Review: Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid

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Review: Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid

Words by Will Brewster

Jands | Expect to pay: $869

There’s no denying the sheer influence of Pioneer DJ within the electronic music market. For years, the company have dominated DJ booths all over the world with their club-standard range of CDJs and mixers, while their broad assortment of software controllers, headphones and monitors have helped them expand further into the home market as well. 

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Not a brand to rest on their laurels, Pioneer DJ took their game up a notch in 2016 with the launch of the Toraiz range: a series of samplers, sequencers and synthesisers aimed at professional DJs and electronic producers looking to flesh out their sets with the sound and feel only hardware can provide.

The success of previous products in the Toraiz range, such as the SP-16 sampler and the 303-inspired AS-1 mono synth, have proved that Pioneer DJ are making all the right moves with this new venture, and their latest addition to the range – the Toraiz Squid – only seeks to prolong this winning streak.

Before we go any further, it’s crucial to note that the Squid, unlike other products in the Toraiz range, does not make any sound. Conceptually, however, it’s one of Pioneer DJ’s most unique offerings to date.

Similar to that of the Arturia BeatStep, it’s a multi-track sequencer that allows for control of up to 16 instruments, with an abundance of inputs and outputs making it suitable for use as the centrepiece of a live hardware setup.

Notes and step data can be input via a MPC-style backlit 16 pad grid, while a smattering of other buttons and dials allow for control over parameters such as modulation, swing, pitch and groove. Tempo and MIDI channel data is displayed by two seperate LCD screens on the top-right of the unit, which despite being rather small in the grand scheme of things, prove to be essential in navigating your way around the Squid. 

In the connectivity department, the Squid is jam-packed with just about everything you need to make a track out of the box. In addition to hosting a USB-B port, the unit features MIDI in, out and thru, as well as two CV/Gate ins and outs, a Clock in and out and even DIN SYNC ports in the off-chance that you happen to have any old ‘80s Roland drum machines laying about.

Perhaps bafflingly, the Squid is void of Pioneer DJ’s Pro DJ Link port to allow for network connection with CDJs or other units in the Toraiz range, but if you’re only looking to utilise the Squid as a studio centrepiece without any other Pioneer DJ gear, this shouldn’t be considered an issue.

Maybe the most enticing aspect of the Toraiz Squid is just how powerful its sequencer is. Users can stack up to 16 different tracks with an impressive 64 patterns and 64 steps per track, while step resolution can go from quarter notes all the way up to thirty-second notes.

There’s also room for 128 projects, with Pioneer DJ’s Squid Manager app letting you save and transfer your sessions between devices. The real drawcard here, however, is the fact that the Squid possesses polyphonic sequencing capabilities, with up to eight notes being available per step, which means it’s able to facilitate some wildly creative melodies when utilised with the right gear.

As with any piece of kit this sophisticated, it’s definitely worth diving into the manual before you attempt to tackle the Squid: like its namesake, it’s a unique beast, and certainly takes some wrangling before you obtain any level of comfort with it. That being said, after a few hours, the workflow does become quite intuitive, and before too long, you’ll be switching between instruments and crafting tracks like a pro. 

Once you’ve got the hang of the Squid’s workflow, you can then dive into its more mind-boggling features, particularly those pertaining to swing, groove and modulation. Features such as Speed Control, which lets you trigger notes at double or half-time, are perfect for creating jungle-esque snare rolls and trappy triplet hi-hats, while the Fixed Length button can be triggered to launch off-grid polyrhythms – perfect for any kind of live IDM or glitch set.

There’s also another unique feature offered by the Squid called the Groove Bend, which can be controlled via a spring-loaded crossfader on the bottom left of the unit. This essentially adjusts the trigger steps of your sequence to play faster or slower depending on how far you shift it to the left or right, and can be utilised to extreme effect to accentuate particular phrasings or drum loops. When paired with any other combination of swing, pitch, melodic or modulation parameters, the possibilities for creating distinctive bleeps and bloops are simply infinite.

With the Toraiz Squid, Pioneer DJ have created a true monster of a sequencer for the most demanding of electronic artists. This thing is absolutely jam-packed with features that are guaranteed to take your productions or live sets to a whole new level, and the sheer array of inputs and outputs make it a killer option to place at the heart of any hardware setup.

Sure, the workflow might take some getting used to, but once you’ve mastered its quirks, the Squid will unveil its true potential as a powerful, uncompromising multi-track sequencer with many a trick up its sleeve. An undisputed winner in our books. 

Find out more about the Toraiz Squid via Pioneer DJ. For enquiries regarding Australian availability, get in touch with Jands.