 steps to adjust parameters in the sequencer. The sequencer data could be displayed on a page where we can see the information of 4 steps (with a number pages corresponding to sequence length). Each step could display the note value, whether that step is a rest or a tie or has slew attached. While working on that screen the note pads at the bottom can take on a few awesome functions as well. Since we have 4 steps available, we could use the 8 white key note pads as 2 groups of 4 pads for control. Single taps on pads 1-4 could mute steps 1-4, single taps on 5-8 could set slew for steps 1-4. Tapping and holding pad 1-4 and adjusting the Value knob can change the note associated with that step, pressing and holding pads 5-8 and adjusting the Value knob could set that step to rest or tie. These features together utilize that gorgeous OLED screen, the note pads at the bottom, and seriously streamlines how information is displayed for the sequencer.

Outside of the sequencer love the option to switch the HPF cutoff knob to a different parameter. A great example that would fit perfectly into my work flow is the LPF Envelope Amount. I use envelope modulation way more than actual cut off to open and close sounds, and HPF for me is mostly set and forget(plus touch strip mod). Being able to change the HPF Cutoff knob's function would be huge.

brandon heinz 0 votes
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I seq as1 from sp16 so it's not as much of an issue. But I would never have bought it either if i needed to rely on the as1 seq. Also own tb3 and agree it's fun to seq live, but lacks the depth of sound the as1 has. So functionality of tb3 with SQ of as1 seems to be the answer!

Francis Walker 0 votes