Pioneer takes on Korg with its first analog synthesizer

Korg kinda has the mini-synth thing locked down, at least it did.

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If you want an analog synthesizer, but don't have a lot of floorspace, then Korg's Volca range is for you. Maybe hold that thought a sec. Until now, Pioneer has focused on the club crowd with its ubiquitous DJ decks and controllers. The company branched out into general music production with its Toraiz SP-16 sampler last year; today it's stepping further into music-making with the Toraiz AS-1 analog sound machine.

When I fist saw the photos of the AS-1, my first thought was "that looks a lot like Korg's Volca series." And it does. Sure, there aren't that many ways to present a small synth, but the general layout and basic concept really do resonate with what Korg has been doing (and doing well) for the last few years.

Gallery: Pioneer AS-1 | 10 Photos


There are some key differences of course. The Volca series is made up of different synths for different jobs (drums, keyboards etc.), and each model costs around $150. Pioneer's AS-1 is a straight up sound machine (though it will sequence those sounds into "songs"), and it weighs in at $499. The AS-1 is also slightly bigger than it first looks. The preset sounds it comes with cover all the bases -- from strings to crunchy "acid" noises, but the real fun will be making your own.

While the AS-1 is a Pioneer product, it's actually a collaboration with Dave Smith Instruments (based on the Prophet-6 if you're wondering). This co-branding adds a chunk of credibility to Pioneer's first venture into sound making, and somewhat explains the higher price.

The monophonic AS-1 will also play nice with Pioneer's other gear, and not just the original Toraiz. If you own a DJM mixer and CDJs, you'll be able to hook them all up together and "play" the tracks from the AS-1 via the CD turntables. That is, once it lands in stores some time in March.

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