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Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid

Sequencer
By Simon Sherbourne

Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid

The Squid is a sequencer with a mission: to unify your gear on stage and in the studio...

Almost every synth, drum machine and groovebox in my studio has an onboard sequencer that's capable of driving external devices. So do I need another sequencer that can't produce any sound on its own? The Toraiz Squid aims to persuade me that I do, promising a central control point for all my devices, with or without a computer.

The Squid is a stand-alone sequencer that can connect over MIDI, USB and CV. It has a pattern-based workflow, with 16 tracks storing up to 64 four-bar patterns that can be combined into 16 scenes per project. Beyond conventional sequencing, the Squid offers a number of unique ways to mess with sequences and inject timing and rhythmic variation.

Impressions

Like the other Toraiz devices Squid is a chunky monkey, built for live environments. It has solid, clicky buttons, and a performance grid of 16 rubber pads with integral LED rings. The various rotary encoders are similarly robust with a smoothly‑stepped action. Two small screens serve up morsels of feedback and menu options.

The front panel is split into two main areas. On the right-hand side you have a familiar performance and composition zone for creating and triggering patterns. The left-hand zone is where you can get hands-on with the groove, speed and playback direction of your sequences, to name just a few possibilities.

The Squid Manager software provides backup and file management, and also lets you transfer MIDI files into and out of your Squid tracks.The Squid Manager software provides backup and file management, and also lets you transfer MIDI files into and out of your Squid tracks.I was delighted that the Squid can get by on USB power, although like the Ableton Push it has to dim its lights when doing so, and it's much easier to see the status of pads when using the DC adaptor. The USB port is primarily there for MIDI communication with a computer. It's also the conduit for backing up or importing project and pattern data (including MIDI files) via the Squid Manager software.

First Steps

To get started with Squid you need to hook up some instruments (it has no internal sound sources or click). There are only two regular MIDI outputs, so you might need to daisy chain devices and divvy up channels if you have a lot of gear. I tested with a simple set up comprising two synths taking a MIDI port each, one synth using a CV/gate pair and other sounds sources on my USB connected laptop.

Track mode lets you focus tracks using the pads, and from here you can assign their outputs and channels. You can also set other properties for each track such as name, mono/poly mode, and playback speed. Other parameters are stored per-pattern within the track, including length, scale and arp settings.

So far so good. Next I wanted to set a tempo. I could see the Tap Tempo button no problem, but if I wanted to dial it in manually? This was one of a number of operations — setting pattern length being another — that there's little hope of guessing without reaching for the manual.

Pattern Creation

The Squid offers two methods for creating sequences: real-time recording and step programming. The former is generally done with the pad grid set to Scale mode (which most devices would call a Notes or Keyboard mode). A dedicated knob sets the scale and key, and you can shift the range of the pads. The pad lights indicate notes belonging to the selected scale and off-key pads are rounded to the nearest valid note. Disappointingly, there's no option to show only the notes in the scale.

Step sequencing happens in Trigger mode, where the pads represent 16...

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Published October 2019