At NAMM 2017, Pioneer DJ shocked show goers and producers alike when they announced their second collaboration with legendary synthesizer innovator Dave Smith. What came, was a fully analog mono synth, small in footprint and massive in sound. The rugged black box featured a touch-sensitive keyboard, built-in sequencer, and surprisingly, stereo effects. In this review, we will be taking a look at what makes this little synth so great, both in the studio and on the stage.
What is it?
As stated above, the AS1 is a fully analog monophonic synthesizer, with onboard effects and sequencer. Built from the ground up in partnership with Dave Smith, the synth bares many of Dave's signature features and tone, wrapped into a sleek and serious looking package. The stereo effects, such as chorus and distortion, separate this unit from most other competitors, and the sequencer takes it even further. The AS1 was built to be used both in the studio and in a live setting as well, pairing perfectly with the Toraiz SP16.
How does it work?
Being 100% analog, the AS1 provides a rich and robust sound that is very familiar for those with other synths like the Prophet series from Dave Smith. There is a signature bite that is unmistakable, and very refreshing for such a small synth. There are many features also available under the hood, such as various modulation capabilities, and FX assignments. The touch-sensitive keyboard keeps with the overall theme and is pretty responsive. The unit is powered via dc adapter and can be connected to a computer with USB 2.0.
What do I think?
To be honest, when they first announced it, I was actually totally shocked. Pioneer DJ stated they were making moves in the studio realm, both with their studio line of headphones and monitors, but a synth? And not only a synth, but one built in partnership with the mighty Dave Smith, the man behind MIDI. When we first got a demo of the AS1, I was instantly blown away by how massive the sound was coming out of the monitors. It played an acid line that was just pure evil. In the studio setting, it laid the foundation for a good number of tracks that I'll be releasing in the near future. That's usually my benchmark when it comes to synths, both physical and virtual. How well can I integrate this into my workflow? Is it just a shiny new toy that I'll toss to the side? Fortunately, the AS1 fit nicely, and was straightforward enough to make it a real utility and not just a temporary infatuation.
Should you buy it?
If you are looking for a powerful, fairly simple, yet versatile synth that is both rugged enough for the stage and robust enough for the studio, then I would definitely recommend checking out Pioneer DJ's AS1.
Pioneer really nailed this one and their partnership with Dave Smith seems to have been one of their better business moves in recent years. Creating affordable, yet powerful equipment is so important in the DIY-era that music production is in, and being able to get your hands on what is essentially a $500 mono Prophet from Dave Smith is a steal.
Pros: Big sound, small footprint. Basically an extremely affordable Dave Smith synth
Cons: Not the cheapest synth in this category. Might be too simple of a design for some users.
Final Score: 8.5/10