I’ve only had two days at Musikmesse this year, so I decided to focus on what little new stuff there is. Aside from a sneak peek at the playDifferently mixer, we should discuss Pioneer’s new Toraiz SP-16, and that’s not even really a piece of DJ kit. What makes it interesting is more its role within the market than its features — its current features, that is.
Remember we’re talking about a unit still in development, so while the hardware looks final, certain aspects of the software can change significantly. But one thing is crystal: with Pioneer finally going for a crossover between performance and production, it’s pretty much done becoming a mainstream thing now. I’m curious about the adoption rate, and how many future SP-16 users will just torture us with Loopmasters sample kits rather than use their own original material, but having a quasi-“standardized” performance sampler is clearly a significant development.
I definitely see the leisurely appeal of bouncing stems out of your production rig and playing them in your DJ set without lugging an additional laptop and controller(s) to gigs, but this kind of “live performance” is way too static for my taste. Besides, the only thing the SP-16’s currently got on Traktor’s Remix Decks and a Kontrol F1/D2 is the step sequencer. The unit is basically Roland TR-8 meets Akai MPC Touch, synced to rekordbox beatgrids via Pioneer’s own LAN link. This is potentially tighter than MIDI clock-syncing Ableton Live to a DJ-Set — but definitely not quite as capable, because you can do more with a single drum rack in Live and a Push at half the price. Intriguing, but not “whoa I must have it” exciting.
The SP-16 is capable of sampling live from a single stereo input, which means you could use the effect sends on your DJM to sample from any channel, sacrificing the ability to hook up an external effect unit in the process – unless you want to go through the trouble of splitting the signal, of course. It also has 4 individual stereo outputs, but these seem overkill for a DJM assuming you’re using the sampler to complement a DJ set. Perhaps a matching (sub)mixer is in the works?
In any case, what I’m wondering is why the LAN link isn’t being used for sampling – it should have plenty of bandwidth. There’s definitely some potential here, but it’s hard to tell if the average Pioneer user would even care. People who want to do live sampling mid-performance have had very efficient and stable solutions for that way before the SP-16 got announced, so it’s not like this unit is a technological revolution.
It could, however, become a serious performance tool eventually, provided Pioneer makes the right choices along the way. Similar to gaming, it’s hard to nail the proper balance between casual and hardcore, and this goes double for gear designed with producers in mind… time will tell, I guess.
As a fan of the Prophet synths and the Tempest drum machine, I was really looking forward to meeting Dave Smith in person, but it seems like he practiced feigning ignorance really well — or he just doesn’t care about the DJing context too much. Either way, I couldn’t really get any useful info out of him.
The Pioneer crew did, however, hint at some future potential. Take it with a grain of salt, because we were talking with several PAs blasting all over, but if I understood them correctly… apparently the SP-16 has a certain degree of DSP headroom left, which may enable it to host third party plug-ins eventually. I’ll believe that one when I see it though, because anything third-party is a support nightmare (incidentally the reason why top-of-the-line DVS don’t support VST/AU plug-ins).
If anything, I guess Pioneer could perhaps establish a proprietary plug-in standard for the unit’s OS and work with select partners to produce simplified SP-16 versions of their software, similar to how Propellerhead has introduced Rack Extensions to Reason. This could definitely help extend the lifecycle of the product. As of now, what I’ve seen from the interface is that there are 2 effect slots per sample — I’ll leave further speculation to you. One thing I could clear up is the pronunciation of TORAIZ: “toh-ryez”… but I think I’ll just call it the Pio Sampler.